Our struggle to return to the Sahara Desert

The Making of the Modern Wycliffe New Testament

The story of this Bible translation began with a struggle I was facing in Chad, in 2007.

Just two of the reasons why we willing struggle to serve in the Sahara DesertWe had just joined a new mission agency.  The budget I was asked to raise from churches was double what it had been. Our previous supporters easily got on board to support us.  However, we had a difficult time asking new churches of New England to support us as well. They were supporting as many missionaries as they could. And these pastors were struggling to make ends meet themselves.

In my heart, we couldn’t justify raising that much money while these churches struggled financially to keep their doors open and provide for needs of their pastors.  I did my best while still keeping my integrity.

The Struggle Begins

Bible translation in the Sahara Desert is all about the struggle to overcome the barriersIt was a Saturday. I was out shopping for some necessities, when our missions headquarters called to tell me that if we didn’t get a breakthrough soon, we would not be able to return to the field. And the man on the phone was serious.

That simply was not acceptable; we had to get back to Africa! I had spent several years learning one of the languages of the desert. I was the only foreigner who both knew this language and was available to translate the Bible into it.

“Translate the Wycliffe Bible into Modern English”

Speaking in churches, as we struggle-d to get back to Chad, AfricaI had a church service in Massachusetts that night, but could not sleep. As I was praying for a solution, I heard what I believe was the voice of the LORD speaking.  And I believe He told me to translate John Wycliffe’s Bible into Modern English… that this translation would provide the extra finances we needed to continue our mission work in the future.

I was so excited, I could not sleep! So by 3 AM, I started my trip down to my Sunday morning service.

If nothing else, working on this translation project gave me hope in the struggle, and something to do rather than sitting around worrying about not making it back to Africa.

John Wycliffe’s Translation

John Wycliffe, translating the Bible into English (photo by Wikimedia)Earlier that year, I had become aware of the Bible translation by John Wycliffe. In the 1300s, he and his team of scholars were the first to translate the Bible into English.  I had the original of his New Testament on my Palm Pilot.

Because Wycliffe spoke the English of the Middle Ages, I would struggle to read his translation. But from what I could understand, I was fascinated by all the knights, the bishops, the castles and the princes. As John Wycliffe worked to tell the stories of the Bible to his audience, he used the context with which they were familiar.

Eventually, our missions agency at the time found a partial solution to get us back to Africa. It came with much suffering and struggle to our family (especially financially), but allowed us to continue the work we had begun.

But because of how strongly I felt the LORD impress me to translate Wycliffe’s Bible into modern English, I continued to translate the New Testament while we made our home in the Sahara Desert, a few hours a night when everyone had gone to bed.

The timing of its release could not be better

Our family in Chad, Africa: rejoicing in God's faithfulness through the struggleI have three daughters, two of which are now teenagers. Because of the language and cultural barriers, my girls were not very well accepted by the community, especially my oldest. As a result, they spent most of their lives with no one to play with but each other.

Our oldest daughter was getting a lot of marriage proposals. One of the suitors actually came to me and threatened me by saying, “I will marry your daughter!” I had to wonder what means he would use to make this happen. Deadly force? Sorcery? Causing trouble for us in the community?

As a result of this struggle, Sharon and I knew that our family needed to be based in Maine while I travel back and forth to Africa to continue the work. But the missions agency we were with has a policy against their workers being based out of the US, unless we were based at their headquarters in the Midwest.

And that is why we had to resign from our mission, and start Desert Springs Ministries.

I believe that the timing of the release of the Modern Wycliffe New Testament means that God knew. He knew that we would get to this place in our lives. And He provided this Modern Wycliffe New Testament to help us to keep on serving Him overseas, while keeping our girls safe.

How about you?

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5 thoughts on “Our struggle to return to the Sahara Desert

  1. Hi David and Sharon! Caroline G here in the capital. I had NO IDEA that you were working on the Wycliffe NT! Fantastic! Is yours the very first version in modern English? A friend of mine has most of the Tyndale Bible – the original text published. Amazing how the Lord is providing for your ministry! Seems a long, long time ago that we were at Horsleys Green, learning phonetics and anthropology… May the Lord encourage you all. I’m so GLAD that lovely eldest daughter was not carried off into the desert! What’s the price of the Wycliffe NT?

  2. Hello David and Sharon,
    It is so wonderful to read all of your postings. They are fascinating. I don’t know if you remember us David but you stayed in our little apartment before you were married and were preparing to go into the Mission field. Jeff and Jennifer Pugh. We live here in San Diego, Ca. Our children were adopted from China where we lived for almost 7 years. Naomi and Samuel, 20 and almost 18 ( December ). Thank you for all your wonderful stories and God’s Powerful Work. In His Love Jennifer

    • Dear Jeff and Jennifer,
      Thanks so much for writing! I sure DO remember you guys; your trip to China was a real inspiration to me when I was just getting excited. It makes me so happy to hear that you are doing so well. I can’t believe that the kids are so big!
      May God continue to bless and keep you… Gratefully, David (for all of us)