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Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada

Spring 2014

Forward from The Wapishana Bible translation team of Guyana presses on, despite the tragic murders of two key Wycliffe colleagues. CanIL Sponsors Myanmar Student + Translating the Gospel + No More Grasping at Crumbs


Spring 2014 • Volume 32 • Number 1 Word Alive, which takes its name from Hebrews 4:12a, is the official publication of Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada. Its mission is to inform, inspire and involve the Christian public as partners in the worldwide Bible translation movement. Editor: Dwayne Janke Designer: Cindy Buckshon Senior Staff Writer: Doug Lockhart Staff Writers: Alexis Harrison, Janet Seever Staff Photographer: Natasha Schmale

The Who Behind Our Whys Dwayne Janke


Word Alive is published four times annually by Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada, 4316 10 St NE, Calgary AB T2E 6K3. Copyright 2014 by Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada. Permission to reprint articles and other magazine contents may be obtained by written request to the editor. A donation of $20 annually is suggested to cover the cost of printing and mailing the magazine. (Donate online or use the reply form in this issue.) Printed in Canada by McCallum Printing Group, Edmonton. Member: The Canadian Church Press, Evangelical Press Association. For additional copies: To contact the editor: For address updates:

Wycliffe serves minority language groups worldwide by fostering an understanding of God’s Word through Bible translation, while nurturing literacy, education and stronger communities. Canadian Head Office: 4316 10 St NE, Calgary AB T2E 6K3. Phone: (403) 250-5411 or toll free 1-800-463-1143, 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. mountain time. Fax: (403) 2502623. Email: French speakers: Call toll free 1-877-747-2622 or email Cover: Olive Williams, a member of the Wapishana translation team who worked closely with Richard and Charlene Hicks, holds up a photo of the Hickses' burnt-out dwelling, which was destroyed as part of their tragic murders. Behind her is a new building built on the old foundation: the translation centre, which is where the Wapishana New Testament was completed. Photo by Natasha Schmale.

In Others’ Words “Even the imagination of Western atheists, not to mention their personal ethics and morality, is informed by the Bible. . . .” —Jeffrey Miller, adjunct professor of law and literature at the University of Western Ontario, in The Globe and Mail, May 4, 2012 2

Word Alive • Spring 2014 •

Why did the murders happen? Why did the Hickses have to die this way?

espite being tired, sleep eluded Word Alive photographer Natasha Schmale one night about a year ago. Light breezes, the croaks of frogs and the chirps of bats wafted in through open windows in the guest room of the Wapishana Translation Centre in southwest Guyana, South America. Natasha lay there blinking. Only the inky blackness was visible on the moonless night. It was the final evening that Natasha and writer Alexis Harrison were spending in the Rupununi savannah. They had been travelling the week before to several Wapishana villages, meeting, interviewing and taking photos of Wycliffe and Wapishana translators, local pastors and literacy workers. “It was exciting to see the Wapishana people eager about God’s Word in their own language,” recalls Natasha, “and to hear them singing and worshipping in their own language. “But there was also an element of sadness: two translators had lost their lives here.” As explained in this issue of Word Alive, Richard and Charlene Hicks (a Canadian/American dual citizen and American, respectively) were killed by would-be thieves near the interior town of Lethem less than a decade ago. “They say that hindsight is 20/20, and I would agree that generally things appear clearer looking back,” says Natasha. “But that night as I lay in the guest room of the Wapishana Translation Centre—which had been the home of the Hickses before they were murdered in 2005—things were still unclear for me. “ Natasha found herself longing to know answers to some obvious “whys.” Why did the murders happen? Why did the Hickses have to die that way? Throughout the week of travelling, interviews and photo-taking, she had seen little glimpses of God’s sovereignty and goodness prevailing in the Bible translation project. But pieces were still missing for her. Natasha realized that she was missing those pieces because not even God’s people can truly comprehend His ways. “Yet like a small child who asks for answers she is not old enough to understand, I still ask why. And like a small child,” concludes Natasha, “I must trust that though I don’t fully understand, I have a sovereign Father who will prevail over darkness.” As our writer/photographer teams travel to various parts of the world to bring you the stories in this magazine, we ask lots of questions. So it is exasperating when occasionally there simply are no concrete and certain answers to our queries: Why did it take so long before Bible translation started for this group? Why are there so many obstacles to getting the job finished? Why did the key local translator suddenly die from disease? Why isn’t the language group overjoyed at receiving God’s Word at the moment? Like Natasha in Guyana, we too can stare at our dark “whys” and see nothing in response but the blackness of uncertainty. In the end, as Natasha did, it is best to peer past Why to the ultimate Who. We must focus on our Father—the One who will ultimately prevail over all things, the “whys” included.



Stories by Alexis Harrison • Photographs by Natasha Schmale



Inducted into the Hall of Faith Murdered while serving Guyana’s Wapishana Amerindians, Wycliffe’s Richard and Charlene Hicks left a lasting impression on the language project and the people.

11 A Mom Remembers Richard Hicks’ mother

recollects her son’s gifting, his missionary longing and loving marriage, and her struggles after his murder.

14 A Wife of Noble Character The first local full-time Wapishana Bible translator persevered in pursuit of her passion.

20 Like Father, Like Son Two Bible translators

sacrifice time with family and farm to meet the spiritual needs of their Wapishana people.

24 A Day at a Time Wycliffe’s Bev Dawson persevered


through isolation, slow progress and colleagues’ deaths to serve with Guyana’s Wapishana people.

27 Right Person, Right Time 30 Carried Like Cassava The Wapishana New

Testament was one of 25 New Testaments and Bibles dedicated this past year. By Janet Seever

Departments 2


Foreword The Who Behind Our Whys 

By Dwayne Janke


Watchword CanIL Sponsors Myanmar Student

32 Beyond Words Translating the Gospel, Parts 7 & 8 By Hart Wiens

34 A Thousand Words A Wapishana Shower Curtain


35 Last Word No More Grasping at Crumbs 

By Roy Eyre

Word Alive • Spring 2014 •


Watchword CanIL Sponsors Myanmar Student



ew multilingual education (MLE) resources for children in the world’s indigenous minorities have been released by SIL, Wycliffe’s main partner organization. Available as a free download, the publication is called Heritage Language Playschools for Indigenous Minorities. It explains the reason for play-based mother tongue preschools, gives detailed plans to run such programs and includes a set of supplementary materials. Patricia Davis, an SIL literacy and education consultant from Canada with more than 40 years of MLE field experience, calls Heritage Language Playschools “the most complete and most practical reference book on this topic that I have seen to date.” The manual and materials grew out of a pilot project in the Malaysian state of Sarawak by SIL Malaysia, the Dayak Bidayuh National Association and UNESCO. It successfully gave young children in preschool a good educational foundation and improved their school performance. The publication’s author Dr. Karla Smith, and her husband James, are both SIL literacy and education consultants who played key roles in organizing the Dayak Bidayuh pilot. Heritage Language Playschools is written in simple English for wider distribution and translation into other languages around the world.

Word Count 1985 Year that Canada Institute of Linguistics (CanIL), Wycliffe’s training partner in Langley, B.C., opened its doors.

2,800-plus Number of students who have studied at CanIL.

68 Number of different countries from which those CanIL students have come.

370 CanIL graduates who are field assigned with a Bible translation organization.

Source: CanIL “Friends of CanIL” newsletter, Spring 2013


Word Alive • Spring 2014 •

MV Kwadima II Sails Safely in PNG


13-metre boat called the MV Kwadima II (pictured at right) is making it possible for Bible translation teams to travel safely by water throughout the Milne Bay province of Papua New Guinea (PNG). Many of these areas do not have regular maritime travel and are not easily accessible by smaller boats. It is not unusual for Wycliffe and local personnel to have trips lasting up to 24 hours or more there. Safety is a main concern, since most local travel occurs on small boats which are often overloaded or depart without proper water safety equipment. Operated by SIL PNG, MV Kwadima II can carry up to 35 passengers and transport up to 15 tons of cargo, to help pay its expenses. The boat is managed by Tim McIntosh, who has 20 years of maritime experience, and skippered by a PNG captain and first mates with excellent safety records. “Our primary means of getting in and out of the village [we are working in] has been by taking the MV Kwadima II,” says one language worker. “We are thankful for the way the boat is well maintained, for the trustworthy and competent crew, for the hard work of the boat manager—and on those 14-hour boat rides, extremely thankful for a boat with an operational toilet!”

Tim Scott

Courtesy of CanIL

Photo courtesy of SIL

he Canada Institute of Linguistics (CanIL), a training partner of Wycliffe Canada, is sponsoring a 25-year-old man from Myanmar for advanced linguistics training in neighbouring Thailand. Khan Lann (at right, in photo below) has been studying for an MA in linguistics at Payap University in the city of Chiang Mai, so he can help meet the language and translation needs of his Tangshang Naga-speaking people. One of six children of farming parents, Khan Lann grew up in remote Northwestern Myanmar region. He attended Grades 1-4 in his home village, learning in the national language, Burmese. Travelling with his father to another village one day, he saw a hymnbook written in his mother tongue. He asked to be taught to read it, sparking a desire to see more books in his language, including the Bible. After pursuing further studies, Khan Lann eventually earned BAs in philosophy and English at two universities in Myanmar. Since there was suitable training available in the neighbouring country of Thailand, Khan Lann applied and was accepted into the Payap MA Linguistics program. The CanIL scholarship covers travel, tuition and a living expense stipend.

SIL Releases Early Learning Resource

Wycliffe Caribbean Marks 20 Years

Doing What Sounds Impossible


ycliffe Caribbean is marking its 20th anniversary with nine months of celebrations. The anniversary was launched this past July with a pastors’ and church leaders’ breakfast in Kingston, Jamaica. Those in Kingston were joined by Skype with simultaneous events in Antigua, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago. Wycliffe Caribbean was founded in Trinidad & Tobago in 1993 with the purpose of assisting the Caribbean Church to mobilize its people to obey the Great Commission Lisbon to evangelize the world. Its focus is on providing the Word of God for thousands of PORTUGAL people groups in the language they know best. Wycliffe Caribbean currently has partnership agreements with 360 churches in the Caribbean region.

