By Richard Gretsky

Badi Vila is one of the Bible translators for the Tairuma people. Recently, in her home area of Kerema, Papua New Guinea, land has become a hot commodity. Companies from all over the world have been coming into the country to buy up and lease parcels of it, from individuals and from the government.

One day Badi’s landlord forced her off her property, claiming she owed more money than she would be able to come up with. Then he made Badi return and tear down her house so that he could sell the land.

From the Ground Up, Again - Badi Vila

Later that year, the same thing happened to the local translation headquarters. And its loss was a major blow to Bible translation in the area.

Yet, despite the setback, Badi Vila and her translation team pressed on, and the benefits of their dedication to the work began to outweigh the losses they’d seen.

On one occasion, Badi Vila and her translation helper, Gabriel, traveled to the town of Ukarumpa to attend a translation training course. While there, they told about their recent trip to Badi’s home church, where they had read portions of the Scripture (Genesis 22:1–19) they had translated into Tairuma.

After the service, a church elder stood to great them. He then began explaining why an elderly man who he’d been sitting next to had been crying. This elderly man had been so touched when he heard the Bible read in Tairuma that he was at a loss for words. Only tears would do.

As Badi Vila recalled the event, she said, “for so long, we the Tairuma people have been using the Taoripi and the Orokolo Bibles and hymnbooks in church. So for us to finally read something in Tairuma was a great breakthrough…[that elderly man] was rejoicing with us.” She later gave a copy to her mother—who started crying as well.

Although, the translation team has had to deal with losing their building and numerous other trials, seeing people who’ve been greatly affected by God’s Word makes everything they’ve had to face worth it. Now, Badi Vila and her team will not stop until they’ve translated all the Bible into Tairuma—for they know the value of having Scripture in one’s own language is not something that can be bought or sold, or even torn down. Only built up.

By Katie Kuykendall


“I think one of the most frightening days of my life was the day that Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. I was there; no, not just in Memphis; I was at the assassination.”

Bishop J. Delano Ellis, II, solemnly recalls the historic event. He was pastoring a small church in Memphis at the time, and drove a taxi cab to help make ends meet. Walter Bailey, owner of the Lorraine Motel where Dr. King was staying, called him to drive Dr. King, Jesse Jackson, and Ralph Abernathy to dinner in his cab.

“I was sitting in the cab, waiting, and Jesse Jackson had come downstairs to tell me, ‘Hey man, he’s coming right out! Just wait one minute; don’t go nowhere,’” Bishop Ellis said. “As I went to get out of the cab, I heard this loud ‘pop,’ which I thought was a car behind me backfiring. It wasn’t.”

Chaos ensued. “I was knocked to the ground by the Memphis Police Department,” he said. “I was beaten with billy clubs. I asked, ‘Why are you beating me?’”

The officer broke Bishop Ellis’s glasses and told him to get out of the parking lot.

“Is that your cab?” the officer asked. Bishop Ellis replied, “Yes,” and the officer hit him in the mouth.

“Say, ‘Yes, sir,’” he said.

Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. —Romans 12:18 (NLT)

Today, nearly forty-six years after that grievous day, Bishop Ellis is the founding general overseer of the Pentecostal Churches of Christ, a founding father of the Joint College of African-American Pentecostal Bishops, and senior pastor of the Pentecostal Church of Christ in Cleveland, Ohio. While visiting at Wycliffe Bible Translators USA, Bishop Ellis issued a challenge to the Church. In the face of discrimination, persecution, and other cultural trends that affect us deeply, what will your response be?

Ellis (1)

“Living the doctrine of love … living it out in the middle of adversity and persecution, unfair treatment … you have a big job,” he said. “How do we do that? It’s not easy to live out the love doctrine. Living the message of Christ is virtually impossible for us, but it’s possible for Christ.”

For a long time after the assassination, Bishop Ellis struggled to recover mentally and emotionally from the trauma. It started with profound fear, which gave way to anger, and then ultimately determination.

“[The persecution] didn’t affect my relationship with God negatively,” he said. “It empowered me. You learn in those circumstances to credit some things to trial. Where wickedness abounds, grace much more abounds. Trouble informs faith. Trouble teaches you who God really is.

“Lord, I’m in Your hands,” he prayed. “Your will be done, whatever that will is. Get glory!”

As a pastor, Bishop Ellis responded to persecution by becoming “an advocate for excellence.” He devoted himself to teaching his congregation to combat oppression with dignity, information, prayer, and the power of Scripture.

“It’s my lifeline,” he said about the Scriptures. “It’s all I live by, and it’s all I live for. And I live to walk up on somebody and introduce it to them. I’ve got to read it every day. It has new meaning, new life every time I go back to it.”

Wycliffe was honored to present at the Joint College of Bishops 2014 Congress in Cleveland, Ohio recently. Click here  to read about it. It has been our pleasure to enjoy Bishop Ellis’s wisdom and friendship, and we look forward to continued relationship with him and the Joint College of Bishops.


Wycliffe 101In the early 1900s, a young man named William Cameron Townsend (known by friends as “Cam”) was concerned that many people didn’t have the Bible in a language they could understand.  So in 1934 he started a small linguistics school to train people for Bible translation.

Cam named the school “Camp Wycliffe”—a tribute to John Wycliffe, who did the first Bible translation in English. By 1942, this tiny school grew into two partner organizations—Wycliffe Bible Translations and the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL).

