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Archive for the ‘personal’ Category

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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I wonder if anyone’s ever heard of a two-year Bible reading plan–i.e., reading through the whole Bible in two years. I haven’t heard of it, but I think I am creating it as I go. My wife and I decided to start reading through the Bible together last year, by doing 1 chapter in the OT and 1 chapter in the NT each day (the previous year, we started in Genesis, but we missed the NT too much to want to do that again). We got through the whole NT last year, so we started into the Psalms, while plowing through the rest of the OT for the other daily chapter. We finished the Psalms sometime in January, so now we are reading back through the NT. I’m actually reading through the NT in Greek this year–for the first time! I know, I should be ashamed that I as a translation consultant haven’t done that yet. But the reality is that I hadn’t taken the time to figure out how to do it easily, until I discovered that I could just bookmark as I go in the electronic text on Kindle. My big obstacle was figuring out where to mark my stopping point, without putting marks in my Greek text. I finally discovered the answer this year!

So, we should finish the OT sometime later this year, and we’ll hopefully finish our second read-through of the NT. It will end up being a 2-year Bible reading plan.

But you may ask, Doesn’t every good Christian read through the whole Bible in one year? Many, of course, don’t, but it is often what is promoted and encouraged (some are encouraging reading through the whole Bible in 90 days, while others encourage reading through the whole Bible in a year with two read-throughs of the NT). While I like the idea of getting an overview of the entire Bible in one year, I found that in the time I’ve allotted to do Bible reading, I just can’t stop and meditate very much if I have to read 3-4 chapters per day. So, reading 1 chapter in the OT (with the first few verses being in Hebrew) and 1 chapter in the NT (or for this year, reading as many verses out of the Greek NT as I can) each day is much more doable. I can actually take the time to think about what I’m reading, and even look at some of the notes in my study Bible.

Maybe someday I’ll formalize this 2-year plan and market it!

On a personal note, Oksana and I are enjoying almost three full months in a row of being at home. Even in spite of having to do all the snow clearing myself, we are thankful to be in one place for a long period of time for a change! Speaking of snow clearing, I finally sold off my wimpy Toro single-stage snowblower. On Sunday I finally got fed up with it not doing its job, so I sold it on Tuesday. It took me 45 minutes to clear a driveway that’s 20×60. I was actually pushing the snow half the time instead of letting the snowblower throw it, because it couldn’t handle the amount or weight of the snow. Lord willing, I’ll be the happy owner of a two-stage lightly used snowblower this evening.

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We are thankful for the encouraging commissioning service on January 21 at our home church, Grand Valley Baptist. Though I was commissioned as a single man in 2011, it was important that we be commissioned as a married couple. In addition to needing to fulfill a BMM requirement, we wanted to do it so that we could be solidified in our partnership with our home church. We are so thankful for their ministry to us, and we hope the time was both a blessing and informative for them.

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We were blessed to enjoy the ministries of Dave Ferguson (BMM Vice President), Gary Walton (interim BI director), and Glenn Kerr (BI translation consultant) that morning. God challenged and encouraged us through these men, as well as the words of Pastor Dan and the music ministry. The two main messages tied into each other quite well: we are His workmanship to glorify Him and to spread the knowledge of His glory around the world.

We are thankful to be at full support and to be able to focus full-time now on our ministry. Of course, we will need to keep up with our supporters, but we consider that a privilege and opportunity–both to be with churches and to be together on the road. We look forward to 2 months of reporting in the late spring. (You can find out where we’ll be on the “Where are We?” page.)

We are also rejoicing in how God answered prayer concerning the BI constitution. We had our final meeting as a constitution committee last Thursday, before we allow the BI Ministry Team to view the “nearly final” version. I actually wondered if we would be able to resolve some complicated issues during last week’s meeting, so I was quite pleasantly surprised when all roadblocks were so easily and clearly taken out of the way. Praise God! On Monday I shared the new version with the team, and by late February we’ll hopefully answer any questions and be ready to ratify it. We thank God for how He has answered so many prayers for so many years.

 

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My assignment in early December was to introduce our Chad translators to computers and show them how to use Paratext, a powerful Bible translation program developed by two other Bible societies. We were finally bringing these translators into the 21st century! Why didn’t we do it sooner? Two main reasons: 1) they didn’t have any electricity in their villages, 2) we didn’t have a translation software with a French interface to give them. The first problem was solved by the advent of solar power, and the second problem was solved when Paratext, which now has a French interface, began to be distributed for free. Thus, these translators, who had been using simple electronic keyboards, could now gain access to powerful resources that would improve the quality of their work and reduce the time needed to complete the translation (one of our NT’s has taken 4 years to get it ready for printing, but many of the errors being caught in this last stage could be identified automatically by Paratext).

