Before my life in full-time ministry service as a pastor and missionary, I was a financial analyst in the U.S. healthcare sector. I diagnosed financial and process problems in struggling departments then recommended solutions to make the company more profitable. I was expected to produce tangible results quickly in order to prove my value. After all, the corporation was investing in me to help make it more valuable. I worked myself out of more than one job by getting results. I learned to love the rush of making things happen in an instant gratification world.
Results matter but…
Now, more than ten years later, my experience as a Bible translation missionary and organization leader has taught me this lesson—we should never lose sight of the results, but we should recognize that the harvest comes in due season. Bible translation ministry is not one of instant gratification or quick results. It’s a longer process. It’s hard work. The harvest doesn’t always come in our time or even according to our plans.
It is empowering to realize that we work in God’s mission, not ours. He calls us to use all the tools, skills, resources, and relationships with which He blesses our partners and us. He calls us to work with diligence, but He also calls us to trust Him with the results.
Present and future harvest
You may remember the early 1990s when devastating civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone seemingly destroyed the bulk of LBT’s work there. Today, locally led literacy groups continue to quietly and effectively produce a harvest of believers. The Jembwe family learned about Jesus Christ and came to faith through reading the Bible in a literacy class, made possible through prayer and donor support. They now openly express their faith together. “We hope to be members of our church until we join other believers in the life hereafter.”
Audio scriptures in the Khwedam language sent into the remote parts of the Kalahari in southern Africa for the last six years are reaping a harvest. You may recall the story of the old man who refused to attend church because he could not understand what was being said. After listening to the audio Scriptures—again available as a result of donor support—he said, “We cannot read, but now we carry the Bible in our minds.”
Prayer and financial partners nurture exciting new ventures like a seminary program that will train 75 pastoral candidates for service in Bible translation ministry. An extended campaign to raise funds for ministry technology has resulted in a bounty of tech equipment to accelerate the translation process. Laptops, tablets, audio recording equipment, and digital cameras are being placed in the hands of our ministry partners and their front-line workers. Only the Lord knows the harvest that will result from these efforts.
We are confident that there will be a harvest, but we don’t know when it will appear. What drives my decision to keep on working in the long haul non-instant gratification ministry of Bible translation?
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” GALATIANS 6:9
(Jesus says) “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” MATTHEW 24:35
There are many opportunities to be involved in mission, but there is no opportunity like Bible translation. Thanks to each of you taking the long view of mission through your faithful prayer and financial support. God’s blessings to you as we begin a new year in His service.