State of Pioneer Bible Translators – October 2010

posted by Greg Pruett on April 27, 2015

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor. 4:17-18)

During the last six months, a massive influx of recruits swelled our numbers again to the point of having more people in preparation than we have career missionaries overseas. God has blessed us with the biggest wave of new teammates in the history of our team! Over the last months, we have much to be grateful for and amazing progress, but we are also overcoming some significant challenges and grief too. PBT has suffered the loss of two precious teammates to cancer, PNG Branch Director Eunice Messersmith and Tim Wright, the Guinea Branch stateside chaplain. We have suffered enormous sorrow over the passing of our friends Eunice and Tim, but at the same time we know that they are now part of that great cloud of faithful witnesses listed in Hebrews 11. By faith Eunice and Tim invested their lives in service to God striving to see transformed lives through God’s Word in every language on earth. They now see clearly the object of their faith. We who remain behind must pursue the work with the same grace, peace, and strength as the example they lived. We must work while it is day for night is coming when no one can work.

PBT now translates the Bible for 19 million people speaking 49 languages in 10 countries. God has continued to bless us to a greater degree in both our finances and in new teammates coming to us. Four years ago we were working in 5 countries, now we work in 10. It seems likely that, over the next two years we will begin work in three more countries. We see God moving to open up even greater opportunities to serve him among language groups with virtually no church or Scripture. Pray for PBT to continue to grow in every way to meet the needs God is showing us!

Future Direction 2013-2019

We are now gaining a clearer picture of our distinctive purpose in the world. Every organization needs a unique purpose to maintain momentum. What great need would go unmet in the world if PBT ceased to exist? PBT remains the only Bible Translation agency that also has church planting as one of its original purposes. This makes PBT uniquely suited to translate the Bible for language groups that have neither church nor Scripture. We are considering setting a long range goal to do about 10 percent of the remaining translation projects in the world i.e. about 220 projects. We are imagining centering our future growth on sending teams that will translate Scripture and plant churches among the 900 least reached Scriptureless language groups in the world, the ones with virtually no church and no Scripture. (See the shaded area labeled “Extreme Spiritual Poverty” in the figure below)

These churchless, Scriptureless language groups are the most spiritually impoverished peoples on earth, and not coincidentally among the most physically under-resourced as well. No greater need exists in the world to attract the compassion of Jesus, and we believe Jesus is sending us to cross these language barriers with both church and Scripture. I envision that if PBT mobilizes enough people and resources to do 220 or so of these projects, then our partner Bible agencies and church planting missions will likely be able to plant churches and translate Scripture in the rest of the language groups over the next 40 years. That would represent a great milestone in the task of world evangelization: Churches with Scripture transforming every language group on earth by 2050.

When we finish our current 6 year plan at the end of 2012, we will need to have some audacious goals in place for our next 6 year plan from 2013 to 2019. How many of these projects should we strive to start in our next plan? Pray with us about what goal to set. I estimate that we would need between 1100 and 1300 teammates to be able to accomplish the goal of 220 projects. How long would it take to recruit that many teammates? We may want to aim higher. Pray that we could stay in step with the Holy Spirit as we dream together about what Jesus wants us to do. Imagine a world in which churches with Scripture are transforming every language group! What do we need to become for God to use us and our partners to arrive at that milestone by 2050? God has begun to lift our eyes to think bigger.

Building for the Bibleless

We are now overcoming one of the greatest challenges our team has ever encountered: purchasing and developing land and building our first permanent headquarters. We have long dreamed of having a permanent place of leverage from which to recruit, train, and send out our team. One of the unrealized building project plans on file for a permanent headquarters says, “To be finished late 1985.” We have been striving toward this goal for a long time, and now, a quarter century later we have 22 acres almost fully developed and a 5000 square foot office building roofed and closed in, but not yet completely finished.

We still face major hurdles even at this late stage. We have designed and built the project with the idea of minimizing ongoing overhead costs knowing that we can raise money more readily to build a new structure rather than for ongoing overhead costs. A metal roof, limestone exterior, and geothermal heating and air conditioning will make for a durable, attractive structure with low overhead and maintenance costs, but building a high quality structure in the US is costing more than our missionary minds could have possibly conceived. We set our sights on raising $900,000. We actually raised $1.3 million. The building, land, and land development may ultimately cost $1.6 million according to our current estimates. Some costs are coming in lower than expected, others higher, so we don’t yet know the bottom line.

I remember four years ago talking about beginning this project and not being able to imagine how we could ever raise even $300,000. So much has changed in such a short time. The task has been difficult, but we will succeed because from the very first day of this project God has shown us that He is the builder. He wants this building for His glory. Pray for us to find the resources to completely finish the construction. The long-term benefit to our team will be incalculable.

Growing the Team for the Bibleless

Two years ago we were growing around 10 percent annually. Last year we grew at 13 percent. This year our growth rate rose to 14.7 percent just as we envisioned –and just as we prayed. We are now ending our fourth year of a six year plan to increase the size of our team by 200 teammates from 185 to 385 so that we can meet all the needs identified in our current fields and start four new fields. In order to realize this growth goal by 2012 we needed to end 2010 with 288 teammates. Last year I began to doubt that this was going to actually happen, but by God’s miraculous power we will soar past this year’s goal by year-end. We will still need to grow at over 15 percent annually for the next two years to realize the goal. I no longer doubt that this is possible.

