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December Prayer Letter

Dear Family and Friends,

For my Marriage and Family counseling course I’m taking, I decided to read Douglas Wilson’s Fidelity. I really appreciate his direct and comprehensive treatment of various sexual issues that men today battle with. In one place he says, “God does not place His children in situations where faithfulness to Him is impossible.” I had to remind myself of that truth while I was single, and still do, even now as a married man, especially when I travel by myself. A good read for any man!

TRAVELING AS A FAMILY AND SOLO

Eliyas’ world travels actually began in July when we took him to Canada; but now he’s been to Eurasia and Ukraine. I estimate he’s had large exposure to six different languages already in his first six months of life. Who knows which ones will come out of his mouth?! We are just thankful that he’s adjusting to every circumstance with wide-eyed curiosity and contentment (for the most part). We are thankful that the Lord enabled Oksana and me to conduct the Metanoia workshop, even though we also had to look after Eliyas’ needs. Continue to PRAY for the Metanoia church as they deal with persecution.

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I had to go to Bangladesh and another Asian country by myself in October. It was a grueling trip of many flights, overnight bus trips, and other discomforts, so it was probably just as well I was solo. I had the privilege of participating in my first dedication, the dedication of the Inner Seraji NT (pictured above). It was one of the happiest moments of my life! PRAY for successful use of these NT’s. After the dedication, a group of us traveled to another location for strategic planning meetings. PRAISE Him for giving us wisdom in those discussions. PRAY for guidance as we carry out our plans.

The Lord really blessed my (solo) trip to Chad in early December as I taught basic computer skills and how to use our Bible translation program, Paratext. With the help of a native French speaker editing my work, I put together 55 pages of material, and then taught through it in eight days. In spite of battling a stomach illness almost the whole time, I was blessed with strength and wisdom from the Lord for each day. PRAY for the translation teams as they begin using computers in their work for the first time. PRAY that it would speed up their work and improve the quality of their translations.

SUPPORT COMPLETE

We praise God that Heritage Baptist in Flemington, NJ, took us on for support, as well as a dear family, helping us to complete our support-raising ministry. Now we can concentrate on the ministry, while also keeping up with our 38 supporting churches and 28 supporting families. PRAY for God’s blessing on our Commissioning Service on January 21 at our home church in Grand Rapids, MI.

GOD IS PROVIDING PEOPLE

At the end of January we hope to finalize the BI constitution, so please PRAY for wisdom.

We had two literacy workers making trips to Africa to cover the literacy workshops there; but one is resigning and the other is really limiting her travel. Thankfully, the Lord seems to be providing in other ways through contacts in Chad. Please PRAY for God to guide. PRAY also as we have a good candidate for translation consultant in Chad. PRAISE the Lord for bringing us a BMM missionary who is willing to help as an adjunct consultant for a project in a creative-access country.  PRAY for my likely research trip there with two co-workers in February.

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As we enjoy our first Christmas as a family and in Ukraine, we hope you will also find great joy in celebrating our Savior’s birth!

For the sake of Christ,

Troy (for the three of us)

 

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.

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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!

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

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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.

Sometimes I feel like the pressure of ministry responsibilities is well beyond my abilities or resources. At other times, I feel like it’s just smooth sailing. One day this week, I felt stressed to the max, but instead of getting to tackle my to-do list, I had to attend administrative meetings in which we prayed for every BI staff member and talked through various challenges. At the end of the meeting, my heart was at peace, though I hadn’t completed any of my tasks. Why the unexpected change in my heart? I’m coming to realize though the workload may fluctuate, the key is that the Lord gives me the grace to maintain stability and peace in my heart as I respond to the workload. Though I wish I could have 100 hours straight of undistracted time to devote to my to-do list (which is what I estimate what I need to get caught up), I’ll probably never get that, so I have to learn how to accept being burdened down with an endless workload. I can only do what the Lord allows me to do each day, and what remains undone will be there the next day. I must not get stressed out, because that’s a type of anxiety that God forbids us to have. May God give me grace to learn this lesson well!

Eliyas’ passport and visa are in hand. His luggage just arrived. He’s just about ready to fly! But are we ready to take a baby over the Atlantic? Only by God’s grace! Pray for grace and strength to endure long flights and jetlag with our little bugaboo (as I like to call him sometimes).

Pray also for greater success with the workshop. We typically cover only 300 verses in each workshop, but that means the project will take over 40 years. Pray we can cover more this time! Pray also for Eliyas to behave well so that Oksana is not distracted as she translates into Russian for me. We also hope to tie up a lingering orthography issue, so pray for wisdom in that. Pray too that we’d be an encouragement to this team, who lives in a country where persecution of Christians is a regular experience.

After the workshop, we finally get to do long-overdue introductions of Eliyas to his Ukrainian family. They’ve already started dreaming about being able to hold him. It’s going to be such a joyous reunion. Below is a picture we took when the fall weather was so beautiful, just before the crummy, cold weather started.

