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Pontic Greeks, Turkey

Photo Source Anna Diamantopoulou/Flickr Licensed/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Pontic Greeks quite possibly heard the Apostle Paul during his missionary journeys. This people group considers themselves descendants of the Argonauts, who set sail looking for gold and silver. Because of their desire to seek treasure in other lands, this group of Greeks eventually settled in Northeastern Turkey with the majority settling around the Black Sea.

During World War I, when the country underwent an ethnic cleansing, almost 250,000 Pontics were able to flee back to Greece. However, when they arrived, those that lived there could not understand their language. It had evolved into words and sounds that could not be understood because of the influence of the nations that had surrounded them before their dispersal. Today, this dialect of the Greek language is considered endangered as their descendants become more assimilated in the regions in which they live. Yet the Pontics want to keep their language and traditions alive. They try to pass down their traditional poems, songs, dress, and dances to their children. However, their brightly colored traditional dress cannot cover their spiritual darkness.

Though many profess to be Christians, they have no true knowledge of the Gospel. Some practice Greek Orthodox traditions, and others have converted to Islam. Because there is no Scripture in their language, a people who may have once been exposed to the truth are now living in spiritual darkness.

Chris and Bonnie Matthews

As a boy, Chris rode church buses to various Protestant and Baptist churches. When he was in his early teens, his family joined a church which taught baptismal regeneration. They baptized him based on an earlier profession of faith, but he had no assurance of salvation. In 1993, at the age of fifteen, he attended a church camp and fell under deep conviction. He pleaded with the counselors for guidance, but they assured him he was okay. That evening, a speaker recited the sinner’s prayer which reminded Chris of the true Gospel he had learned previously. He asked Christ to be his Saviour. Later, he was scripturally baptized and called to preach at Ray Avenue Baptist Church in Salina, Kansas. He attended Bible college for one year and was trained for six years by Dr. Plato Shepherd at Smoky Valley Baptist Church in Lindsborg, Kansas. Chris served as an associate pastor for three years, and in 2005, he became the pastor, serving until 2018. He also became a firefighter and an Emergency Medical Technician. He taught both EMS and CPR.

Bonnie was raised in the home of a godly pastor. She made a profession of faith at age four, but like many children, she later had doubts. It was not until she was a pastor’s wife that she received full assurance of her salvation. She graduated from Calvary University in Kansas City with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. She was a pastor’s wife for fifteen years. She has taught music, written and led ladies’ Bible studies, led youth ensembles, spoken at ladies’ conferences, written historical novels, and taught piano. Bonnie has training and field experience in Teaching English as a Second Language.

The Matthewses could have easily continued serving the Lord in Kansas, but God began to burden their hearts for a very restricted country in Southeast Asia. Upon hearing this, people began telling them that they needed to attend BBTI. Shortly after arriving in 2019, they fell in love with our school and could see how it would benefit them on the mission field. Even while they were students, Chris envisioned returning to BBTI one day to help train missionaries.

In less than a year after graduation, the Matthews family arrived on their field. God gave them a very fruitful ministry in evangelism and leadership training. They were having the time of their lives! They loved the place and especially the people, and the people loved them. They often saw God protect them and provide miraculously. One such time was during the strict COVID lockdown when they needed to return to the US for the impending death of Bonnie’s dad. They were not allowed to leave their neighborhood, but they had to obtain their passports from another part of the large city. Couriers could not get through the military/police checkpoints, but Chris rode his motor scooter unhindered through every checkpoint without even being stopped!

Chris and Bonnie were not looking for an easier place of service or greener pastures, but God was impressing their hearts that they needed to labor at BBTI. Rex Cobb had previously told Chris that BBTI would soon need a younger director. After much fasting, praying, and seeking counsel, they contacted Brother Cobb, other staff members, and our sponsoring pastor, Steve Summers. No snap decision was made, but all involved, including the school trustees, believed that Chris was right for the job. He will officially become the director at graduation on May 18th. He plans to make trips back to his field to train church leaders and help oversee a Bible translation project. Chris’ leadership experience and Bonnie’s many skills will help move this ministry forward in the days to come.

Spring 2024

A Christian could not invest his life in any occupation more valuable than translating the eternal, living words of God into a language in which it has never existed. The Great Commission cannot be fulfilled without a Bible. With modern technology, Bible translation should be easier and faster than at any time in history. Not long ago, a Bible translator typed and retyped the New Testament twenty-five times before it was ready to print. Despite digital technology, it is still a very difficult work. It requires proper spiritual, physical, mental, intellectual, and linguistic preparation. Praise God that some see the need for Bible translation and are expressing a desire to engage in this worthy work, and we do not want to discourage them. However, they must “count the cost” and be aware of the long-term commitment required and the endurance needed to overcome many obstacles. While each language and place have their special challenges, you can be sure that the work of Bible translation is not easy anywhere.

The prospective translator must understand the futility of beginning without the proper training in linguistics and translation principles. Bible translation must be done right! To spend fifteen years producing a New Testament, only to discover that the people cannot understand it or do not accept it is tragic, but it has happened. Good, well-intentioned people with sound doctrine do not necessarily produce good Bible translations.

A BBTI graduate, who we will call Fred Jones, works with an unreached people group in a dangerous and restricted part of the world. He compares his efforts to translate the Bible for this ethnic group to pushing a rope uphill. Not all places will seem as impossible as Brother Fred’s. His is probably a worst-case scenario, but there is an enemy with many wiles who wants to stop all Bible translation. Fred attempted to reach part of this group who lives in a country controlled by godless atheists. The leaders hate Christianity, and they sometimes hate the ethnic people who will not give up their cultural and linguistic identity. After a time, Fred was forced to move to a neighboring country and work with another part of the same group. However, the situation there is not much better. First, he must have a reason to justify being in the country, and “missionary” is not one of the options. He must operate some type of business or offer a skill that would benefit the country. The government of the second country is controlled by a religion that opposes Christianity, and those in power also hate the ethnic group that Fred loves. After a few years, the government began to practice genocide against Fred’s people. Men from his neighborhood disappeared; some were reported killed and others imprisoned. When Fred and two other foreign workers bought food for the wives and children of the missing men, they were accused of aiding terrorists. Two of them were jailed, but Fred escaped before being arrested. Nevertheless, he is determined to return and with God’s help push the rope further up the hill. Yes, there is political and religious opposition, but Fred is proving that it can be overcome.

The Bible translator must expect to push the rope up a steep linguistic hill. Unless the major language is English, he must first learn the trade language and then the heart language of the people group. The first language is difficult, but the second one is often much more complex, without a language school to attend. Since the second language Fred needed to learn had never been written, he had to learn it without books and teachers, develop an alphabet, and write the words in the correct morphological and syntactical order. Thankfully, Fred and his wife learned these skills at BBTI.

It is always difficult to move God’s Word from one language to another. It can be painstakingly slow. The missionary translator should never attempt the task of Bible translation without the help of native speakers, but it is challenging to find them. There may be no Christians among the group, and even if there are, they may be afraid to help. Sometimes, helpers will only work secretly.

The Bible translator must go and live where people do not have a Bible, and usually that means living in inhospitable places. Places where translation work is needed can be unpleasant, difficult, and sometimes dangerous. Primitive living conditions require enormous amounts of time and energy to accomplish simple daily tasks. (No hot showers or electric range!)

Consider Fred’s wife. She must be as tough as he is. She raises her children and homeschools them under the same conditions. She, too, must learn both the trade language and the heart language of the people group. She must learn to understand and love a people that are sometimes hard to love. At BBTI, Fred’s wife received the same pre-field training as Fred. This enables her to learn and cope with the culture and analyze and learn the language. She can communicate and teach women that may be culturally off limits to Fred. They make a good team.

Bible translation usually proceeds slowly. Often it is put on the back burner because of all the other work that the missionary must do. He needs to evangelize those around him and teach them the Word of God, even though it does not yet exist in the language. He must work at his business to retain his visa and good standing with the government. Some supporters may question why he is not winning the multitudes and establishing churches reported by other missionaries in other places. He must report to them and explain why he is not producing the same results.

As we pray for laborers for God’s harvest field, let us also pray that many of these will labor in the work of Bible translation. Pray that our homes and churches will produce soldiers of the Jones’ caliber equipped for God to send. Pray for laborers who can patiently endure the spiritual, mental, and physical hardness required to accomplish the task and push the rope up a steep hill!

Although we had been in Laos just a short time, I thought I was making progress in learning the language. So, when our six-month old daughter needed a vaccination, I felt confident to take her to the clinic. I tried to tell the nurses that she needed a sakjaa, meaning “shot of medicine.” But I accidentally said she needed a supjaa, meaning “cigarette.” She is a little too young to start smoking! — KR

Vernon Miller with two of his first students.

W. Vernon Miller was born deaf to hearing parents in December 1932. He did not learn sign language until the age of eighteen when he enrolled at Gallaudet University, a school for the Deaf in Washington DC.


One Sunday, Vernon heard a strong missionary challenge. He struggled all night about surrendering his life. The next morning, he appeared at his pastor’s door, with a packed suitcase! His pastor marveled at Vernon’s commitment but wondered what kind of missionary a deaf man could be.


In 1968, Vernon arrived in Peru as a missionary serving with Baptist International Missions, Inc. Then, as today in many foreign countries, the Deaf were isolated, ignored, and uneducated. They lived and died with little or no hope of hearing the Gospel. The Deaf were usually hidden away by their families because of a Catholic belief that any physical defect was a judgment from God. It took several years for Vernon to find deaf people whom he could serve. Finally, he located a few deaf children. They knew no sign language, nor could they read or write in any language. Therefore, Vernon began a small school for deaf children in the village of Chosica. The children were first taught sign language. Later, primary school subjects were introduced. Woodworking and other manual trades were added. Amador, a Peruvian national, was sent from his local church to assist Vernon. When Vernon married Velma Carlsberg, a deaf widow, she discipled ladies and became a mother figure to the children.


After a radio announcement of a school dedicated to the education of the Deaf, many families brought their deaf children. The locale in use was too small, so the work was moved to a slum area of Lima called El Salvador, where a nice piece of reasonably priced land was obtained.
Vernon named the flourishing work Efata, meaning “be opened” from the account of Jesus healing a deaf man. In time, a church was started. The school expanded, and a home for deaf children was established. Eventually, higher training was offered to prepare deaf young people as pastors and pastor’s wives to go from and to the deaf community. From this foundation, deaf couples have gone throughout Peru, Ecuador, and other Latin American countries to establish deaf churches.


