Throwback: Experiences of a Lifetime

Jim Laesch

About The Episode

In this throwback episode of Essentially Translatable, host Rich Rudowske interviews Jim Laesch, a longtime member of the Lutheran Bible Translators community. This episode originally aired back in 2020 and focuses on Jim’s more than 45 years of missionary service. Throughout the years, Jim has served in a variety of roles, both in missionary service and administration, from 1973 until his retirement at the end of 2021. 

Listen to hear Jim recount his early involvement in missionary work, which began with a simple encouragement from a friend to study linguistics. He reflects on his significant work in Liberia where he coordinated translation projects for the Northern Grebo language communities. Over time his role changed to administration for multiple translation projects across various regions. Jim also shares anecdotes from his past, like the creation of Joe Cool stories, which are still remembered by many members of the Lutheran Bible Translators community today. 

Throughout the discussion, Jim highlights the impact of Bible translation and the importance of spreading the Gospel through one’s own language. There are always challenges and successes of translation projects. What is important to Jim is how his faith and work with Lutheran Bible Translators has strengthened his trust in God’s sovereignty. 

Jim Laesch: [00:00:00] I never finished a translation, but I figure my role is to help other missionaries and translators so that they can do their job. So that translations are done with good quality and done in a way that it’s going to provide God’s word for a long time for people. A group of people.

Rich Rudowske: All right. Welcome back to another episode of essentially translatable brought to you by Lutheran Bible Translators My name is Rich Rudowske your host and today we are going to throw it back to an episode with Jim Laesch as we celebrate our 60th anniversary here at Lutheran Bible Translators Jim Laesch served in a variety of roles in both missionary service and administration from 1973 until his retirement at the end of 2021 He’s then served with us in various consulting [00:01:00] roles since then and continues to be a valued part of the Lutheran Bible Translators community.

This episode was originally aired back in 2020 and was focused on Jim’s more than 45 years of missionary service at the time and lots of great stories about how he got started in mission some of the early days in Liberia as well as. What he’s found important over the decades as he’s continued to serve in this mission and ministry.

Jim Laesch, Mr. Lutheran Bible Translators here. Essentially translatable. We hope you enjoy this throwback.

Glad that you’re here on the podcast today, Jim. And it’s a real privilege, actually, to talk to you and get your thoughts on things. And for our listeners, Jim has worked with LBT for a number of years, 46 years. And he was my boss LBT as a brand new [00:02:00] missionary. In fact, When my wife and I came to LBT’s recruitment event called Idiom in 2003, I remember being really impressed with Jim.

We meet a lot of people at things like that, but Jim was so much fun and just the way he talked about language. And we had our little son, Matthew, there with us. He was a toddler and Matt liked to, make noises, kind of blow bubbles out of his lips and like that. And so he did it to Jim and Jim goes, what a great bilabial trill.

And so that was my first linguistic lesson. So Jim, it’s great to be with you. And thanks for sharing your time with us today.

Jim Laesch: Thank you, Rich. It’s wonderful to join you here today and to talk about Bible translation and how God is at work through that ministry.

Rich Rudowske: Thanks. So tell us how you got started in mission and connected with Lutheran Bible translators.

What were you doing before? How did God lead you to serve with LBT?

Jim Laesch: I grew up in a Christian home. And actually I was in college [00:03:00] training to be a industrial technology teacher here in Illinois, United States. And I learned about Lutheran Bible translators and some other missionaries and my wife and I were praying and supporting a couple of those missionaries.

But one in particular sort of challenged us and said, what about going yourself? We got so many groups of people and languages and they were in Liberia. John Dutzman was, is his name. And then so he says, why don’t you go to the SIL school in the summertime in North Dakota and just give it a try. And so I was working at the time at one of, actually the Laesch Dairy in Bloomington, Illinois.

My uncle was the owner of that establishment and kind of extended family affair. And, He said, tell you what, why don’t you go ahead and go to the school, I’ll keep giving you a paycheck during those eight weeks. And so he said, how could we [00:04:00] not say yes to that? And so we went to the linguistic school run by SIL International.

