The Way to Micronesia

Do you ever wonder how God weaves all of our unique experiences together for his purposes?  Read this story from my trip to Micronesia in May of 2013 to learn about one families experience. 
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For Peter and Robin Knapp, the way to Micronesia has been long, with many unexpected twists and turns. The paths of those who choose to follow Christ are never dull, as Peter and Robin can readily attest.

Peter Finds His Place

Knapp Family

When Peter, who grew up in Germany, was nearing high school graduation, he decided to pursue the study of theology. But he faced a problem. He knew pastors delivered sermons once a week, but he didn’t know what they did the rest of the time.

That night as he prepared for bed, he prayed, “God, if you’ll show me what it is [pastors] need to let people know, I will study theology. Otherwise I’ll study something else.”

At that time, everyone in Germany was being drafted.  Because Peter was a conscientious objector, he did alternative service at a Christian retreat center run by the Liebenzell Mission. He heard the gospel as he had never heard it before, and it puzzled him.

He decided to pay a visit to the center’s counselor. There Peter committed his life to Christ. “I knew I had new life. And I knew then what it was that other people needed to know.”

Peter applied for seminary in Switzerland and soon found joy in studying the Bible in its source languages. But Peter still did not believe he had the ability to pastor.

He heard missionaries speak about Bible translation and wondered if somehow that could be a place for him to fill. Could he somehow help missionaries with languages?

Soon after he attended a weeklong seminar presented by Wycliffe Germany. After the regular sessions, they taught people how to learn the sounds of languages and how to learn unwritten languages and develop alphabets for them.

Peter knew he had found his place. He applied at once to Wycliffe and was accepted.

Robin’s Road

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Far away in the north-central US, Robin attended church regularly with her parents. At six-years old she decided she needed to become a follower of Jesus.

Robin’s family then moved to the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific for five years because of her father’s employment. During that time they met some missionaries to Micronesia and had Micronesian friends.

Years later, at about age 16, Robin went to Ecuador as an exchange student. At that point, God had already been speaking to her about serving in another country.

While Robin was in college, she began dabbling in languages, graduating with a BA in Spanish. She also learned some French and Russian.

After reading a book about Wycliffe’s founder and hearing a Wycliffe pilot speak at a nearby church, Robin decided to join Wycliffe USA. She went to study linguistics at SIL in the south-central US. There she met Peter.

At last their paths had dovetailed, and Peter and Robin began on the next part of their journey as husband and wife.

Siberia

Robin Knapp with friend

Robin Knapp with a Khakas friend from Siberia.  Photo courtesy of Peter & Robin Knapp

For the first seven years of their ministry together, Peter and Robin worked on a translation in Siberia. A friend from Khakasia (a small province in eastern Siberia) urged them to translate the Bible into her language.

As the Siberian work progressed, the Knapps’ friend would periodically tell them she’d been applying what she’d been learning from scripture. She said, “I think these principles are actually working!”

From Snow to Sand

When the Knapps’ work in Siberia came to a close, they were not sure where to go next, but God opened a new door. The SIL* Pacific Group was establishing a minor in Bible translation at the Pacific Islands University (PIU) in Guam, and Peter and Robin were invited to serve as instructors.

“It never dawned on me that I might go back to Micronesia,” explains Robin. “…for me it was like returning home.”

Peter Knapp teaching at Pacific Islands University

On the same day Peter and Robin agreed to join PIU’s staff, the SIL Pacific Group director forwarded them a request from the Mwoakilloa language community.  They were asking for someone to help them with their Bible translation program. Peter and Robin agreed to be their advisors.

“That just blew my mind,” Peter says. “They could have started their project on any day, but they started it the very day we called to accept positions at the university.”

Since arriving in Micronesia in 2012, the Knapps can see how, even years ago, God was weaving Micronesia and PIU into their lives.

“I thrive on seeing students begin to understand,” Peter says. “This is the best thing I can do.”

Robin agrees. “Scripture is the only thing you can ever really leave someone.”

Article by Kristel Ortiz
Photos by Elyse Patten and Heather Pubols

SIL International is a faith-based nonprofit organization that serves language communities worldwide.

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This story was written for the Wycliffe News Network.

Appointed for God’s Purpose

In March of 2012 I traveled to DRC.  I interviewed Gaspard & Marie Yalemoto, and spent time visiting with people in their home area. Their story continues to challenge me to remember that God’s purposes will not be thwarted.
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Content with the path they had chosen for their lives, Gaspard and Marie Yalemoto spent many years ignoring the suggestions of friends and family members to consider something different. But God used the civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo* (DRC) which began in 1996 to redirect their journey.