Vernon and Velma retired in 2000. Vernon passed into the presence of his Savior six years later. The work today thrives under the leadership of Missionary Joe Kotvas.

Vernon Miller is recognized as the person who brought sign language to the Deaf of Peru, bringing them not only out of the shadows of society but also into the light of the Gospel.

Winter 2023-24

Part of the application process for enrollment in our Advanced Missionary Training program is a recommendation from the pastor of the applicant. Doug and Lisa Nispel applied for enrollment at BBTI in 2014. One question we ask the pastor is, “What is the applicant’s greatest strength?” For Doug, he answered “faithful” and for Lisa “compassionate.” We found the pastor’s description of them fully accurate. As students, they were a constant joy to us, along with their two daughters, Abigail and Elizabeth. They worked diligently both in the classroom and during our afternoon Work Detail.


Doug was a bus kid. His parents sent him to Red Lion Bible Church and his grandmother paid for him to attend the Christian school until the sixth grade. He heard the Gospel many times and was saved at the age of eleven. Doug lived for God for a time but became tired of feeling like an oddball and not having any friends. He decided to go his own way. As is always the case, this led to some poor choices. Even as a preteen, he began using the marijuana and alcohol that he had access to at home. However, God did not give up on Doug. When he was nearing the age of twenty, his father was gloriously saved. The booze and drugs left the home, and his father began serving the Lord. (Today he has a truck stop ministry). This had a convicting influence on Doug, and at the age of twenty-one, he surrendered every area of his life to God.


Lisa was raised by good, religious parents in a Methodist church. Then came the day when the pastor distributed to all a copy of the Good News for Modern Man and announced that it would replace their Bible. Her father had enough discernment to leave the church, and the family began attending Red Lion Bible Church. Lisa was led to Christ by a faithful Sunday School teacher who used the Wordless Book to teach the Gospel. Lisa’s father and mother began a bus route. Together, they serve faithfully in that ministry until this day.


The Nispel family arrived at BBTI in 2015 with the desire to serve the Lord in Romania. They continued raising support as students and graduated in 2016. In March 2017, less than a year after graduation, they arrived in Timisoara, Romania, and began learning the new language and culture.


A big part of the Nispel’s ministry is training believers in evangelism. They serve primarily in five or six Baptist churches, helping with outreaches and training the believers to use different methods of evangelism and tract distribution in outdoor and public settings. People are receptive and willing to listen but slow to trust Christ. Doug and Lisa look for outreach opportunities such as carnivals or festivals. They incorporate the use of Christian films in their open-air meetings. In the summer, they assist several different Baptist churches in vacation Bible school outreaches in places where there are thus far no churches.

When the Iron Curtain was torn down in the early 90s, Gospel seeds were sown in Romania and other Eastern European countries. It produced a great harvest for people who were hungry for prosperity and freedom. Thank God, that many missionaries went. Sadly, many stayed only a short time. There is, no doubt, a great need for new, church-planting missionaries in Europe, but there is also a great need for missionaries such as the Nispels who will take up the unfinished task of training believers to reach others.


Compassion took the Nispels to Romania, and faithfulness keeps them there!

Winter 2023-24

The Wasa are the largest ethnic group in the Western Region of Ghana with a population close to 300,000. The Western Region is tropical with an annual rainfall of sixty inches and is known for its production of cocoa, rubber, and palm oil. Other industries include fishing, animal husbandry, lumbering, and gold mining.


The Wasa face many challenges. The areas where gold is mined are damaged by erosion that causes flooding and ruins the land for farming. Also, many Wasa living in poverty mine gold illegally. These small, unregulated operations use chemicals and heavy metals that contaminate drinking water.
A second challenge is the Wasa language. Some of the older Wasa fear its demise. In an effort to modernize, children are punished for speaking their language in school. “English is a global language. Practice it now!!!” is written on at least one schoolroom wall.


Another challenge is the great spiritual need of the Wasa. Although their primary religion is listed as Christianity, its form is Non-Evangelical Protestantism which focuses more on social issues than a personal faith in Jesus Christ. Only Biblical teaching can correct this erroneous teaching, but there is no Bible in Wasa. A translation has reportedly begun. Will you pray for the Wasa and for those that are translating God’s Word for them?

Spring 2023-24

Our call to the mission field started when a ministry in Romania, supported by our church since the early 1970s, asked if anyone wanted to help on a construction project. I did not have any vacation time, a passport, or even a way to financially go. I told the Lord that if he would provide the way, I would go. He did provide! While in Romania, I passed out tracts and churches invited me to preach. After that trip, I knew the Lord would eventually have me go into missions but did not know where or when. I knew I needed to wait on the Lord to show me where he wanted me to be and when I was to go, so I remained active in our home church by serving in the bus ministry, jail ministry, nursing home and anywhere that I could help.


I met Lisa in 2001. On our second date, I told her that I believed the Lord would have us on the mission field, and that if she were not willing to go, we should not continue our relationship. Being close to her family, she did not automatically say yes, but did say she would pray about it. That night, sitting in her car before going into her third shift work, she looked up at the sky and thought of all Jesus had done for her. At that moment, she knew. If missions was what the Lord had for her, He would help her through it. Lisa let me know she was willing to go, and we married a year later.


I had been going to Romania on mission trips every two to three years since the year 2000. In 2007, while on one of those trips, I realized that I was ready to stay. The desire in my heart to be in Romania was honestly more than the desire to be in America. I became sure of the call to go.
I tried to schedule meetings and look for a mission board, but every door I tried was shut. I waited on the Lord, asking Him to open the door and make it obvious when it was time to start the deputation process. In 2012, the Lord answered that prayer in specific ways, showing us it was time for me to quit my job and go on deputation. We started full-time deputation with little support, but God answered prayer and provided a place for us to stay. I knew God would take care of my family.


In 2014, the Lord led us to BBTI to prepare for the mission field. It was hard to wait on the Lord to open doors in his timing instead of mine, but God’s timing is best. He used our lack of support to prompt me to contact churches in other states and keep me in America long enough for missionary training. At the right time, he gave us the support we needed, and we went to Romania.

Winter 2023-24

We cannot overestimate the value of a missionary. Humanly speaking, he is the only one standing between a group of people and Hell! If a missionary leaves the field prematurely, he is often discouraged and feels that he has failed the Lord and those people who believed in him. He, his church, and his mission agency should be asking some questions: What went wrong? What could have prevented it? And what should we do now? A missionary that we know well worked with his wife and children in a very remote mountain village, accessed only by plane or helicopter. Alone, they faced a very frightening experience and were in imminent physical danger. Almost miraculously, they were rescued by helicopter. They returned to the States very traumatized. Their pastor—the one who should care most—spoke with them for less than one minute and then apparently wrote them off as quitters. Talk about adding insult to injury! What they needed was a thorough debriefing with caring, competent counselors.


Gospel Furthering Fellowship (GFF), under the direction of BBTI graduate Rodney Myers, specializes in proper preparation for the mission field. This includes a strong recommendation that the missionary acquire Advanced Missionary Training at BBTI. They also offer help and debriefing, not only for their own members, but for any Baptist missionary. Consider the words of GFF Missionary Care Director Chris Luppino in his article, The Crisis that Few are Talking About:


The closing challenge of Jesus to His disciples in Mark 16:15 is clear, compelling, and challenging. They were to take the Gospel to every living person in every corner of the world. It is Jesus’ commission to the Christians of every generation during the church age. He highlighted one of the challenges to fulfilling His command in Matthew 9:37 where He said, ‘The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few.”


In comparison to the need, the number of laborers (missionaries) is small. In the face of the challenging task of cross-cultural evangelism and church planting, many of the laborers are weak. The inherent weaknesses are amplified by the fact that missionaries are often sent woefully under-prepared. The director of our mission was challenging a pastor with some of the difficulties the missionary that his church was sending was likely to encounter and with the need for him and his wife to be properly prepared. In response to a list of the challenges that the missionary could reasonably be expected to face the pastor replied, “He will just have to learn as he goes along.” [Fortunately, that missionary couple did attend BBTI and are now successfully learning a tribal language that people told them is impossible to learn!]

Once laborers are sent, they are often neglected. If they “crash and burn” or just quietly go away (leave the field), the ridicule, blame, and scorn is usually targeted at the missionary. They are labeled as quitters, not being “tough” enough, not being made of the right stuff, or being a John Mark. We have no words to describe the sending church, sending pastor, or sending agency that let them down. If we are going to take the Gospel to each living person in every corner of the world, we must do better…much better!
The crisis that few are talking about is missionary attrition. A 2017 survey of 745 former missionaries cited a lack of missionary care as the number one cause of missionary attrition.


Gospel Furthering Fellowship is an Independent Baptist mission service ministry. We do not send missionaries or start churches. GFF serves churches that send missionaries to start churches. We come alongside churches and missionaries by using our experience and expertise to encourage and promote long-term missionary service among unreached people groups. Churches have a biblical mandate to intentionally, not accidentally, produce career missionaries. We are honored to serve them as they seek to do so.

We at home cannot possibly understand what a new missionary faces. He is concerned about the children’s welfare and education. Culture stress is often overwhelming. The pressure he feels from his supporters to produce results may derive from his own mind, but it is there, nonetheless. The missionary is tempted to take shortcuts and minister before learning the language. When language learning suffers, he eventually realizes his inability to effectively communicate. Why didn’t someone warn me that this language and the hearts of these people would be so hard? This dear man of God and his wife may question their spirituality. Surely, if we were right with God, we would love these people!
Missionaries may feel reluctant to share with anyone, including their pastor, what they are going through. After all, they told him and a bunch of others what they were going to do. They never entertained a thought of failure. The pastor needs to exercise his gift of discernment, read between the lines, investigate, and be sure that his missionary family is indeed doing well. Even if he does not suspect a problem, a personal visit might be a great encouragement to his missionary family.
It is the work of the church to get missionaries to the field. It is also the work of the church to keep them there. If they return early, it is the duty of the church to love and welcome them as the heroes they are. The church should attempt to restore and resend them. Compassionate care, not criticism, is needed.