And, uh, it was just a whole new picture of foreign language. I tried studying a foreign language actually in college. And, uh, one of my prayers was like, Whoa, once this is over, Lord, I don’t want to study another foreign language again, kind of see where it got me, but yeah, right. But it was just a whole new way of looking at language and how languages work.

And it was a tremendous Christian atmosphere where our teachers were experienced Bible translators and, it was really, really hard, but it was also a great blessing. And it was kind of like a door opened up after this. And so that was the career path I followed and went on to, you know, finish my degree in linguistics and then go to Africa.

Uh, with Lutheran Bible translators.

Rich Rudowske: Yeah, so what did you do your bachelor’s work in? Had you been, you’d been to school before?

Jim Laesch: Yeah, [00:05:00] so no, I switched majors and switched to linguistics at that point.

Rich Rudowske: Okay, gotcha. Very good. So then you went to Liberia, did not go to the Vietnam War, so that’s kind of part of the story, right?

Jim Laesch: It is. So while we were in our second round of linguistics training, we did one in North Dakota, and then we were in Dallas, Texas. And because I’d switched majors and switched schools and everything, my draft deferment for going to the Vietnam war was canceled. And so I got this letter in Dallas, Texas saying, you got to go down to the federal center and report for a physical exam.

And so I got in the car and actually one of my. LBT colleagues went with me and that day it snowed in Dallas. There was like a couple of inches of snow up and you know, what’s a couple of inches of snow, you know, for us from Illinois, Iowa, we were just saying, okay, let’s go on down there. And we got down there and I walked up to the building and the [00:06:00] guard said, what are you doing here?

This place is closed. You should not be here. And so he said, Okay. And so everything had to be rescheduled, but in the interim of that rescheduling, then President Nixon canceled the draft. And, uh, so I was like off the hook there and I could continue with my linguistic studies and then eventually getting to Liberia.

Rich Rudowske: Yeah. So when did you go to Liberia and how long were you there? What, what languages did you work with?

Jim Laesch: So my wife Laura and I went to Liberia in November 1973 with our, uh, A one and a half year old, and the first language we worked with was Northern Grebo languages, and there were a few other things we did in preparation for that, but we did that for about eight years.

Rich Rudowske: Okay. So eight years there, did the language work and then you were working in administration part of that time or?

Jim Laesch: So, we worked with the Northern Grebo people, they were there about [00:07:00] eight years, but I had other duties also during that time. I also worked with a language in Western Cron, where translation work was going on.

We also taught at workshops, and other events for the mission. And then I made this turn while serving in Liberia to coordinate all the scripture programs in Liberia. So I moved away from, eventually, from the Grable work and someone else picked up that task. And I had the great privilege to, uh, Work with about 14 or 15 scripture projects in Liberia with our missionaries and the national colleagues at that point.

So it was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed that because things that I had learned in my project in early years, I. could help other missionaries, uh, and also interact, you know, with their translators. Maybe they were gone for a while. [00:08:00] And so I would be the point person to sort of oversee that work and connect with them.

Many great blessings because of that.

Rich Rudowske: Yeah. So, you know, right now, Lutheran Bible Translators has just over 50 missionaries worldwide. How many missionaries were in just Liberia at that point?

Jim Laesch: So, if we think of a missionary family or a missionary single worker, I would say there were about 26 or so.

Rich Rudowske: So, like, how was LBT’s approach different at that time?

And how was it the same? Maybe, what, how would you compare?

Jim Laesch: Some things that are the same is that we always gave a lot of good training to our missionaries and so that they knew about the Bible, they knew about biblical languages, they knew about linguistics, they knew about the language and culture, where they’re working.

And that has been a value that has stayed with us. Strong through all the years, what was different was as a [00:09:00] mission and the missionaries, we made a lot more of the sort of decisions, whether to start a translation, where to start it, when to start it, what kind of research needed to be done.

