The State of Pioneer Bible Translators

posted by Greg Pruett on January 30, 2015

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good
news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and
recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the
year of the Lord’s favor.  

—Luke 4:18-19

Trying to change the world requires an act of courage. I’m not talking about
changing the whole world—just the aspiration to make a contribution, to remove
the shadow of suffering from the life of at least one person or to give light
from God to someone who feels lost in darkness. The people on the Pioneer
Bible Translators team have an extraordinary vision that we and our partners
would one day see transformed lives in every language community on earth. We
tenaciously believe that God really can do anything in answer to our prayers,
and that Jesus’ Word really is the hope of every person on earth. We are
investing our whole lives trusting that God’s Word in the local language has
power to change everything for people. The mission God has given us requires
faith and hard sacrifices.That’s why it’s important to notice along the way
when God shows us that it works, that the world is indeed changing for some
people and lives are being transformed.

When Rebecca and I helped the Yalunka people translate the book of Luke
starting 20 years ago, we couldn’t know whether it would ever make a
difference. Last year I asked one man living a long way from my house in West
Africa how he came to follow Jesus. He answered, “Well, one day I was on a
trip. A guy called me over and gave me a holy book. I just loved the words of
Jesus! He said that he came for messed up people and not for the righteous,
because he came to make them righteous and put them on God’s path. Jesus
opened the eyes of the blind. He healed the lame. He raised the dead and saved
them. No prophet from any other religion ever did that. Only Jesus.” All he
got was the book of Luke in his language, and it changed his whole life! The
work is hard, but it does make a difference. Let’s not get tired of sowing the
seed of the Word of God as widely as possible, because God has promised that
his Word will accomplish his purposes.We are now translating the Bible together for 26 million people speaking
62 languages in 14 countries.

Pioneer Bible Translators continues to pursue our goal of finishing a total of
300 Bible Translation projects by 2050. Pray for God to give us the power to
accomplish the mission that each of these language communities would have
networks of churches using Scripture to grow, mature, and multiply!In the last
State of Pioneer Bible Translators report six months ago I asked you to pray
for 5 more recruiters. For years we’ve been functioning on the Gideon
principle in recruitment, doubling in size with just two or at times three
recruiters. It’s only by God’s power that so few people could impact so many
lives worldwide, taking us from discipling the Bibleless in five countries to
serving in 14 countries. We prayed for five years that God would add more
recruiters, but he did not. Finally the moment came last year when our
miraculous growth rate began to level off. I considered that maybe we had
finally seen the end of a great run.

In September we requested that everyone on our team pray that God would bring
us five new recruiters in 2014 to bring the next great wave of growth. I’m
pleased to report that God continues to bless us with a great movement of his
Holy Spirit. By April we had five new recruiters in our personnel pipeline.
Now we have the hope of being able to see God bring the right new missionaries
to meet our goal of having 740 teammates to send out to our 14 fields by the
end of 2018. Please continue to pray for God to bring the right new
missionaries to accomplish this mission.

Back in 2006 when I returned from West Africa to take on the job of president
of Pioneer Bible Translators, I knew that we could never achieve our mission
drawing only from the North American mission force. We needed more people. At
that time I started our first strategic prayer request list, and we all
started praying that God would help us send missionaries from other countries.
Recently God has begun to powerfully answer the last 8 years of unified, group
prayer. We now have registered sending agencies in Eastern Europe, Taiwan, and
Southeast Asia in addition to Canada and the US.
 We are also mobilizing new missionaries in Australia, Korea and the Philippines. We have our first two interns from Taiwan. We have several new missionaries working with us from different parts of Asia. God has begun to
make Pioneer Bible Translators a multinational sending agency. Pray for us to
wisely navigate the challenges of growing into a much more multi-cultural,
diverse team.