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We sang these words this morning at my home church in the song “As the Deer,” and I sang those words with believers on the other side of the world in a different language just two weeks ago. In both cases, I got choked up as I sang those words, because I could reflect on how God had been my strength and shield during my travels. God truly gave me strength throughout the trip, even though I had many disturbances to my sleep (traveling through the night on four different occasions, waking up early for flights, and sleeping in less than comfortable situations many other nights), and He protected me from evil (from terrorists, traffic, bad roads, religious extremists, etc.). He was also my family’s shield, though they seemed to face many attacks from Satan. My wife said she didn’t get a single good night of sleep while I was gone (but she’s already had 2 since I came back on Thursday).

My greatest joy on the trip was dedicating the Inner Seraji NT. The translator and his wife began working among the Inner Seraji people in 1990. He married a woman, who also helped with the translation work, a few years later. They had to leave the area because of health issues and the need for more training, but returned in the early 2000’s and began translation work in 2005. Twelve years later, the NT was completed and ready for dedication, and God gave me the privilege of preaching at the dedication on October 4 and praying for God’s blessing as people begin using it. The service was 3.5 hours long, but I enjoyed every minute of it. There were many tears as we recounted God’s goodness through the years. There were around 450 people present, 100 of whom were unbelievers. When the translator and a few other missionaries arrived in that area called “the valley of the gods,” there were no believers. Now there are 5 churches and another Bible study. There are estimated to be around 750 believers, which is slightly over 1% of this language’s population. I look forward to seeing how this number will multiply greatly now that they have good access to God’s Word in their own language.

On this trip, I also got to thank a church in Bangladesh for their faithful support of us since 2009. In Bangladesh, you have to have a police escort with armed policemen accompanying your travels through the country, because terrorists are targeting all foreigners. The situation was rather tense for me to see armed policemen in a pickup truck just in front of our vehicle. Thank God for keeping away any problems! I probably faced more danger when I rode on the back of a motorcycle with a friend in Dhaka to visit a nearby prayer meeting, but thankfully, that trip was quite short. Dhaka seems to be the rickshaw capital of the world, as they share the bumpy roads with other vehicles of all shapes and sizes. This capital city teems with around 18 million people, so it’s one of the largest cities I’ve ever visited. As you can imagine, the traffic is absolutely awful in this underdeveloped city. But one positive thing I can definitely say about the country: I didn’t see a single immodest girl the whole time I was there. Apparently, the Muslim religion at least has that positive influence on the people.

The third major portion of my trip was to gather with around 10 co-workers in BI in another location in Asia to do strategic planning about how to get more projects and personnel in that part of the world. I invited two cross-cultural translators (one from the Inner Seraji project) from within BI to join us for the discussions; their presence among us was profitable both for them and for us. We spent 2.5 days discussing research strategies and ways to connect with Bible college graduates to target Bible-less language groups. We still have a long ways to go in this strategic initiative, but I’m thankful for the significant strides we took during these planning meetings. I look forward to seeing how God will continue to bless these efforts.

When I arrived on Thursday, I had exactly three weeks to prepare for our departure to Eurasia, Ukraine, and Chad. Pray for our preparations during these busy 3 weeks. Pray also for the annual Harvest Dinner on Thursday, in which we will highlight our 3 newest projects in Myanmar.

My first NT dedication

I just completed the painful process of saying goodbye to my family, and now I’m waiting for my first plane toward my destination in Asia. Thankfully, I’ll have only one layover, and then a 14-hour flight to my final destination. This week will actually be mostly a “blank week,” since what I had planned for the week got cancelled. Since that’s the case, I have time to catch up on work and sleep, and also do some site-seeing, which is what I said I would do when I applied for the visa. (It was too expensive to reschedule my itinerary.)

Though I will enjoy doing some tourism, the real fun begins at the end of the week when I fly out to another country in the region to visit a supporting church. These people live in a very poor country, but yet they still send money from time to time, and they pray regularly for us. It’s actually a very expensive ordeal for me to visit them, but well worth it to meet people who have been supporting us sight-unseen. We’ll finally get to fellowship together, and I’ll get to thank them in person for their support to us. I also get to minister the Word with the hopes of being a blessing to them. I just wish my family could have come with me! Maybe another time when our son is fully immunized and ready to travel to such tropical climates.

Then I return to the first country to prepare for a NT dedication. Though I’ve been doing this work for over 10 years, I’ve never been to a dedication of our translations. So, needless to say, I’m very excited to go! Again, I wish my family were with me to enjoy this special moment. The translator is a national, but it’s not his native tongue, so he’s considered a cross-cultural translator. He moved up to live among the people in 1991, and he’s spent his life energies since then learning the language and giving the gospel. Translation work began soon after he got there, so it’s been around 24 years since the work has been in process. Finally, these people will have the complete NT in their hands! I get to preach to them and give a prayer of dedication of the newly published NTs. What a privilege!

