“Jesus Speaks Sena!”

In 1993, my wife and I went to Mozambique to serve among the Sena people. I noticed that our Sena pastors preached in Sena but read the Bible to the people in Portuguese. Portuguese is the official language of Mozambique, however only those who have finished at least primary school can understand it well. But most women haven’t been to school at all, and many men haven’t finished. So, when the pastor read the Bible to people in Portuguese, most understood little or nothing.  

So, I began searching for a New Testament in the Sena language. The only one in existence was a paraphrase produced by the Catholic Church in the 1980s, called Mphangwa Zadidi, that is Good News. I got a copy and began reading aloud from it whenever I preached. I will never forget how the people reacted the first time I read the Good News to them in Sena. They got quiet, leaned forward to hear better, and then exclaimed, “Bvesa! Yesu asalonga Cisena!” “Listen! Jesus speaks Sena!”

After that, when I visited a church I always took copies of the Sena Good News to sell. People crowded around: “I want to buy the Good News in Sena!” They cost $1.00 each—a lot of money for most people. But Sunday after Sunday, they bought every copy I had. Unfortunately, by 1998 the supply was exhausted and no reprint was planned. People would ask me, “Did you bring copies of the Good News in Sena?” They were so disappointed when I told them, “I’m sorry, there aren’t any more!”

But God was already working on a new way to get His Word to the Sena people in their language. In the mid-1990s, SIL, a Wycliffe affiliate, began a project to produce a fresh translation of the New Testament into Sena. After years of translating, checking, testing, and printing, in 2008, the Cibverano Cipsa, the “New Testament” in Sena, was published. Today, it’s available in book form and also online in text and audio.

Having God’s Word in their own language changes people’s lives! But we missionaries can’t do the job of Bible translation on our own. We need partners to help us. There are two ways you can partner with me as I serve with Wycliffe Bible Translators. First, you can become a prayer partner, someone who commits to pray regularly for me and the work of Wycliffe Bible Translators. Your prayers will play a vital role in helping translation teams make God’s Word available to the 128 million people, speaking 1680 different languages, who still don’t have any part of the Bible in their language.

Would you be willing to become a prayer partner with me in my Wycliffe ministry? If so, please email me at phil_troutman@wycliffe.org to be added to the list.

Second, you can become a financial partner, who commits to making regular financial contributions to Wycliffe to sustain me in my ministry. Your gifts make it possible for me to work full time as an anthropology consultant for Wycliffe translation teams. Would you be willing to become a financial partner for my Wycliffe ministry? If so, go to wycliffe.org/partner/philtroutman to initiate your partnership.

If you’re not yet sure what part God wants you to play in the work of Bible translation, would you pray and ask Him what He would have you do? Thank you so much!

Read It Every Day!

Christians should make the Bible a vital part of their lives. One way to do so is to read the Bible every day. Here’s how to get started: (1) Obtain a Bible in a modern translation, such as New International Version (NIV) or the New Living Translation (NLT). (2) Set aside a time each day to read; 10–15 minutes is fine. (3) Read one titled section of a chapter. I suggest you start reading in the New Testament book of Luke, followed by the book of Acts. (4) If you miss a day’s reading, don’t fret about it. Just pick up the next day where you left off.

If you are ready to try reading the Bible every day, please email me at phil_troutman@wycliffe.org to let me know so we can read together!

“Pray Without Ceasing”

Near the end of his first letter to the Thessalonian church, the apostle Paul gives them—and us—these instructions: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-22). That’s pretty clear, isn’t it? It is God’s will for us to rejoice, pray, and give thanks. So each month, I want to share with you 1) an answer to prayer, so you can rejoice with me, 2) a prayer request, which you can lift up to God with me, and 3) a reason for us all to give thanks to God together. So for January 2023,

  1. Rejoice with me that God has provided me with the first of people to be financial partners with my Wycliffe ministry. Currently, their monthly giving provides 15.9% of my ministry budget needs.
  2. Pray with me that God will call more Christians from around the world to the work of Bible translation, so that translation projects can be started in the 1680 languages that still have no part of the Bible at all.
  3. Give thanks with me for the 6,000+ members of Wycliffe Bible Translators around the world who are giving their lives and careers to help make God’s Word available to everybody in the language they understand best.

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Copyright © 2023 by Philip H. Troutman. All rights reserved.

The adventure begins … again!

Welcome to MissioPhil, my website and blog as a member of Wycliffe Bible Translators. Keep reading to learn more about my new adventure in mission!

Let me start by explaining the title of this post. You see, while I am new to Wycliffe, I’m not new to missions. My wife, Paula, and I spent 18 years as missionaries in Africa. But in May 2016, due to circumstances beyond our control, we found ourselves back in Bethany, Oklahoma, asking God, “What are we supposed to do now?” It looked like our adventure of missionary service was over!

Phil and Mozambican leaders, Manica province, Mozambique, May 2004

The years since then have been some of the most challenging of our lives. By God’s grace, not long after our return to the States, my wife, Paula, found a job at Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, Oklahoma, where we make our home. Even though it sometimes drives her crazy, she loves her work and cherishes the impact for Christ she can have on teachers and students at SNU.

