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2017 in Review

I’ve gotten in the habit of reviewing the past year at the beginning of a new year in order to remember God’s powerful working in my life. I did that in my devotional journal, and I want to share some of those highlights here.

  • The biggest highlight of last year was that my wife and I became parents of a cute little boy named Eliyas, born on May 19. Considering that we lost our first child after a month or so of pregnancy, the delivery of a healthy child was especially sweet to us. What joy he’s brought into our lives!

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  • This year I traveled less domestically and more internationally: Eurasia (2x), Ukraine (2x), India (2x), Myanmar, Bangladesh, Singapore, Canada, and Chad.
  • Eliyas’ first international trip was to Quebec in June-July, but his first international trip that required a passport was to Eurasia and Ukraine in Nov-Dec.
  • In Jan-Feb we went to Eurasia for a Metanoia NT workshop and then to Ukraine.
  • In March we visited supporting churches. I lost my voice in IN, so Oksana had to help me more at a missions conference in MD. I got my voice back just in time to go to Myanmar and Singapore.
  • In late March I was in Myanmar for the Asia Consultant Seminar, and I spent two weekends in Singapore, while going to India between the two weekends. I really wanted Oksana to join me for the trip, but it was too close to the delivery date.
  • The rest of April and May was spent getting ready for Eliyas. I led a Haitian Creole OT workshop at the office during the time of his birth.
  • In late June and throughout July we went to Quebec and then down to ME and MD.
  • In August I flew to WV for a Bible Faculty Summit, and then upon returning back home, we had our annual BI events: consultant seminar and retreat.
  • In September we were supposed to go to Charleston, SC, for a meeting, but Hurricane Irma prevented that, so we had a free weekend. We ended up treating my mom to a birthday trip to Shipshewana, IN.
  • In late September I flew to India, and I got to tour the Taj Mahal. Later I flew to Bangladesh to visit a supporting church, and then back to India.
  • In early October I had one of the happiest moments of my life–the dedication of the Inner Seraji NT. What a blessed event to be part of! They received the New Testament for the first time in their language!
  • Later a group of us spent a few days strategizing about how to get more projects and personnel in Asia.
  • In mid-October I got some Paratext training, which would be very useful for the training I would lead in December.
  • In early November we flew as a family for the first time, to Eurasia. After two weeks there we headed to Ukraine, so Eliyas could meet his family and our friends for the first time. He was dedicated there on Nov. 19.
  • After two weeks there I flew by myself to Chad, Africa, where I trained 5 translation teams on computers and Paratext.
  • Some major BI events during the year: a co-worker’s grand-daughter died and their parents didn’t seek medical help to prevent the death, sparking all sorts of legal battles; another co-worker died in August; and I headed up the committee to write a constitution for BI (still ongoing).
  • We started the year at 83% and finished the year at 100%. Praise God!
  • I spoke 41 times in 22 different churches in 7 countries. Only 6 were deputation meetings, and 8 were first-time opportunities.
  • I had a new year’s resolution to read 12 books, but I ended up reading 14:
    • Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, Paul David Tripp
    • Running the Rift, Naomi Benaron
    • Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Tedd Tripp
    • The Bible Translator, vol. 67.3
    • The Bible Translator, vol. 68.1
    • The Bible Translator, vol. 68.2
    • Fundamentalism and American Culture, George Marsden
    • Your Family God’s Way, Wayne Mack
    • Fidelity, Douglas Wilson
    • Fatal Illusions, Adam Blumer
    • Tenth Plague, Adam Blumer
    • Men of the Word, Nathan Busenitz, ed
    • New Heart, New Spirit, New Song, Doug Bachorik
    • Les Persécutions au Tchad, Takia Nissi Yondo
  • I also resolved to memorize 12 verses, and I was able to do 13.
  • Another resolution was to witness to 12 people, and God led me to 13.

Praise God for all that He did in my life in 2017! I’m thankful for a sweet, godly, beautiful wife, and a cute, energetic son. God has been so gracious!

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Eurasia and Ukraine

We completed the workshop on Friday, Nov 17, and then flew to Ukraine the following Saturday. The workshop was not without its challenges, especially with Oksana trying to meet Eliyas’ needs while also doing interpreting for me. Since two families meet us to do the translation work, we had many helpers. We also had many good times as a family (pics below of us at grocery stores [top row] and a cafe [left on second row]), since we were together all day and all night. We are very thankful that Eliyas is flying in the planes well (pic of his first plane ride below [right on second row]) and adjusts happily to each new circumstance we put him in.

