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The first week of teaching here at Bob Jones University was definitely challenging in many respects but also enjoyable. I had to overcome some snags in getting fully integrated into the system here (online course interface, wireless connection, printer, locked doors, etc.), while also finalizing preparations for the lectures. Eight of my 9 lectures were mostly done when I arrived, but I still needed to do fine-tuning on a few and then make them into class presentations. This meant really long days for the first two days of the week, but then a little easier for the rest of the week.

During the first week of this course on Bible translation, we covered the history of Bible translation, current trends and needs, translation philosophy, translation methodology, and grammatical systems. I’m so thankful that Glenn Kerr, a co-worker at BI, has been able to help teach the course through Skype. His one-hour presentations on history, philosophy, and methodology have really lightened my load. He has also been discussing translation problems in various select passage for one hour per day, so that has really been helpful for me and the students too–especially since these are the only daily assignments that need to be graded, and he does all the grading for them. This means I mostly just need to focus on lecture preparation. Over the weekend, though, I also had to begin working on the final exam, since I wanted to supply my students with a study guide to help them in their preparations.

This week we’ll cover semantics, implicit and unknown words, sentences and paragraphs, and translation procedures. On Friday the students will take the final exam. So, once I get past the classtime on Thursday, it will be smooth sailing. There are only two students (Dr. Grace Hargis, on the left, is the resident faculty member overseeing the course and the missionary linguistics program), so grading their papers and exams should not be too bad at all.

I’m so thankful for God’s help during the first week and looking forward to how He’ll continue to help. We hope to see these two students join BI someday; they seem to be quite hopeful too. In addition to the recruiting aspect, I’ve also appreciated all I learned as I prepared for the course and all that I continue to learn as I interact with the material and with the students.

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On Sunday, we got to minister at Fellowship Baptist Church in Anderson, SC. It was a joy to be with the believers there and to tell them about our ministry of Bible translation. I knew Pastor Arnett from a church north of Grand Rapids, MI, so it was good to reconnect with him in his new pastorate down here.

We are thankful that the Lord connected Oksana to a good driver’s training program down here. She’s already done one behind-the-wheel session of about three hours and will do another tomorrow. She also did one classroom session with the group last week and has three more to do. I’m looking forward to seeing how she progresses in learning how to drive!

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Dear Family and Friends,

Many challenges and encouragements to improve our marriages are found in the second book in the Marriage and Family Counseling course I’m taking. In Sweethearts for a Lifetime, Wayne and Carol Mack have found that marriages are often lacking because “so little in our society encourages couples to make the kind of adjustments and sacrifices in their lives that are necessary for oneness in marriage.” When our society encourages a self-focused life, it is only by the power of the Spirit working through the Word that we can see the right way to live. PRAY for God to help Oksana and me to strengthen our oneness.

A BUSY BUT GOOD FURLOUGH

Oksana and I are thankful for good ministry opportunities in 13 churches during almost two months of travels recently. We enjoyed reconnecting with 13 churches and seven supporting families. We were not able to find a second vehicle before the trip; but God enabled us to fit everything into our Ford Escape and gave us safety over the many, many miles we covered.

2018.04.01 Easter (1)

Eliyas’ First Easter (Reading, PA)

During meetings in the first six weeks, we were able to return to one location, giving us a “home away from home” to enjoy welcoming spring as a family and to get some work done. I was able to complete five of nine lecture days for the two-week course, Bible Translation, that I will be teaching at Bob Jones University in July. Since then, I have completed another day of lectures and have made significant progress on the second course, Translation Technology, a one-week course. PRAY as I need to complete the rest of the material for both courses by the middle of July. PRAISE God that He has provided a way for a co-worker to share some of the teaching via Skype for the first course, and that He opened a way for two PhD friends to help teach Bible software in the second course. PRAY also for the Lord to raise up more students to take the Missionary Linguistics Program at BJU.

SHORT VISITS AT HOME

After furlough we had only two weeks at home before we headed out to Ukraine at the end of May. We will spend two weeks there before going to another Metanoia NT workshop in Eurasia. I have had to save all my workshop preparations for the first week in Ukraine, so PRAY for wisdom and strength as I prepare. PRAISE God for helping the team and Oksana to finish all their work so that I can start preparing. PRAY for wisdom as Oksana and I try to resolve complicated linguistic issues, including whether to borrow words from the old parent language of Metanoia or its new host country language.

When we return from Eurasia, we will have only two weeks in MI before we head to SC for the translation courses. Then, we’ll have only a few days at home before I lead the BI Consultant Seminar. PRAY for grace in these quick turn-arounds. PRAY also for good preparation and participation in the seminar. PRAY too that the Lord would provide a minivan before the trip to SC, since my mom will be going with us on that trip.

It looks like I will not be doing the research trip to another creative-access country this year or going to Mexico. Thank you for your prayers!

PRAISE God that Tim Fink has answered God’s call to become BI’s new director. PRAY for Tim and his wife Sandy as they adjust to this new ministry over the summer. PRAY for God to provide project coordinators and a Scripture Use manager.

