It was September 1986 and the Pattons’ plans were drastically changed when Dr. Patton opted to move to the city rather than join forces with the liberal group in control of medical practice in the interior of the country. It had been just two weeks since the couple had moved to Suriname’s capital, Paramaribo, when civil war broke out in the interior. Had the couple stayed in the interior, they would have been cut off from their mission while in only the beginning stages of language learning. God had a definite plan for them in Paramaribo.
Upon graduating from the University of Rochester in 1971 as an Internal Medicine Specialist, Robert Patton had embarked for Liberia, Africa, where he served as professor and head of Internal Medicine at the University of Liberia until 1976. More importantly, it was there in Liberia that he accepted Jesus Christ as his Saviour in 1974. Surely, he never imagined then where God would later lead him and what monumental tasks he would accomplish in just twenty-four years.
In 1986, the Pattons found themselves in Suriname learning the national languages of Dutch and Sranantongo. For the first five years he was in Suriname, Dr. Patton taught at University Hospital in the mornings and dedicated his afternoons and evenings to soul-winning, language learning, church planting, training national pastors, and establishing various ministries. During this time, Dr. Patton grew increasingly frustrated with the limited scriptures available in the Sranantongo language. He was using a Moravian translation of the New Testament from the 1800s, but its imprecision and antiquity made it a less than desirable version upon which to build a ministry. Furthermore, Dr. Patton longed for a translation of the Old Testament. In 1991, God showed him clearly that he should resign his teaching position and begin translating.
Dr. Patton approached this very serious project with fear and trembling. He worked carefully and steadily to translate a Bible faithful to the Received Text into Sranantongo. The translation team included himself and six natives. First, Dr. Patton studied the scriptures under consideration, consulting a conservative commentary when necessary for clear understanding; then he made a preliminary translation and passed it off for independent review by two nationals (separately). Two more cycles of revision by Dr. Patton and review by other nationals then followed. After a final revision, it was considered complete. The entire Bible was translated by 1997 and published by Bearing Precious Seed in 1998.
God blessed the Pattons’ diligent work. Not only is their Bible translation the most sold version of the Sranantongo Bible in Suriname, but it has also been shared through their radio programs. Dr. Patton has synthesized commentaries using his translation notes and their corresponding scriptures. These commentaries are helpful resources for national pastors and have also been broadcasted via radio.
You can read more about Dr. Patton on his website, teachingmissions.com.