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Asia Trip

I went into this trip still trying to get over my laryngitis and bronchitis, so I was concerned that the pressure changes on the plane would cause me serious pain. But God had apparently healed me enough to keep me from having any problems. My voice wasn’t strong enough to preach the first Sunday in Myanmar, but I was able to give a testimony to encourage the people. I wanted to save my voice to lead the consultant seminar during the week, so I passed up the opportunity to preach in the service.

This is the third year we had the seminar in Asia, and it’s the first time we did it in Myanmar (usually it’s in India). The plan was to hold the seminar in the new Myanmar Translation Center, but because of various reasons for delays, we weren’t able to use it, though the construction is probably 90% complete. Instead, the Lord provided a nice air-conditioned room in a local Bible college (connected to one of our adjunct consultants). We had no Plan B for the seminar, but God worked it out that the seminar would occur after Bible school graduation, which allowed us to have use of the Bible school facilities. I heard it would have cost a couple hundred dollars per hour to rent a room in Yangon, so we were so thankful that God prepared for this Plan B!

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God worked in such a way that around 10 of us converged in Myanmar for a week of technical sessions to help us be better consultants for the Lord. I scheduled workshops around the seminar so that consultants would not have to pay for their travels (since workshop travel is covered by BI). This was the most well-attended Asia Consultant Seminar yet! In addition to the consultants, we also had translators (the Falam Chin translator is in the right back row above) and our interim BI director, Gary Walton, join us for a few days.

Each consultant who attended gave a presentation. I intentionally worked it out this way so that I would not have to bear the full load of preparing material. Plus, our consultants are extremely talented and knowledgeable, so we benefit more by allowing all to share. We discussed the importance of visiting the land of Israel to understand biblical backgrounds, fluency for Scripture engagement, James Kugel’s The Idea of Biblical Poetry, discourse analysis of Mark 12:1-12, neologisms and compound words, and difficult passages in Proverbs and other places in the OT. We also gave significant time to lexicography (dictionary making) and ParaTExt (our Bible editing program). We are seeing more and more the value of producing dictionaries to improve our translations and help our language groups.

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During the seminar, we also enjoyed many informal times of team bonding, which is actually the primary purpose of the seminar. We got to see a second edition of Judson’s Bible, took a river cruise, and ate at many different restaurants (including an Indian one above, where the order was yelled out to the kitchen right after we told the young boy waiter what we wanted).

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After my time in Myanmar, I head to Singapore to give a report at and minister to our supporting church there. I so wish Oksana where with me for this trip (as we originally planned before she got pregnant), and especially for this part of the trip, because I wanted her to meet my dear friends in Singapore. I had the privilege–at their request–of teaching both churches (Pasir Panjang Christ Church and Grace Independent Baptist Church) about English Bible versions and giving them the facts of the situation to help them deal with those who try to unsettle them about “missing verses.” My voice wasn’t strong enough to sing on the first weekend in Singapore, but I was able to teach in SS and preach in the AM service. On the following Sunday, I was asked to speak in all three slots, and God strengthened my voice for that task. I enjoy getting to eat with friends in Singapore, because the fellowship is so encouraging and the food is so good. In the picture below, I’m eating amazing Chinese food with Pastor Joshua Wong, the pastor of the first church (PPCC). I don’t have pictures of the second church I visited, but I really enjoyed being with Pastor Ping Ngian and his family and church. My last time with the church was in 2011, so it was good to see them again.

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Between my two weekends in Singapore, I took a trip to southern India. I can’t say too much about this trip because of the increased sensitivity of Indian immigration, but I will say that I accomplished all my objectives, by God’s grace and thanks to many people’s prayers. I had been concerned ever since I began planning this trip a number of months ago that it would be extremely challenging to travel in this part of the country by myself not knowing anyone. But God guided and protected me all the way. God uses the experiences I’ve had in traveling to help me avoid getting ripped off by taxi drivers (one driver purposely took the long way to try to get more money from me!) and stay away from danger (one taxi got into a small accident in Bangalore). Ultimately, it was not my travel smarts that protected me, but my powerful Deliverer. I enjoyed doing some site-seeing on the trip too. At one place I visited, I got to see many monkeys freely climbing around the Hindu temples.