2017.11.12 Eurasia (1)2017.11.12 Eurasia (7)2017.11.13 Eurasia (32)2017.11.02 first plane ride (4)

We normally cover only 300 verses in these Metanoia workshops, but I’d like to get us up to doing 80-100 per day. Well, we got up to 321 total, so that’s progress but not quite as much as I wanted. But I am learning much about the language, and the translators are honing their translation skills, so we are hopeful to see continued progress.

While we are stationed in Ukraine, we had a baby dedication for Eliyas at Oksana’s home church last Sunday. It was a joyful time as we dedicated him to the Lord in two languages. It was on his 6-month birthday, so we celebrating by giving him some table food. He really liked it!

2017.11.19 first real food (5)

Our family here is really enjoying getting to know him. We are thankful that he can spend 6 weeks straight here.

2017.11.20 Ukraine (2)

At the end of the month, I’m flying alone to Chad, Africa, to train translators on our Bible translation program for two weeks. I’ve been preparing for this ever since we arrived in Ukraine. So far, I’ve collected 160 computer terms in French, which I need to memorize in order to teach well. Pray for God’s wisdom as I prepare. While I’m gone, Oksana will be getting dental work done (at a much lower rate) and in general just enjoying Eliyas with family and friends.

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We were planning on going down to Charleston, SC, for a missions banquet at a supporting church, but the Lord decided to change those plans by sending Hurricane Irma. Thankfully, our friends in Charleston were not greatly affected by the hurricane, but we couldn’t have predicted the Wed before. So, that meant we weren’t leaving that Thurs but instead would stay home. That meant I got a week and a half of my life given back, because we would have been quite busy during the entire trip. What do you do when you are given your life back?

Well, we had worked so hard to get things done before the trip that we had nothing pressing to do last Saturday. Since my mom’s bday was coming up (Sept 13), we decided to celebrate it with her by an all-day trip to Shipshewana. We capped that off with a surprise stop at a church in the area, because the pastor helped me purchase a new porch swing frame for my mom. She was quite pleased to see it waiting for her. I didn’t realize how much that swing meant to her until she sent a thank-you. It’s the one that she had at her home in SC, so she spent much family time (with all of us) on it and did her devotions on it after my dad died. Now she can use it in her new home in MI!

I also got to spend lots of quality time with my wife and my son. Here are some of our favorite recent pics.

What I didn’t expect is that though I had 7 work days given back, I still got behind in emails! I had my urgent emails down to around 5, so I thought I could chip away at the 70 non-urgent ones. But instead, I couldn’t even keep up with the new emails that came my way. Thankfully, I’ve been able to get the number back down to 10, but that’s with writing 30-40 emails a day. I can’t imagine how far behind I’d be if I didn’t have those 7 working days given back! When I fly to Asia for two weeks, I’ll definitely get behind, because I’ll be doing a lot of traveling from place to place: 2 days to get there, half a day to fly to another country, half day to fly upcountry, half day to drive down-country, half a day to fly back to the first country, overnight bus trip upcountry, overnight bus down-country, half day flight to another location in the same country, and then almost 2 days to fly back home. Lots of traveling, but also lots of good ministry opportunities! I’m actually a little fearful of the safety in the second country, so pray for safety and protection!

With 2 days of training next week and 1 day of work meetings (constitution and Admin Group), I’ll be quite busy throughout the rest of the week. Then it’s two weeks in Asia, so don’t expect any blog posts until mid-October.

Pray for good meetings at Bible Baptist in Wakarusa, IN, tomorrow. We are excited to get back to this church, which is our newest supporter.

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After around 3,300 miles of traveling, we made it back safely on Tuesday night. It was a trip filled with God’s blessings throughout–safety in travel, wisdom and support in helping Eliyas, no problems with border crossings, great times with friends, and many opportunities to minister. We have four supporting churches in Quebec, so we were able to report to them, but we also got into two other churches. I thank God for helping me with the French (each speaking opportunity got easier and easier) but also for making it easier on my wife by allowing us to connect to so many who know English. I think there were only a few situations in which someone could speak only French, but there were always one or two to help with translation.

We started our trip on Friday, June 23. We got to have lunch with a supporting couple on the east side of the state before heading across the border to Toronto. The border officer asked very few questions, so it went much more smoothly than I expected. It was a late night getting to bed in Toronto, and then it was a long day on Saturday driving to St-Jean-sur-Richelieu. It was our longest amount of driving with Eliyas–6 hours that took around 8. I’m thankful that we drove a rented minivan, because it let Oksana easily jump into the back seat to try to calm Eliyas or meet his needs as best she could while on the road.