And today it’s, it’s different than that. I, I like to think that we now serve in a role of, uh. Walking alongside of our partners, whoever they are, and we’re responding to needs and requests and things that they are aware of. And so that we work together to see that God’s Word is available for all people.

Rich Rudowske: Yeah, so then anyone who worked with you in Liberia at that time, or even in the years since then, know about the very famous Joe Cool stories. So, how did Joe Cool stories get started, and tell us a little bit about that.

Jim Laesch: Yeah, that’s interesting. Actually, this was one of the very first things I did when I arrived in Liberia.

I said it was November 73. And then about six weeks later, [00:10:00] our mission collaborated with the university of Liberia to run a vacation Institute for training and applied linguistics. Vital, it was called. And so I was the new Greenhorn young missionary. And, uh, actually I was taking some classes at that school.

And then in the afternoon. Missionary kids of our other missionaries were out of school. They had been in school in the morning, but the school days has a different structure. And they said, these kids parents are still busy with things, running the vital program. But you, you have time. You now entertain and play with these children.

And so that was one of my first jobs was a child care for, Elementary age kids and we played games and so forth, but you know, out in the tropical heat that you couldn’t play games outdoors all that time. So we’d say, okay, let’s take a break. And we went under the palm tree and that is when Joe cool began.

And so he, [00:11:00] he’s the main character in stories that I tell to kids and he’s has all kinds of adventures and he solves problems, mysteries and crises, and I’m sure he could have a solution for the Corona virus too.

Rich Rudowske: Yeah. It’s just, somebody’s got to take the time to ask for a story, I guess. Probably. Do you have a favorite one, a favorite Joe cool story?

Jim Laesch: I’ll just say the fun part of Joe, I don’t have a particular story. In fact, I don’t even remember them all. I have not recorded them. I have not written them down. Actually, all the missionary kids who have listened to them through the years can remember many of them better than me. The fun parts of it is that he has the Joe Cool Mobile.

Right. And the Joe Cool Mobile, it’s It can turn into anything. It can burrow underground. It can go in water, it can fly. It can even go up into space. And, uh, it always gets new enhancements as, uh, different stories, are devised and, whatever the need is.

Rich Rudowske: Yeah. So somebody is [00:12:00] very mechanically gifted behind the scenes working on that Joe Cool mobile. How many Joe Cool stories you’ve told over the years?

Jim Laesch: Yeah, that’s a good question. So one of the times I used to tell them a lot was we’d have sort of a mission, missionary conference or meetings twice a year, sometimes, and all missionaries and missionary kids would gather together. And, and so that was the time everybody said, can we have a Joe Cool story?

And so we would tell several stories during those periods of time. So I’d say that maybe there’s been anywhere from 10 to 30 in a year, okay, times 46 years.

Rich Rudowske: Yeah.

Jim Laesch: Do the math. Serious

Rich Rudowske: math. Yeah. Yeah. And we have, we have leaders in this organization now who were missionary kids who will still stop what they’re doing if they get the chance to listen to a Joe Cool story.

So it’s pretty, pretty cool. So Jim has been part of the administration at LBT. Uh, you started in 73 and then did some administrative duties on the field. By, is it [00:13:00] 1985? Um,

Jim Laesch: 86, 1986. I came back in and, uh, I’ve served in a couple of different roles, in the headquarters of LBT, but it’s always been in the area of sort of equipping missionaries and working with our partners and the programs that we run.

So that, I never finished a translation. I like helped one get started and I worked on a couple of different languages at various points, but I figure my role is to help other missionaries and the partners and translators so that they can do their job so that translations are done with good quality and are acceptable in the community and done in a way that it’s going to.

Provide God’s word for a long time for a group of people.

Rich Rudowske: Yeah, that’s that’s really a great perspective is there’s there are some folks who are gifted and the time that God [00:14:00] allows them is to work in that one translation and that’s great. And then you’ve had the privilege to be able to use your gifts to multiply those efforts.