Building to Accommodate and Accelerate Growth

Now that the number of recruiters has increased from 2 to 7, we really need to
get additional office space to accommodate every kind of growth! To support
worldwide exponential growth, we need more space in our headquarters. Our
training office now has 4 people sharing 3 desks. It’s getting time to move
another person into my office again. That’s why we are raising funds to begin building the next phase of our facility expansion as soon as possible. As you read this, prayerfully consider how you will participate in the building of the next stage of our facility. For a more complete description take a look at my blog:


We have now drafted over 650,000 verses of the Bible, the equivalent number of
verses as 81 New Testaments. From 1976 to 2007 we had translated a draft of
almost 300,000 verses. In the last six years we have more than doubled that number. Our organization has begun to mature in our ability to generate translation results. If in the last six years we translated more than the previous 30 years, what might God do through us in the next six years? Between last year and this year we have completed 9 New Testaments and 1
 In the coming months we hope to complete several more New Testaments and a full Bible. Keep praying for our translators to be inspired by God as they generate quality translations that have a powerful impact on their language communities.

Here are some ways God used our team in cooperation with our partners so far
this year:

In Papua New Guinea
  • We recorded Jude in Apal, the first ever dramatized audio Scriptures in PNG
    using the software
  • We published the Tay New Testament
  • We sent curriculum kits to 11 schools in four language groups to help
    instructors teach beginner students reading, writing, and math in their own
  • We launched four translation projects implementing a new method partnering
    with experienced nationals using the Tok Pisin language for training and
    translation helps
In Eurasia
  • We translated and published materials for discipleship and evangelism in
    print, audio, and video to reach a people who follow another religion
In Asia
  • We started the first drafts of translation in 4 different languages
  • We dubbed the Jesus Film in a language in South Asia
  • We printed the New Testament in a major language in Southeast Asia
In West, East, and North Africa
  • We dedicated Toma Genesis through 2 Samuel
  • We recorded Ruth in Toma, the first ever dramatized audio Scriptures in
    Africa using the software
  • We printed the parable of the Sower from Luke 8 in Kono
  • We typeset the New Testament in 5 languages in East Africa
  • We helped gather disciples into churches among 3 people groups who follow
    another religion
  • We developed story sets for evangelism and discipleship in a language in
    West Africa
  • We translated and published tools for spiritual growth in 3 languages of
    North Africa
Strategic Prayer Requests

Please keep our list of strategic prayer requests posted where you pray so
that you can continue to lift up our team. Prayer is our strategy, so I invite
you as you read this list to lift these matters up to God:

  • That God would help us empower all 62 translation projects to result in
    networks of churches using Scripture to grow, mature, and multiply within 20
    years of starting
  • For perfect unity of purpose and heart in our team
  • That God would expand PBT to send teammates from many countries
  • For God to help us end 2018 with 90 translation projects total
  • For God to bring the right people for a total of 740 teammates by end of
  • For God to provide $1.6 Million for the Within Our Reach Campaign in 2014
  • That PBT would be allowed by the government to live among rural language
    groups in Mainland Southeast Asia
  • For peace and stability in North Africa to open wide the door for work there
  • That God will help get 24/7 prayer going for PBT. Right now 50% is covered.
  • That God would bring and fully fund 2 more recruiters, 3 media specialists,
    and 3 IT specialists to the ISC in 2014.
  • That God will increase undesignated giving to PBT so that our team can
  • For God to provide $91k to return the money borrowed from within PBT
    accounts to finish the Smith building (started as $400k in November 2011)
  • That God would help us add 8 new directors to the PBT board: one with
    financial capacity, one mega church pastor, one networker in the acapella
    movement of our heritage, one practitioner of international law, one
    security expert, one seasoned fundraiser, one church planter, and a campus
  • That we and our partners would see churches with Scripture transforming
    every language community on earth by 2050

How could I possibly express my gratitude for all the people who have poured
their lives into accomplishing these great mission results? Many have given
sacrificially of their resources to do the work. Others have left behind all
that they owned to transplant their families into some of the most challenging
war-torn malarial zones on the planet. Church planters and translators have
arisen from among the Bibleless peoples themselves, boldly reenacting the book
of Acts in their setting in the face of great opposition. Every day I have the
privilege of serving the most inspiring worldwide movement of donors,
missionaries, and local colleagues I have ever met. If we continue to work
diligently, unified for one purpose, I believe God will use us to cross the
last language barriers on earth with the message of the justice of Jesus. Now
more than ever I am convinced that we will see churches with Scripture
transforming every language community on earth in the coming decades.

That all may hear,

Greg Pruett

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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