I hope I’ll be able to encourage them to get on the right course of an effective use of the Scriptures. As I’ve already posted on my blog, we are working through Scripture Use issues at BI, so this is my opportunity to try to preempt future problems with Scripture use. Here are some issues that sometimes arise after translations are put into use:

  1. Church leaders may refuse to humble themselves to learn how to read their language publicly (they learned in a majority language).
  2. Church leaders may not know how to show the relevance of the Scriptures to the people’s daily lives.
  3. Men may feel that learning to read is for women and children.
  4. Women may feel that it’s the man’s job to read, while she does housework.
  5. The people have a low view in general about written material.
  6. The people may develop a negative attitude toward their own language.
  7. Speakers of another dialect may not want to read in the chosen dialect.
  8. Church leaders may not raise awareness about the published translation, or they may not make the translation easily available.
  9. The laypeople may not want to sacrifice time and money to get their own copy of the Scriptures.
  10. The laypeople may get dissatisfied with carrying two books to church, if they only have a NT in their language.
  11.    The people may not be pleased with the format of the translation—number of columns, font size, etc.
  12.    The people may not like the orthography that has been developed.
  13.    The people may not like the terms that were chosen for key concepts in the Scriptures.
  14.    Translators may fall into sin, casting a shadow on the translation they helped produce.
  15.    Churches may become estranged from the ones associated with the translation project.

Pray that God would help these people overcome these challenges to Scripture use, and pray that the Lord would use me to help them get on the right track. Pray also for the cross-cultural translator as he continues to work with the people concerning Scripture Use and works toward starting the OT in a few years.

I’ve spoken of leaving my family behind a few times in this post. I think this calls for another picture of us. This one was taken in Shipshewana a few weeks ago.

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A week and a half given back

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.

September Prayer Letter

Dear Family and Friends,

At BI’s Annual Meeting, we had the privilege of hearing Dr. Les Ollila challenge our hearts. God has given him a way of putting thoughts into memorable phrases. In one sermon, he reflected on God’s call on Moses and how Moses tried to dodge his mission by bringing up excuses. But, as Dr. Ollila pointed, “You don’t say ‘I can’t’ to ‘I AM.’” When God calls, He equips because He’s the ever-present One who comes alongside to strengthen us!

BEGINNING AND ENDING LIFE

 

There have been significant challenges while getting used to our new little family member, but we wouldn’t want it any other way. Eliyas has brought so much joy into our lives! He just passed the three-month mark, so he’s sleeping through the night without a need for food, and he’s responding more and more to us. We considered taking him to Asia with us in late September, but then we decided to wait on an overseas trip until he gets more vaccines. His passport should arrive soon, and then we’ll begin making plans to travel with him in November. Meanwhile, I’ll travel alone to Asia in September & October. PRAY for preparations for this trip: a New Testament dedication (my first!), strategic planning, and ministering in churches.

Eliyas is just beginning his life course, but a dear consultant, Ross Hodsdon, completed his on August 6. After translating a New Testament in Brazil, he joined BI and traveled to 14 different countries, working with 21 different languages. Twenty-three of BI’s publications have his fingerprints all over them, and countless missionaries have been deeply affected by his life, not to mention the thousands of other souls. What an amazing legacy he leaves behind! His translation work lives on! PRAY for his wife Cathy and the rest of the family as they mourn his loss and adjust to life without him.

SUPPORT ALMOST COMPLETE

Thanks to Bible Baptist Church in Wakarusa, IN, our support now stands at 98%. Indications are that our support will be completed in September. PRAISE God! We have one more church trip for this year in September: Charleston, SC, and then Wakarusa (with a stop-over at BJU and Mt. Calvary Baptist). We PRAISE God with you that He gave us safety and good ministry at six churches in Quebec and two in the US in the summer.

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(Picture: We visited Ross & Cathy in Maine in July.)

MINISTRY

We still await BMM’s input regarding BI’s new constitution. We actually hope to get everything settled this month and have it ratified in November. Please PRAY!

I PRAISE God for answering your prayers about wisdom as I prepared various presentations (a long article for India about the philosophy and methodology of Bible translation, a presentation about literacy in Bible times for the Bible Faculty Summit in WV, and others) and led the Consultant Seminar. God really blessed the seminar, with four attendees seriously planning on joining someday. We also had good discussions about Scripture Use (SU) and other topics. PRAY for God to send us personnel to help with our SU plans. Please check out my blog if you are an interested candidate yourself. We still need a new director as well as project coordinators.

PRAY for God’s blessing on our Harvest Dinner on October 19. We will be highlighting our newest translation projects. PRAY also for our overseas trip to Eurasia, Ukraine, and Chad (Troy only to Africa) later this year. We look forward to introducing Eliyas to Oksana’s family and friends and also getting lots of work done.

For the sake of Christ,

Troy (for the three of us)