Winter 2023-24

Ten thousand Pame live in San Luis Potosi, a state of central Mexico. They call themselves Xiúi meaning “indigenous.” The Pame cultivate maize, beans, squash, and chili which constitute their main diet. However, the soil is poor and rocky and many Pame are migrant workers.

Pame traditional religious beliefs in spirits, witches, and gods have mixed with Catholicism brought by the Spaniards. Pame call the Sun and the Catholic God by the same name. Likewise, they call the Moon and the Virgin Mary by the same name.

They need the truth found in God’s Word. But is it worth the time and toil of translating the Bible for a relatively small people group? Someone thinks so! And that is the rest of the story.

In 1980, BBTI graduate Rex Cobb began working in Bible translation among the Zapotecs in Oaxaca, Mexico. The people of his remote Zapotec village were suspicious of Americans, and it became increasingly difficult to minister among them. Bro. Cobb began to pray for Mexican nationals to assume the work of reaching their own indigenous people. In 1987, Rex learned of a Bible institute in the mountains of Chihuahua, Mexico, which was beginning to train students to do just that. God had answered his prayer!

He moved to northern Mexico and for four years taught the skills he had learned at BBTI. The first class had thirty-five students. Bro. Rex later moved on to church planting, and as the years passed, he wondered if he had made the right decision to leave the work with the Zapotecs and invest his time in training Mexican missionaries. Recently the Lord confirmed that yes, it was the correct decision.

Last March, at a mission conference in Gainesville, Texas, Rex met Dr. Neftalí Santos MD, a Mexican missionary to the Pame people of the state of San Luis Potosi. Neftalí taught the Pame people to read and is directing them as they translate the Bible into Pame. Neftalí studied linguistics and Bible translation at the Instituto Bíblico Maranatha in the city of San Luis Potosí. His teacher? Jorge Rocha, one of the students in Rex’s first class at the Bible Institute in Chihuahua! What a joy to learn how God has used Dr. Jorge Rocha to challenge and train dozens of men in the work of missions. Wondrous are God’s doings in our eyes!

God has a plan to reach every tribe and nation with the Gospel. He thinks it is worth the time and toil to translate the Bible for a relatively small people group. Neftalí thinks it is worth it and so do we! We are grateful He lets us get involved and has even let us see some far-reaching effects of BBTI’s ministry.

Fall 2023

Linguistics

There were many notable events in 1973. The infamous Supreme Court ruling Roe vs. Wade made legal the murder of sixty-six million babies over the next forty-nine years. The Watergate scandal was a top story for most of the year, and President Nixon assured us that he was not a crook. Vice president Spiro Agnew resigned over a tax evasion issue, and Gerald Ford was confirmed by the House of Representatives to replace him. The Twenty-fifth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified. The American Baseball League adopted the designated hitter position, and Secretariat won the Triple Crown. After the loss of over 58,000 men and one woman, we pulled out of Vietnam and gave South Vietnam to the
communists. Also, that year Papua New Guinea gained its independence from Australia.

It was not announced on national news or even on local news, but in September of 1973 the Baptist Bible Translators Institute (BBTI) began in a Sunday school classroom of Rolling Hills Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. Before that time, no Baptist school existed to train missionaries in linguistics, language and culture learning, and Bible translation principles. The vision for BBTI grew out of the frustration of a Baptist missionary trying to minister in Spanish to a group of Indian people whose understanding of Spanish was extremely limited. George Anderson thought maybe he had missed the class at his Bible college that dealt with language learning. He inquired and found that no such class was given at his college or at any Baptist school in America, Canada, or England. In light of Christ’s command to teach all nations, George thought this was very strange. He learned that there are still thousands of unwritten languages with not a word of the Bible and where language schools do not exist. George correctly reasoned that if these people were to ever hear the Gospel or read God’s Word, they needed missionaries with specialized training to reach them. There are two kinds of men: One says, “This is not right. Someone ought to do something about it.” And the other kind says, “This is not right. I am going to do something about it.” George learned that training in linguistic and cross-culture communication was available at the non-denominational organization New Tribes Mission. The New Tribes leaders graciously agreed to accept George and his wife Sharon and train them with the understanding that the Andersons would use it to begin a similar school for Baptist missionaries. George asked his supporting churches to be patient with them for two years while they acquired this valuable training.

BBTI began with the Andersons and three other families: the Duffees, the Huddlestons, and the Cobbs. Realizing that a Sunday School classroom is not an appropriate place to train missionaries, we began praying and searching for a larger rural property. We had no money, but with the help of Paul Henderson, pastor of Central Baptist Church in Bowie, Texas, we were given one hundred seventeen acres of land with three houses five miles from Bowie. The move was made on April 1, 1974, and by then a fifth family, the Christensens, had joined the group.

Missionaries need to learn building skills, and repairs to our old houses provided plenty of on-the-job experience. The many hard and unpleasant tasks such as digging a ditch were classified as GMT (Good Missionary Training), and we did them as to the Lord, knowing that we were building something that would last. Today there is housing for four staff families and a dozen other families or single students. A multipurpose building was constructed in 2004 and an addition to it is currently in progress.

Advancements have been made in the field of linguistic and cultural anthropology, and BBTI has tried to keep pace. The courses of Teaching English as a Foreign Language, Chronological Bible Teaching, Greek, and Jungle Camp have been added but much is still the same. Certainly, the goal of training missionaries has not changed. BBTI has had three directors: George Anderson, Charles Turner, and Rex Cobb.

The tuition-free specialized training is given in one nine-month school year.Enrollment has never been large; it has averaged thirteen students per class. Our best representatives have been our graduates and students that visit churches on deputation. We accept students from like-minded churches with their pastor’s approval. Since 2006, we have promoted the work of missions and our Advanced Missionary Training weekly on fifty-five radio stations and in this quarterly publication. Our graduates have worked in Bolivia, Uruguay, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico, Bahamas, China, Mongolia, Taiwan, Nepal, Russia, Israel, Tajikistan, Korea, Japan, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Papua Indonesia, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, India, Jordan, Uganda, Kenya, Liberia, Tanzania, Ghana, Zambia, Cameroon, Malawi, Cape Verde, Republic of Congo, South Africa, Ivory Coast, Botswana, Ethiopia, Lithuania, Hungry, Romania, Republic of Georgia, Armenia, Croatia, Greece, Greenland, and to the Chippewas Indians in the United States. Others are preparing to go to Iceland, Burkina Faso, and to some countries mentioned above. Graduates are using the skills they learned at BBTI in cross-cultural evangelism, Indigenous church planting, Bible translation, and literacy.

Thank God for half a century of blessings. We glance back, but we gaze forward. The task is still before us, even greater than it was fifty years ago because the population has doubled. By the grace of God and with the prayers and support of God’s people, we plan to continue to prepare missionaries for their challenging task of language learning, cultural adaptation, and communication of the Gospel. If we were on the right path a half century ago, and we believe we were, then we plan to stay on that same path. Technology is helpful in some ways, but it will never replace flesh and blood missionaries going where people have no knowledge of Christ and staying until there is a thriving church with a well-translated Bible and a desire to take the Gospel to the regions beyond them. That is the plan for the next fifty years or until Jesus returns!

Since I could not get animal crackers for our Noah’s Ark lesson, I decided to be creative and make cutout cookies. At the store, I found what I thought was flour. The packaging read Heljedino Brašno, and I knew the word for flour was brašno so I grabbed the package and headed to the checkout. I learned the hard way that heljedino is the Croatian word for buckwheat. Let me just tell you, buckwheat sugar cookies do NOT taste good! —Sarah, Croatia

Stephen Metcalf 1927-2014

On June 7, 2014, Stephen A. Metcalf, a faithful church planter and evangelist to Japan, passed away. He ministered in Japan for forty years with his wife Evelyn and their five children. However, Stephen did not always want to be a missionary to Japan.

Stephen was born on October 23, 1927, to George and Bessie Metcalf. The Metcalfs were missionary translators in Taku (now Dao-Gu), a mountainous Lisu village one weeks walk from Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province in Southwest China. At a young age, Stephen learned to fluently speak English, Mandarin, and Lisu. In 1934, when he was seven years old, his parents took Stephen to join his sister Ruth at a boarding school in Yantai. Except for Christmas visits, Stephen grew up in Yantai and rarely saw his parents.

By 1937, World War II was imminent. The Japanese invasion of China did not affect Stephen until 1942 when he and his schoolmates were imprisoned. Sickness continually plagued the filthy, cramped attic where the nineteen young men were initially quartered. Hepatitis A and a raging fever nearly killed Stephen, but God miraculously spared his life. As he lay weak and alone, his conscience convicted him of his sins. Overwhelmed, Stephen confessed His sins and believed that Jesus Christ died and rose again for him. In the following months, Stephen’s faith grew through missionary biographies that fellow inmates lent him. By the time Stephen was moved to the Weixian internment camp, God had taught him perseverance, faithfulness, and thankfulness. However, Stephen struggled to learn forgiveness.

Who could blame Stephen for despising the Japanese? His circumstances appeared to justify his attitude. Over two-thousand men, women, and children were confined within the sixty-acre internment camp. Sanitation was deplorable; water was inadequate; food was rationed; and medical supplies were scarce. Self-preservation was the daily mode of life. Individuals who retained ethical and religious convictions were either admired or scorned. Yet one such man’s godly character influenced others in Weixian.

Eric Liddell, famous Scottish Olympic gold medalist and missionary, chose Christlikeness over self-centeredness. Of all the prisoners, he easily could have demanded his rights and misused his influence. At the pinnacle of his athletic career, he left Scotland to be a missionary teacher in China. Instead of evacuating the country with his family in 1941, Liddell remained. He firmly believed that only faithful obedience honors God, despite any personal cost. Even in Weixian, Liddell continued obeying God as he served his fellow prisoners.

In 1945, just months before World War II ended, Stephen heard the words that impacted the rest of his life. During a Bible study on Matthew 5:43-48, Liddell taught: “When you hate, you are self-centered. When you pray, you are God-centered. Praying changes your attitude. It is hard to hate those you pray for.” Listening, Stephen was deeply convicted. He realized Liddell’s personal obedience to the Truth had changed his attitude toward the Japanese guards. God used Liddell’s testimony to break Stephen’s unforgiving heart. Together, the men began praying for their captors.