Running from God’s Call

Gaspard and Marie Yalemoto

Gaspard and Marie Yalemoto grew up in rural communities in north-western DRC, in central Africa. Their faith journeys began when they were both young.

Although he grew up in a pastor’s home, Gaspard didn’t fully embrace faith in Jesus until he was an adult. Still, he hated the idea of becoming a pastor himself. Marie attended a Catholic school, and at a young age she was invited by the sisters to become a nun. However, she never followed their prompting.

The pair met when Marie was studying to be a teacher, and Gaspard was serving on the school faculty. When she went on to University to study rural development, the couple began to write to each other. Soon after she completed her studies, they married.

Gaspard and Marie both sensed God had a unique work for them to do – but they had other ideas. Several pastors challenged Gaspard about his choice of career, and some even offered to pay for theological training. But Gaspard only desired to study engineering.

The Day Everything Changed

In May 1997 rebels stormed into Gaspard and Marie’s community and rounded up community leaders. Gaspard was among those captured and taken into the rainforest for execution.

Every night, the rebels shot some of their captives and brought the corpses back to the village the next morning. And every night, the soldiers prepared to kill Gaspard, but began arguing among themselves and instead let him live.

Then one evening, while Marie was praying and fasting with her mother-in-law and other believers, a pastor had a vision. He believed God wanted Gaspard to become a pastor. The pastor went to the rebel commander and told him to release Gaspard. The commander refused, but the pastor persisted.

Gaspard and Marie at church in Bili

“God needs that man,” the pastor responded. “Free him. If you don’t, you are going to have problems.”

Without any further explanation, the commander released Gaspard on one condition: Gaspard must complete a three-year theological studies program or he would be killed. A rebel soldier drove Gaspard in a military vehicle directly to the local theological college. Marie followed on foot with other believers from the community, walking for 64km to join her husband

The new direction in their lives was a source of joy: “Gaspard was supposed to die, but God protected him,” said Marie. “God changed the path that he was supposed to take.”

But it was also hardship: “I would say, ‘No, I want to die because I suffered too much,’” explained Gaspard. “I would ask myself, why am I here? What am I going to do?” Often, he wanted to pack his bags and leave.

The Mono Translation Project

Mono translation team

It wasn’t until just before he completed his studies, that Gaspard could see God’s plan more clearly. The founding churches of ACOTBA-SUBO** were seeking native speakers to head up the Mono Bible translation. that had stalled during the war. Mono is the mother tongue of about 160 thousand people including the Yalemotos. Gaspard and Marie were an obvious choice to participate in the project.

The pair received two years’ additional training at the Bangui Evangelical School of Theology (FATEB) in neighboring Central African Republic, learning how to clearly get the meaning from the original biblical text into another language.

Afterwards, they returned to DRC to start translating the Mono New Testament. Gaspard became the leader of the four-person translation team, and Marie worked as one of the translators. The Yalemotos also worked on literacy programs and taught church leaders how to effectively use translated portions of Scripture. As some of God’s word became available in Mono, the Yalemotos saw people returning to God – just as they had done.

Leaving a legacy

Reading Mark in Mono

One day in March 2014 shortly after completing the first draft of the entire Mono New Testament, Gaspard awoke not feeling well, and by the next afternoon he died. His unexpected death was most likely caused by cerebral malaria.

His death was devastating, but God is still working through Gaspard’s obedience. The production of the first New Testament in the Mono language has continued, now, under Marie’s leadership. The team hopes to distribute the first copies as early as 2015.

* Between 1971 and 1997, the Democratic Republic of Congo was called Zaire.

** Association Congolaise Traduction de la Bible et Alphabétisation – Sukisa Boyinga (Congolese Bible Translation and Literacy Association – Conquer Ignorance)

Article by Jessica Whitmore
Photos by Heather Pubols

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This story was written for the Wycliffe News Network.

Drawing is a universal language

We’ve produced a new article, with the help of a volunteer from the Netherlands, about an artist who created a comic book about Jesus that many ministries have used and translated. Willem’s story is so encouraging to me.  I hope you will be encouraged by it as well.
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The young Willem de Vink was “an annoying rascal,” by his own admission, and spent most of his free time roaming the streets. He grew up in Utrecht, Netherlands, in a turbulent household that sparked years of bad behaviour.

“My parents often quarrelled and fought with each other,” says Willem. “As a child I took these tensions with me out to school and the street.”