And in the time that LBT has existed about 55 56 years, we published 44 years. Publications got a milestone New Testament or full Bibles in some of the most remote languages in the world And you’ve been in administration for 41 of those 44 which reach About 12. 4 million people. So that’s a real, a blessing, a Testament to God at work.

And I don’t know, any reactions or thoughts?

Jim Laesch: It’s actually kind of humbling. And as I look at the list, I can probably tell you a story about something that took place in each one of those. particular languages and the people that were there. You know, a lot of LBT work is in Africa, but we also did work in South America for, for many years in a language called Kanyari.

And I’ll, I’ll never forget visiting our missionaries there. And we were actually [00:15:00] out one evening and they were doing a film showing of, I think, Jesus film or something like that. And while we were at that film showing, there was a large group of people. And as we were coming away and coming back to the missionary’s car, other people in the area came and pushed boulders down onto the road, blocking it.

So people could no longer leave. And it was like, I felt, okay, this is opposition to the work here. And it’s trying to discourage the word of God to come through. Nevertheless, uh, we found a way to get around those boulders, move some of the boulders. And it just gave me a perspective that not everyone is always wanting to see the word of God go forth, uh, be proclaimed in the language of the people.

Rich Rudowske: Yeah.

Jim Laesch: And yet it just sort of gives us [00:16:00] strength to keep on going.

Rich Rudowske: So you, uh, recently were traveling in Tanzania where we are, uh. Working on a more emerging partnership with the Lutheran Church there. And I guess, maybe talk some about the partnership in Tanzania and some of the work that we’re doing. At this point,

Jim Laesch: sure, this is one of the things I’m most excited about is this partnership with the Lutheran Church in Tanzania, and it’s a very large Lutheran Church, and they contacted LBT some years back saying, Hey, We have these languages here, they’re minority languages and people really aren’t understanding the gospel and the work of the Bible, the work of the church in Swahili, the national language.

Can you help us? And so, after visits by a number of people and I and Dr. Michael Megahan have I’ve been going there kind of regularly and working with the church, [00:17:00] and so one translation program has begun in the Kerewe language, and we also had meetings on this trip to open up discussions about another language down in the North Central Diocese, which is a whole other area.

And these are usually very remote people. Some of them are nomadic and they just, you know, have their own language, their own culture. This is how God has created them and how they still, you know, how they live today. And so it’s, it’s great to see the Lutheran church and even like the Bible society, you know, want to make the gospel available in that language.

So we’re there to work alongside of them and help provide training and equip the work to get organized. And, uh, training to take place, uh, so the Bible can be, uh, written.

Rich Rudowske: It’s, it’s such a blessing to, to think that, um, there’s that church who’s saying, we have this drive, this goal given to [00:18:00] us by God that it’s kind of moving us to want to reach out to these folks.

And we recognize the need for scripture as part of the invitation to come and work. The door is already open or, you know, the scripture is going to be put into someone’s hands and it’s going to, it’s going to be used. So that’s a, it’s a huge blessing. Amen.

Jim Laesch: It is, really. And at one of the programs, I think it was last year, I saw that they were, the choirs have always had songs in their local language.

Yeah. But when they sing those songs in their local language, it is, they’re so meaningful. And now to hear God’s Word, it’s just beginning, but to hear that also in, The heart language, it just brings to life, actually, the worship, the preaching, and the people’s response.

Rich Rudowske: So while you were on that trip, we got news here that the coronavirus, we’d already been preparing for it and had some contingencies.

In fact, you led the effort on that [00:19:00] while I was doing some traveling earlier than that yet. So we got the word that it had come to the United States in a bigger way than was planned and our leadership at the United States government announced they were closing borders and things started to change out where you were to kind of walk us through.

What happened some of your experience with that and and how you got back home.

Jim Laesch: Yes. So Dr. Megahan and I were there for about three weeks and that was the original plan But after that first week, it’s just every day. There was a change and then we Began to see that, okay, maybe we should come back quicker.