Days later, Liddell approached Stephen with a pair of patched running shoes. Stephen’s own shoes were completely worn, useless protection against the winter temperatures. Unconscious of his friend’s personal sacrifice, Stephen gratefully accepted them. Only weeks later did Stephen realize that he was walking in Liddell’s shoes.

One month later, tears stung and blurred Stephen’s eyes as he gazed down at his shoes. He tried to steady himself under the weight of his friend’s coffin. Though a brain tumor silenced Liddell’s earthly voice, his words echoed in Stephen’s memory. As he reflected on Liddell’s life, Stephen’s grief suddenly turned to resolution. At that moment, before God, he vowed to go to Japan as a missionary after the war.

Liddell’s obedience influenced Stephen’s obedience. Years later, in 1952, Stephen recalled Liddell’s words again as he began his life-time ministry in Japan. He no longer wore Liddell’s physical shoes, yet he daily walked in Liddell’s spiritual shoes. Both men’s obedience resulted in countless Japanese salvations!

When we obediently live the Truth, others will believe the Truth. Obedience reveals Absolute Truth which powerfully transforms lives for eternity. Through His own obedience, Christ fulfilled the law and the prophets, demonstrating that the Word of God is Truth. His obedience to the Father’s will changed men’s eternal destinies (John 5:30, 6:38)! Christ set the example for us (Phil. 2:8; Heb. 5:8; 1 Pet. 2:21). His obedience cost Him everything. Likewise, obedience will cost us everything. Nevertheless, Christ’s obedience commands and compels our own obedience. We have a choice. We know the Truth. Yet Truth without obedience will never save a lost and dying world.

Christ wore the shoes of obedience, and He commanded us to follow Him. Obedience is a personal choice in response to a personal command. Though initially individual, our choice is eternally influential. Will we obey the Truth? Will we walk in Christ’s shoes? Will others walk in our shoes?

Spring/Summer 2023

Marco Paulichen Family
Missionaries to Uruguay

Marco Paulichen was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in 1978, and his wife Patricia was born in Ontario a few months earlier. But two could not have come from more distinct backgrounds.

Marco’s mother was from Argentina, and his father was from Uruguay. Marco’s first language was Spanish. His parents were devout Christians and raised Marco in church where he heard the Gospel often. At age five, his Sunday school teacher led him to Christ.

Patricia’s mother was an unsaved, single mother who left Patricia soon after her birth. Though she eventually returned, Patricia grew up in broken homes feeling unwanted and unloved. By age twenty, she was using drugs daily and attending drinking parties each weekend. By the grace of God, Patricia was given a gospel tract by a street preacher. It showed her that she was lost and on the way to hell, but she did not know how to respond. She asked her friends about the way of salvation, but none of them could help her. She tried self-reformation, attempting to please God. This only led to deep depression and thoughts of suicide.

Patricia was in an office building for a job interview when she literally bumped into the young electrician working there. She gladly accepted his invitation to attend his church: later he led her to Christ on their first date. Her life changed drastically; she was a new person. Eleven months later, she married that young man! They have been serving the Lord together for twenty-four years.

Marco and Patricia felt led of God to go take the Gospel to Uruguay. Along with their teenage children Josh and Josephine, they attended BBTI from August 2017 until May 2018. Josh and Josephine studied BBTI classes in the morning and worked on their homeschool assignments in the afternoon. They all excelled. Marco, a master electrician, made many needed electrical improvements at BBTI.

In October 2018, the family arrived on the field prepared to learn the language and culture of Uruguay. Because of Marco’s paternal roots in the country, he and his children are allowed dual citizenship of both Canada and Uruguay. Patricia has been granted residency. They do not struggle to obtain visas like many other missionaries; they are allowed to travel in other countries of South America without restrictions. The children are also entitled to educational benefits. While in Canada, Josh and Josephine studied music at the Royal Conservatory, and in Uruguay they were admitted into a classical music conservatory. This has resulted in many good contacts for the family’s church planting ministry in the interior city of Salto.

Having never lived in Uruguay, Marco has had to learn the country’s unique Spanish. He was able, however, to soon begin the Iglesia Bautista Fundamental in their home. The church began in the living room, kitchen, and under the carport. God blessed and the church grew. They currently meet in a rented building but are looking for a building in a better location. Marco preaches on the radio five days a week and sets up a literature table in two open-air markets where he witnesses for Christ. Thank God that the Paulichen family is faithfully giving the Gospel to the lost in their city. However, many more missionaries are needed for the places where the people wait for someone to bring them the Good News. Pray for laborers for Uruguay and the surrounding countries. Remember that the Gospel is not Good News if it gets there too late!

Standing before you is a famed Drum Tower, a remarkable architectural achievement held together with groove joints instead of nails. As you admire the abundance of carvings and paintings on the multi-storied structure, music plays and a traditional song and dance begin. You are at a festival in one of the few Dong villages open to tourism.

Early mission work among the Dong began in 1910-1930 but was halted by communism when it was introduced in 1949. However, the Gospel never took a firm hold. Today only 1% of the Dong people claim Christianity. The 2020 census numbered the Dong at 3,495,993. Roughly half of them is Northern Dong and the other half is Southern Dong. While the customs and beliefs of the two groups are similar, their languages are different. The Northern Dong have no Bible.
The Dong practice Chinese folk religion. They worship their ancestors and believe in spirits and ghosts. Dong shamans use drums during rituals to appease any offended spirits.

The Dong have lived in a subtropical area of south-central China for generations. They cultivate rice, wheat, maize, sweet potatoes, cotton, and soybeans. Some raise pigs and hens. Under communism, the Dong’s standard of living has increased through the building of a solid rural infrastructure and improved education and health care. However, the Dong do not know how they can have eternal life through Jesus.

Spring/Summer 2023

Bible translation is an awesome task. Nevertheless, it can and must be done in the right way with the right method. Bible translators do not translate by inspiration. If they did, the task would be quite simple since there would be no need for checking or revising. The translator must struggle diligently to find the best possible way to say, in the target language , what God has said in the source language. He must pray for God’s help. It would be easy for us to decide translation is too much responsibility and risk. Are you not glad though, that when he gave us our first English Bible from the Greek received text, William Tyndale did not decide the risk and responsibility were too great? Speaking of risk; Tyndale was martyred by the Roman Catholic Church for his work!

The Bible does not easily fit into the target language. Though Greek did not perfectly fit into English, we can confidently say that we have God’s Word in our language. The goal of translation is to maintain the integrity of the original while making the target translation understandable and readable to the people. If the translation does not sound right, people may carry it to church, but they will probably not read it. We want the people to say, “This is our Bible” not, “This is the missionary’s Bible.”

Some passages are a challenge to put into the target language. However, after finding what does not work, you look for what does. Your native translators are your best asset because they know their language and culture. Perhaps a fellow team member may find or know the answer, or you may consult someone back home.
Challenges may arise if the grammar of the source language differs from the grammar of the target language. Many languages have two words for we. You must choose. One of the words includes the person being addressed; the other word does not. (This is third person plural inclusive and exclusive.) For example, the disciples woke Jesus in the storm and said, “… Master, carest thou not that we perish?” Does the word we include or exclude Jesus? Did they think they would perish but Jesus would survive? Or did they think Jesus would sink with them? Since neither English nor Greek have this grammatical feature, those texts cannot help you make a decision.

Another grammatical challenge is the pronoun their. When the four men let their paralyzed friend down through the roof, Jesus saw their faith. At least one Tibetan language has five words for their. One word is a general reference to six or more people, but the other words depend on whether there are two, three, four, or five people involved. So, did Jesus see the faith of four or five men?

Some languages, such as Melanesian Pidgin of Papua New Guinea, have only active, not passive voice. They cannot say, “John was hit by the ball” (passive), but rather “The ball hit John” (active). This language requires that passive voice phrases change to active voice. While we cannot change the grammar of the target language to match the grammar of the source text, our Bible translation must conform to the grammar requirements of the receptor language. This is not bad translation; it is reality.

Another language challenge is the use of verbs and verb phrases rather than abstract nouns such as faith, love, repentance, salvation, etc. In the story of Zacchaeus, Jesus said, “… This day is salvation come to this house…” This little phrase is full of challenges. For example, the Coatlán Zapotec of Oaxaca, Mexico, does not have the word salvation. They have the verb save, but how does a house get saved? House is used to represent the family. This phrase also presents a collocational clash. (Languages differ in what words naturally fit together.) How does salvation come? Abstract nouns and figurative language are often challenging, but translation must be done. Team members can brainstorm, and someone may determine an acceptable way. You can also consider how other translators have rendered the verse. However, you must be careful. Not all translators have the same convictions or methods of translation that you have.
Translators also face challenges in languages and cultures that do not contain words or concepts such as circumcision, baptism, fasting, or housetops. If people live in houses with thatched roofs and bamboo walls, shouting from the housetop may be totally ridiculous. No one would stand on the roof. We cannot say to announce it over the loudspeaker because doing so is an anachronism, introducing something into the Bible that did not exist in Bible times. Some may suggest a cultural substitute like announcing it in the town square or in the men’s house. But that is not what Jesus said; He said house. A footnote might be used to explain the type of house with a flat roof found in Israel or a picture of such a house with a caption below it. What do we do with words like snow, camel, and lamb where these are not known? The solution might be to borrow or transliterate the word from the country’s trade language. If there is misunderstanding with these words, the checking process will reveal it, and we can look for a better way.

These are just a few of many challenges that make translation interesting. While we must maintain a healthy fear of the awesome responsibility of translating, we must not let fear stop us from getting involved. We must not say, “Let the experts do it.” Look at the junk “Bibles” the “experts” have given us in English! Bible translation requires serious-minded, hard-working, Bible-believing, careful, diligent, godly men and women who will accept the challenge. Translation is not for everyone. However, we need many hundreds more missionaries who love God, love the lost, and love the Bible to complete the task!

Before we learned the importance of pronouncing Thai with the proper tones, we would get into a taxi and tell the driver where we wanted to go. The drivers always did a double take and looked at us strangely. We later learned that instead of saying that our destination was Muang Ake, we were saying “knock on your head.” —Vicki

Bro. Ed Waddell
hewj1261@gmail.com

In January 1990, during a Sunday morning service at First Baptist Church of Mayport in Mayport, Florida, God saved me, a twenty-eight-year-old Navy electrician, under the preaching of a guest preacher. At that time I was stationed at Mayport Naval Base in Jacksonville, Florida, serving aboard the USS Saratogo CV-60.