God has moved in amazing power showing that he is pleased with us and the plans he has given us to pursue for the future. As late as May of this year, we had only around 10 new recruits and around 12 more on the horizon. We didn’t see how we would end the year with the 45 new teammates needed. Since it seemed impossible, we started talking about how God, in his mercy, had given us a lull in the growth. We said that, maybe this was a time to consolidate our gains and finally get organized and write some job descriptions. But just to make sure, on May 26 and 27 we fasted and prayed for God to bring us the right new missionaries. We no sooner finished that time of corporate fasting than the flood gates opened, and we were inundated with high-quality new recruits. Just months later, we have surpassed 45 new recruits, and we are exceeding our personnel objective of having 288 new teammates perhaps by as many as 10 people before the end of the year.

Four years ago when we set the goal of adding 200 new teammates between 2006 and 2012, we had no other plan than to ask God to bring the people. Normally, just saying you want to more than double the number of teammates in a mission over the course of six years is not enough to see it happen. I testify that God has power beyond our understanding. We ask him to move, and he responds beyond all we could ever ask or imagine. Praise God! Please pray that we could begin to accelerate to even greater growth to end the six year plan with the missionaries necessary to start every project needed in our original fields of service and to start the many new fields He has chosen for us.

Financial Growth for the Bibleless

The last few years have been tough for nonprofit organizations. “A new ranking of the nation’s 400 biggest charities shows donations dropped by 11 percent overall last year as the Great Recession ended – the worst decline in 20 years since the Chronicle of Philanthropy began keeping a tally.” God has a different economy. PBT income miraculously increased 18.2% during 2009. Our total revenue from January through September of 2010 increased 13.6% over last year. The actual number of checks coming in increased 18.9% as more and more people have begun partnering with us.
Even though our income has increased, our general fund has been struggling because we have strategically chosen to increase our spending on communication and partnership development for PBT in order to leverage our fundraising capacity to a greater level for the future. In light of the bold goals developing in our future direction, we believe that God has led us to begin to accelerate our financial growth. We have begun to raise funds to 1) achieve higher productivity in our existing fields, 2) get started in new fields with greater momentum, and 3) build the infrastructure in Dallas that will move our team into position to minister to the greatest concentrations of Least-reached, Scriptureless peoples remaining in the world. God’s mission must move forward even in spite of the worst economic downturn in recent history. We trust that God will continue to show us favor as we follow His leading.
Since God answered our prayers so powerfully during the time of corporate fasting we observed in May, we held a three-day fast October 20-22 for our finances. We believe God will move miraculously to increase our financial growth to meet the need of the vision He has given us. Please join us in praying for God to provide the financial blessings needed to achieve the mission.

Translation and Scripture Impact

As the personnel and finances coming into PBT have been increasing, we are struggling to see a corresponding increase in the output of our team in the form of greater translation progress and Scripture Impact progress.
The readily quantifiable output of our team remains the number of verses moving through the translation process during a given reporting period. The graph above shows how many verses we have currently refined at each stage of the translation process. The area in bold shows how much we have accomplished since last June. We have drafted over 477,000 verses of the Bible, the equivalent of 60 New Testaments. We collectively processed 106,000 verses from one stage of the translation process to the next since last June. Over the last year, we drafted the equivalent number of verses of 12 New Testaments. Please pray for the Tay and Waran projects of Papua New Guinea to complete the New Testament. They are pretty much in the home stretch, but that can still take years. Keep praying for our translators to be inspired by God as they generate quality translations that have a powerful impact on their language communities.

Praise God

What a blessing to be able to participate in such a display of God’s glory and power! Don’t stop praying. Below we have listed our current strategic prayer requests.

Strategic PBT Prayer Requests

  • That God would inspire great progress in the 49 translations we have started
  • That God would show us how to maximize the impact of these scriptures to grow the Church
  • For perfect unity of purpose and heart in our team
  • That God would expand PBT International to send missionaries from other countries
  • For Tay and Waran projects to finish the New Testament –praise that Susu is published
  • For God to provide an accountant for the East Africa Branch and for Vanuatu and an accountant, various support and translation personnel, and a Branch Director for PNG
  • That PBT personnel would be allowed by the government to live among minority ethnic groups in Mainland Southeast Asia who do not yet have access to Scripture in their own language
  • That God will help get 24/7 prayer going for PBT, world evangelism, and Bible translation. Right now 40% of the hours in each week are covered.
  • For God to increase the number of PBT teammates to 333 in 2011 and 385 adults by end of 2012
  • That God would bring 1 more recruiter, 2 IT specialists, and 1 media specialist to work in the ISC in 2011
  • Praise that God has led us to four new fields well before the end of 2012 just as we prayed
  • For God to provide $2.25 Million for field needs and $1.25 Million for Phase III in Dallas between 2010 – 2012
  • That God would help us start projects to meet the identified needs in our fields so that PBT could become a team that translates Scripture for 33 million people in 69 languages by 2014.
  • For the construction of the building in Dallas in 2010 and for God to provide all the funds needed to complete the building
  • That God would empower us to develop the Forum of Bible Agencies IT to help provide enduring access to all languages
  • That God would bless PBT’s finances, strengthening the general fund to meet needs around the world, and that he would help new teammates raise support

That all may hear,

Greg Pruett
President, Pioneer Bible Translators

Greg Pruett

Greg has served as President of Pioneer Bible Translators since 2007. He, his wife Rebecca, and their three children served in West Africa for more than twelve years, completing the Bible in the Yalunka language. He has a degree in civil engineering from Texas A&M, and a Masters and a Ph.D. in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He also has linguistic training from the University of North Dakota and the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics.

twitter: @GregJPruett

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