Bible Translation Progress in India Amazes

Canary Islands





t sounded like an impossible goal: a literacy workshop lasting just three weeks to produce 12 reading primers in six of Nigeria’s languages. “It felt that way, too, when we began . . . with 13 literacy workers with minimal computer skills and a lot of sounds to teach SPAIN ITALY to the pre-literates in their communities,” Tunis Algers recalled Christy Yoder. She is a Wycliffe literacy Gibraltar MALTA Vallelta TUNISIA worker who participated in the workshop Rabat run by the Nigerian Bible Translation Trust. Tripoli MOROCCO However, after three ALGERIAweeks, five of the six groups left with complete primers that they had designed and written with original stories using limited graphemes (letters or letter combinations LIBYA that represent a single sound). “With an hour break between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., many working into the night, they succeeded!” said Yoder. “This is truly a working of God’s grace, and we pray that these primers will be used to bless thousands of people with the great gift of literacy NIGER MALI in their mother tongue.”


Dakar Banjul



Ouagadougou BURKINA FASO















Lome Porto Novo


Sign Languages Bible Available On Demand





Dave Crough

wo decades ago, 250 languages needed Bible translation to start in India. In 20 years, amazing progress has been made so that now, just over 100 languages require a translation of the Scriptures. “This is God’s doing and it is marvelous in His eyes!” says a leader in the South Asian nation who has completed 20 years serving in Bible translation ministry. “I can testify without hesitation that [this] mission belongs to God. He will make the crooked path straight so that all people on earth will have the opportunity to read or listen to the Word of God in their own heart language.”


eaf Opportunity Outreach International (DOOR), a participating organization of Wycliffe Global Alliance, is involved with a new initiative: the first website of on-demand sign language Bibles. DOOR hosts videos of more than 200 Bible stories in seven different languages, so that the Deaf from Kerala in India, Kenya, Burundi, Ethiopia, Ghana, Uganda and Tanzania can access them in their specific sign language. The website (, pictured at right) makes the gospel available to more than three million Deaf people. Stories in Nigerian, Russian and another sign language are slated to be added this year. It is estimated that up to 400 unique sign languages are used by the Deaf around the world.







Brazzaville Kinshasa





Word Alive • Spring 2014 •



Inducted into the


O Murdered while serving Guyana’s Wapishana Amerindians, Wycliffe’s Richard and Charlene Hicks left a lasting impression on the language project and the people. Stories by Alexis Harrison • Photographs by Natasha Schmale

Long-time missionary Bev Dawson reminisces about good times with Wycliffe colleagues Richard and Charlene Hicks. On the wall beside her is a picture and plaque that honours the couple's contribution—and their sacrifice—to the Wapishana New Testament.

ften called the “Hall of Faith,” the people listed in Hebrews 11 either “escaped the edge of the sword” or had been “put to death by the sword” as they followed God. In both cases, the writer of Hebrews says, “the world was not worthy of them.” Many faithful folks have been inducted into the Hall of Faith since the time of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the others who are listed. Two of them are assuredly Wycliffe’s Richard and Charlene Hicks. The couple was “put to death by the sword” in a tragic 2005 murder while helping translate the Wapishana New Testament in Guyana, South America. Richard was 42; Charlene 58. But what was lost has lived on, as Wapishana Christians and other Wycliffe missionaries carried the Hickses’ work to completion. Inspired by the couple’s sacrifice, the team rallied against darkness in the power of Christ’s glorious light. The Hickses may be absent from this earth, but they are alive and well in the presence of the God of the living. They must have rejoiced with Him as 1,600 copies of Kaimana’o Tominkaru Paradan (“God’s Holy Word”) became available to the Wapishana people this past fall (see related story, pg. 30).

A Lasting Impression

The Hickses’ fingerprints are all over the Wapishana New Testament, and their efforts contributed greatly to its completion. The memory of the couple’s presence is also cut into the rutted roads of the Rupununi savannah, which they traversed in their Toyota Land Cruiser, its beige doors labelled in black lettering: “RICHARD AND CHARLENE HICKS.” On those trips, they visited old friends in various Wapishana villages—friends on whose hearts the couple also left a lasting impression. At San Jose Ranch (home-base for the Wapishana translation project in Guyana's remote Rupununi savannah), cotton trees that Charlene planted still grow, and the outbuildings that Richard constructed still stand. In the translation centre there, a plaque commemorates the Hickses’ contribution to the project: “In memory of Richard

Word Alive • Spring 2014 •


An avid handicrafter, Charlene memorialized her and Richard's time together with friends at San Jose in photo albums. Here, a meal is ready for eating; a favourite past-time (ping-pong) is played; and giant slices of watermelon are about to be enjoyed.

“It was a perfect match. They both needed each other and made it work. It was just a really good relationship, a good marriage and a good team.” and Charlene Hicks, who served the Lord by helping with Bible translation into the Wapishana language from 1994 until 2005.” The translation centre was reconstructed on the foundation of the Hickses’ home, which was burnt down the night of their murder. They named their humble abode Matariapa or “Peace” in the Wapishana language. The peace and joy they experienced while living there is captured in photo albums that Charlene lovingly crafted to show to family and friends back in Canada and the United States. (Charlene was an American; Richard had dual Canadian/American citizenship.) One of the albums is titled “The Team,” and displays pictures of Richard and Charlene with the Wapishana translators while working, sharing meals, singing, building puzzles and playing games. Added to the thousand words that each photo already represents are “thought bubble” stickers, on which Charlene wrote thoughtful captions.


Word Alive • Spring 2014 •

“Make sure your translation is clear, accurate, natural,” she penned on one, a reference to the principles that guide all Bible translations involving Wycliffe personnel worldwide. Wycliffe missionary Bev Dawson (see “A Day at a Time” on pg. 24), who has worked on the Wapishana translation for 40 years, says Charlene was a “wonderful hostess” and Richard a “creative wordsmith.” Dawson remembers that before they arrived in Guyana, it was Charlene who asked about practical details, like what tools they needed to bring with them. Richard, a true linguist focusing on the language itself, was more single-minded. “He was just asking questions about Wapishana,” says Bev. “It was a perfect match. They both needed each other and made it work,” she adds. “It was just a really good relationship, a good marriage and a good team.”

Lives Given

On March 30, 2005, the Hickses were at a Bible conference in the town of Lethem, close to San Jose. The next day was a big one; they were planning to visit two of the Wapishana translators, Jerry and Juram Browne (see “Like Father, Like Son” on pg. 20) in the village of Aishalton. The trek was to be at least a six-hour

journey. They decided to leave the conference early, so they’d be prepared to start their drive by morning. Without any witnesses, what happened next is not completely known. But police investigators have pieced together probable events from the murder scene and tips from residents in the area. It seems that a little while after the Hickses arrived home, someone called out from the gate of the fence surrounding their property. This wasn’t unusual, as their elderly neighbour, who owned the ranch on which San Jose is situated, often had her hired men go ask the Hickses for medicine or other supplies. That was likely the excuse the two men at the gate used that night. Richard and Charlene were killed in the attack that ensued. Their house was burned down after the murderers poured gasoline on it and set it ablaze. Miraculously, the fire did not reach the other buildings in which Bev and her partner at the time, Chic Ruth, lived. If it had, Bev's computer could have been lost forever, and much of the translation along with it. A few valuables were stolen from the property, but others weren't—leaving robbery as an uncertain motive. “It really doesn’t make sense,” says Bev, who explains that everyone in the region knows who the murder suspects are, even though they haven’t been arrested yet. The criminals, who may have ridden bicycles, escaped across the nearby border to Brazil.

Sadness and Horror

One suspect is a Brazilian and the other a non-Wapishana Amerindian from Guyana, both of whom worked on the ranch off and on. Just a week prior, they’d even been helping replace some of the thatched roofing at San Jose on Bev and Chic’s house. Rumours have since surfaced that the men were seen drinking at a bar before the heinous crime that night, bragging about what they were going to do. Others say the two used to sit on the ranch house’s porch, speculating about all the Hickses might own. “I don’t think we’ll ever know what was premeditated and what just happened,” says Bev. “It just shocked and shook up everyone in the area.” In Bev’s words, the reaction of the Wapishana community and other locals was one of sadness, loss, disbelief and horror. The murder suspects, whose arrest warrants were issued about two years ago, are still seen occasionally in Boa Vista, a Brazilian city approximately 130 kilometres from Guyana’s border. The two nations do not have an extradition agreement. For years after the murder, locals told Bev that they wished there was some way they could tempt the men back over the border to be arrested. But neither Bev, nor any of the Hickses’ other friends or family members, have pressed the issue. Bev says as Christians, they don’t necessarily feel the need for that kind of closure. Instead, they are praying for the men. Other pages in Charlene's albums preserve their experiences doing some of the more "unusual" mundane tasks of life in Guyana.

Word Alive • Spring 2014 •


Across the Takutu River and the bridge of its namesake, the country of Brazil stretches as far as the eye can see. Without an extradition agreement between Guyana and its southwesterly neighbour, the Hickses' murderers—who are rumoured to be living across the border—only face arrest if they attempt to return to Guyana.

“The important thing was for us to be able to continue the work and finish it,” says Bev, “so I didn’t want to cause problems or waves.” The tragedy caused a definite change in the attitudes of local non-Christians, who had previously steered clear of the missionaries working on the Wapishana language project. “I think it made them realize that we weren’t just people coming out to do something fun,” says Bev, “but we’re really serious about this, and we’re willing to give our lives because we feel that this is important.”