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We really enjoyed spending time with Pastor Claude Jutras and his wife Cecile that first night and then with the whole church the next day. On Monday we toured Fort Chambly with François Rochefort and his family. Because of the 150th-year anniversary of Canada’s independence, it was free to tour the fort.

We did our best to celebrate with the Canadians by sporting some military duds from the past. We also got to march alongside the marching band and the soldiers in Quebec city as they headed to the Terrace Dufferin later on July 1.

Then we headed to Trois-Rivières to spend a few nights with friends, Rob and Becca Spare. They helped us get an opportunity for me to talk about the ministry of BI to some VBS kids at the church they attend. It was such a blessing to see the Spares’ dedication to the Lord as laypeople helping in a small church, separated from family in the US.

At the end of the week we enjoyed a few days of site-seeing in Quebec city. Actually, we probably only spent a few hours each day site-seeing, since it’s quite complicated to go anywhere for a long period of time with a newborn. But we had fun nonetheless.

20170702_195944They we headed north along the St. Lawrence River to go to our church in Rivière-du-Loup. Since I was there last in 2012, the pastor had died, and the church is still without a pastor. But they still had a strong love for the Lord. We absolutely loved the fellowship and also the beautiful sites along the river.

We went back south to the Montreal area to spend a few days with Steve and Brenda Faucette, BWM missionaries in Laval-Ouest. We had great times of fellowship with them and their small church and got to share testimonies at their Wed prayer service. They are currently our smallest Quebec church (English-speaking too), but they are our biggest supporters. Praise God!

Then we headed west to spend time with Pastor Benoit Carrier, his family, and his church in St-Jérome. We ministered at their church in the morning and then at the Faucette’s church in the evening, so it was a busy Sunday. It was a real joy to see David Brind-Amour and his family in St-Jérome. They drove down from their city north of Ottawa, Ontario, so they could see us. We got to spend a few extra days at the Carrier’s house since they were going away for a vacation. It was nice to stay put for a few days!

On Wed of that week, we headed southeast to Sherbrooke to spend the night with Pastor Mario Roy and his family. We also got to minister in their church that night, since I shared a devotional with the few couples who came out to pray.

20170714_081626On Thursday we drove down to Maine so I could introduce my family to Ross and Cathy Hodsdon. Ross is dying of cancer, so we wanted to be a blessing to him. I knew the trip was worth it when I saw a big smile on Ross’ face as Cathy held Eliyas and spoke cute things to him.

On Friday we headed to NJ for our last meeting of the trip. It was not an easy trip, since it meant over 7 hours of driving and many hours of stopping (around 12 hours total in the car), but we enjoyed seeing the eastern states. Pastor Troutman and his church welcomed us so graciously. We hope they will become a supporting church very soon!

Then, we began the trip home on Monday, July 17. We got to spend a night near Erie, PA, with friends Oksana knows from Ukraine (technically, the wife is from Belarus). I’m thankful Oksana got to use some of her Russian on the trip! (She even used it in the NJ church with a lady from Romania.)

Overall, it was just such a thrill to return to these churches that I hadn’t seen in a while to be able to share with them God’s blessings upon my life. The believers were thrilled to rejoice with me. When I went to Quebec last time, I was by myself. But now I’m richly blessed with a Ukrainian princess and with a cute little boy. Blessed beyond worthiness!

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In other news, I wrote both papers for India’s celebration before I left for the Quebec trip. I also finished putting together the PowerPoint presentation for one of our consultants to show as he promotes BI in India. Plus, I just about finished up the Literacy in Biblical Times paper for the upcoming Bible Faculty Summit–all before we left on our trip. I could tell God was working as people prayed, because it all went so smoothly. During the trip I was able to complete a Pastoral Counseling course (as part of certification to become a Christian counselor) by finishing a 12-page paper, writing a Bible study based on the paper, completing a 4-page reading report, writing a self-improvement project, and writing a 4-page course evaluation. God also helped these to flow quite smoothly once I actually sat down to write. Now to the next course: Marriage and Family Counseling.

One other big news item: our support has increased to 98%, thanks to the new support from Bible Baptist in Wakarusa, IN. I’ve been in connection with them since 2008, but just now the relationship has ripened. Praise God!