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I’m always struck by the blatant idolatry whenever I visit India. Walking down the streets of one area within an ancient fort, I was reminded of Paul’s experience in Athens in Acts 17. What incredible needs for the gospel to go forth with power in India!

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During the trip, I usually had enough Internet access to connect with my wife, for which I am so thankful. We even got to use Skype at times in all three countries. And most of all, I’m thankful that God protected her and our unborn child, and that He kept her from delivering our baby until I got back. Less than a month away!

Pray for four of us who will spend Tuesday and Wednesday working out the particulars of a new constitution at Bibles International. We need much wisdom as there is so much pioneer thinking to do!

March Prayer Letter

Dear Family and Friends,

During our recent vacation in Ukraine, I completed my reading of Paul David Tripp’s Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands. One of his core truths continues to challenge me: “Each of us has been called by God to be his instruments of change in the lives of others, beginning with our families and the church (Eph. 4:11-16; Col. 3:15-17).” How our churches would change if we adopted this ambassadorial lifestyle and stopped looking at the church only as a place to “get something!”

SUPPORT RISING

Thank you for praying about both the increase in our support and the manner in which it increases. We’ve seen our support rise by 9% to 90% in the first quarter with an increase of only two more churches to our support base! We are thankful that Calvary Baptist in Findlay, OH, and Union Baptist in Kittanning, PA, joined our support team. We also added two individual supporters and saw a family increase their monthly giving. We are also thankful that BI has agreed to begin funding Oksana’s travels to Eurasia, so we no longer have to raise those funds. PRAISE God for His provisions! However, we still plan on raising funds for travels so that Oksana can go with me to other countries once a year and so that we can cover our baby’s costs once he gets old enough to be charged for his plane ticket.

In case you missed it, I did use a “he” to refer to our baby. We found out in January that God is blessing us with a son in early May. Oksana’s pregnancy is going well in general, but the aches and pains in the third trimester are not fun. We are thankful for the free things we’ve been able to collect for our baby, and Oksana looks forward to good fellowship with friends at baby showers in late March.  Keep PRAYING for Oksana and baby!

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We currently have 33 churches supporting us and 27 individuals/families. We have meetings in five non-supporting churches this year. We are also reporting in six of our supporting churches, including the four in Quebec this summer. PRAY for God’s timing of the baby’s birth and departure for Quebec. We would like for there to be sufficient time between the two for mommy and baby to get into a good routine.

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WORKSHOPS

Oksana and I are thankful for the progress we are seeing in the translators’ abilities in Eurasia. Though we didn’t cover more material than in the last workshop, we had a profitable workshop and grew in our understanding of their language and of the work in general. We PRAISE God that both translators are in good health for now and are trusting God amidst heavy persecution. PRAY they can get the fine removed for not being registered to meet and that they would secure registration.

PRAY too for good progress with the Haitian Creole translator in late May as he comes to Grand Rapids for a workshop. PRAY also for God’s timing as our baby is due on May 11 and the workshop is supposed to start on May 15.

PRAY earnestly for God’s provision of laborers for BI: director, Myanmar director, project coordinators, composition editor, and Scripture Use Manager. PRAY also for wisdom for a committee of four of us who have the daunting task of writing a constitution for BI. We hope to have it completed by July.

Lastly, PRAY for my trip to Asia without Oksana in late March and early April. I will be going to Myanmar (consultant seminar), Singapore (two churches), and India (school partnerships). As of March 22, I’m still recovering from sickness, so pray that will clear up very soon.

For the sake of Christ,

Troy (for both of us)

 

On Saturday some of my friends and I moved all of my office items from the upstairs bedroom near the master bedroom to the far end of the basement. We figured that upstairs bedroom would work best for our son’s room. We also decided the far end of the basement is a good spot for my home office, since it meant we didn’t lose a guest bedroom. I’m not as excited about having to walk further to get to my office–not to mention having to use the stairs too!–but I think I like the new set-up. The new office is set up such that everything is within close reach, and my drawing table is not far away anymore. It’s in the same room as my desk now, along with my two guitars.