In 1987, aboard the submarine USS Mendell Rivers, my right hand and arm were injured in a machine accident. I served for seven more years, receiving an honorable discharge and a partial disability after twelve years of service. God’s timing and ways are ALWAYS perfect (Romans 8:28; Philippians 1:6; 2 Timothy 1:9). Doing my best to trust and obey according to Proverbs 3:5-6; 16:3; Philippians 3:13-14; & 2 Peter 1:10, I have served God in my local church in whatever ministry capacity He has given me.

This was never more important than in August 2021 when God answered my prayer for strength to end the grieving process after my wife died from cancer in March 2021. God used a missionary family who visited our church to turn my attention toward the mission field and show me that I should be personally involved in missions.

God pointed me directly to the Advanced Missionary Training that I am now completing here at Baptist Bible Translators Institute. I knew about BBTI from their radio program on the Fundamental Broadcasting Network and from seeing Rex Cobb’s articles in the devotional booklet, Baptist Bread. So, I moved from Charleston, South Carolina, to Bowie, Texas, to begin preparing for the ministry the Lord was leading me to. On September 21, 2022, at East Side Baptist Church in Bowie, I met a native Navajo missionary, Aaron Nelson. God showed me how I could also serve as a missionary to the Navajo Nation. I saw the great need for indigenous Bible-based churches that have an accurate, textually pure copy of God’s Word in their native language.

Please pray for me as I move forward in the direction God has given me and begin serving in this capacity (as well as in any others that are necessary).

From the Navy to the Navajo: God is good!

Winter 2022-23

Lilias Trotter 1853-1928

“Satan knows well the power of concentration.” Do we? Do we dare to focus on Christ with such genuine intensity that His glory is our only motive and consideration for every choice we make?

In October 1876, John Ruskin, a famous English painter and severe art critic, consented to evaluate a young woman’s artwork. Astonished by her exceptional portrayal of artistic elements and principles, Ruskin immediately offered to train the artist. As time progressed, he declared that she was a rare talent destined to become one of the century’s greatest English artists.

The young artist, Isabella Lilias Trotter, was born on July 14, 1853, to an affluent family in London. Her godly parents intentionally instilled spiritual truths in her life which blossomed following her salvation. Lilias’s love for art was matched only by her passion for ministry. When faced with a choice between the fortune and fame of an artistic career and a simple life of service, Lilias chose to relinquish her rights to her talent and follow Christ. In 1879, she journaled: “Are our hands off the very blossom of our lives? Are all things—even the treasures He sanctified—held loosely, ready to be parted with without a struggle when He asks for them? It is a loss to keep what God says to give.”

After she surrendered her life and talents to Christ, He opened His way before her. At a mission conference in 1887, Lilias clearly knew that God wanted her to go to Algeria, North Africa. The following year, she moved to Algeria where she ministered to Arabs until her death in 1928. Although she worked closely with North African Mission, the ministry never accepted her as a missionary because her heart was weak. However, Christ was Lilias’ focus; nothing could dissuade her obedience. For the next thirty-nine years, she faithfully ministered to Algerian women and children through Bible studies, prayer meetings, and literacy classes. Her artistic and literary talents enabled her to write and translate many tracts, parables, Christian literature, and Scripture portions into both classical and colloquial Arabic. During her later ministry, Lilias and her team pioneered work among the Arab Sufi mystics in the Southlands of Algeria. When her weak heart left her bedridden, she continued writing. The famous hymn, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” was inspired by Lilias’ booklet Focussed, in which she wrote: “Dare to lay bare your whole life and being before Him, and ask Him to show you whether or not all is focused on Christ and His glory.”

Lives are legacies, yet only Christ-focused lives leave legacies of faithfulness. Focused lives fearlessly follow Christ without hesitation at the cost to oneself, family, friends, or ministries. “Christ—Christ—Christ—filling all the horizon. Everything in us: everything to us: everything through us. ‘To live is Christ.’—Amen.”

Is our focus changing our lives? Do we dare?

Quotations from A Passion for the Impossible by Miriam Huffman Rockness

Winter 2022-23

Cindy Stacy
Missionary to Zambia

Cindy Stacy is not another Mary Slessor. She does not trudge alone through the African jungles facing the danger of lions, cannibal tribes, and pythons. (She does need to avoid contact with black and green mambas and other venomous snakes). Much of what she does as a missionary in Zambia is what she did for many years in New Mexico.

On March 24, 1964, Cindy was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Eight years later, she was born again at Temple Baptist Church. After graduation from the Temple Baptist Christian School, she earned a bachelor’s degree from Eastern New Mexico University.

Cindy joyfully served the Lord in her highly active church, Gospel Light Baptist, in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. She taught in the Christian school for twenty-three years. Why did she not stay where she was comfortable and safe? She was drawn to Zambia because she saw a much greater need there. Of the 13,800,000 people in this Southern African country, half are under the age of fifteen. Cindy saw wide-open doors and opportunities. A church-planting missionary family needed her experience and expertise. Though most of Cindy’s peers are willing to serve the Lord in the United States, few of them want to go overseas. However, Cindy was willing to serve outside her comfort zone. Instead of asking, “Why should I go?” she asked, “Why should I stay?”

Mission work requires preparation. Once Cindy’s church commissioned her as their missionary, she began presenting her plans to other churches. Knowing full well what children need, she began asking God’s people for school supplies to take with her to Zambia. They responded generously to the need. Cindy also began saving for passage and setup expenses. A single missionary may require a smaller amount of monthly support, but plane tickets, visas, housing, furniture, and vehicles are expensive. Cindy worked diligently. Seeing the benefits of BBTI’s Advanced Missionary Training, she arrived for training in August 2014, graduated in May 2015, and left for Zambia in January 2017.

English is not the first language of Zambian young people, but they need to learn it. Cindy teaches grammar, reading, and ESL classes to the youth. She has Thursday and Friday evening Bible classes for neighbor children and conducts a successful Children’s Bible Hour on Saturdays. Cindy enjoys teaching her Sunday school class of seventy-eight children as well as discipling ladies.

Missionary work is not simply teaching people but training people how to teach other people. Through the Solid Rock Bible Institute, Cindy is training two young ladies to be future teachers. Though they are not allowed to have their own class in the church before they graduate, they have begun a neighborhood Bible class on their own. One lady asked Cindy to teach her four children to read. Instead of teaching the children, Cindy trained the mother to teach her own children. The team wants the young people to have Bibles, but they do not simply give them out. The children must earn their Bible through the Faithfulness Campaign which requires church attendance and Scripture memorization.

While church and school duties keep Cindy very busy, she still finds time for her cat, dog, and vegetable and flower gardens. Zambia, like many places, has its share of difficulties, and Cindy must share those difficulties with the people she loves. Often there is no daytime electricity, and water is very scarce. Prices have increased by seventy-five percent, and, of course Zambia was plagued by Covid-19. Nevertheless, Cindy is very content and does not want to be anywhere else! She extends this invitation: “If you’d like to come work in Zambia, you can teach the two-to-seven-year-old children. I will give you thirty children, chairs, a room, the curriculum, a helper, and all the hugs you’ll need for the rest of your life.”

Winter 2022-23

 

 

Chris and Bonnie Matthews

As a boy, Chris rode church buses to various Protestant and Baptist churches. When he was in his early teens, his family joined a church which taught baptismal regeneration. They baptized him based on an earlier profession of faith, but he had no assurance of salvation. In 1993, at the age of fifteen, he attended a church camp and fell under deep conviction. He pleaded with the counselors for guidance, but they assured him he was okay. That evening, a speaker recited the sinner’s prayer which reminded Chris of the true Gospel he had learned previously. He asked Christ to be his Saviour. Later, he was scripturally baptized and called to preach at Ray Avenue Baptist Church in Salina, Kansas. He attended Bible college for one year and was trained for six years by Dr. Plato Shepherd at Smoky Valley Baptist Church in Lindsborg, Kansas. Chris served as an associate pastor for three years, and in 2005, he became the pastor, serving until 2018. He also became a firefighter and an Emergency Medical Technician. He taught both EMS and CPR.

Bonnie was raised in the home of a godly pastor. She made a profession of faith at age four, but like many children, she later had doubts. It was not until she was a pastor’s wife that she received full assurance of her salvation. She graduated from Calvary University in Kansas City with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. She was a pastor’s wife for fifteen years. She has taught music, written and led ladies’ Bible studies, led youth ensembles, spoken at ladies’ conferences, written historical novels, and taught piano. Bonnie has training and field experience in Teaching English as a Second Language.

The Matthewses could have easily continued serving the Lord in Kansas, but God began to burden their hearts for a very restricted country in Southeast Asia. Upon hearing this, people began telling them that they needed to attend BBTI. Shortly after arriving in 2019, they fell in love with our school and could see how it would benefit them on the mission field. Even while they were students, Chris envisioned returning to BBTI one day to help train missionaries.

In less than a year after graduation, the Matthews family arrived on their field. God gave them a very fruitful ministry in evangelism and leadership training. They were having the time of their lives! They loved the place and especially the people, and the people loved them. They often saw God protect them and provide miraculously. One such time was during the strict COVID lockdown when they needed to return to the US for the impending death of Bonnie’s dad. They were not allowed to leave their neighborhood, but they had to obtain their passports from another part of the large city. Couriers could not get through the military/police checkpoints, but Chris rode his motor scooter unhindered through every checkpoint without even being stopped!

Chris and Bonnie were not looking for an easier place of service or greener pastures, but God was impressing their hearts that they needed to labor at BBTI. Rex Cobb had previously told Chris that BBTI would soon need a younger director. After much fasting, praying, and seeking counsel, they contacted Brother Cobb, other staff members, and our sponsoring pastor, Steve Summers. No snap decision was made, but all involved, including the school trustees, believed that Chris was right for the job. He will officially become the director at graduation on May 18th. He plans to make trips back to his field to train church leaders and help oversee a Bible translation project. Chris’ leadership experience and Bonnie’s many skills will help move this ministry forward in the days to come.