Hope of Eternal Life

In April 2005, memorial services in both North and South America were held for the Hickses, in locations as diverse as Nova Scotia, Minnesota and the Rupununi. On a January morning this past year, some of the Hickses’ friends who helped plan their funeral in Guyana eight years ago stood in a semicircle around their gravesite, holding hands. The couple’s bright yellow tomb is like a ray of sunshine on a grey day. Large, all-cap letters have been carefully stenciled on its surface: “FAITHFULLY SERVED GOD AMONG THE WAPISHANA.” A Bible-shaped block of cement at the head 10 Word Alive • Spring 2014 •

of the tomb lists their dates of birth and death. A flower at the tomb’s foot looks as though someone traced it with their finger in the still-wet cement before walking away, full of grief. The Hickses had celebrated their 13th wedding anniversary shortly before they died. Their friends, who always emphasize Richard and Charlene’s “togetherness,” say it was a blessing that they died together. Jackie D’Aguiar, a friend from Lethem who spoke at the Hickses’ funeral, says, “They always stuck together. They uplifted your spirits for the day, just seeing them, because they were such lovely people.” Elaine Foo, another friend from Lethem, has “little memoirs” from Charlene that she treasures, including a knitted cushion cover, a plastic bag holder and other handcrafted gifts. She remembers Richard as a handyman. “Rich was that kind of fellow where you'd say, ‘I have these curtains to hang up,’ and he’d say, ‘Get the hammer, get the nail,’ and he'd jump up there and get it done.” The Hickses also had a profound influence on Elaine’s son, Jason, who was 21 at the time of their death. “They were a warm, lovely couple,” he says, “a couple that I believe should be one of the models of the Rupununi.”

A Mom Remembers

Richard Hicks’ mother recollects her son’s gifting, his missionary longing and loving marriage, and her struggles after his murder.


s a missionary kid growing up in South Africa, Richard Hicks Modern-day, But Old-fashioned had no trouble keeping a constant supply of candy in his Charlene was working in SIL headquarters’ library at the time, pocket. Just memorize the Scripture verse from Bible club, recovering from brain surgery. Her battle against a benign tumour and the prize was a chocolate bar—it was that simple. is testimony to the courage and vivaciousness with which she faced Candy may have been Richard's reward for memorizing God's life—of which she considered variety the spice. Word, but it wasn't his motivation. Even at a young age, the Bible was Born in Illinois, she grew up in several states while her parents important to him. The youngest of three children, he loved learning pastored at small churches. She went on to join Wycliffe in bits and pieces out of his dad's Zulu Bible. 1972, following in the footsteps of her older brother who was a Richard was fascinated with foreign languages. Wycliffe missionary for 30 years. She served as a teacher, translator, “I remember when he used the words ‘I do not know’ and translated it administrative assistant and library consultant in countries as diverse into 25 languages,” says his 85-year-old mother, Evelyn Hicks. as Mexico, New Zealand and Germany. But his Canadian mom and American dad weren't translators, and As much as she was a “modern-day woman”—even having earned if any kind of Bible translation was going on in South Africa at the her private pilot's licence—she was still the “good old-fashioned girl” time, they didn't know about it. They served with Africa Evangelistic Richard always wanted. Fellowship. Evelyn's husband, Jim, taught at two Bible colleges After hiking to the top of a Colorado mountain peak one day, while she taught classes for women and children. “Two and two”— Richard hadn’t yet revealed to Charlene the contents of a mystery Richard's passion about the Bible and love for languages—had yet to backpack he'd been wearing. Disappearing into the trees for a few be put together. moments, he returned, dressed in a tuxedo. Rose in hand, he got down on one knee and proposed. From Backwoods to College They were married for only two years before moving to Guyana in When he turned 18, it wasn't surprising that Richard aced his Bible 1994. There, evenings would find Richard reading to Charlene as she knowledge exam for entrance into The King's College in New York. worked on her latest craft. Soon he was an active member of the school's missions club. It was “People always said they were ‘so cute together,’ ” says Evelyn. a semi-familiar setting to a missionary-kid-come-man suffering The couple’s daily lives in Guyana were an open book to Evelyn. from culture shock. Richard wrote home about once every week. “He had come straight from the backwoods of Africa to college,” “Richie’s letters were delightful,” says Evelyn, “full of tidbits a mother says Evelyn. Despite that, Evelyn watched her son get recognized for would want to know." his leadership capabilities and strong Christian values. Richard would often include a bit of thought-provoking Via Richard's letters, she also recognized a growing desire in her “philosophy” in his letters. “Fervency derives from the combination of son's heart. love and a sense of urgency, and we all want fervency in our prayer,” “Richie always thought he was too much of an introvert to be a is an example. missionary,” says Evelyn. “All the missionaries he knew were extroverts, In honour of the Hickses, members of the next generation are being but he still felt a longing to be [one].” given the opportunity to grow more "fervent" in their walk with the Lord Having majored in mathematics, Richard was at a crossroads after through the Hicks Memorial Spiritual Leadership Award. (See back cover college. Not knowing which direction to take next, he opted to move for details.) back home with mom and dad—only “home” was now Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, where his parents had since relocated from Africa as Grief and Thankfulness church planters with Bible Ministries Worldwide. When the news reached Evelyn that her son and daughter-in-law Over a three-year period, Richard worked at a sauerkraut plant and had been killed, she says, “My mouth went dry, my throat closed. I served in several capacities at his parents’ fledgling church. During went weak all over. I lay on the couch, hardly able to comprehend it.” that time, Evelyn says, “He gradually felt the Lord leading him into Nearly every day, the same question was on her lips to God in full-time service.” prayer: “Why?” In order to do so, Richard attended Briercrest Bible College in “I knew I would never understand,” she says. Just seven months Saskatchewan, where he heard a missionary from Wycliffe Bible earlier, she’d also lost her husband of 48 years. Translators speak about the need for translators all over the globe. “I guess I would say that I live with my grief every day, but I have “It was a light going on for Richie,” says Evelyn, especially when he learned to be thankful for the years the Lord gave me with my heard that Bible translators couldn't ask for a better background wonderful son, and then thankful that the Lord gave him Char.” than mathematics. This mother who has lost her son and daughter-in-law has a clear God was calling him to combine his two loves: the Bible and language. vision for interceding from afar for the Wapishana Scriptures. After a summer of stimulating CanIL training in Langley, B.C., “My prayer along with everyone is that the Bible in Wapishana Richard moved to Dallas, Tex., to study linguistics. In another one of will lead to many committing their lives to the Lord, and those who his letters, Evelyn soon found out linguistics wasn't the only subject are Christians will grow in their faith as they read the Bible in their her son was learning about. He was also getting to know a “terrific heart language.” girl” named Charlene Persons. Word Alive • Spring 2014 • 11

“The one thing that I comfort myself

Jason always sensed that and console myself [with] is . . . they are he and his young family were close to the Hickses’ hearts. home with the Lord now, and they are in He remembers them driving all the way to Boa Vista in His presence, and they are comforted." Brazil to buy Jason a quality carpenter’s hammer for his wedding. And when Jason’s first child was born—a daughter who’s now eight years old—Charlene had prepared knitted gifts for the occasion. Jason was distraught at the news of their deaths. The heartache of those dark days is still written on his face. “The one thing that I comfort myself and console myself [with] is that they served the Lord—they knew the Lord,” says Jason. “They are home with the Lord now, and they are in His presence, and they are comforted. “One of the things that we as Christians have, and that is very special to us, is the hope of eternal life.”

Swallowed Up in Victory

The Bible, about which the Hickses were passionate, is filled with messages of hope. The missionary couple helped translate many of those hope-filled passages into the heart language of 6,000 Wapishana people in Guyana and 1,500 in Brazil. The Wapishana can now take as much comfort in the Word of God as the Hickses no doubt did throughout their lives— More on the Web: verses such as, “Death has been swallowed Visit to learn up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54b). how Wapishana church leaders fed their people with mother-tongue Scriptures, as they awaited the printed New Testament.

Guyana: At a Glance Name: Cooperative Republic of Guyana Area: 215,000 sq. km (less than half the size of Yukon) Location: Northern South America, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Suriname and Venezuela. Geography: Third-smallest country in South America. Mostly dense rainforests, with fertile marshy plain along the Atlantic coast and desert savannah in the southwest. Background: Originally a Dutch colony in the 17th century. Became a British possession in 1815. Abolition of slavery led to black settlement of urban areas and importation of indentured servants from India to work on sugar plantations. Achieved independence from Britain in 1966.

Population: 740,000 Capital: Georgetown (pop. 235,000) People: East Indian 43% (descendants of indentured Indian labourers; black (African) 30% (descendants of African slaves); mixed 17%; Amerindian 9% (mostly living in the sparsely inhabited interior); Other <1%. Economy: Based largely on agriculture and extractive industries, and heavily dependent on export of sugar, gold, bauxite, shrimp, timber and rice. One third of Guyanese live below the poverty line; indigenous Amerindian people are disproportionately affected.

Languages with Scriptures: 2 have Bibles; 5 have New Testaments; 3 have Scripture portions; 2 still need work to start. Literacy: 92% (definition: age 15 and over, having attended school), but a much lower percentage that are functionally literate. Sources: World Factbook; Operation World, 7th Edition; Ethnologue, SIL Nicaragua Trinidad & Tobago

Costa Rica

Ve n e z u e l a


Guyana Suriname



Religion: 56% Christian; 28% Hindu; 7% Muslim; 4% other; 4% none.


Languages: 11 – English; 9 Amerindian languages; Guyanese Creole (used by 90 per cent of the population).

B r a z i l



12 Word Alive • Spring 2014 •

French Guiana


(Above) His grieving heart still healing, Jason Foo (second from left) leads friends of the Hickses in singing "God Never Fails" and "Great is Thy Faithfulness," beside the coupleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s tomb. (Right) Following the Hickses' deaths, Bev Dawson gifted several of Charlene's photo albums to close friends, for them to remember the couple. Here, Wapishana translator Jerry Browne and his wife Delita show theirs to their granddaughter and youngest son.