So we rebooked our flights and then some of those flights were canceled. So we rebooked again with a different routing. And then those flights were canceled or pushed on to a later date. And we got thinking, Oh, if they get pushed off to a later date, what if they’re canceled? You know, what, what’s going to happen?

So I [00:20:00] called back to you, Rich, and, uh, said, I think, you know, We should try to leave here as soon as possible. And maybe it just has to buy a new ticket rather than trying to use our existing tickets in the carriers that we had. And you gave us the go ahead. So we’re able to secure those tickets and fly back the next day.

Rich Rudowske: Yeah. Yeah. Just for what it’s worth. I don’t know, inside information for the folks listening, but. That was the one time probably in LBT history where everybody flying just about was, uh, flying in first class just because that was what was available to get people home is everything was just coming down.

It felt like being in a like movies that you watch where you see. All the contingencies not holding up and you’re trying to figure out where to go next before it all just comes falling down.

Jim Laesch: Yeah. The nicest part of flying, it was in a business class section. It was, it was like, we got to the airport and it’s, Whoa, here’s this big, long line of people who were like waiting to go through this security check.

And they said, Was that true for business [00:21:00] classes? I said, no, you can go to the short line over. Oh, we were very thankful.

Rich Rudowske: That’s another lesson for everyone listening. Sometimes you just got to know the right questions to ask at the right time.

Jim Laesch: Yes.

Rich Rudowske: Yeah. So you talked about being excited about your work in Tanzania.

 Anything else that you’re feeling really good about, excited about in your, in your current work?

Jim Laesch: It’s just the, the notion that, you know, God is at work through his people and throughout the whole world in ways that we cannot imagine. And so we always need to be listening to like saying, okay, What’s my role here to, to do a witness in this situation?

And our brothers and sisters in Africa in particular, they have such a zeal for mission, for carrying the gospel and the good news to people. And the Bishop of ELVD in Tanzania, Bishop Goulet, he just has this passion and drive for carrying the gospel to [00:22:00] every person. And that, that’s contagious. That’s just so exciting to work with.

We don’t have to be apologetic. We, we can actually say, praise God and let’s get to work.

Rich Rudowske: Yeah. Yeah. That’s so true. He’s, he’s really amazing. I saw this video of him or he’s talking about the passage in Luke and he’s saying, you know, we, we interpret this in our language. You go, go into deep water and let down your nuts.

And he’s just so passionate about that. It’s, it is really refreshing to see how the church In, in the areas of the world that maybe a lot of our listeners might think of as places where there’s still a need for a missionary to go there, the most effective missionaries and really have have embraced the faith and taken fully on the idea of the Great Commission to go in and share that with others.

So what are some things that you wish worked better even now or at any point in your career as you think about? You know, [00:23:00] this is, this is work that has, it’s, it’s complex, huh?

Jim Laesch: It is. And so I, I want to sort of balance, you know, are talking about the Tanzania situation with in many other countries like in Liberia, Sierra Leone, parts of West Africa, where I work, the, the eagerness to use the minority language is often not so great.

Okay. And that, because, you know, Language is a great gift of God, and so I believe that, uh, all of these diversity of languages were created by God as well as people’s cultures, and, uh, but it’s also important for people to get education, to, uh, be unified as a nation, and so we find that in countries there really are multiple languages that are used, And in use in any given time and place.

And sometimes the church, Christians [00:24:00] and educators don’t always see the value of the minority language. Yeah. And so they insist on using the majority language, the language of wider communication or the national language. And those are important languages. Don’t get me wrong, but. They should not be used at the expense of the person’s own heritage language and their own mother tongue.

Because when people use their mother tongue, it just makes a connection. It’s part of their identity. My wish, I guess, if I could have one, is that people would stop and think that that too is a treasure. These languages and cultures, of people’s heritage and of their origin. They should not be tossed away. Or forgotten about or lost. They should be used for the purpose that they can. Now, it’s not my final decision to say you must use this language. It’s up to the people themselves to decide what they [00:25:00] want, but they, they should be encouraged and we try to do that.

