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Scripture Use

As I noted in a recent post, we just hosted our annual Consultant Seminar, and this year our special speaker focused on Scripture Engagement (SE), also called Scripture Use (SU). BI has actually been engaged in SU activities since our inception, because at the heart of our mission is a desire to make sure our translations are effectively used by the language groups for whom we are working. We have gained an increasing awareness of the complexities of SU as we have attended conferences and taken courses on the subject. I have notes on the issue that go back to 2007, my first year at BI. But it wasn’t until 2015 that we put together a plan to establish a new SU department at BI. We were keenly aware of the need for full-time BI members to devote their attention to SU issues. However, even with that heightened awareness of the need, I still didn’t grasp the urgency of the need until after I did the reading for the SU sessions at our seminar and then after the discussions at the seminar. Now I am praying even more earnestly that God would provide someone to help with SU activities at BI!

How serious is the need? Well, we don’t actually know since we don’t have any SU personnel who can do the analysis for us. We are thankful that we always partner with solid, Bible-using churches, so we are reasonably certain that they are promoting and using our translations. However, I’m not sure if our situation is much better than SIL’s. Our special speaker shared with us a study completed in April 2017 concerning SIL’s 200+ NT projects in Papua New Guinea. They were only able to get data on 162 of their projects, and here’s what they found:

  • Good SU: 30% (48 languages)
  • Fair SU: 31% (51 languages)
  • Low SU: 39% (63 languages)

That means that only 1/3 of their projects are achieving the success they desire. Not encouraging! Is that thee case with our languages as well? Well, we know that our translations target conservative churches, and often that type of church is in the minority, so it could be that our statistics are not much better because of those factors. However, what is the use of Scripture within those churches? We don’t have accurate statistics, since we don’t have any SU personnel. Again, we have local partners (other missionaries and national churches) who continue the work after we leave, so we are reasonably certain that most of our translations are being used to some extent. But we don’t know the situations with any precision.

Why is this such a complicated issue? I’ve always been aware of the spiritual battle we are engaged in. That’s actually why SU in the USA is actually not as good as it should be. Most people in our conservative churches just don’t read the Bible very much! The American Bible Society did a survey of the “State of the Bible” in 2017, powered by Barna Group). They studied SU in the USA among the entire population, not just conservative churches, and they found that SU is quite low in our own country. Only 20% of adults read the Bible at least 4 times a week. Only 16% read the Bible every day, and 14% read it several times a week. Women (55%) are more likely than men (45%) to read the Bible, and older American (58%) are more likely than the younger generations. Southerners (55%) read it more than Midwesterners (51%), Westerners (51%), or Northeasterners (41%). (note that the KJV is the preferred version at 31%, NIV is second at 13%, and ESV is third at 9%). We in the USA aren’t using our Bibles very often, so should we expect it to be any different for those overseas?

But aren’t Bible-less people anxiously waiting the translation of the Bible into their language and ready to devour it as soon as we complete it? Thankfully, there are some in every language group who are like that–sometimes many and sometimes it seems like almost the whole language group. But there are many other factors that are working against us:

  1. Orthography not accepted
  2. Other dialects of the language don’t like the dialect we chose.
  3. Lack of support from church leaders, who were trained in a larger language.
  4. Low reading fluency levels
  5. People are more orally oriented and don’t see the value of written literature
  6. Lukewarm attitude towards their own language
  7. Lack of awareness of the finished translation
  8. Lack of good distribution of the finished translation
  9. Choice for key terms rejected
  10. Dissatisfaction with the formatting of the published Scriptures
  11. Not desirous to use the NT since it lacks the OT (they don’t want to carry two books to church)
  12. People have no Bible background knowledge to understand the Scriptures
  13. Church leaders are unable to show the relevance of the Scriptures to people’s daily lives
  14. Translators destroy their reputation, casting a shadow on the translation they are associated with
  15. Other churches don’t have good relations with the churches/missionaries we partnered with

These are just some of the complicating factors that make SU a real challenge. And this underscores why we need SU personnel to give focused attention to these issues so that our translations are effectively used. Please pray for God to send laborers to help us with this essential work.

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Summit and Seminar

After being away for almost a month for furlough in Quebec (and one deputation meeting in NJ), the work really piled up, and I’ve not been able to catch up. It seems that fairly significant things (including approving two NTs for formatting) keep coming across my desk as I try to get caught up. So, I have to give those things my attention instead of the emails, some of them waiting for me since early in the summer.

One event that occupied my attention was the Bible Faculty Summit at Appalachian Bible College in WV. It was a great time of fellowship and academic challenge as we shared scholarly papers with each other and just grew in our professions and in our walk with the Lord. It was also nice to get to know ABC better. It was my second time to visit but my first time to get a tour. I appreciate their desire to keep things simple but squarely focused on the Lord. My friend, Dr. Mark Ward, is the main driving force behind this summit (though he’s only one on a committee), and I really appreciate his desire to provide a forum in which well-trained fundamentalist men and women can gather to sharpen one another academically and spiritually. I hope to keep attending in years to come! (My main purpose in attending is to network with profs to get more recruits and maybe even to get help with our translator/consultant tools.)

2017.08 Bible Faculty Summit

While traveling for that, I was also preparing for the upcoming Consultant Seminar, which I lead every year. It got off to a great start on Tuesday morning. During the opening session, I shared an article, “The Life of a Consultant,” that I had written to help candidates considering becoming a consultant. They need to know what they are getting into before they get into it too deeply. Then, I reviewed the life of Ross Hodsdon, who had been with BI since it began in 1981. He actually joined BMM in 1976 and then in 1989 he became a translation consultant. He had worked with at least 21 languages in 14 countries, and he was directly involved with the publishing of 23 NTs/Bibles. Ross died last Sunday, and he will be greatly missed. But what a legacy he left behind! And his imprint is all over BI’s material and consultants. Somehow he managed to be extremely productive in consulting while also developing translator/consultant tools and recruiting extensively. Few can do all those things well at the same time!

We focused on Scripture Use (or Scripture Engagement) for this seminar, and we had a special speaker on Thurs-Fri to address this topic. It was a very fruitful time of discussion and learning. Pray for wisdom as we implement these ideas into our current workflow.

We have two more days of seminar, when we will have just BI members and will focus on tools development.

Praise God that at least 2 of the attendees are planning on joining BI in the future, and others are quite likely. (The seminar is always a time of recruiting, and this year it was more so than in the past, since we had more non-BI members than members.)

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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!

Eliyas’ first trip

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…

 

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)

 

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!

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!