A Wife of Noble Character The first local, full-time Wapishana Bible translator persevered in pursuit of her passion.


omen in Christian circles might sigh at the “perfect” wife described in Proverbs 31. She sets the standard high, after all: selecting wool and flax, working with eager hands, serving the needy and speaking with wisdom. But it’s not an exaggeration to say that Olive Williams, a Wapishana woman of God, personifies the wife of noble character in many ways. On the inside, Olive is all of those qualities. She is capable, compassionate and conversational about her faith. On the outside, she is all Wapishana. A thick, poker-straight braid hangs down the middle of her back, true to a song she likes to sing: “The native girls, they have no curls, deep in the Rupununi.” An old-fashioned pair of spectacles sits on the 60-yearold’s nose, giving sight to gentle eyes that have examined the Scriptures for nearly 30 years. “The more I read, the more I understand about God,” she states simply.

“That was the turning point in my life. When they had an invitation [to dedicate lives to Christ], I was ready. I got up and I went, and I gave my life.”

Turning Point

In 1984, Olive became the first, full-time local translator to join the Wapishana Bible translation project in Guyana, South America. Since then, she’s been faithful to its finish in 2012,

14 Word Alive • Spring 2014 •

Not only does she know how to pick the best bananas, Wapishana translator Olive Williams also knows how to pick good company: she and the Hickses were close friends and co-workers.


translating upwards of 15 of the New Testament books, including Luke, Acts and Philippians. “First, when I started, I didn't know how to write [Wapishana],” she says. “I just wrote it my own way. But then as I continued with the translation, then I developed the skill in reading and writing and spelling.” She didn’t only grow intellectually, she grew spiritually too. A position on the translation team was an answer to prayer for Olive, who was a new believer at the time. Previously, she’d suffered for months from a severe allergy that affected both her hands. “I couldn't wash my clothes. I couldn’t cook. My hands had sores all over them,” she says. Then she heard a preacher share the story about the woman “who had been subject to bleeding for 12 years, but no one could heal her” (Luke 8:43, NIV). “ ‘Whatever kind of sickness that no doctor can heal, that no witchcraft can heal,’ he said, ‘that same Jesus can heal,’ ” recalls Olive. That struck her, because she’d sought help from all but Jesus, to no avail. Finally, after sitting in church for years, the message fell on ears that could hear and a heart that could understand. “That was the turning point in my life,” says Olive. “When they had an invitation [to dedicate lives to Christ], I was ready. I got up and I went and I gave my life.” Still concerned about her hands, and needing to find work that wouldn't keep them in dishwater all day, Olive began to pray. “When I became a believer, I learned that Jesus can answer prayers and He can do anything. I prayed and asked for a job—a dry job—not working in a kitchen and handling wet things.” A letter from Wycliffe missionary Bev Dawson (see “A Day at a Time,” on pg. 24) soon followed, asking Olive if she was interested in a Wapishana Bible translation job that would include “head work and a lot of handwriting.” “I knew right away that that was an answer to my prayers,” says Olive. Today, her faith that God answers prayer is as strong as ever. And with hindsight being 20/20, it’s evident that God used her allergy to direct her attention away from housework and onto translation.

“To see all

the Wapishana know Christ

better” is Olive’s passion in life.

God’s Word on the Mind

More on the Web:

“To see all the Wapishana know Christ Visit to learn how better” is Olive’s passion in life. She can Wapishana church leaders fed their people share story after story of how she’s seen with mother tongue Scriptures, as they that happening through the translation awaited the printed New Testament. project and her own evangelistic efforts. Her role on the translation team included testing newly translated passages with Wapishana individuals. She’d read each passage aloud, then ask questions to see if they understood it. Her audience was accustomed to following the crowds to the village churches on Sunday morning, listening to God’s Word in broken English, (Top) Olive is quick to recall and eager to share stories about her son, John's, antics through the years. She and husband Danny adopted him from a family member when he was six months old. (Right) Olive and Danny sitting side-by-side and worshiping together in a church service is proof that with God, all things are possible. Many years ago, after much prayer and counsel, Olive allowed Danny back into her life even though he had left her for nearly two decades. Now, the quiet man boldly gives his testimony to congregations throughout the Rupununi. 16 Word Alive • Spring 2014 •

“We will not and returning home without having grasped the gospel. For the Wapishana, hearing the Scriptures read to them in their heart language, during one-on-one testing, was like Zacchaeus dining with Jesus after being picked out of the crowd in Jericho. Olive remembers how one man in particular reacted to a passage about committing adultery. “When I came back the next day, he invited his friends . . . the room was full,” says Olive. “He told them that this thing that I was doing was very good.” The man said he was a churchgoer who had heard the story before, in English. “[He said] it’s very interesting, but it didn't really go deep into his heart. But now, hearing it in his own language, and answering the questions, it makes him think about it. “He told me, ‘I was one of those men.’ He was talking about one who commits adultery. He said that, ‘The questions that you asked really hit me because it really made me think— when I lay in my hammock, I was still thinking about it.’ ” Olive says it is difficult for Wapishanas, especially the older people, to understand “the big words” of the Bible in English. Words such as justification, fornication and circumcision are some of the stumbling blocks that prevent them from comprehending the Bible deeply. “And even some of the pastors, they read in English [but] the big words, they wouldn't understand what they really mean.” After speaking about the translation in church one day, Olive heard one man observe how the

stop there— we will continue translating until we finish what is started.” Eight years after the Hickses died, Olive’s prophetic words are true. (Below) Olive shares words with Nigel, a Wapishana literacy teacher who, like Olive, is passionate about serving his Wapishana brothers and sisters. "I love teaching my people," he says.

“I keep trusting Bible first came to them in English, then God sent missionaries to live among them. “Now that the Bible is in our own language,” Olive remembers him saying, “no Wapishana can get away from the Word of God.”

more because

‘This Will Not Stop Us’

Himself in so

God more and He has proven

When Christ established the Church, He said “the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18b, NIV). In the case of the Wapishana people, Satan has indeed tried to topple the translation work in Guyana—his most obvious attack being the senseless murders of Wycliffe missionaries Richard and Charlene Hicks in 2005 (see “Inducted into the Hall of Faith” on pg. 6). Olive and Charlene were “kindred spirits” in a sense. They shared the gift of hospitality, an interest in crafts and cooking, and a love for learning new things, then teaching them to others. “It’s like she was a type of Wapishana,” says Olive, recalling how Charlene planted cotton trees around her home like any Wapishana woman would have done. Since their arrival in 1994, Charlene had been spinning cotton with the intention of making a large, Wapishana-style hammock. Olive would have helped her do it. And whenever the time came for the Hickses to leave Guyana, Charlene had promised to give Olive their bed and the beautiful bedspread she had crocheted. Though these dreams will never be realized in this lifetime, sweet memories of their time together endure. “I remember at Christmastime, or a birthday . . . they would quietly put a gift right there by my door,” says Olive, who lived off and on at San Jose, the rural ranch property where the Hickses lived and the translation work was based. “They would plan things,” she continued. “Like [at] Miss Bev’s birthday, one time we made up a song. Richard, he made up songs in Wapishana. So we would go when she was still in her room . . . we would all get together there and sing to her from outside through the window in Wapishana.” The Hickses were musical people, and it was fitting that Wapishana songs were also sung at their memorial service. Olive spoke as part of the program too. With strength and dignity, she said, “The translation is very important. This will not be the end, this will not stop us—we translators, our hearts’ desire is to continue. We will not stop here—we will continue translating until we finish what is started.” Nine years after the Hickses died, Olive’s prophetic words are true; what was started is finished. The Wapishana New Testament, for which the Hickses sacrificed their lives, is done and is in the hands of the Wapishana people.

many ways.”

More Work, More Stories

You won’t find it in Proverbs 31, but the popular proverb “a woman's work is never done” rings true for Olive, even though the New Testament is completed. She is involved in some followup projects to the translation, such as translating a book called How the Jews Lived. She also plans to help record the Wapishana Scriptures for a Faith Comes By Hearing initiative. With a woman like Olive, there are always more stories to tell—about how Olive's adopted son John used to call the Hickses “Uncle Richie and Aunty Char.” About her travels to different villages, preaching the gospel to women and teaching them how to crochet. About her husband Danny, a dedicated friend of the Hickses, who miraculously became a Christian after 18 years apart from his “wife of noble character” and away from God. Of that “wife of noble character,” Proverbs 31 continues, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” “I keep trusting God more and more because He has proven Himself in so many ways,” says Olive. “When I need help, I come to Him. And that makes me grow stronger.”

Olive picks cotton outside the translation centre at San Jose. Charlene had been spinning cotton throughout her 11 years in Guyana and had plans to make a world-renowned Wapishana hammock with Olive's help.

(Top left) Olive and Danny prepare a traditional Guyanese meal: delicious fried bread called roti, accompanied by a curried dish that wouldn't be complete without chicken feet. (Left) Olive shares a laugh with fellow translators Jerry Browne and Bev Dawson outside Jerry's thatched-roof kitchen. Word Alive • Spring 2014 • 19


Like Father, Like Son Two Bible translators sacrifice time with family and farm to meet the spiritual needs of their Wapishana people. 20 Word Alive â&#x20AC;˘ Spring 2014 â&#x20AC;˘

Like Father, Like Son, Like Father, Like Son, Like Father

Like Father, Like Son, Like Father, Like Son, Like Father, Like Son, Like Father


bout three times every year, a Wapishana father and son used to be seen setting out from their home in rural Guyana, bicycles laden with books, hammocks, clothing and food. Two days later, after fording rivers, camping in the wilderness, and pushing their bikes through miles of mud, they would finally arrive at their destination: San Jose Ranch, home-base for the Wapishana New Testament translation project. There to welcome the sore and exhausted Jerry and Juram Browne were several friendly, familiar faces—their “co-workers in God's service,” as Apostle Paul would describe them in 1 Corinthians—including Wycliffe missionaries Bev Dawson, Chic Ruth and Richard and Charlene Hicks. In the comfort of the Hickses’ home, the next four or five weeks would be spent not only recuperating from their journey, but also poring over open Bibles, discussing difficult passages, and translating Scripture into Wapishana words. “Jerry brought real spiritual depth and wisdom,” says Dawson. “He worked on things a long time, and studied and fixed them up before I even saw them.” As for Juram, who was only in his 20s at the time, he would listen and analyze. “When we had discussions, he wouldn’t speak up often, but when he did, we all listened,” continues Dawson.