Rich Rudowske: Yeah, it’s, it’s true. I can remember the first time.

I guess the message of Pentecost hit me a little bit differently. It was what, again, one of these recruiting events I was at LBT for, and one of my predecessors, Walden Moss, was giving devotion for the staff and the recruits. And it was from the, just the story of Acts 2 and Pentecost in it. It’s almost second nature to me now and we’ve probably a lot of our listeners have heard this story before but just that it was so clear at that time in that moment how the the removal of barrier of language to really just go straight to the heart of everybody listening was what God did and how he decided to act and that’s just such a beautiful story and then later in acts when Paul there’s a riot and he’s arrested and then you know the crowds about to I’m John.

to go crazy. And the guard says, you better get out there and say something. And so Paul starts speaking to them in the Hebrew language, it says, and then everybody was just quiet to hear him. And it does these stories of speaking in the second or [00:26:00] third or fourth, but the language that’s, that’s closest to the heart for people are powerful stories.

And those are testified even in scripture.

Jim Laesch: You know, one of the things that gives me great joy is when I see that actually happening. And Here’s an example, Pastor John Bundoz, one of our partners in Sierra Leone. He’s the leader of the Lutheran Church there, and has also been a literacy teacher. And so he came to know Christ, as a young

boy, in Liberia, actually, and then moved to Sierra Leone, but it was all centered around the teaching of the Bible in the local language, his Kisii language, and as I worked with Pastor Boondah through the years, it was just Such a joy to see how God had given him this huge motivation and love for his language and love for his people and love for the Bible in his own language.

And so he just went out. [00:27:00] He would just walk into the forest and train people how to read, how they could come to know Christ, he organized congregations, he’s training them, and they have a whole group of teachers and lay preachers and leaders who only use the Kesey Bible. They’ve not had any other education.

They’ve, they’ve developed this curriculum and how to train them in reading and writing of Kesey. And, and even though he, Pastor Bundo had no role in making the Kesey Bible, he’s like on the. the user end, on the promotion end, and the teaching end. And that took 40 years to complete, because of all the civil wars and disruptions and so forth.

But it’s a complete Bible, Genesis to Revelation, and is such a, you know, God is using that, and that really is why Lutheran Bible translators exist. So that God’s Word goes forth [00:28:00] and touches people’s lives.

Rich Rudowske: Yeah, what a privilege to see the fruit of that work. I think that’s one of the things about Bible translation is the process itself can take a while, but then the seeds taking root and growing also takes a while.

So it’s a privilege to be able to see. Some of that work at the beginning and now how it’s it’s bearing fruit And this is the same pastor bunda who’s now the president of the Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church right in Sierra Leone. Yes So jim, you’ve got a lot of experience You’ve seen a lot of things and I think one of the privileges of being and working in mission and cross cultural is just a bigger perspective and uh one of the the gifts that we can give to the church is to kind of speak into The church from uh a perspective of having seen a different horizon.

What do you think is an important message that the Western Church needs to hear today?

Jim Laesch: Yeah, that’s a great question. You know, one thing that comes to mind, one of the blessings that I had by, by [00:29:00] living and working in a mission context internationally is that I learned from my brothers and sisters in Christ, God is sovereign.

God is in control of all things. God is God, and I’m not, and, and that he can work all things out for good, eventually, even when there’s, uh, hardship, even when there’s, uh, war, even when people have lost their life, uh, through unjust means, and I, you know, my long, long experience in Liberia, just when I think back, these are some of the strongest sort of bonds of friendship, that, I have.

And yet all Liberians that I know, they just have this sense of, you know, very common greeting there. It says, well, how are you? And they’ll respond saying, I thank God for life.

Rich Rudowske: Yeah, that’s wonderful. And,

Jim Laesch: you know, it [00:30:00] acknowledges that by God’s grace, here we see another day. This day on breathing and living and walking is a gift from God, and let’s thank God for it.