Today, Wycliffe Bible Translators, SIL, and many other organizations around the world are working together on more than 1,500 translation projects. More than 500 languages now have the entire Bible and almost 1,300 have the New Testament. About 1,900 languages are still waiting for a Bible translation to start.

To learn more about Cameron Townsend and the start of Wycliffe, read A Man with a Vision.


By Catherine Rivard


“Ready? Go!”

Chad pressed the record button as Menseng, an Ura speaker, glanced once more at his script and began reading. Outside the booth, Chad watched the computer waveform of Mengseng’s voice while a second screen flashed the accompanying crucifixion scenes from the Luke Video. Boas, the Ura voice coach, along with half a dozen others, crowded close.

“Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with [Jesus] to be executed,” Menseng read from Luke 23 in Ura. “When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him.”

The room was silent. Not a man moved, each choking back tears as they watched a bloodied Jesus hang on a cross and whisper to them in Ura, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Watching Jesus captivated them.

For nearly ten days, the recording team had gathered in Gualim village to dub the audio for the Luke Video series in the Ura language. They’d had just three weeks to create fifteen episodes, a summation of the work, and an audio-only version. And they wondered if they’d be able to complete it all.

But it was soon obvious their worries were unfounded. Actors arrived excited and well-prepared, technicians kept the technical difficulties to a minimum, and the language experts worked with precision. The result was a record-setting pace!

“Is this [speed] normal?” Chad asked, worried. “Are we doing something wrong?”

“No!” the others laughed incredulously. “This is just a miraculously good recording session!”

Energized by their progress, the team spent the extra days refining the material until it was ready to show to the community—much earlier than normal! After the showing, one man approached Chad, wringing his hands enthusiastically. “I’m very happy about this video!” he said. “I’m very pleased with the work that has gone into it, and it is a good film!”

With God’s help and the diligent work of the translation team, the Ura people are now able to hear His truth in their own language!
Click here  if you’re interested in helping others hear the Easter story in their language!


By Bob Creson


“Don’t shove 1951 down their throats!”

This was Bishop J. Delano Ellis’ way of asking the bishops in attendance at the Joint College of Bishops to treat kindly the younger members of their congregations who may have new ideas. He said, “I was told dancing wasn’t biblical! Even Chapstick was suspect!”

He went on to say, “You think everybody’s dead who knows your sins … they may be, but they told me!”  This was his humorous way of letting each of us know that we are to approach our lives as believers with humility, not thinking we’re better than anyone else.

“The lines are blurring in our lives between what is holy and unholy,” Bishop Ellis said. He urged us to live holy lives, and to remember the things that never change:

  • God is holy.
  • God is without competition
  • He has no assistants.
  • He has made and sustains everything.
  • Jesus is the visible manifestation of the one God.
  • Jesus was born of a virgin.
  • He was the only sacrifice for our sins.
  • We are to live a holy and separated life.

Encouraging words from a pastor to pastors.

Bishop Ellis extended Wycliffe a great privilege by dedicating a portion of his address at the 2014 Joint College of Bishops to us and allowing us a prime-time presentation. Each year a special ministry is invited, but never has the ministry been given this much profile at the Joint College. We were there, at Bishop Ellis’ invitation, to politely suggest that we could add value to their own missions efforts because reaching unreached people should include Bible translation.

We opened with this video presentation that included a statement from Bishop Claude Alexander, a Wycliffe USA board member who also serves on the executive committee, giving leadership to the Joint College. If you have five minutes, I would urge you to take a look at our video! It will give you a snapshot of what we would love to be able to offer to these brothers and sisters.


Cameroon Cessna

Photo Credit: Rodney Ballard

A pre-flight check was in order for this Cessna 206 airplane, which—soon after— delivered 672 New Testaments to a people group in remote Cameroon.

By Chad Owens with Richard Gretsky

Upon arriving in Papua New Guinea (PNG), one of the things I first noticed was that most of the children weren’t smiling. I asked someone about it and learned that the children learn to not smile at a young age. Although they have hard lives, I didn’t find out exactly why smiling isn’t prevalent.

Since I had worked in children’s ministries in the US for years before moving to PNG, I went to work trying to make those kids laugh. I tried everything I could to engage with them so they’d laugh, giggle, whatever. I wanted them to hear me and be challenged to be more joyful.

Smiling's My Favorite - Kids Dressed Up

And while I have had some major successes in bringing smiles to children’s faces (none better than when we heard thunderous laughter erupt from a crowd of a seven hundred kids at a puppet show we performed to tell the story of the Gospel), I have also learned a crucial lesson.

In the people group I have lived with, it’s not always considered culturally polite to smile.

Why? I’m not exactly sure, but that’s not as important as the truth that things are just different here. If someone else came to visit, it would likely be the same for them: seeing a smile is rare, furrowed brows are common, and staring is utterly normal.

But, remember, all of that may not mean to them what it means to you. They don’t see those things as impolite. They’re not necessarily done in anger or lack of joy—in fact, in some tribes, showing teeth while smiling is considered an act of aggression.

Smiling's My Favorite - Kid Dressed for PNG Independence CelebrationTake that into consideration the next time you notice the differences between your culture and the culture of another group of people. They likely don’t have a similar perspective as you do. Actually, you can bet that being the case…but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. When we choose to learn from one another, we can grow and become stronger and happier—though, depending on where you’re located, that happiness may or may not be accompanied with a smile.


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