As I prepared for this assignment, I grew to understand how little the translators knew about computers. I have been exposed to them and have been using them since the 90’s (or even before), but they probably haven’t seen them too much in their lives, nor have they hardly ever used them. I remember working with one team in 2013, using a new computer that our supporting church in Singapore, had provided. The translator moved the mouse as if it were stuck in molasses–very slowly. How could I not only introduce them to computers but also teach them how to use Paratext in only two weeks? And how would I be able to do so in French?

I quickly realized I needed to keep a database of computer terms in French. I ended up collecting 177 terms! In addition, I knew I needed to write a manual so that the translators could refer back to it after I left Chad. At first, I thought I could find something that had already been developed. A co-worker trained translators in Central African Republic, so I thought her material would fit my need. But as I reviewed it, I realized it wasn’t basic enough, and it didn’t fit my style of teaching. Also, it wasn’t as comprehensive as I wanted it to be. I asked a Paratext expert in another organization, who trained a group of us at BI in Paratext in September, and he sent over a set of manuals all translated into French. But as I reviewed that material, I realized it fit their organization’s translation process, but not ours. So, the conclusion was that I needed to write my own manual! That presented quite a burden for me!

But at that point I felt like I hardly knew Paratext well. I had been using it with two different projects, but I was only using the basic tools. Thankfully, a co-worker gave us some training in August, and then in God’s wonderful providence, He connected us to an expert, who lives basically just down the street from BI. We gathered 9-10 of us at the office so he could give us two days of advanced training. I still didn’t know some of the basic tools, but at least I was no longer intimidated by the program. By God’s grace, I put together a 40-page manual in French, with everything checked by a native French speaker (who so wonderfully made himself available to help me throughout the writing process). I also wrote 10 pages of material about basic computer skills. Thank God, He helped my prep time in Ukraine to be quite productive! I was ready to go to Chad!

I arrived in Chad on Nov 30, but Dec 1 was their independence day holiday. The complication there was that I had to register my arrival at the police station, but they were closed that Friday because of the holiday. We tried on Saturday but to no avail. I just had to be content with spending the weekend at the capital, and with the training starting one day late. I actually welcomed the opportunity to rest and to get a little more work done. When I talked on the phone to a co-worker (Anna Beth Wivell), who would help me with the training, it became apparent that I needed to write more material to add to the manual. She had experienced some serious challenges with a team, who had already started using Paratext, so I realized I needed to write material to help the other teams avoid the same challenges (thank God that one team went through these things first and not all 5 teams together!). So, I wrote 5 more pages, and got those checked by my friend in France. I sent it down to Anna Beth, and she got the manuals printed on Monday.

While in the capital that weekend, I got to meet three key individuals, so clearly God had other reasons to keep me up there. I met a language assessment specialist, who can help us find new projects. At church Sunday, I met a linguistics professor, and after church a group of us got to know a medical doctor who has a heart to revive the Tumag situation (this group has stalled in their OT translation work). I also got to preach to almost 700 people at that church, which has three of my former students from my Cameroon days as pastors. I’m also thankful that I got to see a fourth student too, and the son of a fifth student helped me greatly by taking me around to restaurants on his motorcycle (and loaned me his router for my stay in Chad).

We finally got to head south on the bus at 10:30 am on Monday. It was an arduous 16-hour bus ride. The bus is actually pretty comfortable, but spending that many hours bouncing down a deteriorating paved road while listening to Arabic music is not too much fun. Plus, they make only very brief stops, so we end up being hungry most of the trip (not common for Americans but quite common for Chadians).

I got a few hours of sleep that night, and then started into the training at 10 am the next morning. God gave strength to get through the whole day even without taking a nap, but that evening a sickness started setting in. I had very little appetite. By the next day  diarrhea started. I’m not sure if it was the food we ate at the church on Sunday, or what we had at the roadside cafe on Monday, or what I ate with the translators on Tuesday. But something got me! But thankfully, though it made me feel pretty miserable, it didn’t keep me from teaching each day. And since I had already done the prep work before the training, I could just focus on resting each evening (but also preparing a devotional each night for the next day).

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There were 5 teams present–the team’s typist and a the main translator. The BI Chad administrator was also there to learn. The typist, as I said above, was familiar with the electronic keyboard they have been using, so that was helpful. But they weren’t using the French keyboard or the Chadian keyboard (which require special key mappings to go with the English keyboard on the computers). I wish the keyboard was in French! I also wish a co-worker had put the French version of Windows and other software on the computers. Somehow he misunderstood the situation in Chad, so on 4 of the computers, there was only English interfaces and programs. That was an unavoidable complexity that added to the challenge! (Sometime next year, they’ll get French programs to fix this problem.)

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I’m thankful that the translators were ready with great interest! They were eager to enter into the 21st century! They showed no signs of frustration or despair, but they were quite slow in learning the tasks. There were 3 of us (Anna Beth and a translator who’s already been using Paratext) who would have to help each team step by step as I taught new tasks. But it seems that they were picking up on the training–I hope! And we finished in 8 days! They were quite thankful to be able to go home one day early, and I was glad to have one day to write my reports and to get caught up on work before my vacation started on the following Monday.