And so that sort of God perspective is already there. And as a Christian, I can say, yeah, that’s right. I do not need to worry. I do not need to. Be the one to solve every problem. I can call upon God to, for his protection. I can call upon God for, and maybe not calling upon God, but just thanking God for the way he protects and placing myself into his hands, knowing that he cares for me.

And if something bad happens to me, he knows about it. And certainly there, through the years, there have been things that have been bad

Rich Rudowske: that

Jim Laesch: have happened to us. And also for, you know, friends that I’ve known through the years, and yet this notion of God is sovereign, He [00:31:00] can and will work all things out for good, that’s something that I find reassuring, and I think the Christian church here in the West could do well to study and reflect and, and ask God to teach us that.

Rich Rudowske: Yeah, that’s so true. I think that we have the perception that quite a bit is under our control to, manipulate the situation or make it turn out our way. And then situations arise that prove that not to be the case. And The current situation for some folks, uh, even right now, and, and the coronavirus situation in the States is something that I think has had the effect of removing that, that facade that we actually had control, but when you go to places like Liberia, you see that that’s how, that’s how people live every day, and so their relationship with Christ just moves them that much closer.

They just have to be more conscious of their dependence on God. That’s really important.

Jim Laesch: That and our dependence upon one another, too. And I remember one time, my, my family were, I can’t remember all the circumstances, but [00:32:00] we had gotten up to, uh, one of the regional headquarter cities and we were to catch a flight in Liberia to go down to Monrovia.

And the flight was canceled, and we were just kind of stuck there. Okay, now what do we do? And so we knew some other missionary people. We went there and said, Oh, no, but we really don’t have any place we can go. And then we went to one of the pastors I worked with on the Grable translation. In fact, You know, this was before the day of cell phones, we just had to say, okay, where does Pastor Seedy live?

And we’d walk there. Yeah. Yeah. And he says, we’re kind of stuck here. He says, no, come on in. You know, and his family just opened their doors and I, and my, my wife and three boys and they had young school age boys as well, and they just had a great time playing. And we were actually stuck there for about two days before we were able to get another flight.

But, you know, that. Learning to be dependent on one another, to care for [00:33:00] one another, and as fellow Christians, as fellow human beings was just meant so much. It was, we were on the receiving end, and it just created a, a very tight bond of a friendship that still lasts all of our days.

Rich Rudowske: That’s really great.

So, now I don’t know how it was in the time where you were first, Thinking about getting connected to LBT or to do mission work. But in today’s world, it seems like there’s just a proliferation of opportunities to be involved in different causes and things in the world called mission and and they’re all You know a number of really good things But if somebody’s thinking about why they should get involved in mission or how they should get involved in mission Why is Bible translation ministry?

an important way to go about doing that.

Jim Laesch: Yeah, so for me, I have to say, one of the things that made sense [00:34:00] to me was, this is the Bible. And, of course, I grew up with the Bible, went to Lutheran school for a number of years, and studied, but it actually, what really changed my, Sort of whole perspective on the Bible and God’s word was being challenged to actually read it

Rich Rudowske: Yeah, okay,

Jim Laesch: and so not just study for the test so to speak but to read it and say, okay, I’m listening Lord What are you saying here to me?

and and it was in my sort of formative years in high school actually and I Made this commitment to read through the whole New Testament. And if you do one chapter a day, you’ll get through it in a year

Rich Rudowske: or

Jim Laesch: less than a year. And I just made that commitment. And I read it in a translation of a more modern English translation.

And it was just amazing to see that, Oh, this is that story. And here’s what God is saying. And it [00:35:00] just sort of, It changed perspective. It just gave me a different way of looking at life and what my purpose was in life. And so I guess my first word of advice would be listen to what God is telling you through the scriptures and then through any other means also.

I think I. You know, God spoke to me, uh, through John Dutzman, who said, Hey, why don’t you just go give this a try, you know, see what opportunity and door opens. And so that would be my, my word of advice is to, you know, listen to what God, God is speaking to you. And when you see an opportunity that you think you should try out, then.