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I’m sure you anticipated it: Eliyas’ first trip. Troy the traveling translator doesn’t let grass grow under his feet long, and his wife and his son are happy to travel with him. Well, we hope so (regarding Eliyas)! We are still trying to get him into a good pattern of eating and sleeping, so please pray for that to happen before we leave for Quebec next week. We look forward to seeing our 4 supporting churches up there, and then we’ll head to NJ for a meeting with Pastor Troutman and his church.

Eliyas’ first trip was technically to Grand Haven, MI, when my sister and her son were in town last week. It was a good opportunity to take a few days vacation for some R & R and to help my wife more at home (especially at night). I’m not sure how much of Grand Haven Eliyas got to see, since he slept most of the time, but the rest of us enjoyed it (and yes, I know, newborns can’t see far anyway!). Oksana’s first visit to Grand Haven was for our first Valentine’s Day together, so it was nice to actually see the water this time, not a big mass of snow and ice!

Grand Haven

Eliyas and Oksana will get their first exposure to French when we visit Quebec. Oksana has already been exposed to languages she doesn’t know, since we hear them in Eurasia during our workshop trips. But this will be the first trip where I’ll be able to be an interpreter for her, if my French isn’t too rusty. Not only will we really enjoy visiting friends up there, we’ll also spend a few days touring the old part of Quebec City. It’s the closest thing for Americans to see a European city, so it’s going to be fun.

What are some things I’m working on at the office? Glad you asked! I have to write two papers for our India partner’s (BIIS) 25-year celebration later this year. They are publishing a booklet to commemorate this event, and they’ve asked me to write about the philosophy and methodology of Bible translation, as well as whatever other message the Lord lays on my heart. I’m also refining a presentation on “Literacy in Biblical Times,” which I will present at the Bible Faculty Summit at Appalachian Bible College in early August. I’m also putting together a promotional PPT for an Indian consultant to show to a group of Bible college professors in July. Oh, and I’m preparing to report and preach in French in Quebec. And of course, many other things…

 

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Dear Family and Friends,

In preparation for the arrival of our son, I read Tedd Tripp’s Shepherding a Child’s Heart. Tripp focuses on parenting that addresses the heart of the child, not just his behavior. He makes his point strongly with this statement: “A change in behavior that does not stem from a change in heart is not commendable; it is condemnable.” May God enable Oksana and me to raise our son with a gospel-saturated focus on his heart.

OUR SON IS BORN!

We PRAISE God for bringing Eliyas (pronounced EL-i-yas) Joseph into this world on May 19! He weighed 8 lbs and 15 oz, and was 22 inches long. Oksana was in labor for 27.5 hours, but we praise God for strengthening her to delivery normally. The timing was not what we had planned, but it turns out that God’s plan was better than ours. Oksana called me to come home at 4 p.m. on Thursday and, after everything was completed at the hospital, we went home Sunday afternoon. So, I missed only one day of the Haitian Creole workshop. I was able to do the second week of the workshop, because my mom helped Oksana at home during the day. Also, we got our first two meetings in Quebec moved into July, so we have a little longer for Oksana and Eliyas to get into a good routine.

Eliyas’ name means “my God is Jehovah,” and that’s our prayer for him—that he would follow only Jehovah all his days. Please PRAY with us in that regard and PRAY for us that God would enable us to lead him in that way. You can read more about the birth story and our choice of his name in previous posts on this blog.

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Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. (Psa 127:3)

God makes a home for the lonely. (Psa 68:6a)

SUPPORT NEARING 100%

Our support increased again this past quarter, thanks to our sending church, Grand Valley Baptist; Lake County Baptist in Waukegan, IL; Calvary Baptist in York, PA; and a family, who are dear friends. Due to some anticipated expenses, our support estimate went up some, so the bottom line is that our support level is at 94%. Please pray for the remaining support to come in this year. During the summer, we will be visiting four supporting churches in Quebec and two non-supporting churches in the US.

MINISTRY

We PRAISE the Lord for giving me a safe trip to Myanmar (consultant seminar), Singapore (two churches), and India (school partnerships). The seminar was a tremendous team-building experience, the visits to Singapore churches were refreshing, and the exploration in India was very profitable. PRAY for wisdom as we strategize on how to move forward in India, which will include another trip to India in October.

We also PRAISE God for His help in writing the BI constitution. The committee worked very hard, and we should have the rough draft complete by the end of this week. PRAY as it will be sent to BMM for input at that point.

The Lord really helped me to stay focused for the Haitian Creole OT workshop in May, and we finished checking 1 Kings and 2 Kings 1-6. PRAISE God!

