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.
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.
This story was written for the Wycliffe News Network.