Do that and see what God, whether he opens that door or closes that door.

Rich Rudowske: That’s really great advice. And I think that’s important to listen to the folks that God puts in our life. I love that somebody challenged you [00:36:00] to read through the scripture. I mean, that is, that’s really powerful. I can think of so many times where I’ve gotten out of the rhythm of regular reading and get back to it.

And when I do, I think, why have I not Been doing this, you know, the God’s word is is living and active. It’s not just words on the page. And so that’s a That’s a great encouragement, maybe even in this time for somebody who’s out there listening. Maybe this is a time where you could, uh, also get back to, or, or for the first time, take up reading the scripture, even in bite sized pieces, and, and discover for yourself how God works through His Word.

And I, I think that’s a, a huge motivation for why we do what we do. If we experience that, then for me, that was one of the drivers that said, I, I want other people to have this chance too.

Jim Laesch: The other thing about scripture is that it’s, It teaches us that the Holy Spirit is the one who teaches us, you know, God’s spirit is our teacher.

So there’s always something new that the Spirit can teach. Uh, just [00:37:00] during this past Easter season, I was like reading the, the Easter story and, you know, just like there was this little illumination, you know, a little light bulb going on about, Oh, I never saw that before, you know, and Hey, I’ll tell you what it is.

It was just, I think when the two ladies went to the tomb on Easter morning and it said they left the tomb with fear and joy. And then soon after that, they meet Jesus. And then Jesus says, no, don’t fear. Don’t fear, you know, go and tell the others. Yeah. And then they left. with joy. It’s like they left their fear behind.

That’s how Jesus took their fear. And you know, that’s, uh, and it was just a really neat insight and, you know, God will illuminate and show us the things that, that are important to us. And so it was important to me to hear that this Easter, you know, don’t fear, let’s be joyful. That’s

Rich Rudowske: so great. And Jim, I think on that [00:38:00] note, that’s a good place to end, and I really appreciate you being on the podcast with us, sharing some of your experience, and just a real privilege to work with you, to have learned from you, and to have been able to share in God’s ministry together with you.

Jim Laesch: All right, Rich. It’s been a great experience. I’m

Rich Rudowske: listening to the episode still just as, uh, impactful to me as it was, uh, four years ago when we originally, uh, released it and, um, just inspiring to see how the Lord was at work in Jim’s life. And, um, you know, that era, that season, uh, that he first launched into was just a different era and season. In mission work and, uh, the way he was involved, just, it’s fascinating to see how that changed and to again, see how the Lord worked through all of those things and the insights and the things that we’ve picked up over the years.

Jim was my original boss here at Lutheran Bible translators, [00:39:00] and probably it can be said for a most of the folks that are still with the organization to what a blessing to We invite you to continue to celebrate with us this 60th anniversary year here at Lutheran Bible Translators by considering joining us as prayer partners or making a special financial gift for the 60th anniversary.

You can find out about either one of those at our website, lbt. org. You scroll down and find the location. On the home page to become a prayer partner or scroll a little bit further than that and find featured campaign the more than words Campaign, thanks for listening in god’s blessings

Thank you for listening to the essentially translatable podcast brought to you by lutheran bible translators You can find past episodes of the podcast at lbt. org podcast Or subscribe on Audible, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or [00:40:00] wherever you listen to podcasts. Follow Lutheran Bible Translators social media channels on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, or go to lbt.

org to find out how you can get involved in the Bible translation movement and put God’s Word in their hands. The Essentially Translatable Podcast is edited and produced by Audrey Seider. Artwork designed by Sarah Rudowske. Music written and performed by Rob Veith. I’m Rich Rudowske. So long for now.


  • Listen to this throwback episode of Essentially Translatable from 2020. 
  • Jim Laesch has been with Lutheran Bible Translators for over 46 years.
  • Jim maintains an important legacy at Lutheran Bible Translators.

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