For the sake of Christ,

Troy (for the three of us)

 

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Though we are very thankful for “our Enola home,” we are excited about relocating our PA headquarters to Kittanning, where we’ll be through Mother’s Day weekend. We will be speaking in 5 more churches during this last week and a half of furlough ministry. We’ll also get to see individual supporters all along the way.

We are thankful for the very encouraging time we had at Community Baptist in Fleetwood and then at Calvary Baptist in York. Both churches were very encouraging and receptive to us. We’ve also enjoyed welcoming spring into this area. This past week was finally a week of consistently warm temperatures. We will definitely miss getting to take evening walks along the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg.

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After doing a lot of reading about translation philosophy, I finally cranked out a rough draft of a lecture on it for the Bible translation course. Though scholarship is moving beyond functional equivalence (formerly called dynamic equivalence), this is still the prevalent philosophy in textbooks and the majority of the last translations. So, my lecture focuses on essentially a comparison of BI’s philosophy and functional equivalence. I really appreciated the critical analyses that are available to help me think through the issues, but probably my favorite analysis was done by Vern Poythress in Translating Truth. His article is called “Truth and Fullness of Meaning.” His main point is that functional equivalence has essentially reduced the translation process to a scientific process. This is evident even in the title of his first book, Toward a Science of Translation. He took the advances in linguistics, especially in regard to grammar studies (e.g., generative grammar by Noam Chomsky), and applied them to the task of Bible translation. The process he proposed is one of analysis, transfer, and restructuring, by means of kernel analysis and transformations, in order to produce the proper reader response to the resulting translation. As Poythress explains, this process is too reductionistic, even though Nida does give some explanation of the artistic aspects as well. Like Poythress, I am thankful for the analytical tools that Nida has provided in the theory he advanced, and I also recognize that Nida cannot be held responsible for those who have taken his theory further than he intended it to go. But I really appreciate Poythress helping me to see that translation is much more than a scientific process; it’s an art and a science. Also, the meaning of the biblical texts cannot be discovered simply by linguistic analysis. The transfer to other languages is much more than the transformation of underlying kernels into new forms in the target language. We also depend upon God’s Spirit to guide us, and we bow in humble recognition that some passages elude even our best efforts at trying to discover the meaning.

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On Friday a consultant submitted to me the Falam Chin Bible for final approval. This Bible is for the Falam Chin people who are in mainly in northern Myanmar, but whose diaspora is all over the globe. The translator, our new director for the Myanmar office, is an extremely hard worker (along with his team). He began his NT in 2002 and finished that in 2009. We quickly adopted the OT project in 2010, and he’s just about got it done. Only 15 years to translate an entire Bible! That may seem like a long time to you, but for those of us who do this work every day, that’s an incredibly fast pace. Our current average for finishing a NT is just under 15 years, and then just under 18 years for the OT. So, that would be an average of about 33 years to complete the Bible. In comparison, the Falam Chin Bible took less than half as long as our average. What an amazing feat that God enabled the Falam Chin translation team to accomplish. Praise God!

The prayer request, though, is that we would be able to complete funding, which has to be done before we can send it to the printer. We still need around $40,000. Pray that God would provide these remaining funds soon!

Last week I exchanged a number of emails with our Metanoia NT team and with linguistics consultants with another organization, and we had a Skype conversation or two. We are trying to figure out what letters to use for the velar and uvular sounds–e.g., like our English “k” and “q.” Metanoia has aspirated sounds and ejective sounds in this area of the mouth, and it can be quite difficult to tell the difference. As my wife was speaking in Russian to the translator, he was giving her examples of words with these sounds, and then she was trying to reproduce them for me to hear. Since Russian and Ukrainian don’t have the same exact sounds, it was almost impossible for me to hear a distinction. Needless to say, we need to wait until we see them in June to hear the sounds in person. Pray for us to have wisdom to know how to help them! We want to get this settled soon so that we don’t have to keep correcting the spelling of words in the NT translation. Pray also for wisdom for us in helping them decide whether to use words based on the language of a neighboring country (which most believers in their area know) or words based on their current country (which most unbelievers would know). That’s another issue we have to tackle in June.

Since I couldn’t go on any trips because of the possibility of a Pente research trip (which hasn’t happened yet) for the first three months of the year, I was stuck at home (which I loved!). That gave me the opportunity to get caught up on emails and projects. Some emails, which I call my “backburner” emails, went back to 2010. I had 62 of them waiting for me! But as of today, there are only 10 more! Of course, the craziness is going to get started up again on Friday, when we go on furlough for 2 months, and I don’t know when things will calm down again, though December looks pretty promising. May God give grace!

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We at BI praise the Lord that the BMM General Council ratified the new BI constitution yesterday. We haven’t had a constitution since 1981 when BI was created. Since then, there have been many complex discussions about how BI should best relate to its parent organization, Baptist Mid-Missions. The new BMM president, Dr. Vernon Rosenau, determined that we should be considered a ministry team, just like the other ministry teams at BMM (no longer called “fields” since some teams are not tied to any particular location). Then, it was a matter of writing a constitution. That process began almost a year ago, and now it’s finished. What a relief! What a blessing!