I’m thankful that my former office’s room’s walls were blue, because that meant I didn’t have to paint them a different color for our baby. I was definitely rejoicing in that small blessing when we found out we are having a boy! But other than having the room cleared (with a crib and a rocking chair currently in there) and the walls being blue, I feel like Oksana and I are walking into completely unknown territory. We have so many questions about the future. Here are some of Oksana’s questions:

  1. How can my stomach get any bigger? (she’s due on May 11)
  2. Will I truly love this child as I should? (she used to long to have children, but those desires cooled down some in later years)
  3. Will this child keep me from traveling and ministering for BI? (she doesn’t want to stop at all)
  4. Is it more economical to use cloth diapers?
  5. Will I survive the delivery?
  6. Can I teach him Ukrainian and Russian?

She has more, but these are the only ones I can think of right now. Here are some of my questions:

  1. Will I be able to tear myself away from playing with my son in the evenings so that I can get other work done?
  2. Will I get any reading done in the evenings? Still be able to workout at the fitness center?
  3. Will my child understand my English? Will I learn Russian with him?
  4. What will we do about his schooling?
  5. Will people have a hard time spelling his name?
  6. Will he keep my wife from getting anything else done at home? (she has many tasks to do for BMM and BI)
  7. Will we have strength as we age to play with him? (we aren’t exactly 20-year-olds having kids!)
  8. How much extra stuff will we have to carry around with us when we visit churches? When we go overseas?

Of course, the biggest questions are: will we be able to raise him to love the Lord with all his heart, mind, and soul? Will he embrace Christ as strongly as we would desire him to do?

Right now, we have more questions than answers, but our trust is not in ourselves, but in the Lord. And we have many examples around us of new parents who survived the transition into parenthood and successfully raised their children for the Lord. They encourage us to keep pressing forward to that inevitable due date of May 11.

On another note, we look forward to visiting churches in the coming weeks. We’ll be at a missions conference at Waterman Baptist Church in Kingman, IN, this week. And then next week we’ll join Bible Baptist Church in Wakarusa for their missions emphasis month. Then we head to Peoples Baptist Church in Frederick, MD, for their missions emphasis weekend. It’s going to be a blessed and busy two weeks!

Reporting vs. Doing

Sometimes it’s so difficult for me to tear myself away from the work to write something on my blog. OK, it’s almost always difficult to do so! I can’t understand missionaries who write lengthy weekly and monthly reports on their work. In at least one case, I’m pretty sure they spend as much time writing about their ministry as they do actually doing the ministry. Maybe it’s just a matter of priorities in most cases, and writing about what I’m doing is not always high on my priority list. But I know some people want to keep up with how things are going, so I try to get an update out once a week, if possible.

I’m still trying to get caught up from being overseas for a month, so that’s part of what keeps me from wanting to write updates. I still have a few more consultant reports to get through, which were submitted at the beginning of the year. These reports chart their personal development last year and project what goals they want for themselves in the upcoming year, so my timely input is important. We have 6 consultants-in-training, so I try to give them intensive input. It’s crucial that they be pointed in the right direction early in their development, so I want to make sure they aren’t missing anything. There are two consultants who look to me for direct guidance, and a third who needs me more and more since his mentor is suffering from cancer. The other 3 consultants have their own mentors, but they still appreciate my input. (Consultants in training also submit quarterly reports, which I work through carefully and give feedback.) I’m also trying to keep up with the development of two adjunct consultants-in-training. Thankfully, we had two others but they graduated a year or so ago.

I also need to read the Professional Development Reports of our consultants who have graduated from the Mentorship Program or who are senior consultants. We have 9 in this category. Most of them are quite good at submitting their reports in a timely way, but some are too busy in ministry to stop and write a report (!). Consequently, I have to spend extra time chasing them down until they submit something. I remember a consultant suggesting that we should go back to the old system of submitting monthly reports. After reflecting for 2 seconds on how much time I spend chasing down reports, I told him an emphatic NO to that idea!