True Companions

Travelling together wasn't new for the father and son pair. As a teen, Juram and other youths would tag along with Jerry to various villages for the purpose of encouraging and strengthening believers in each community. “I like to share—I like exchanging ideas about faith and the truth,” says Jerry, who is now a leader at his church in the village of Aishalton, deep in southwest Guyana's Rupununi savannah. Youth still flock to his home once a week or so for games, Bible teaching, food and fellowship. “Even though I am old, when I see children around me, I feel like I am still a young man,” laughs the 56-year-old. His whole face lights up when he smiles—the reflection of a youthful heart within, despite years of back-breaking labour as a subsistence farmer. Jerry doesn’t have to go far to be surrounded by kids. His youngest boy is six, and his two granddaughters live only a stone's throw away. At this moment, though, the girls are in their daddy Juram's lap. One is wearing her pink and white gingham school uniform, the other clinging to her little blond baby-doll. With true childlike transparency, the eldest confesses to Juram, “I ate all the cassava bread.” (Opposite) Jerry Browne takes his youngest for a ride on a bicycle while his eldest son, Juram, follows behind. The two men used to ride their bicycles hundreds of kilometres to reach San Jose Ranch, where they'd stay with Richard and Charlene Hicks and work on translating the Wapishana New Testament. (Right) Juram's two daughters stay close to their mother Deborah—who might not have noticed Juram as a possible future husband if it weren't for Richard and Charlene's encouragement.

r, Like Son, Like Father, Like Son, Like

“I just gave my time into God's hands.” One of Juram’s greatest sacrifices was leaving his young family behind in order to work on the translation. But he'd often come home and hear stories of how neighbours had helped care for his family while he was away by giving them fish, bananas and other essentials. “In this sense, God was with me, with my family in this translation,” says Juram, who daydreamed about his wife and children while in San Jose. “I just gave my time into God's hands.” Now that the translation is complete, God has him home again as a full-time dad, husband, hunter and farmer. He's also a youth and worship leader at church, but he dreams of one day hitting the trails as a travelling pastor of sorts—much like his dad used to do. After “travelling together, working together, learning together and experiencing hardships together,” Juram says he and Jerry know each other in a unique and profound way. And not only as father and son, but also as true companions.

Juram feels like he can hear God's voice clearly, “just as if He was a Wapishana man.” Translators at Work and Play

In 2001, as Wycliffe missionary Bev Dawson was preparing for one of her regular visits to encourage mother tongue literacy in several Wapishana villages, Richard Hicks had asked her to look for another person to help him shoulder his load of the translation work. A few days later, Dawson was meeting with Jerry face to face, explaining how God had brought him to mind in prayer. “Jerry, the Hickses need a helper in this translation,” she said to him. “We were thinking about you.” Jerry, who couldn't read or write Wapishana at the time, thought it was impossible. “That's not a problem,” Dawson assured him. “We will teach you how to do it.” Arrangements were made that he’d meet Richard at a town called Lethem, near San Jose, during an annual Easter Bible conference. In the future, Richard would teach Jerry how to ride a bicycle, but right then, he had no choice except to walk and hitchhike the 160 grueling kilometres to Lethem. He fought the temptation to turn back many times—and won. “My mind was that I wanted to meet Rich—Richard Hicks,” says Jerry. “Especially I wanted to hear about this translation—what will become of it, and where I could be involved in this work.” A couple years later, Juram also came onboard the translation project. They worked closely with Richard, who provided them with the groundwork for each chapter, guided them through the translation process and reviewed their final drafts.

concern into care by purchasing practical tools, like a chainsaw, to help Jerry and Juram when they were at home and able to work in their fields. Richard and Charlene also played matchmaker between Juram and his future wife Deborah, who helped Charlene in the kitchen at San Jose for several months. “Seeing their interest in us really kind of encouraged us,” Juram remembers. “They were kind of ‘dad and mom’ to us.” When the Hickses passed away in 2005, Juram wept with heartbreak. He and Deborah were married two years later. The only thing missing on their wedding day was the “dad and mom” who had helped bring them together. The Hickses had been murdered the last night of the annual Bible conference at Lethem, the same conference at which Jerry had met Richard for the first time four years before. Jerry heard the tragic news the next day—the day the Hickses were expected to arrive at his home for a visit. Some of his first grief-filled thoughts were about the translation and all that Richard and Charlene had invested in it: “What will become of it?” All five Wapishana translators on the team, including Jerry and Juram, voted that the translation needed to go on. But the Hickses were sorely missed. Juram’s draft of nearly half the book Matchmaking of Hebrews was lost in the fire that burned down the Hickses’ “Jerry,” Charlene Hicks would tell him, “I don’t want you to feel like home, along with Jerry’s first five chapters of Romans. you are away from home. I want you to feel like you’re at home.” The work “paused . . . but then it continued,” says Juram. And so it was; the two were well cared for while hosted by Despite the tragic setback, they became more determined than the Hickses. When they weren't translating, they'd spend time ever to finish what they'd started. singing, working outdoors or playing ping-pong. Charlene kept “Rich asked me when I started to work with him, ‘How long do Jerry supplied with reading books, and Richard taught Juram how you intend to work?’ ” says Jerry. “I said, ‘Up to the completion of to play the guitar and keyboard. the New Testament.’ ” The couple was keenly aware that when Jerry and Juram were Jerry was true to his word. The Wapishana New Testament translating at San Jose, it was time spent away from their farms, is finally finished, although it took longer than expected because providing food for their families. The Hickses translated their of the loss of the Hickses.

Like Father, Like Son, Like Father, Like Son, Like Father, Like Son, Like Father,

(Above, left) Juram and Jerry help their local pastor plant cassava, a root vegetable that is a staple in the Wapishana diet. As subsistence farmers, the Wapishana are having to cultivate fields further and further into the jungle in search of fertile soil.

(Above) Juram, his wife and daughters live just a stone's throw away from his parents. Here, they enjoy the fruits of their hard labour together—not uncommon in this family-oriented Wapishana society.

A New Beginning

Will It Ever Come?

Jerry and Juram's work on the Wapishana New Testament hasn't ended; it has simply arrived at a new beginning. As Christian leaders, they strive to set an example for the rest of the Wapishana by opening up the Word in public and letting it work in their lives. Juram uses it as the Bible of choice in his youth ministry. More on the Web: “My heart is just there, waiting Visit to learn how Wapishana church leaders fed for it, wanting to use it,” he says. their people with mother tongue In a sense, Juram represented Scriptures, as they awaited the the next generation while printed New Testament. translating the Wapishana Scriptures. He was the youngest member of the team, and recalls suggesting certain words get swapped out for others because they’d be better understood by people his age or younger. That’s one reason he’s a fitting role model for youth. Another is that the 31-year-old committed his life to Christ when he was about their age. “I made up my mind 16 years ago that I wanted to serve the Lord,” he says. Receiving the New Testament in his mother tongue has been a mountain-top experience on a journey that began with baptism when he was 15. Now he feels like he can hear God's voice clearly, “just as if He was a Wapishana man.” “It encourages me to have a closer walk with the Lord,” says Juram. "You don't have to think about what the English is saying—it's telling you what to do for God.”

Jerry feels the same way about the translation. “[In English] we don't know the deep meanings, or the beautiful meanings which we could apply to our lives,” he says. “We miss the main point.” “When I was young, I always liked church, but I never got to know the truth,” he added. That situation is one that many Wapishanas, both young and old, find themselves in today. When Jerry was offered a position working as a translator, he saw it not only as an opportunity to expand his own understanding of the Bible, but also to help others do the same. “It will be simpler for the people to understand the truth if it is in our own language,” he explains. As the Wapishana New Testament translation progressed, every once in awhile, someone would pop in at Jerry’s home, or stop him along the road, and ask questions about the Wapishana New Testament: “When are we going to see it? Will it ever come true?” Now that the Scriptures are available, Jerry's hope is that more and more Wapishanas will become interested in the New Testament, just like more are becoming interested in literacy. “As reading and writing in More on the Web: Wapishana is progressing, and Visit to read more and more people are about how visionary former school making use of it, this is also teacher Adrian Gomes is leading the drawing them to the Word of Wapishana Literacy Association to God," he says. spread literacy among his people.

, Like Son, Like Father, Like Son, Like Father, Like Son

Word Alive • Spring 2014 • 23

a day at a time a day at a time a day at a time aF day at a time a day at a time a day at a time a day at a time a day at a time a day at a time a day at a time a day at a time a day at a time a day at a time orty years of prayer support has bolstered Bev Dawson’s morale, preserved her health, and fuelled her Bible translation stamina. The Wycliffe missionary arrived in southwest Guyana’s rugged and remote Rupununi savannah when she was only 26. She’s now 66, and has spent many more years living amongst the Wapishana people she serves than in Ohio, where she was born and raised. Though she grew up in a church environment, it wasn't until high school that Bev realized that knowing Christ personally could change a life forever. That summer, she stepped forward at a Billy Graham crusade and put her faith in Jesus. Promptly joining the Navigators, a Christian club, that fall during her freshman year at Illinois State University, Bev heard about mission work. “I thought, ‘Who wouldn’t [do that]?’ To me, it was strange that anyone wouldn’t tell God they’d do anything He wanted. “I was more worried there wouldn’t be any work left by the time I finished college,” she explains, "because everybody would be obeying Christ, going wherever He wanted.” As eager as she was to head out on the mission field, Bev was able to buckle down and complete her four-year education degree. During that time, she learned to take her own advice about telling God she'd do anything He wanted. “I had to get to a point in my life where I told Christ . . . if His will was for me to stay home, live in the suburbs and work there, I was willing.”