PRAY as I try to finalize plans for the Consultant Seminar at BI in August. PRAY for wisdom as I lead my department and prepare various presentations.

PRAY also for God’s provision of more laborers. PRAISE Him fo His provision of financial support for BI, though we continue to wait for His choice of a new Director and the filling of other strategic roles.

For the sake of Christ,

Troy (for the three of us)

 

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How did we get to Eliyas, which is pronounced EL-i-yas? The story is below for those who are interested. The story will be told in the third person, since I have to tell you what Troy said/thought as well as what Oksana said/thought.

What mattered most to them was that they choose a name with a good meaning. In fact, that was more important than a nice-sounding name. They’d rather have one with a good meaning, even if it didn’t sound nice. When they looked through names, Oksana considered a few names that sounded nice, but then she discarded them when she realized they had no good meaning. (Troy was less particular about which name their son should have as long as it had a good meaning, was easy to say in both the USA and in Ukraine, and wouldn’t get shortened to a nickname that we didn’t like.)

(In fact, when they were at the labor/delivery class offered by our hospital, they were asked by the professor to share which characteristic of their spouse they wanted to see in their child. The instructor was focusing on physical characteristics, it seems, but Oksana boldly declared that they wanted their child to have the shared characteristic of loving God all his life.)

Then, Oksana heard the name “Ilya” and really liked how it sounded; she also liked the “soft form” of the name in Russian, “Ilyusha.” But she didn’t like the English version, Elijah. She hadn’t considered the meaning of that name until that point. Troy told her the name means “my God is Jehovah.” It wasn’t exactly what she wanted (though quite close), but she knew she wanted our baby to be faithful to the Lord until the end. Both of them wanted that. She thought the meaning was OK, but she wondered if there might be a name that would fit her desires even better. She just entrusted it to the Lord and knew He would answer somehow.

Then, Troy said he likes it but that the Russian form in English would look like a feminine name with the ‘a’ ending. “Ilya” wouldn’t look like a name for a boy.

They considered other names, like Lemuel, because it had a good meaning. But Troy didn’t like the name, though it occurs in Proverbs and though it means “faithful” or “dedicated.” It’s not a very common name. Oksana didn’t want to push Troy to like this name.

Then, one time Oksana mentioned they could change Ilya to Ilyas, as they do in Turkmenistan and other countries in that part of the world. Troy thought the form “Ilyas” looks funny. The language we are helping in Eurasia has the form “Eliya.” Troy’s mom also suggested that form based on someone at our former church in South Carolina,” but Troy and Oksana didn’t like that form. In January, they talked to their friends in Eurasia and asked for their ideas, but they still couldn’t come to a conclusion.

Well, one day they were on the plane from Eurasia to Ukraine in early February, and out of the blue, Troy told Oksana that they needed to come to a conclusion very soon. He mentioned that they were on their way to Ukraine, and they would see family and friends, who would ask them what their boy’s name would be. So, they were trying to come to a conclusion on the plane. Oksana said, “Well, I told you the name I like, but I don’t want to pressure you to like it.”

It just so happened that a lady from Israel was sitting next to Troy, and she heard them discussing the matter. She was around 51, but she had twins at the age of 48—her first kids. She was a pharmacist at the time, but formerly she was an ob-gyn doctor, who had delivered many babies. She mentioned that the parents would sometimes ask her to be part of choosing a name.

She said she overheard them talking about choosing a name, so they told her what they were considering. She said that in Israel the form is “Eliyas.” It was similar to what is in Eurasian countries, but with an ‘E’ at the beginning, not an ‘I.’ And the pronunciation put the stress on the first syllable. Oksana wouldn’t like it on the second syllable, because then that would sound too much like “Eli,” the priest in 1 Samuel who didn’t raises his sons well. Oksana didn’t want anything close to his name.

Oksana said she liked Eliyas, and Troy agreed that it was a nice-sounding form of the name. Plus, he thought the form in English would look nice.

Then, Oksana said she really wanted the middle name to be “Joseph,” because she really likes that character in the Bible. Troy also really likes him. Both admire him for how faithful he was to the Lord. That’s exactly what they want for their son.

But, as they were considering the form “Eliyas,” they wondered if it would sound better with the stress on the first syllable or the second. So, when they were in Ukraine, they asked a few people how they would say “Eliyas.” They got two people to say they like the accent on the first syllable. As they would say the name themselves, they tended to put the accent on the first syllable too.

So, it was finally decided—Eliyas Joseph—with the stress on EL!

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