John and I were in Tucson last week for a special staff retreat with The Seed Company, celebrating 25 years since the founding of this affiliate of Wycliffe, and the launching of its 1,500th language project. The four days impacted me more deeply than I expected. I want to share one story in particular that touched me and reminded me of why we keep on doing this work.
Mart Green is an heir to the Hobby Lobby fortune, and a huge investor in Bible translation through The Seed Company. He joined us to celebrate our 25th year milestone, and he described an event that was so significant to him that he now divides his life into two periods, BG and AG, “Before Gustav” and “After Gustav”:
“I was really excited. I had donated $50,000.00 for the printing of the New Testament in a language in Guatemala, and I was on my way there to attend the dedication ceremony. On the way, I came to find out that there were only 30,000 speakers of that language! And it got worse: there were only 1,000 Christians among them. And worst of all: only 400 of those believers could read! I was beginning to really question whether I had invested my money wisely. When I got to the village where a couple had invested 40 years of their lives into this translation, and heard their stories of death threats and sickness and struggle, I wondered how anyone could spend their lives like that for so little return on their investment.
“Then the day of the dedication came. The first recipient of the Scriptures in his language was a poor pastor named Gustav. He was so overcome with emotion that he could not speak. His shoulders shook with his sobs. I snapped a photo of Gustav receiving the Scriptures, and you have a copy of that photo on your tables.” [See the photo above. There weren’t many dry eyes in the room at that point.]
“I heard the Lord whisper to me, “Is this a poor return on your investment?” and I was shaken to my core. Later that night, in my hotel room, I recommitted myself to whatever God wants me to do: “Lord, I don’t want to be a poor return on your investment.” I have never been the same.”
John continues to work remotely with the Chibi project in Brazil, and is planning two trips this year to do face-to-face checking. I met up with colleagues at the retreat who would welcome some linguistic help in the languages they’re working with. And your investments of prayer and resources make all of it possible. On behalf of more people than we know, thank you so, so much.
Less than 1600 languages to go. Let’s get that number to zero – one Gustav at a time!