At Bibles International we take professional development very seriously. We want to make sure our new consultants get proper training and experience, which usually means 4-5 years of on-the-job training before they can do independent consulting. And then after they graduate, we expect them to keep developing themselves. There are so many subject areas that touch upon consulting, and so we need to be constantly learning to improve our consulting abilities. In the end, we hope it results in better translations for God’s glory and for man’s good!

On a personal note, Oksana and I are thankful that Calvary Baptist Church in Findlay, OH, and some individuals joined our support team, bringing our support up to 90%. Praise God for His provision!

Metanoia NT workshop

Oksana and I are thankful for the safety and the Lord’s blessings on our recent translation workshop in Eurasia. My goal was to cover 600 verses, which would be double what we did last time, but we ended up doing just under 300. But that’s partly because we took an entire afternoon (thanks partly to the power outage) to elicit verb forms from them, so I could understand better how their verbs work. We also spent an afternoon trying to work through some problems with their orthography. There are around 4 sounds that still have issues regarding what symbol to use. Another organization is trying to settle the matter by field testing, so they came to the workshop to test the symbols with our team. Hopefully, we’ll get this settled this year, so we can use the correct symbols throughout the translation. And hopefully we’ll make better progress next time in the translation. I’m thankful to see how the translators are growing well in their skills in translation and grammar. Oksana and I are also growing in our understanding of the language. We asked them to write 4 different types of regular (not translations of biblical passages) texts by 3 different people so we can do more analysis, and we asked them to complete 4 verb tables as well. Hopefully this material will give us even better ways to understand their language.

Because of the slowness of the workshop, we had time on the second weekend to take a two-day trip. We really enjoyed seeing the countryside and spending time getting to know friends. We are also thankful for many opportunities to minister to our friends.

We are also thankful for many opportunities for ministry to our translation team. They’ve been through a lot recently, so we were able to be an encouragement to them, as they were also an encouragement to us. They are truly a great group of believers to work with! We look forward to the next time we’ll see them, though this time there will be three of us!

As a side note, we are very thankful that our support rose to 88% during our trip. God is providing!

If you are interested in some technical details, you should check out my “Translator’s Page” for a list of some issues we wrestled through during this workshop.

BI 2016 in Review

Recently I wrote a review of 2016 for Oksana and me. Now that I’ve written my department’s quarterly report, I want to do a review of what happened for BI in 2016 (mostly from my department’s perspective–the Text Production Department). Here are some highlights:

  • On January 12, Dr. Hantz Bernard was released from being director.
  • On February 29, Latoungam Rongmei, an Indian translation consultant who did around 10-12 workshops per year, submitted his resignation.
  • On March 6, Dr. Hye Ree Park was commissioned by her church, Westside Baptist Church in Jenison, MI.
  • In March, Oksana passed her doctrinal questioning and in July she completed Candidate Seminar. She was the only new candidate for BI. (And a mighty fine one, I might add!)
  • In March, BI adopted the Luxembourish OT project.
  • In March, a church in Texas printed around 10,000 copies of the Zomi NT to distribute to Zomi people in various churches in the south.
  • In May, Dr. Lian Muan Kim, an adjunct translation consultant in Myanmar, graduated from BI’s Mentorship Program.
  • On June 5, Susan Hossack, a long-time translation consultant who did around 8-10 workshops per year, moved away from Chad, Africa. She’s transitioning to a different ministry in France, though still with BMM.
  • On June 22, Becky Holub began as the part-time assistant for my department and for the Projects Management Dept.
  • On June 22, Terri Fiebig, our former part-time administrative assistant, died from cancer.
  • In July, Alex Wheeler, a translation consultant based in India, graduated from BI’s Mentorship Program.
  • In July, the Hakha Chin OT project was adopted by BI.
  • In July, Ben Bryant, a seminary student from Shepherd’s Seminary, did an internship with BI.
  • In August, Bethany Boston, a literacy/linguistics consultant, graduated from BI’s Mentorship Program.
  • In August, my department completed a SWOT analysis of our department (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats). In August BI also enjoyed its annual retreat with Pastor Patrick Odle as our guest speaker.
  • In August, we held the annual consultant seminar. Verna Stutzman was our special speaker, and she focused on lexicography and dictionary making.
  • In the summer, we completed our Linguistics Translator Training Manual, which we will use to analyze the linguistics of our target languages and help our translators better understand the linguistics of their own language.
  • In September, our BIMS (Myanmar) Director resigned from his position.
  • In September, Isaiah & Rosanna Peterson and Jim & Jenna Wright attended BMM’s Launch Seminar.
  • In November, the Manipuri Bible Revision project was adopted by BI.
  • In December, the following projects in Myanmar were adopted by BI: Kokak literacy, Taisun NT, and Uppu Chin NT (formerly just a literacy project).
  • Around 17 volunteers helped my department in various ways.
  • Primers were completed for the following languages: Dagba, Rito (revised), Sara Kaba Deme (revised), Ranglong (revised).
  • OT Storybook was completed for the Uppu Chin.
  • Scripture portions were completed for the following languages: Matu Chin (Acts/Romans), Sara Kaba Deme (Exo/Deut), and Sango (Matthew).
  • The following Bible translations were approved by my department for publishing: Haitian Creole NT w/ Psa/Prov, Dagba NT, and Warao NT with OT books (17). The Haitian Creole arrived in Haiti in the hands of the people in December!
  • We consultants conducted around 80 translation, literacy, linguistics, and other workshops all over the world.

Praise God for what He enabled us to accomplish! We look forward to what this new year holds!

Michael Grant, an adjunct stewardship representative for BI, edited three excerpts from the past, added his own introductory and concluding thoughts, and published A Bible for Every Hand and Heart (Xlibris, 2014) to encourage believers as to how we can get more involved in Bible translation. They are as follows:

  1. “The first encompasses all the spoken material of the service held in 1812 commissioning America’s first foreign missionaries, of which Adoniram Judson is the most well-known of the group.”
  2. “The second is a sermon preached in Salem, Massachusetts, by Benjamin Wadsworth in 1815.”
  3. “The third is a sermon delivered by Baron Stow in 1846 to the American and Foreign Bible Society on the occasion of its ninth anniversary.”

Grant did a good job of updating the 19th-century content so that it gives a “modern voice to the material so that it may speak again and be understood by our generation.” He chose these three excerpts for the following reasons:

  1. “Each conveys a deep-seated belief about all men.”
  2. “Each, very thankfully, proclaims the one and only cure for mankind’s guilt and condemnation before God.”
  3. “Each displays a bold, confident faith in the Bible–a faith believing God has authored a Book as eternal and powerful as He is.”
  4. “Each stresses the importance of declaring the Bible’s message to mankind worldwide.”
  5. “Each pinpoints language as an obstacle to this mission of spreading God’s Word worldwide.”
  6. “Each agrees that overcoming the language barrier is a non-negotiable and must be pursued at all costs, whether in personnel or personal resources.”
  7. “Each presents an urgent call to action–to make the Bible available to men in the language they understand best.”

The first excerpt, made up of various speeches given on the occasion, is an excellent reminder of all the reasons why we should be engaged in missions work. I particularly enjoyed Leonard Woods’ sermon to the new missionaries. He lays out the motivations that should move us to action. He writes,

He takes into  account their temporal comfort, and endeavours to promote it… But, when their spiritual interest is before him, when he contemplates the value of their souls and the prospect that the Gospel opens of immortal happiness in the world to come, his deepest inner compassions are moved; his most tender affections kindled, pure and heavenly love pervades and warms his soul. (p. 30)

He gives 7 motives that should move us to reach out to lost souls: “the worth of immortal souls, the plenteousness of the provision which Christ has made for their salvation, the express command of our Lord to preach the Gospel, the peculiar design of Christianity and its adaptability as a universal religion, the spirit of prophecy, and the operations of divine Providence at the present day.” (p. 48)

Samuel Spring’s charge is also moving, especially when he warns them:

Never, never preach the theory of the Gospel until you have presented the practice of the Gospel in your own godly example.