Spring 2024

Leadership and Servanthood

Chris and Bonnie Matthews

As a boy, Chris rode church buses to various Protestant and Baptist churches. When he was in his early teens, his family joined a church which taught baptismal regeneration. They baptized him based on an earlier profession of faith, but he had no assurance of salvation. In 1993, at the age of fifteen, he attended a church camp and fell under deep conviction. He pleaded with the counselors for guidance, but they assured him he was okay. That evening, a speaker recited the sinner’s prayer which reminded Chris of the true Gospel he had learned previously. He asked Christ to be his Saviour. Later, he was scripturally baptized and called to preach at Ray Avenue Baptist Church in Salina, Kansas. He attended Bible college for one year and was trained for six years by Dr. Plato Shepherd at Smoky Valley Baptist Church in Lindsborg, Kansas. Chris served as an associate pastor for three years, and in 2005, he became the pastor, serving until 2018. He also became a firefighter and an Emergency Medical Technician. He taught both EMS and CPR.

Bonnie was raised in the home of a godly pastor. She made a profession of faith at age four, but like many children, she later had doubts. It was not until she was a pastor’s wife that she received full assurance of her salvation. She graduated from Calvary University in Kansas City with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. She was a pastor’s wife for fifteen years. She has taught music, written and led ladies’ Bible studies, led youth ensembles, spoken at ladies’ conferences, written historical novels, and taught piano. Bonnie has training and field experience in Teaching English as a Second Language.

The Matthewses could have easily continued serving the Lord in Kansas, but God began to burden their hearts for a very restricted country in Southeast Asia. Upon hearing this, people began telling them that they needed to attend BBTI. Shortly after arriving in 2019, they fell in love with our school and could see how it would benefit them on the mission field. Even while they were students, Chris envisioned returning to BBTI one day to help train missionaries.

In less than a year after graduation, the Matthews family arrived on their field. God gave them a very fruitful ministry in evangelism and leadership training. They were having the time of their lives! They loved the place and especially the people, and the people loved them. They often saw God protect them and provide miraculously. One such time was during the strict COVID lockdown when they needed to return to the US for the impending death of Bonnie’s dad. They were not allowed to leave their neighborhood, but they had to obtain their passports from another part of the large city. Couriers could not get through the military/police checkpoints, but Chris rode his motor scooter unhindered through every checkpoint without even being stopped!

Chris and Bonnie were not looking for an easier place of service or greener pastures, but God was impressing their hearts that they needed to labor at BBTI. Rex Cobb had previously told Chris that BBTI would soon need a younger director. After much fasting, praying, and seeking counsel, they contacted Brother Cobb, other staff members, and our sponsoring pastor, Steve Summers. No snap decision was made, but all involved, including the school trustees, believed that Chris was right for the job. He will officially become the director at graduation on May 18th. He plans to make trips back to his field to train church leaders and help oversee a Bible translation project. Chris’ leadership experience and Bonnie’s many skills will help move this ministry forward in the days to come.

Spring 2024

Compassion and Faithfulness

Part of the application process for enrollment in our Advanced Missionary Training program is a recommendation from the pastor of the applicant. Doug and Lisa Nispel applied for enrollment at BBTI in 2014. One question we ask the pastor is, “What is the applicant’s greatest strength?” For Doug, he answered “faithful” and for Lisa “compassionate.” We found the pastor’s description of them fully accurate. As students, they were a constant joy to us, along with their two daughters, Abigail and Elizabeth. They worked diligently both in the classroom and during our afternoon Work Detail.


Doug was a bus kid. His parents sent him to Red Lion Bible Church and his grandmother paid for him to attend the Christian school until the sixth grade. He heard the Gospel many times and was saved at the age of eleven. Doug lived for God for a time but became tired of feeling like an oddball and not having any friends. He decided to go his own way. As is always the case, this led to some poor choices. Even as a preteen, he began using the marijuana and alcohol that he had access to at home. However, God did not give up on Doug. When he was nearing the age of twenty, his father was gloriously saved. The booze and drugs left the home, and his father began serving the Lord. (Today he has a truck stop ministry). This had a convicting influence on Doug, and at the age of twenty-one, he surrendered every area of his life to God.


Lisa was raised by good, religious parents in a Methodist church. Then came the day when the pastor distributed to all a copy of the Good News for Modern Man and announced that it would replace their Bible. Her father had enough discernment to leave the church, and the family began attending Red Lion Bible Church. Lisa was led to Christ by a faithful Sunday School teacher who used the Wordless Book to teach the Gospel. Lisa’s father and mother began a bus route. Together, they serve faithfully in that ministry until this day.


The Nispel family arrived at BBTI in 2015 with the desire to serve the Lord in Romania. They continued raising support as students and graduated in 2016. In March 2017, less than a year after graduation, they arrived in Timisoara, Romania, and began learning the new language and culture.


A big part of the Nispel’s ministry is training believers in evangelism. They serve primarily in five or six Baptist churches, helping with outreaches and training the believers to use different methods of evangelism and tract distribution in outdoor and public settings. People are receptive and willing to listen but slow to trust Christ. Doug and Lisa look for outreach opportunities such as carnivals or festivals. They incorporate the use of Christian films in their open-air meetings. In the summer, they assist several different Baptist churches in vacation Bible school outreaches in places where there are thus far no churches.

When the Iron Curtain was torn down in the early 90s, Gospel seeds were sown in Romania and other Eastern European countries. It produced a great harvest for people who were hungry for prosperity and freedom. Thank God, that many missionaries went. Sadly, many stayed only a short time. There is, no doubt, a great need for new, church-planting missionaries in Europe, but there is also a great need for missionaries such as the Nispels who will take up the unfinished task of training believers to reach others.


Compassion took the Nispels to Romania, and faithfulness keeps them there!

Winter 2023-24

A Providential Collision

Marco Paulichen Family
Missionaries to Uruguay

Marco Paulichen was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in 1978, and his wife Patricia was born in Ontario a few months earlier. But two could not have come from more distinct backgrounds.

Marco’s mother was from Argentina, and his father was from Uruguay. Marco’s first language was Spanish. His parents were devout Christians and raised Marco in church where he heard the Gospel often. At age five, his Sunday school teacher led him to Christ.

Patricia’s mother was an unsaved, single mother who left Patricia soon after her birth. Though she eventually returned, Patricia grew up in broken homes feeling unwanted and unloved. By age twenty, she was using drugs daily and attending drinking parties each weekend. By the grace of God, Patricia was given a gospel tract by a street preacher. It showed her that she was lost and on the way to hell, but she did not know how to respond. She asked her friends about the way of salvation, but none of them could help her. She tried self-reformation, attempting to please God. This only led to deep depression and thoughts of suicide.

Patricia was in an office building for a job interview when she literally bumped into the young electrician working there. She gladly accepted his invitation to attend his church: later he led her to Christ on their first date. Her life changed drastically; she was a new person. Eleven months later, she married that young man! They have been serving the Lord together for twenty-four years.

Marco and Patricia felt led of God to go take the Gospel to Uruguay. Along with their teenage children Josh and Josephine, they attended BBTI from August 2017 until May 2018. Josh and Josephine studied BBTI classes in the morning and worked on their homeschool assignments in the afternoon. They all excelled. Marco, a master electrician, made many needed electrical improvements at BBTI.

In October 2018, the family arrived on the field prepared to learn the language and culture of Uruguay. Because of Marco’s paternal roots in the country, he and his children are allowed dual citizenship of both Canada and Uruguay. Patricia has been granted residency. They do not struggle to obtain visas like many other missionaries; they are allowed to travel in other countries of South America without restrictions. The children are also entitled to educational benefits. While in Canada, Josh and Josephine studied music at the Royal Conservatory, and in Uruguay they were admitted into a classical music conservatory. This has resulted in many good contacts for the family’s church planting ministry in the interior city of Salto.

Having never lived in Uruguay, Marco has had to learn the country’s unique Spanish. He was able, however, to soon begin the Iglesia Bautista Fundamental in their home. The church began in the living room, kitchen, and under the carport. God blessed and the church grew. They currently meet in a rented building but are looking for a building in a better location. Marco preaches on the radio five days a week and sets up a literature table in two open-air markets where he witnesses for Christ. Thank God that the Paulichen family is faithfully giving the Gospel to the lost in their city. However, many more missionaries are needed for the places where the people wait for someone to bring them the Good News. Pray for laborers for Uruguay and the surrounding countries. Remember that the Gospel is not Good News if it gets there too late!

Team Zambia

Cindy Stacy
Missionary to Zambia

Cindy Stacy is not another Mary Slessor. She does not trudge alone through the African jungles facing the danger of lions, cannibal tribes, and pythons. (She does need to avoid contact with black and green mambas and other venomous snakes). Much of what she does as a missionary in Zambia is what she did for many years in New Mexico.

On March 24, 1964, Cindy was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Eight years later, she was born again at Temple Baptist Church. After graduation from the Temple Baptist Christian School, she earned a bachelor’s degree from Eastern New Mexico University.

Cindy joyfully served the Lord in her highly active church, Gospel Light Baptist, in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. She taught in the Christian school for twenty-three years. Why did she not stay where she was comfortable and safe? She was drawn to Zambia because she saw a much greater need there. Of the 13,800,000 people in this Southern African country, half are under the age of fifteen. Cindy saw wide-open doors and opportunities. A church-planting missionary family needed her experience and expertise. Though most of Cindy’s peers are willing to serve the Lord in the United States, few of them want to go overseas. However, Cindy was willing to serve outside her comfort zone. Instead of asking, “Why should I go?” she asked, “Why should I stay?”

Mission work requires preparation. Once Cindy’s church commissioned her as their missionary, she began presenting her plans to other churches. Knowing full well what children need, she began asking God’s people for school supplies to take with her to Zambia. They responded generously to the need. Cindy also began saving for passage and setup expenses. A single missionary may require a smaller amount of monthly support, but plane tickets, visas, housing, furniture, and vehicles are expensive. Cindy worked diligently. Seeing the benefits of BBTI’s Advanced Missionary Training, she arrived for training in August 2014, graduated in May 2015, and left for Zambia in January 2017.

English is not the first language of Zambian young people, but they need to learn it. Cindy teaches grammar, reading, and ESL classes to the youth. She has Thursday and Friday evening Bible classes for neighbor children and conducts a successful Children’s Bible Hour on Saturdays. Cindy enjoys teaching her Sunday school class of seventy-eight children as well as discipling ladies.