Welcome to Your Life’s Work

Wycliffe’s Bev Dawson persevered through isolation, slow progress and colleagues’ deaths to serve with Guyana’s Wapishana people. 24 Word Alive • Spring 2014 •

As it turned out, God wasn’t willing that Bev settle in suburbia. But neither was it His plan that she drop out of college and head to the field immediately; rather, God used Bev’s years as a young adult to introduce her to her life’s work. The introduction wasn’t without humour. Who but God could have guessed that failing a Spanish class would ultimately lead Bev into a lifetime of service translating the Bible into another language? Needing to make up for her lost Spanish credits in order to graduate from university on time, Bev decided to take a summer course offered by SIL, Wycliffe’s main partner organization. “I got to learn the vision of Wycliffe, and this idea that so many people didn’t have the Bible,” she says. “As a young Christian, the Bible meant so much. It just all fit.” She returned to university and graduated a year later, then entered the workforce as a teacher to gain maturity and experience in her own culture. Another two years passed, but by then Bev was engaged and figured the Lord was changing the direction of her service for Him. When the engagement fell through, she had no doubt that God was pointing her back towards the vision of Wycliffe and Bible translation.



Wearing a purple shirt that Charlene Hicks sewed for her many years ago, Bev Dawson, 66, isn't fazed by the discomforts of life in rural Guyanaâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;including long trips between Wapishana villages in the back of the Hickses' old Toyota (in order to make room for the Word Alive team to sit up front!).

“It was such a special and gracious way for me to find where God wanted me to go, without having to weigh all the pros and cons.”

Hello Guyana

The next steps were soon made clear to Bev: first, a year of Bible school, then more SIL training, and finally, field orientation. What she didn’t know was that God had a divine appointment scheduled for her as well. It happened near the beginning of her SIL training. For one of their assignments, students were required to pick a language, research it and create a reading primer. A CrossWorld (formerly UFM) missionary by the name of Fran Tracy was also in the class, having returned from Guyana for another short stint of SIL training. She stood up and announced that she’d been working amongst Guyana’s Wapishana people. She was wondering if she could recruit one or two students to focus alongside her on the Wapishana language for their project. Never a fan of making decisions, Bev hadn’t felt enthused about going to the library and picking one language out of thousands. She volunteered to work with Fran. As their work progressed, Fran shared that she was in need of a co-worker in Guyana to help her with literacy and Bible translation. Bev’s interest was piqued. Despite an age gap spanning 23 years, the two soon agreed that Guyana was the place for Bev, and that Bev was the right co-worker for Fran.

“It was such a special and gracious way for me to find where God wanted me to go, without having to weigh all the pros and cons,” says Bev. After completing field orientation and raising her financial support, Bev finally made it to Guyana.

The Early Years

Fran had already done the initial linguistic study of the unwritten Wapishana language, and had gotten a good start on literacy and a translation of portions of the Old and the New Testaments. Yet their work was painstakingly slow, mostly because of their location. Minus any gazelles or kangaroos, the Rupununi is like an African savannah and the Australian outback rolled into one. Communication and transportation haven’t changed much there over the past 40 years. Bev and Fran had no choice but to mail their translation work back and forth to a translation consultant in Surinam in order to have it checked. And because of their remoteness, not only were they missionaries, but they also had to be their own mechanics, PR people and printers. Their work was a juggling act between promoting literacy amongst the Wapishana, translating the Bible, printing and distributing books, and fixing things.

Bev sits outside the Wapishana Translation Centre at San Jose Ranch and holds her satellite phone skyward in an effort to check email over the Internet. Communication in the Rupununi savannah is still mainly reliant on hand-carried letters and radio messages.

26 Word Alive • Spring 2014 •

Right Person, Right Time


wo years after Richard and Charlene Hicks died, Bev Dawson was once again in need of the right person at the right time to join her serving amongst the Wapishana in Guyana. That person was Kaye Froehlich (pictured below, right)— a “Jill-of-all-trades” missionary, whose resumé is chock-full of various support roles within Wycliffe, including finance, publishing and project management. “Kaye was just what the project needed right then because of her background and her experience,” says Bev. “She’d helped so many projects in Colombia and Mexico and various places,” Bev continued. “For her, it was finally a chance to be involved in one project and see it through to the end.” Kaye heard about the opportunity to go to Guyana at the SIL centre in Dallas, Tex., where she was working. Bev was there, following the Hickses’ deaths. She was bravely determined to continue the Wapishana New Testament translation, and Kaye caught her drift. “I thought, ‘We have to finish it,’ ” says Kaye. “ ‘We have to finish what they started.’ ” Always one to go where there was a need, Kaye’s decision about serving in Guyana was fairly easy to make. The “fleeces” she left out for the Lord were either wet or dry come morning— whichever one answered in the affirmative. In April 2007, she arrived in the Rupununi from the United States on a tentative two-year assignment. Six years later, she’s still going strong. “It was like a baptism,” Kaye says about her transition. “The other world faded and I was in this new world, in the Rupununi now.” In Guyana, Kaye soon found her place amongst “all the giants” as she calls them—translators like Bev and the Hickses, who have left linguistic legacies. “Translation work is a high calling,” says Kaye. It’s one she feels privileged to support any More on the Web: way she can. In the case of Visit to read about the Wapishana translation how visionary former school teacher project, Kaye has designed Adrian Gomes is leading the Wapishana Literacy Association to spread literacy Scripture calendars, among his people. composed prayer letters,

mentored typists from the Wapishana Literacy Association, handled the archiving of Wapishana books, and compiled illustrations for the New Testament. Currently, she is putting together Wapishana Bible studies for women. Tasks like these may define Kaye’s “role” in the traditional sense of the word, but in many ways she plays other, less official parts on the team: encourager and confidant. Despite contributing to various translation projects, she had never experienced the satisfaction of completing one—until the Wapishana New Testament, that is. “I like to be the cheerleader, saying, ‘Yes! We can do it! Let's go!’ “I like to be at the finish line,” says Kaye. Bev says it’s only expressive Kaye who can get a table-full of reserved Wapishanas laughing over lunch, a much-needed comic relief. But on a more serious note, both women are well aware of the spiritual warfare going on around them. “We are both quick to just stop and say, ‘Okay, let’s pray,’ ” says Kaye. “And so at the drop of a hat, we’ll do it as many times as it will take during the day.”

“If we needed to wire our house, we had to do it,” recalls Bev. “If our generator broke, we had to fix it. We even fixed computers.” “We just had to take each day at a time and trust the Lord,” she recalls. “And we had a lot of prayer support—lots.” Through the years, that prayer support combined with Bev’s own prayers have helped her navigate dusty roads and swollen rivers between Wapishana villages. They have protected her from malaria and other serious illnesses. And they’ve ultimately sustained the Bible translation work, which has slowed, but never stopped.

The first full-time Wapishana translator, Olive Williams (see “A Wife of Noble Character” on pg. 14), joined Bev and Fran in 1984. But when Fran needed to retire 10 years later, the future of the project—midway through the translation—hung in the balance. Bev didn’t know what God had planned. “I knew I couldn’t leave unless God showed me it was really finished, or if He called me somewhere else, or if He didn't send someone to join us,” says Bev. “And Rich and Char came.” Wycliffe missionaries Richard and Charlene Hicks arrived in 1994, and soon won the hearts of both Bev and the Wapishana (see “Inducted into the Hall of Faith," on pg. 6). The couple settled into their work, Richard as a linguist focusing on the translation alone, and Charlene in a supporting role. An enormous personnel growth spurt later, Bev not only had another expatriate partner—Charlotta or “Chic” Ruth—

Fast Forward

Slowly but surely, the work amongst the Wapishana continued, fuelled in part by prayers that the right people would get involved at the right time.

Word Alive • Spring 2014 • 27

(Above) At the Catholic church in the village of Karaudarnau, Bev shares words with Jacintha Joseph and husband Everesto, who have actively supported and promoted the Wapishana translation and literacy classes in their community. (Left) Students of all ages participate in Wapishana literacy classes throughout the Rupununi savannah.

“Even though we didn’t know why the Lord would allow this . . . if Satan’s working that hard to stop it, that means it’s needed.”

but also four more Wapishanas whom they’d recruited. “The Lord brought Wapishana people who were willing to commit and actually make the sacrifice,” says Bev. None of them knew that the extra help would one day compensate for losing two of their dearest members. None of them knew that the Hickses would be the ones to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Onward Christian Soldiers

adventure, she got one—one with loss and gain, exhaustion and exhilaration, tears and laughter. “I've been praying, especially these last years, that the Lord would keep me alive and healthy until it is finished,” says Bev. “It’s not that I’m indispensable, it’s just the logistics of it,” she explains. “If somebody else had to come in to finish, it would be harder, and now I don’t have that kind of pressure. I’m liable to live another 20 years, but if I don’t, I don’t.” For now, Bev’s work visa is good until spring 2015. She’s not sure which direction God will point her next, whether it will be even longer in Guyana or back “home” to the United States.

