God blessed me with Christian parents and an older sister who was a good example to me. Largely through their influence I came into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ at the age of 7.
Not long after that, my mother advised me to spend time each day in Bible reading and prayer, asking God to guide me in the major choices of life. Because I had seen her read her Bible and pray regularly, I took her advice. By the time I was 15, the Bible had become to me what it claimed to be, the precious Word of God.
When I was 15, the Lord clearly called me into missions with the words of John 21:17. From that day to this I count it the highest honor and the greatest privilege to minister as an under-shepherd to the King of Kings and Lord of Lord!
He led me to join SIM (Serving in Mission), an international, interdenominational, evangelical mission. I arrived in Addis Ababa, , on Jan. 4, 1973, to teach math and Bible in our SIM high school for Ethiopian students. From the beginning I had a strong desire to learn the language of the people. Since school had started in September and teachers were already in place, I was granted permission to study Amharic , the national language.
I began teaching part-time in March of that year, and then taught for a full year before God led me into Bible translation.
Ethiopia has at least 82 languages. Even now (2015), only 7 of those have whole Bibles and less than 50 have any Scripture at all available to them. I have had the privilege of helping with the translation of 3 New Testaments, one in Gurage (goo rah gay), spoken by about a million people, one in Aari, spoken by about 290,000 people, and one in Banna, spoken by about 73,000 people if we include the Hamer, who speak a slightly different dialect. Before we could begin translating, we had to find out all the sounds used in the language and decide on a writing system. Then we needed to make primers to teach people to read, and publish other books to encourage them to read. Most can’t read yet because they have never had books in their language. Those who have gone to school may read the national language, but they still need help to get started reading their own language. Recently the schools in the Banna area have begun using Banna as a language of instruction. We praise God for this as it means that the young people will be able to read the Scriptures in their heart language.
I helped with the translation of about 45% of the Old Testament into Aari before handing the project over to another organization. The entire Bible has now been translated and will hopefully be published soon. South of the Aari people are the Banna people, who (together with their Hamer neighbors) number about 73,000. Their language is somewhat related to Aari, and there is a computer program called CARLA (Computer Assisted Related Language Adaptation) which I used to get a rough draft of the Banna Scriptures from the Aari Scriptures. We now have a CARLA (rough) draft of Genesis, and Ruth, as well as the entire Banna New Testament.
After “commuting” between Ethiopia and Washington State for about 10 years in order to minister to my mother’s needs, I returned to Ethiopia to live and work among the Banna people. The Banna New Testament was published this year (2015). We have also produced other materials to encourage literacy and spiritual growth among the Banna people.
I officially retired in February, 2015, but I continue to help the Kafa translation team by doing the consultant (final) check of the Kafa Old Testament. We hope it can be submitted for publication before the end of 2017. Praise God that the Kafa language is also used as the main language of instruction for the elementary schools in the Kafa-speaking area, so the younger people will be able to read the Kafa Bible as soon as it is available.
I have many “life verses”. Two passages that are especially meaningful to me are Philippians 3:7-12 and Rev. 7:9-10:
“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Php 3:7-12
“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’ ” Rev 7:9-10
- I want to know Christ.
- By fellowshipping with Him in His suffering, by becoming like Him in His death, by experiencing the power of His resurrection;
- By fellowshipping with His people, knowing them and loving them and letting them know me.
- I want to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
- Contribute any way I can to making God’s Word available to the peoples of Ethiopia in their own languages;
- Encourage others by word and example to seek first the kingdom of God and to keep on keeping on.
I am grateful for the privilege to have a small part in what God is doing to bring His Word to the people groups who have never had it in their heart language.