Missionary work is not simply teaching people but training people how to teach other people. Through the Solid Rock Bible Institute, Cindy is training two young ladies to be future teachers. Though they are not allowed to have their own class in the church before they graduate, they have begun a neighborhood Bible class on their own. One lady asked Cindy to teach her four children to read. Instead of teaching the children, Cindy trained the mother to teach her own children. The team wants the young people to have Bibles, but they do not simply give them out. The children must earn their Bible through the Faithfulness Campaign which requires church attendance and Scripture memorization.

While church and school duties keep Cindy very busy, she still finds time for her cat, dog, and vegetable and flower gardens. Zambia, like many places, has its share of difficulties, and Cindy must share those difficulties with the people she loves. Often there is no daytime electricity, and water is very scarce. Prices have increased by seventy-five percent, and, of course Zambia was plagued by Covid-19. Nevertheless, Cindy is very content and does not want to be anywhere else! She extends this invitation: “If you’d like to come work in Zambia, you can teach the two-to-seven-year-old children. I will give you thirty children, chairs, a room, the curriculum, a helper, and all the hugs you’ll need for the rest of your life.”

Winter 2022-23

 

 

A Lifetime of Missions

Charles V. Turner in 2021

Charles V. Turner was born in Greenville, South Carolina, in 1934 and born again in 1951 at a summer camp ministry of Marcus Hook Baptist Church in Pennsylvania. It was at this church that he dedicated his life to the work of missions in 1952. The following year, he enrolled at Columbia Bible College and graduated in 1957.

Classmates of Charles were Wanda Sifford, Mary Lou Pruitt, and Joshua Crocket. Charles married Wanda and they served the Lord in Papua New Guinea as missionaries with New Tribes Mission. Joshua married Mary Lou, and they were home missionaries helping struggling Native American churches.

Charles was busy in 1957. He finished Bible College, took the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) course in Norman, Oklahoma, got married, and began training with New Tribes Mission (NTM). No sense wasting time when you know what God wants you to do! During summer vacation of 1959, while still students at New Tribes, the Turners returned to Norman to re-take the SIL training.

In 1960, after six years of formal training, the Turners were sent by Marcus Hook Baptist Church to Papua New Guinea where they served until 1980. First, Charles and Wanda learned the trade language, Tok Pisin. Then they learned the unwritten language of the Sinasina tribe. Applying the linguistic skills, they learned at SIL and NTM, they developed an alphabet, giving the language a written form. They produced literature and taught the people to read. In 1975, they completed the translation of the New Testament. After several years of use in the churches, Brother Turner and the church leaders revised and improved the Sinasina scriptures. For twenty years, Charles and Wanda spread the Good News, baptized converts, taught literacy, and began four or five churches and a Bible institute. In recent years, the work has flourished, and many more churches have been established in the Sinasina area. According to family members and medical experts, Wanda should never have gone to the mission field because of a heart condition. However, she did go and was a good missionary/linguist. In 1975, Wanda had open heart surgery, and then returned to the field.

In 1980, the Turners returned to the NTM training center where Charles taught Bible translation, linguistics, and language and culture learning. He began writing the book Biblical Bible Translating. In 1982, they transitioned to Baptist Bible Translators Institute (BBTI). They took the BBTI training which was a review that prepared Charles to teach the same courses at BBTI. In 1991, he became the director of BBTI and served in that position until 2005.

Wanda passed away in December 1994. Later, Charles married Mary Lou, whose husband, Joshua had died a few years earlier. Mary Lou took the BBTI training and served the Lord and the BBTI students. She went to be with the Lord in November 2020.

Charles desires to visit the Sinasina people again; pray that his health will allow it. He currently serves the Lord as a BBTI trustee, a deacon at Truthville Baptist Church in Truthville, New York, and a teacher in their Christian school. Servants of Christ may change locations and job descriptions, as Brother Turner has, but when he signed on, it was for a lifetime of service.

Fall 2022

 

A Wise Investment

Joe and Lindsay Risinger are 2019 BBTI graduates. Their children are Joseph (6), Abbie (4), and Titus (1).

It was August of 2019 when we began living in a village in northern Uganda where we could not understand a single word of our neighbors’ heart language. The language they spoke during their growing up years is the same language they use to ponder deep thoughts, and it was nothing but meaningless noise to our foreign ears. This local, tribal language called Lugbara was one that we were warned would not be an option for a foreigner to grasp. No language school exists [although Lugbara is spoken by 1.7 million people]. Because it is tonal, the most subtle change in one’s tone profoundly alters the expressed meaning.
God called us to these people, therefore we felt it prudent to take whatever steps necessary to understand their culture and communicate in their heart language. For months we would go out every single day, notebook in hand, and use the language acquisition tools we were given at BBTI. Under the shade of a mango or avocado tree while our three-year-old and one-year-old played on a papyrus mat with the African children, we carefully transcribed words and phrases to commit to memory afterwards.

What was their reaction? Absolute fascination! They could not fathom why this family would come from America to learn their language and do life with them. They were overwhelmingly humbled by our desire and anxiously supported our effort. The most frequent question was “Why? Why are you here? Why are you learning our language?” I explained, “Our plan is first, to learn the language, and second, to help people understand the truth of God’s Word.”

There is a mosque in our village which half of our local community attends. The Imam (leader) of the mosque is a man named Agobi. The only language he speaks is Lugbara. I met Agobi during our early months on the field but had very little ability to communicate with him. The Lord gave me a burning desire to share the Gospel with him. Our surface relationship was maintained for some time until two years later when he invited me to his home for tea. My heart was full as I was able to sit in his home and share, in Lugbara, the simple, powerful truths of who Jesus truly is. We pray he will one day turn to Christ.

The preaching of the cross and the hope we have in Christ is well worth any amount of language learning effort if it causes a single lost man to become more tender to such a message. By striving to speak the language of these people, a powerful statement of sincerity resonates in their hearts and minds. Every Lugbara person we encounter is met with an immediate connection and highly effective bridge to the Gospel because of the ability to speak their heart language. I cannot think of a better way to invest our time during these first few years on the field than learning this language.

Summer 2022

I Surrender All

Elisabeth on her last birthday

Tom and Barbara Needham were farmers, and they went to Cameroon, Africa, to teach the people better farming methods. There a missionary led them to Christ. They returned to Iowa, sold the farm, went back to Cameroon as missionaries in 1991. Their daughter Elizabeth, the fifth of seven children was two years old at the time. There she grew up and served the Lord with her family. She learned Pidgin English and Fulfulde, the language of the Fulani Muslim people, as well as sign language. Elizabeth was homeschooled and was saved at age six. At age twelve at summer camp, she was memorizing the words to the hymn their group was about to sing. “All to Jesus I surrender. All to him I freely give.” She realized that it was not true of her, but she immediately surrendered all! Suddenly she had a burden to reach the lost.

Cameroon is divided into two parts; one speaks English and the other French. The Needhams worked in the smaller English-speaking section until forced to move to the French side because of violence that arose in 2018. Elizabeth is currently learning both French and French Sign Language.

Elizabeth graduated from the Baptist College of Ministry in 2012 and then returned to Africa. She and three of her sisters attended BBTI from 2019 to 2020. She was an excellent student and a blessing to all each day. Elizabeth’s childhood friends named her Sangle which means “joy,” and to this day, she wears a perpetual smile. She returned as a missionary to Cameroon in January 2021.

Through her church, Elizabeth ministers to women and children, but God is especially blessing her outreach to the deaf. Here are a few testimonies:

“One deaf man who trusted in Christ last week said, ‘I want my wife and all my deaf friends to hear this same preaching.’ He invited us back the next Saturday to preach to all the deaf that he could gather but was disappointed that none of them came. We taught him how to share the Gospel with others and arranged to meet him again next Friday to meet his wife and other deaf friends. Another deaf man who was a Jehovah’s Witness also trusted in Christ two weeks ago after Synthia and I had witnessed to him multiple times. He came to church with two friends and really enjoyed it. He is still holding to his connection to the JWs, trying to decide which one he will follow. Another deaf woman told me, ‘I have gone to church many times, but I have never heard before what you have told me today about Jesus.’ She was so surprised and amazed to hear that Jesus died to take away her sins. Today I stopped by to give her a Bible. She was so happy! Charnelle, another deaf woman I have reached out to came to church last Sunday. She told me afterward, ‘I do not understand anything in the church that I have been attending. I just sit and stare at the pastor until he is done. But here you interpreted for me, and I could understand. I want to come back next week.’ Charnelle’s deaf husband came to me with one of the tracts I had given her. He told me he is a believer and said, ‘This paper is so true…I want to gather all my deaf friends in my house on Saturday and explain to them all what I read in this paper, and I am going to invite them all to church on Sunday.’ One very tall deaf man with large hands stood in front of the rice shop where he loads and unloads 50 kg bags of rice. He meekly listened to the Gospel and asked questions. Then he prayed a sweet, simple prayer, ‘Jesus forgive me. I believe in you.’”

We praise the Lord that He allowed us to have a small part in a great work in Africa. But what if Elizabeth had not surrendered all? Most missionary kids do not return to the mission field. Thank God Elizabeth did!

Spring 2022

Under the Radar

The 10/40 window covers Africa and Asia between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator. The world’s most unevangelized countries are located in this rectangular area. Because it includes the majority of the world’s Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists, it has also been called the “Resistant Belt.”

Several BBTI graduates that we must not identify serve in countries of the 10/40 window. Missionaries are most needed where they are least welcome, and we rejoice that they are declaring the Gospel in places controlled by atheists or religious fanatics. Because many of these countries have laws against proselytizing or even distributing Christian literature, missionaries must operate under the radar. We must be especially careful not to expose them as missionaries; our carelessness with social media or the internet could cause them to be expelled from their country or worse.

Brother C—— and his wife S—— were recently expelled from a large Muslim country. They are working and praying for visas to return. In the meantime, they are conducting Bible studies with their people by Zoom.

T—— and his wife C—— live in the Middle East and are currently helping individuals who are escaping from the Taliban. They are helping these desperate souls with food and of course, a Gospel witness. Their young son does not want the Taliban to be killed because he does not want them to go to hell.