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The translators are rarely able to gather into one room like that (the last time was in 2012 when they got additional translator training), so I hope the two weeks was an encouraging time for them. I tried to encourage them through the devotions each morning.

While I was there, the Lord also helped me through some administrative challenges involving sensitive personnel issues. I met with the administrative council of BI’s Chad affiliate the Saturday during my stay there, and we successfully worked through 4 challenging issues: redirecting one candidate for translation consultant toward literacy coordinator (a more urgent need), redirecting our considerations away from another man who is not qualified for the literacy coordinator position, thinking through complex issues regarding a second candidate for translation consultant, and charting out end goals for bringing our 5 OT projects to completion. Oh, and I may have found a good solution to our literacy needs in Central African Republic.

What a productive trip I had, even in spite of the sickness! Thankfully, the sickness went away by the second Tuesday, thanks to the help of a fellow missionary and her antibiotics. Praise God for strength, wisdom, and grace throughout the trip!

Back in Ukraine, my wife had her struggles with Eliyas, who doesn’t know how to sleep through the night. Plus, she couldn’t rely on others to help, since they had to work most days. So, she was almost totally occupied with baby duties–but since he brings her (and me) so much joy, she wasn’t struggling terribly. She shared some of her joys with me through texting, and once we were even able to talk on the phone through Skype. But otherwise, we had to limit our communication, since Internet in Chad is so expensive. But I got to see pictures of him, including his sitting on his own for the first time.

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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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It happened again. I was heading into another translation checking workshop, and I wondered how I would manage all the different things converging at the same time. Not only did I need to prepare for the Haitian Creole workshop, but I also needed to get ready to welcome two summer interns during the first week of the workshop, while also trying to be ready for whenever our son would decide to come into the world. (Not to mention the many emails and meetings I have to deal with on a regular basis)

I thought I needed to have both 1 and 2 Kings ready for the workshop, since that’s what the translator had submitted. Considering the amount of material we’ve covered in past workshops, I anticipated we could cover both books.

My prayer was that our son would come before the workshop started so that I wouldn’t miss any days of the workshop. It’s expensive to fly the translator to the office, so I didn’t want to lose a single day. My thinking was that if he were born on his due day (May 11), I would have a few days to get adjusted to welcoming him into this world and into our home before starting the workshop on May 15. God clearly had another plan, and as it always turns out, His plan was better than mine.

God delayed Eliyas’ birth until Friday, May 19. By that Wednesday evening I had prepared enough material to check through 2 Kings 8 in the workshop. Because I invited another consultant to join us in the workshop so she could do the next workshop in Haiti (I actually hoped she would take this May workshop, but she couldn’t, but wanted to just observe, resulting in my having to prepare an English interlinear for 8 chapters of 1 Kings–i.e., more work for me rather than less work!). I had prepared 6 chapters by that Wednesday night.

Then, Thursday afternoon came around. At 4 pm my wife called saying she felt the contractions coming on. So, I had to cut out of the workshop 30 minutes early. About 28 hours later, our son would be born. So, I lost that full day of the workshop. We were in the hospital until Sunday afternoon, so I was occupied for two weekend days, but no more workshop time was lost. I had to prepare two more chapters for an English interlinear, so I spent an hour doing that in the workshop.

I got back into the workshop on Monday, and we picked up where we left off. We had various other distractions along the way, slowing down our progress. In the end, we finished up to and including 2 Kings 6, which meant that I didn’t actually have to do any more prep work after the previous Wednesday night. God gave me just enough time to do all the preparation work needed for the workshop (except the 1 hour of work in the hospital), and He arranged it such that we basically lost only 1 day of the workshop because of my son’s birth. Plus, because of that, I could focus on helping my wife at home in the evenings during the second week of the workshop, instead of having to prepare more material, as I normally always have to do during a workshop. In fact, if I calculate the number of days we actually spent on 1-2 Kings (7.5 days), I find that we were as productive in this past workshop as any in the past.

I will add that I couldn’t have gotten back into the workshop very easily if it hadn’t been for the sacrificial help of my mom. She stayed all day every day with my mom while I was at the office, and then she stayed until late in the evening while Oksana and I did other tasks. So, I thank God for leading my mom to live close to us so that she could help us bear our burdens!

I also hoped Eliyas would come early in May, because we needed time for him to get into a good pattern before leaving for Quebec in mid-June. Well, God worked that out too. The pastors were very gracious to move the meetings back, giving us an extra week before we have to leave.

It never ceases to amaze me how God orchestrates His plan in my life such that everything works out well for a workshop. Why don’t I learn this lesson and stop getting stressed out about how it’s all going to work out? Maybe I’ll be less stressed out the next time? No, there will be completely different circumstances, causing me to wonder again how it’s all going to come together. If only I could trust God more, work within the time slots God gives, and leave the rest with Him!

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