For me, the transition hasn’t gone so smoothly. In the last six years, I’ve done all kinds of things. I pastored an inner-city mission for a year, but it eventually closed due to a lack of finances. I taught a year of high school Spanish, but high school sophomores and I just aren’t in sync! I became an instructor at Southern Nazarene University and Dallas International University and still teach part-time for both schools. Finally, I found a part-time job with INTEGRIS Health as an on-call hospital chaplain. I still serve there, and I’m grateful for the experience. But chaplaincy isn’t the best fit for me. I knew God was still at work in my life, but I couldn’t figure out where He was leading. I prayed repeatedly, “Please, Father, show me what I’m supposed to do!”

I have a Ph.D. in Intercultural Studies. I love other cultures, and I love Christian missions. Even though we are no longer missionaries to Africa, my heart told me that God was still calling me to missions. Since I couldn’t work overseas, I thought maybe I could train future missionaries at a college here in the States. So during 2021, I applied to teach missions at ten Christian universities across the country. But none of them hired me. By late 2021, I was completely discouraged. I was beginning to think my serving in missions again was just wishful thinking, and I’d end up working in jobs where I didn’t fit for the rest of my life! But even though I couldn’t see it, God was still at work in my life. In His timing, a door was about to open. Here’s how God made it happen.

Our younger son and his wife serve in central Asia with a Christian NGO (non-governmental organization) that specializes in translation, linguistics, literacy, and preservation of indigenous languages around the world. In December 2021, they had to go to Germany for a training conference. Paula and I were invited to go to Germany for a week to babysit our granddaughters. How cool is that! During that week, we ate our meals with the conference participants, and I was graciously included in some of the sessions. As I met and talked to missionaries from several countries, I realized I hadn’t felt such a sense of belonging since we left Africa. Several of them counseled me, prayed with me, and encouraged me. Others gave me names of contacts in their organization. By the end of that week, I was sure God was opening a door for me to serve Him in a new way. Now it was up to me to take the step of faith and walk through the door.

So in January 2022, I applied to join the same Christian NGO my younger son and his wife serve with. To my surprise, they said they were interested in me! By April, I had been interviewed, vetted, and hired to serve as an anthropology consultant (more about that in a future blog post). I would work remotely from my home in Oklahoma, just ten hours per week to start. My first assignment was to do the layout of a bi-monthly anthropology newsletter the organization produces. I also began going through a training program for new consultants.

I could hardly believe it! After five years of wondering whether I would ever serve in a cross-cultural ministry again, God had me serving with a Christian NGO that served people by preserving and promoting indigenous languages in eighty-four countries around the world! And what is more, my supervisor informed me that I could start working full-time as soon as I could raise my own financial support.

“Wait … what?” That’s right, the members of this organization work full-time while also raising funds for their own salaries and expenses. Most often, they do this by becoming members of a missionary sending agency which then loans them back to the NGO. So, I needed to find a missionary sending agency that would let me join them specifically so that I could go work full-time for someone else. I had no idea where to start looking for an agency like that. But God always has a plan for those He calls. As I mentioned above, the NGO I was serving with does translation—frequently Bible translation. While several missionary agencies do Bible translation, the largest and most well-known is Wycliffe Bible Translators. Since its founding in 1942, Wycliffe teams have translated the New Testament into more than 1,000 languages. I talked with several members of Wycliffe I knew personally, and they all encouraged me to apply.

So, in May, I applied to become a member of Wycliffe Bible Translators. Joining Wycliffe is a fairly involved process, with background checks, interviews, and questionnaires. But things went smoothly, and on September 1, 2022, I became an official member of Wycliffe Bible Translators USA. It took a while to sink in: “I’m finally serving in cross-cultural missions again. Praise the Lord!”

Now you know why I called this blog post, “The adventure begins … again!” So, what’s next in this new-old adventure? Right now, my task is to seek out and gather a group of Christian individuals and local churches that God is calling to partner with me and Wycliffe Bible Translators in this ministry. I am searching for two groups of people.

The first group is prayer partners. These are people who feel God is leading them to commit to praying for Wycliffe Bible Translators and for me as we continue the task of translating God’s Word. There are nearly 1700 languages in the world that still need a Bible translation. By praying for Wycliffe and for me, you can play a vital role in making God’s Word available to millions of people in the languages they understand best. And as my prayer partners commit to praying for me, I commit to praying for them and keeping them informed about what God is doing in my life and through Wycliffe. Would you be willing to become a prayer partner with me and Wycliffe Bible Translators?

Phil in Bethany, OK, Nov. 2022

The second group I am searching for is financial partners. These are people and local churches that will enable me to serve in this ministry by making regular contributions toward my salary and other ministry expenses. As for all Wycliffe members, my salary will be funded 100 percent by the people and churches God calls to partner with me in the ministry of Bible translation. In return for your contributions to Wycliffe for my ministry, I commit myself to serve faithfully and observe the highest standards of accountability. I also offer you my sincere friendship and my daily prayers for you. Would you be willing to pray about becoming a financial partner with me and Wycliffe Bible Translators?

Join me in this new-old adventure by checking every couple of weeks for new posts. And please pray about becoming a financial or prayer partner with me in this ministry. God bless and keep you!

For more information about my work with Wycliffe Bible Translators, to sign up for my monthly email newsletter, or to be notified when new blog posts come out, contact me at phil_troutman@wycliffe.org. If you would like to make a financial gift to Wycliffe for my ministry, you can visit my personal missionary page at Wycliffe.org.

Copyright © 2023 by Philip H. Troutman. All rights reserved.