Don’t Doubt

Either way, she knows the time for her final departure will be right. “If the translation was finished five years ago or 10 years ago,” she says, “there wouldn't have been readers in every village. There When the Hickses were murdered in wouldn’t have been people anticipating it. There wouldn’t have 2005, Bev and Chic Ruth were visiting friends in South Africa. been [churches] ready to use it.” “I wanted to jump on the first plane and come back to be with As it is now, hundreds of copies of more than 30 Wapishana all the people who were grieving,” Bev remembers. books, both Old Testament and New Testament Scripture Because the criminals weren’t caught and their motives were portions and locally written stories are in circulation and in unknown, she wasn’t allowed to return until two months later. continual need of reprinting. The Wapishanas aren’t only reading Looking back, Bev considers it God’s sovereignty and grace that their language, they’re also spared her the trauma of being in Guyana during those dark days. More on the Web: writing dozens of new stories Upon her return, all that was left of the Hickses’ burnt home Visit to learn which tell of their history and were four walls and a foundation. An unbeliever might have how Wapishana church leaders fed culture. their people with mother tongue considered it a scene of total devastation. But through the eyes And to top it all off, Bev of faith and with the hope of Christ, what was left was something Scriptures, as they awaited the printed New Testament. says there is a deep, deep to build upon. hunger for the Word of God. The team reeled but hung on for dear life. “There always has been, for church leaders who are frustrated “Even though we didn’t know why the Lord would allow this, because they are reading [the Bible in English] and supposed to be we knew that what He wanted was for us to go on,” says Bev. teaching, but they don’t understand it, ” “It makes you realize this is really important to finish, because if explains Bev. “And there are also a lot of Satan’s working that hard to stop it, that means it’s needed.” people who know how they should live The Wapishana translators deepened their commitment to [biblically] and aren't able to do it. They the translation, so much so that there was a marked difference can only do it with the power of Christ. before and after the Hickses’ death. “We’re trusting, with God’s “We became a different kind of a team," says Bev. “It seems like promises, that when they can read it when they died, the [Wapishana translators] all stepped forward in their own language, that some of and said, ‘We'll see that this gets finished,’ which they never had those people will then really give their to think about before. lives to Christ, and be able to change.” “It really brought home to them how the Hickses were It’s a long time ago that Bev first felt her heart sing at the committed to the Wapishanas having the New Testament.” thought of becoming a missionary. Now, having been one for 40 The team thought of the Hickses every step of the years, Bev says she has been personally sustained by this principle: way forward, whenever some part of the translation was do not doubt in the dark what God shows you in the light. accomplished. “My responsibility is to obey God and do what He has me here “I tried to make sure we kept alive, for all of us, memories of for. The results are in His hands.” them,” says Bev.

“My responsibility is to obey God and do what He has me here for. The results are in His hands.”

God is Sovereign

In the seven years that followed, the Hickses’ home was rebuilt by a church team from the United States as a translation centre. It was enlivened once again with conversation over open Bibles as Bev and the Wapishana translators pushed forward. Finally, nearly 40 years after Bev arrived in Guyana, the translation was completed in 2012. If she had wanted an

Word Alive • Spring 2014 • 29

Carried Like Cassava The Wapishana New Testament was one of 25 New Testaments and Bibles dedicated this past year. By Janet Seever


od’s Word was presented to the Wapishana people like it was their most important food during a Scripture dedication this past November in Guyana, South America. Boxes of the New Testament were carried onto the stage in traditional woven back-baskets (see photo below) before 600-plus assembled Wapishana speakers. These woven containers are normally used to carry cassava, the Wapishanas’ staple food, in from their fields. The starchy tuberous root is a major source of carbohydrates. During the processional, one of six new songs written for the ceremony proclaimed: “God’s Word in the Wapishana language has arrived today.” It took its theme from Matt. 4:4, where Jesus said that man should not live by bread alone. Wapishana speakers, coming from at least 12 villages, joined in the joyful celebration held in Karaudarnau village in the far south of the language group’s area of Guyana. Twenty-one North American guests also attended the celebration, including relatives of Richard and Charlene Hicks, who were murdered while serving in the project (see the feature stories in this issue). “We can now hear God speak to us in our own language,” said one of the Wapishana village chiefs at the dedication. He exhorted his people to “read your Bible and let God speak to your hearts.” During the program, church leaders from all of the villages were invited on stage to open the boxes of New Testaments, then took turns coming to the microphone to pray God’s blessing on His Word and on those who read it. As each one came forward to pray, the rest of the leaders held their copies of the Wapishana New Testament in the air, praising God. After this, selected Scripture portions were read. Translation team members were thrilled to see church leaders on the stage find the passage in their own copy and read along! After the program, people rushed to the stage to buy a copy of the Wapishana New Testament. More than 120 copies were sold. Holding her New Testament to her heart, one older lady said, “I never believed I would live to have God's Word in my own language!”

Larry Dawson

One church leader said the Wapishana now have no excuse for failing to follow Christ. “We know how God wants us to live.” Long-time Wycliffe translator Bev Dawson reflected on the event, saying that during her first 20 years in the project, she wondered if the entire Wapishana New Testament would be completed. “Rich and Char Hicks’ arrival in 1994 sped up the project and gave hope that completion was an option. I still can hardly believe all that God allowed us to accomplish.” Dawson said having Rich and Char’s families attend the dedication “felt like Rich and Char were celebrating with us.”

Became Flesh in a New Way

The Wapishana New Testament was one of 25 New Testaments and Bibles dedicated this past year for nearly 7.4 million people through Wycliffe involvement this past year (see chart). Elsewhere, high in the Andes Mountains of Peru, more than 200,000 Eastern ApurÍmac Quechua people live in isolation from their countrymen. Long, winding roads with hundreds of sharp turns and switchbacks connect the capital city of Abancay to many remote rural areas dotted with Quechua villages. However, the Quechua people are no longer isolated from God’s Word. On April 20 and 21, they received their New Testament in a joyous celebration. People packed the largest auditorium to overflowing and many stood outside. Pastor Luis Cervantes, the leader of AIDIA* and the translation team, said, “The Word became flesh in a new way for the Eastern ApurÍmac Quechuas! Having the New Testament in their own language brings this truth into a whole new light for them. “We could see on people’s faces the happiness they felt for two reasons—first for the arrival of Scriptures in their own language, and second, because after 18 years, the Christian denominations *AIDIA—(pronounced like the English word “idea”), a Peruvian-run Christian organization that seeks to transform the Quechua of the ApurÍmac region, through their mother tongue Scriptures.

“To God be the glory!”

were reunited in a joint worship service. I believe that, as someone said, it was a historic milestone.” Many Quechua bought New Testaments, joyfully reading them with the literacy skills they had learned through AIDIA’s churchbased literacy classes during the past few years. Two Canadian Wycliffe couples—Justin and Tammy Hettinga, and Larry and Carol Sagert (Tammy’s parents)—worked with the Quechuas for 10 and five years, respectively. The Hettingas were thrilled to take a group of 23 people from across Canada, including Wycliffe Canada President Roy Eyre, to Abancay to celebrate the arrival of the New Testament. Eyre said it was an incredible experience to join a standing-room-only crowd of Quechua men and women for the five-hour Sunday celebration. “Though we didn't understand what they were saying,” he says, “the joy was contagious, and we couldn't help but lean forward with our brothers and sisters, attempting to catch every word. Our own hearts overflowed with both gratitude that we have access to God’s Word and conviction that we often take it for granted.” Canadians are helping to sponsor AIDIA financially through Wycliffe Canada, though more financial support is still needed. The translation team is now translating the Old Testament. Serving with Wycliffe U.S., David Coombs and his wife Heidi are consultants for the translation team. After the Abancay event, 11 more dedication events were held in more remote areas. The Scriptures are going quickly. Project leaders hope to sell out the 8,000 New Testaments to the more than 200,000 Quechua speakers living in 3,200 communities, with about 150 evangelical churches.

The End of the Beginning

The Buaba of Burkina Faso, numbering 186,000, celebrated their Buamu New Testament on April 20, 2013. A second celebration at the end of September was well attended by the local community. “Now that God’s Word is available in Buamu, we pray that it will have an impact on the lives of the Buaba,” says Canadian Sharyn Thomson, who has worked among the Buaba people since 1991. First serving as a linguist/translator and project leader among the Buaba people from 1991 to 2009, Sharyn became a consultant to the program in 2009. At that point one of the national translators, Pastor Emmanuel Bonzi, took over as project leader. This project has also been supported by Canadians; first through Partners with Nationals, and later through OneBook, both Wycliffe Canada partner organizations. Sharyn is encouraged that most of the people who were invited came to the ceremony, including government officials, pastors, catechists and denominational leaders. All of the churches in the area were represented, both Catholic and Protestant. “While the ceremony ‘officially’ brought this part of the work to a close,” says Sharyn, “I have also been reminded that this is not the end, but rather the end of the beginning.” The president of the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church in Burkina Faso challenged those present to make 2013 the Year of the Bible in Buamu. “Now that God’s Word is available in Buamu, we pray that it will have an impact on the lives of the Buaba—both for those who read it and those who hear it—and that lives and communities will be transformed as a result. To God be the glory!”

New Testaments* Location

World Translation Summary Scriptures translated with Wycliffe involvement were dedicated for 25 languages, spoken by 7.4 million people, since we prepared our last “Translation Update” in the Spring 2013 issue of Word Alive. The table at right gives a regional global breakdown of the affected language groups with their populations.

Number of Groups

Combined Total Populations















Total Mini-Bible** Location Pacific

Number of Groups 1

Combined Total Populations 4,350

Whole Bibles Location Americas Combined Totals

Number of Groups

Combined Total Populations





*In a few instances, Psalms and a few other Old Testament books have been published along with the New Testaments. **The Mini-Bible contains 37 chapters of Genesis, along with eight New Testament books.