P—— and L—— have worked very hard learning the language in their Communist Asian country. He was able to preach and teach over twenty times this last year, and L—— has also taught several lessons. C—— and K—— have worked in the same country for many years. C—— is busy teaching in a secular university, preaching in secret church services, and helping with a Bible translation project.

J—— and K—— work in a different Communist Asian country. They too have learned a difficult, tonal language. They have endured a severe lockdown, but they get out to visit people as much as possible without getting into trouble with government officials.

R—— reports that she is making good progress learning her new language. Her country is not closed, but she plans to work on a Bible translation project for a large people group in a neighboring Muslim country that is very unfriendly toward Christians. This means that R—— will need to learn two languages. We are praying for others to join this project in the days to come.

K—— and his wife Y—— have been in the states taking care of necessary family business, but they should be back in their country by now. Brother K—— is working hard to learn the language while Y—— already speaks it well. Their country is not closed to missionaries, but they hope to reach another nearby country that is very closed.

J—— and N—— desire to return to their field. They thought they had all the necessary paperwork together only to learn that the rules had changed, and they needed to show proof of the COVID vaccine along with their visa application. The next possible date to submit their visa request is in January.

C—— and B—— want to return to their Communist country in Southeast Asia to continue their language learning. Pray their new visas will be issued soon.

It seems to be the COVID restrictions that are hindering J—— and T—— from returning to their ministry. God has been using them there in a very special way, and the enemy does not like it!

S—— and M—— are doing unusually well raising their support, but the Communist country where they originally planned to work is completely closed. So instead, they are looking at Thailand. We will keep them unnamed because they might go to the Communist country in the future.

Winter 2021-22

Darkness and Death

Sam & Mary Beth Snyder (BBTI 2015 graduates) Tommy (age 10)
Leland (age 7)
Bethany (age 5)

To many in our world, sickness and death are never due to natural causes but always to some evil activity of spirits. People make sacrifices to protect themselves from sickness, to insure the fertility of the land and the women, or to bring the rain. There is usually a shaman or witch doctor who is the expert in communicating with the spirits. The spirits tell him or her what remedy is needed for healing or who is guilty of placing the curse that caused the sickness.

This is the world that a missionary comes to and the culture that he must understand and contend with. The following narrative was written by Mary Beth Snyder, who serves with her husband, Sam, in the remote mountains of Gulf Province, Papua New Guinea (PNG).

We have heard the hopeless sound of wailing off and on this past week, for the family across the road lost a son, a brother. Today, Leland said it reminds him of the man in Pilgrim’s Progress who was in a cage yelling, “No hope!” The young man who died, electrocuted in Lae, had adamantly opposed the mission, and Sam remembers it well. His father is a papa graun (landowner) who has consistently shown interest in gaining material possessions and may be involved in witchcraft. The young man who died has been mostly away from the village for the past several years, and it is sad to know that he was so close to the Gospel in the past but rejected it. We went over to be with family and friends this afternoon and sat on the ground with the grieving. A young child coughing with the ever-prevalent kus (mucus) and the dirtiness of it all is a stark reminder that the ground is cursed, full of disease and death. Tears dripped down my face.

Our Papua New Guinean surroundings boast abundant natural beauty. While hearing tropical birds sing and enjoying occasional butterflies floating by banana trees in the midst of lush mountains surrounded by misty clouds, I can imagine what the paradise of creation may have been like. Reality sets in when I hear the cries of children in the clinic, when I assist mothers in childbirth, when pouring rains drench the clay-like ground making it hard to grow food, and when our feet are habitually coated in mud. Today, the curse was more evident than other days as I sat and watched our friends sobbing, wailing, and falling on the casket. Actually, it is a blessing that there is a casket. This young man died in a coastal town many kilometers from here, and it took over a week to fly his body back to our airstrip. Sam then drove it here in the ATV. Another haus krai (funeral) I attended several years ago involved the typical practice of people wailing over and hugging the dead body.

We have heard reports that Covid is hitting hard in the towns the past two weeks. On top of that, its spread is even more inevitable because of the large town gatherings to honor the recently departed Grand Chief Somare. As I watched people hug and sob face-to-face today, the nurse in me saw how easy it is for sickness to spread. We customarily shake hands with those who offer their hand, make sure we wash our hands well when we get home, use vitamins and oils, and pray for protection from disease. Our good friend and only believer in that family had just returned with his dead brother’s body from a major town, and we shook his hand. Some things are just too culturally important to shun, for after health teaching is done and customs don’t change, it is best to avoid stumbling blocks. One consolation is that the temporary mourning tent, church building, and clinic are all airy.

Reminders of the curse are everywhere the past few weeks. Another elderly man, the papa graun of the mission property took another wife. He has had multiple wives in the past and many children, but he has not taken care of them well. Before our arrival, he made a profession of faith, but he has not attended church for a while now, blaming it on a sore leg. His wife and daughter attend church regularly. It is sickening to find out that he had his eye on a young girl from another village and that he and her family went through with the arranged “marriage.” It is child abuse. He must feel that he is powerful enough to take or buy what he wants, no matter the cost to others. It is sickening and infuriating and has been heavy on my mind this week. While I battle with anger, I really do pity him. How many sermons has he heard? How many verses has he listened to? How many chances has he had to follow the light? Yet, he seems to delight in darkness. He also lives almost across the road from the church buildings. Incredibly sad. Marriage is sacred and the first institution God ordained, and, of course, our enemy attacks it in any way he can.

After the children and I were back home from visiting the haus krai, a man, carrying an old lady who had been brutally bitten by a pig, came to the clinic. The pig unexpectedly bit off many of this poor woman’s fingers. The nurses gave her an injection of pain medicine, and Sarah drove her in the ATV to the small hospital at the airstrip. Tommy quickly mentioned that it could be that an evil spirit had entered the pig. Witchcraft is a reality in some situations.

In PNG, it is a common belief that grief shown at a death can assure that the dead spirit will not be angry, but instead, will bring blessing on the living. The Bible teaches that when we die, our spirit goes to heaven or hell; it does not linger around the village. Do our believers not understand that, or are they wailing to simply show their grief culturally, or do they wail because they realize the man was not a believer?

Sam is getting over a respiratory virus. His nose has been bleeding off and on, which could be from the infection or because he was hit there several months ago by an angry man who came up behind him when he was working on the road. God protected Sam and others and the situation was finally resolved. This morning, a woman came to the clinic with a severe knife wound to the back of her head, inflicted by her husband. She was returning up the mountain from the haus krai and was attacked by her jealous older husband when she did not hand over enough money she was supposed to have made at market. Later in the day, someone came running and said that when they were digging the grave at the village about a mile from here a man fell into the hole and was injured.

Our children are not completely sheltered from violence, anger, greed, decayed wood breaking and causing a bridge to collapse, nor from the sting of death. Though the sadness is a little sobering for our children, it has opened up good discussions on sin, sickness, Satan, and salvation. We can enjoy the beauty of God’s creation, but it is groaning.

While we see some encouraging progress in the lives of several believers, in the Bible Institute, and in the growth in new church music, Satan is not content to lose a foothold here. Spiritual oppression is evident. We are in a war. But we know Who the Victor is, and we are on His side. Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world. As I recently taught in Sunday School, Jesus is more powerful than Satan and his demons. This is evidenced by Jesus’ sinlessness and victory in trials, by His performance of many miracles and casting out of demons, and by His death and resurrection. He has crushed the head of the serpent and will ultimately cast him into the lake of fire. Jesus is more powerful than witchcraft. That is what we need to be talking about in our houses at night.

Satan is the father of lies and delights in destroying lives. It can seem hopeless at times, but we are not without hope. We rest in the work that only the Spirit of God can do, and we continue to give out His Word. We are here for His glory and because of His grace. He is the Light of the World. He gives eternal life: joy in this life no matter the trial, and everlasting life with Him in heaven. Those who live for the things of this world sadly only have an imperfect ground to enjoy for a short time.

White Harvest in a Dark World

Josh and Rebecca Florence with Abigail, Ruth, Titus, and Josiah

Papua New Guinea is the world’s second largest island and the home of over 850 languages and people groups. In many ways it is a very beautiful country, but with its superstitions, witchcraft, vengeance, violence, and religious confusion, it is also a very spiritually dark place. Fortunately, it is considered a Christian nation with complete religious freedom, and many missionaries are taking advantage of the opportunity to preach the Gospel of Christ to its people. Among these are Joshua and Rebecca Florence, 2012 graduates of Baptist Bible Translators Institute (BBTI). On an eight-week survey trip in 2010, God broke their hearts for this dark place and showed them that Papua New Guinea was their place of service.

The early lives of both Joshua and Rebecca were blessed by godly parents, Baptist churches, Sunday School, Christian education, youth groups, summer camps, and mission trips. Rebecca was saved at age five, and Joshua, who was adopted into a Christian home at age six, made a final and effective profession of faith at age fourteen. At age seventeen, he announced his call to preach and his desire to be involved in fulltime Christian service. He graduated from Pensacola Christian College (PCC) with a Bachelors’ degree in Bible and youth evangelism and then earned a Master’s degree. It was there at PCC that he met Rebecca who became an RN, earning her Bachelors’ degree in nursing.

The Florences arrived at BBTI with baby Abigail. Later, Ruth, Titus, and Josiah were added. They continued raising support on weekends while students and finished deputation after they graduated. They survived a serious automobile accident in Tennessee without injury but totally ruined their car. However, they drove through a giant redwood tree in California with no injury or damage to their car! (Missionaries on deputation have many experiences, some wonderful, some not pleasant at all. Pray for missionaries!)

They arrived in PNG in February 2014 and live in the Western Provence city of Kiunga, a port city on the Fly River. They have established a church there, and in June 2020, they began a new church in Ningerum, located two hours north. They also began the Western Baptist Bible School which currently has ten male students. Ten pastors represent the beginning of ten churches and probably many more in the days to come! Students study tuition-free but are required to work about twenty-five hours each week developing the school campus. Joshua and the men cut the trees in the jungle and mill the lumber.

The Florence family faithfully serves in a place of spiritual darkness. They must be covered daily with the armor of light as good soldiers in spiritual warfare. God is blessing with many souls saved and lives changed. They are bringing the light of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people and reaping a field that is white unto harvest. Thank God they are there! Pray for thousands more like them to go to thousands of other places and shine that light on those sitting in darkness and damnation.

Spring 2021