It took many years and a series of missionaries to complete the Dhimba New Testament translation in Namibia. The expectation of the Lutheran Bible Translators (LBT) missionary who saw the project through to the end was that the printed manuscript would be dedicated within a year or so of his departure. He was wrong. Unforeseen delays meant several more years passed before he was able to attend the dedication that finally occurred in January 2014. He wrote, “I witnessed something I’d almost given up on.”
Serving on the mission field is challenging. Living in a culture so different than our own, struggling to build relationships and understand the needs and desires of the community, and learning the intricacies of a new language can be daunting. Quite frankly, missionaries sometimes get discouraged, even to the point of almost—almost—giving up. But they persevere so that others may know Jesus Christ.
“People tend to think of missionaries as ‘super Christians’. Because we accept the call to live and serve in another country there is a perception that we have it all together,” said missionary Michael Ersland. “I am not a ‘super Christian’. I serve in Ghana and I have done much work with the Komba Old Testament translation team. Yet, I am also imperfect and in need of reminders for how I need God’s help and how I can share Christ’s love with those around me. Don’t we all need that reminder, no matter where we live?”
This past Sunday Christians around the world celebrated Pentecost. That’s 2 billion people speaking thousands of languages. Michael and his fellow missionaries serve because of those who did not commemorate this important date—those who have not had the opportunity to learn about our Savior because they do not have God’s Word in a language they can understand.
There are always struggles and hardships on the mission field. This year has seen the unexpected disruption of virtually all LBT projects around the world. Is it discouraging? Of course. But missionaries and translation teams continue to serve. Though they may not be able to meet together physically, they remain united in heart and mind—translating, teaching, planning—looking forward to the day when full-time work will resume. They live the words of Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
Whatever worship may look like for you during these days, remember to give thanks for God’s Word in a language you can understand. Think of those serving on the mission field and the communities where they work. Ask that they have the strength to persevere, even when feeling overwhelmed. Pray for continued progress on translation projects and blessings on the people who are coming to faith in Jesus Christ.
To learn more about missionaries and language projects, click here.