Word Alive • Spring 2014 • 31

Beyond Words Translating the Gospel By Hart Wiens

Part 7

Metaphorical Language By Hart Wiens “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16)


ow we come to the words “his only Son.” Webster’s primary definition of son is “a male offspring especially of human beings.” In John 3:16, the pronoun his links this phrase back to God, making it clear that the reference is not to a human being but to God. The notion of God having offspring is extremely difficult to grasp. To the Islamic mind it is sacrilegious since it appears to bring God down to the level of humans. Christians interpret this as an anthropomorphism (using human images to explain something about God). Obviously the word son is being used to communicate something different than is conveyed by its primary sense in our language. There is a rich tradition in Hebrew and Greek literature, both inside and outside the Bible, with respect to the usage of this word. This background helped the original readers understand the reference to Jesus as the Son of God in a metaphorical rather than a literal sense. It signals a relationship of intimacy and respect similar to the ideal relationship between a human father and son. It also reinforces the traditional Christian understanding about the special circumstances surrounding the conception and birth of Jesus. There is no implication of a sexual union between God and Mary, the mother of Jesus. Obviously, incorporating all this background in a translation is impossible! John helps a little by adding “only.” The English Rich tradition in language is inadequate to capture the full range of Hebrew and Greek meaning communicated by the word μονογενῆ literature helped in Greek. For centuries this word was incorrectly in English versions as “only begotten.” the original readers translated Scholars today are virtually unanimous that this is understand the an unfortunate adherence to the Latin Vulgate by reference to Jesus as translators of the KJV and other early English versions, than an accurate representation of the meaning the Son of God in a rather of the Greek. All now agree that it means “only” in the metaphorical rather sense of “unique.” John reinforces his special use of the than a literal sense. noun “son,” clarifying that the relationship between Jesus the Son and God the Father was unique. He also wants us to see that there is a special, unique aspect to the relationship between Jesus and God. So he adds the modifier “unique” and in the written text we use a capital “S” on “son.” Translating the Scriptures into the thousands of languages spoken in our world today is complex. Translators in every age and in every language do their best to communicate concepts that are sometimes too difficult for words. In such circumstances translators are thankful we are not alone, but that we work in partnership with the Holy Spirit and with the Church.

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of articles reflecting on the verse John 3:16 word by word. The series illustrates some of the challenges Bible translators face as they seek to present God’s Good News in every language spoken on earth.

32 Word Alive • Spring 2014 •

Part 8

Logical Connections “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16)


he little Greek conjunction hina (ἵνα) is represented by the two English words “so that.” In translation we refer to tiny words like this as “discourse particles.” Few Bible commentaries discuss them. They are generally relegated to the Grammars and Lexicons where only the most serious Bible students are made aware of how complex and full of meaning they are. However, as translators we are very much aware of the large freight of meaning that these “particles” carry. They are the glue that holds a discourse together, connecting separate units into a meaningful whole. To translate them properly we must have a clear understanding of how they are used in Greek. Then we research grammatical possibilities in the language into which the translation is being done, which will make comparable connections. Since these particles function to link parts of a discourse, their precise meanings can only be discovered by examining them in context. The Greek Lexicon produced by Arndt and Gingrich, one of the best available resources, identifies at least four major areas of meaning for this particle, each with its own complex variations. In the present context, it is used to introduce the purpose for which God sent His only Son. The Judeo-Christian view of God assumes that His actions have meaning and purpose. Other cultures may not share this view. For example, in many animistic cultures the activity in the spiritual realm may be viewed as arbitrary and capricious. The challenge in translation is to find the word or combination of words that will most clearly establish the logical connection of purpose. Traditional English The challenge in versions attempted to capture this with one word, “that.” translation is to find the Unfortunately this is somewhat ambiguous and not as word or combination natural as it could be. Most newer versions use the phrase “so that.” This is an improvement both in clarity and in of words that will most naturalness. Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase captures the clearly establish the clearest rendering of all. “This is how much God loved the logical connection world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that. . . .” of purpose. The English-speaking world is fortunate to have a large variety of versions which all contribute to the clear communication of God’s Word. As Bible translators we invite those who have such ready access to the Bible to participate in the ministry of making it available to people in languages that still do not have even one word of Scripture. Reprinted with permission from the Canadian Bible Society’s “Translating the Gospel” article series, written by Hart Wiens, CBS director of Scripture translation. Hart and his wife Ginny served with Wycliffe Canada in a Bible translation project among the Kalinga people in the Philippines for 19 years. More recently, Hart has been a Wycliffe Canada board member.

Word Alive • Spring 2014 • 33

A Thousand Words A Wapishana Shower Curtain Jerry Browne and wife Delita reach up to kindly weave together a new "shower curtain" for their bathhouse in time for some Canadian guests to arrive— namely, the Word Alive team— who are grateful for the added privacy, but will still need to duck down a bit for their morning wash. See related stories, pages 6-29.

Natasha Schmale

34 Word Alive • Spring 2014 •

Last Word No More Grasping at Crumbs By Roy Eyre


've been meditating on Mark 7 recently as I participate as a guest author for Scripture Union's new online devotional ( There's a fascinating story of a time when Jesus escapes to take a break from his ministry to the Jews and tries to get to a house in a Gentile district. He's weary from a period of intense ministry, and He's feeling the need to take his disciples away by themselves to process the death of John the Baptist. But everywhere He goes, the crowds beat Him there. Even in Tyre and Sidon He's recognized and a Syrophoenician woman begs for her daughter’s healing. “And He said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.’ But she answered him, ‘Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs’ ” (ESV). Jesus is clear about His mission: He was sent to God’s children in the house of Israel, not to Syrophoenicians. But He adds the word, “first.” Jesus knows even in the early days of His ministry that the gospel will go to every people, every nation, every language. But the mission of God necessitates someone being reached first. At that point in time, there seemed to be a hierarchy. Today, at this point in time, there still seems to be a hierarchy, but not one that God is satisfied with. One language group has more than 70 per cent of all Bible resources at its fingertips. If you think about what we enjoy in English, you can picture a bounteous feast. We have one translation after another to choose from. We choose based on what speaks to us the most from among dozens of English versions. We have abundant commentaries and notes, and they're available in print and online. I researched the top English Bible translations in 2012 and found that no major translation team had fewer than 60 scholars. Seven out of every 10 Bible resources are in English. And, according to Bradford B. Taliaferro’s Encyclopedia of English Language Versions, there are more than 400 different versions of the complete Bible translated into English. How many resources and versions do you have available on your smart phone right now? But according to the newest statistics there are about 6,900 languages, and only about 500 have the complete Bible. Another 2,800 languages have portions. What does

On that day, the Buamu person is an equal with us [English speakers]. God speaks their language, too.

that mean? Anything less than the complete Bible means they know a little bit of Jesus' life but not the whole thing. They see glimpses of God's master plan but not the whole thing. They have scraps! They're grasping at crumbs! We’re sitting at a bounteous feast, and the rest of the world is grasping at crumbs. But there's hope. When books are written in a language like Buamu, spoken in Burkina Faso in Africa, it’s as if God begins to speak Buamu, and the people realize they are no less than equals with the dominant language communities around them. Bible translation has impact: languages are preserved, populations that have been in decline begin increasing again, students who begin their education in their mother tongue become more successful not only in their studies but also every part of life.

Wycliffe envisions a world where translated Scriptures lead to transformed lives among people of all languages. The book is not the end; we want to see transformed lives. And lives will always be transformed when they truly encounter the Word of God—whether that's in English or any other heart language. Luke 13 says that people will come from east and west and north and south to “take their places” in the Kingdom of God as worshippers of the Living God. They won’t be crashing the party. There’s a seat waiting for those from every last language community, and God is waiting until they're all gathered in. What do the words, “take their places” mean to you? I picture someone walking up to a chair with a little table placard that says, “Buamu.” Next to that one, someone from the Nivhaar language in Vanuatu. The Wapishana from Guyana (featured in this issue). The Syrophoenicians. And next to them English speakers. On that day, the Buamu speaker is an equal with us. No more grasping at crumbs. God speaks their language, too. Roy Eyre is the president of Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada.

Word Alive • Spring 2014 • 35

Deliver to:


PM 40062756

Help a young person engage Share your heart for in Bible translation, through missions . . . at Café Wycliffe. the Hicks Memorial Spiritual ant to meet people who have a passion for missions like you do? Café Wycliffe is the perfect place. Leadership Award. At our regular meetings in Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg


n honour of Richard and Charlene Hicks (whose lives and tragic deaths are featured in this issue), members of the next generation have the opportunity to grow more "fervent" in their walk with the Lord. Several times each year, the $2,000 Hicks Memorial Spiritual Leadership Award is given to a young adult who is passionate about the unreached peoples of the world, and who demonstrates a heart for missions, prayer and servanthood. The award can be used to take part in an internship or go on a short-term mission trip with Wycliffe—all activities that, if the Hickses were still alive, they no doubt would encourage. Six young people have won the award so far, including Andrew Langaert from Ontario, who served with the Naskapi language project in Quebec (see Word Alive, Spring 2013). We invite you to contribute to this memorial award, to honour the Hickses’ sacrifice and to encourage those who can follow in their footsteps of service. To donate online, visit and click “Donate Now Online.” In the “Details/comments” field, indicate that your gift is for the Hicks Memorial Award. To donate by mail, use the reply form in this magazine (see the line “Included is my gift to the Hicks Memorial Award.”) For more information, contact us today by: Email: Phone: Toll free 1-800-463-1143 (8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. mountain time).


and Toronto, you’ll meet young adults who are serving Christ around the world and hear from veteran missionaries and church leaders.

Stories, testimonies, music, conversation—and Chai tea—are all part of the Café Wycliffe experience. Oh, and don’t forget food, which may range from potluck meals to tasty international dishes you’ve never tried before! Explore for more information about Café Wycliffe, locations, upcoming events and contacts.

Word Alive Magazine - Spring 2014  

The Wapishana Bible translation team of Guyana presses on, despite the tragic murders of two key Wycliffe colleagues.

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