At the age of nine, he was involved in a car accident and was in a coma for several days. When he came home, he was bed-bound. And that’s when he started drawing.

Finding Jesus while Drawing

Willem de Vink shows some of his artwork

Willem began creating illustrated story booklets, and played ‘publisher’ under the name ‘The Vink’. His stories were fantastical, exciting, adventurous – and all about Jesus. Jesus filled the gap left by Willem’s father when his parents divorced, and Jesus helped the young Willem learn to love himself and start loving others. The more of God’s grace and healing Willem experienced, the more the themes came out in his cartoons.

As a teenager, Willem travelled with his mother to Wycliffe UK’s training centre in England.  He observed some of the linguistics and translation courses that were in session. It sparked an interest in languages and the idea of sharing God’s word in other cultures.

Everything came together when Willem was an adult.  After working for period at an advertisement agency, he discovered that what he really wanted to do was to produce a comic about the life of Jesus that people all over the world could use. So he quit his job to work on it full-time.

Developing the Comic Book

“This was my dream, my vision, and I love Jesus,” he shares. “I wanted people to get to know my Jesus, my hero.” Willem spent a year and a half developing the 64-page comic.

But it was a complicated business. Wycliffe staff pointed Willem towards several problems he might encounter. While drawings and pictures communicate more universally than written words, those who are unfamiliar with cartoons may not understand them immediately. Certain effects and close-ups need to be avoided. If you only draw a head, for instance, readers not familiar with printed pictures and drawings will think the head has been cut off.

Willem de Vink looks through his comic bookHe had to pay close attention to certain cultural habits in crafting his drawings, like which hand is used for eating and clothing lengths. And, he chose to use a darker skin tone for Jesus because dark skin tones are common in many countries.

Colour is a strong feature of Willem’s comic. Red refers to the blood Jesus shed, and Jesus stands out as the only person linked with the colour. After the resurrection, Jesus’ mantle is symbolically coloured white. And colour develops within the story. The first part is mostly in blue and green. As the tension rises, the colour changes to orange and red, and then becomes dark and brooding during the crucifixion.

It was a marathon effort. Finally, in 1993, with the help of Wycliffe Netherlands – and through the Universal Language Foundation that Willem founded with his wife – the comic was published. Later, 34 Bible lessons were added to the book and six years after that Bible translation teams began to translate it into local languages.

Jesus speaks our language

Jesus Messiah Comic Book is in 65 languagesToday, the comic book Jesus Messiah is in more than 60 languages and is available to language communities anywhere in the world that want to translate and use it. In many countries, it’s used as a literacy tool. Recently, someone in Sudan wrote to tell Willem they had grasped the gospel message for the first time through the comic – and said, “Now, Jesus has become one of us, because he speaks our language.”

Willem–who calls himself a speaker, writer and cartoonist–is humble about his achievements. As he describes it, “I love Jesus, and I can draw. So [I made] a comic book about Jesus.”

He shares that John 15:8 has always been meaningful to him. It says, “My Father’s glory is shown by your bearing much fruit; and in this way you become my disciples.” (GNT)

“God begins to shine [when] you start to bloom and fruit begins to show,” Willem explains. “You are a unique person. …Others will enjoy what you do and who you are.”

And what about the comic book?

“The comic book has actually become its own missionary,” explains Willem. “It does its work. And sometimes, I am following it.”

Article and photos by Geert Hoekstra. 

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This story was written for the Wycliffe News Network.

First Christmas in Europe

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This our first Christmas in Europe, and this region is full of things to see and do. We’ve never experienced anything quite like this.  The lights and decorations in the bigger cities are amazing.

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Then there are the Christmas markets each with its own specialties – raclette, ginger bread, crepes & waffles, sausages.

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Kandern is also beautifully decorated.  My sister and mother came out to share the holiday with us, so we were able to experience some of the local Christmas culture together.

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My favorite Christmas market was in Strasbourg (about 1.5 hours away).  It’s amazing – so many lights, decorations with several Christmas markets in different parts of the city.

This is a Christmas we’ll remember for a long time.

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Gifts of true joy

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Would you like to give some great and meaningful gifts this year?

Wycliffe USA’s gift catalog offers some great ways to partner with Wycliffe’s ministry by funding various project needs: print Scriptures, provide training or resources for translators…support the ministry of Wycliffe missionaries…like us!

This page features our ministry and links from there will let you explore other cool gift possibilities.

Give a gift of true joy… https://www.wycliffe.org/giftcatalog/partner/FBA2CB-1

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