In the second historical excerpt of Grant’s book, Benjamin Wadsworth recommends the Bible as “a volume for the world.” After exalting the many excellencies of the Word, he concludes,

We therefore very justly consider the Holy Scriptures as the Word of God, an invaluable treasure–one of Heaven’s best gifts to men. (p. 76)

He then exhorts us to consider how blessed the world would be if they had the Bible in their hands. He writes,

We have therefore reason to conclude that the streams of widespread goodness will not cease to flow till all nations are blessed with the Word of His grace. (p. 80)

He appeals to us to try to help those without the Word by reminding us that the second greatest commandment should compel us, who “know the excellency of God’s Word and enjoy its consolations and hopes,” to help those who don’t enjoy these benefits. He points us to the fact that the Bible alone gives us knowledge of God and Jesus Christ, which leads us to eternal life, and this knowledge we possess lays upon us an obligation to impart it to the world.

The third excerpt is Baron Stow’s sermon “The Bible for the World,” and this portion of Grant’s book is probably my favorite. He begins by emphasizing how badly the world needs the Bible. He substantiates this point by asking us to consider how awful a condition our country would be in if we didn’t have the Bible. What a sobering thought to imagine!

Stow recommends the Bible as an authoritative standard of doctrine and practice, which is what mankind needs (p. 122). The Bible satisfies our desire to see into the future, and it speaks to our heart (pp. 122-124). Then he explains how the Bible is adapted to the world and designed for the world and concludes,

If, then, the Bible is needed by the world, if it is adapted to the world, if it is designed for the world, why, inquires the thoughtful hearer, has so large a portion of the world never seen it or even heard of its existence? (p. 127)

What a soul-searching question! Stow urges us to realize we are debtors to the world to take the Word to them.

The measure of our obligation is, of course, determined by our ability and by the resources that we have for the effective use of that ability. (p. 129)

Surely, the American church has sufficient ability and abundant resources!

No time is to be lost. The world needs the Bible! The world must have the Bible! Its populations are sinking annually in compacted millions by a starless way to a dreary eternity. Shall we whose souls are lighted by the Revelations of Heaven continue to deny to those wanderers the Lamp of Salvation? We are engaged in a great work and by nothing should we allow ourselves to be diverted from our straight onward path of duty. (p. 131)

Stow ends his sermon by highlighting the immense responsibilities of a translator but also the crucial importance of a preacher to go alongside the published translation, as well as the absolutely necessary work of the Spirit of God.

Grant ends his book with some final thoughts to encourage us to get involved in Bible translation:

  1. “Begin by personally acquainting yourself with the work of a Bible Society.” (He recommends BI as the one to seek out.)
  2. “Establish a friendship with some Bible translators.”
  3. “Consistently follow the progress of at least one Bible translation project while not losing sight of the broader existing work.”
  4. “Financially support the work and workers making the Bible available worldwide.”
  5. “Finally, but most importantly, support prayerfully the work and workers making the Bible available worldwide.”

Grant’s desire and prayer is that “all readers of this book will involve themselves in this endeavor at some level.” I say a hearty Amen to that! May it be so!

You can find out more about Mike Grant at www.treasuringtheword.org. On his webpage he describes his ministry in this way: “We maintain a rare Bible and book museum in Sevierville, Tennessee displaying in an interactive, chronological format the history of our English Bible. We are committed, in cooperation with Bibles International, to providing a conservative, “heart language” translation of the Scriptures for those people groups in need. We also provide Bible study tools to institutions and individuals who are training for the preaching/teaching ministry in underprivileged or mission-restricted countries. We revise and publish rare, out-of-print works relevant to the spiritual well-being of mankind.”