I’m also thankful for the 7 volunteers, whom the Lord has provided, to help us develop materials for our projects. It’s such a blessing to see how the Lord leads people to us to help with the work! Plus, on Sunday I met a Mexican lady who has a PhD in exegesis, is a professional writer, and has a heart for Bible translation. She can help me determine what Spanish terminology to use for our technical documents. And then today, an adjunct consultant in Asia, who said he couldn’t help this year, changed his mind and said he is available to help. We really need his experience to work alongside a new consultant in Myanmar, so I’m very thankful for his willingness to help!

So many blessings to be thankful for!

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My wife and I are thankful for the safety the Lord gave us during our recent trip to IN and IL. We ended up logging around 800 miles on the trip. We were quite worn out after we got back and needed some extra sleep to recover, but we are glad we went. We got to see pastors from two of our supporting churches, and we spent Sunday morning worshiping with a third, and spending a good part of the afternoon with the pastor and a few others. We also got a ton of free items from Widow’s Jar Ministries, mostly for our growing boy. We are so thankful for that ministry, because they help us save hundreds of dollars. And we need those hundreds too, because we are looking for a second vehicle that will more adequately handle our needs as a family on furlough trips. We hope to get one before our upcoming trip that begins on March 23.

Being at home for an extended period of time has allowed me to get into a regular routine. I’ve been able to spend more time studying Russian, and I’ve been able to keep up with emails better. I only got to 2 of the 64 non-time-sensitive emails so far, but I have hopes that I can deal with more next week. I have difficulty getting the time-sensitive ones below 10 (currently at 14), but as long as I can keep them to a manageable amount, I can work on other things. Soon, I’ll need to prepare sermons and devotionals for our upcoming trip. The original plan was to visit 7 supporting churches in PA and WV, but then it expanded to 9. But now we’re up to 13. It’s going to be a two months packed with ministry opportunities!

I just finished the quarterly report of my department (text production) for the 4th quarter of 2017 (including some activities from January). I noticed that we did 31 translation workshops and 6 literacy/linguistics workshops. That’s a very busy quarter! That also meant that I had to read all the reports for those workshops (not all have been submitted). No wonder I had 100 time-sensitive emails at one time!

As one of my responsibilities as the head consultant, I have to read the latest issue of The Bible Translator. In one article, the author discussed the challenges in translating into Kkmer, the primary language of Cambodia. He explains that there are 16 different second-person pronouns, identifying differences in age, gender, and social status. Greek has only two such pronouns, and they distinguish between singular and plural. Imagine the difficulties, then, that a Khmer translator has when trying to determine which of the 16 pronouns to use for the 2 Greek pronouns. This is particularly challenging when you consider Jesus, the Son of God, who had divine social status, but yet also lived within the realm of human society with its family relationships, government relationships, etc. The author discussed three case studies in John: Jesus and his mother (John 2:4), Jesus and Pilate (John 18:33-36), and Jesus and his apostles (John 15:15). These are the types of things that no commentary gives us guidance on, so we translators are left to work through the issues on our own. Thankfully, though, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us and committed team members to work together with.

 

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This weekend my family will take a few days off to spend time together, visit my sister and her family, and stock up on baby clothes for our growing-into-a-giant boy. We look forward to some time away! We’ll also get to make contact with three supporting churches: Bible Baptist in Wakarusa, IN; Calvary Baptist in Geneva, IL; and Colonial Hills Baptist in Indianapolis, IN. It’s going to be a packed weekend, but hopefully fun and refreshing–and safe!

The Pente research trip keeps getting pushed back, since we are waiting for documents to be processed for the main coordinator with whom we are traveling. So, that’s given me the opportunity to spend almost 3 full months at home (minus the upcoming weekend trip). What a welcomed time to get into a normal routine and actually get caught up on emails and other tasks! At one point earlier this year, I had close to 100 time-sensitive emails in my inbox, but now I’m down to around 10. Maybe I can actually get to the 64 non-time-sensitive emails that have been waiting for me for a while, some going all the way back to 2010.

It’s also given us the chance to take care of various medical requirements that BMM asks us to do in order to get missionary clearance. It may not be until mid-May that we get these things done, but we are slowly making progress.

I’ve also used this time to try to finalize BI’s constitution, which should be ratified sometime in March, and to establish my department’s budget for the coming fiscal year, that starts on April 1. I think I’m getting spoiled, because I normally have to keep up with all these things while preparing for a workshop and then traveling to do that workshop. In early 2019, I’ll be wishing my year started as 2018, but instead it looks like I’ll be traveling to India and Haiti in the first two months. I guess I can’t have this privilege of being home multiple months in a row too often, or I’ll actually see grass growing under my feet. God gives grace for every season of life!

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