Hebrews 11:1: Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Abel (faith offering), Enoch (pleasing faith), Noah (salvation faith), Abraham (following faith), Sarah (child-bearing faith), Isaac and Jacob (faith blessings), Joseph (faith burial), Moses (faith exodus), but all “still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.”

There were others mentioned: the Israelites who “passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.” Joshua, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning;[e] they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

 39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

The story doesn’t end there: The language of faith by people with faith and their stories; People with actions; People in places; People with names. Here are some names from the book 131 Christians Everyone Should Know by the editors of Christian History magazine (2000).

Theologians: Athanasius (296-373—defender of orthodoxy, esp. Arianism); Augustine of Hippo (354-430, from pagan to monk to bishop, he preached in the local language of Punic and wrote 22 volumes over 12 years in The City of God); John of Damascus; Anselm (1033-1109, he deployed reasoning in all his writings and said “knowledge cannot lead to faith, and knowledge gained outsideof faith is untrustworthy); Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274, who extracted from Aristotle’s writings what was acceptable to Christianity and distinguished between philosopy and theology, reason and revelation and emphasized that they did not contradict one another; Martin Luther; John Calvin; Jacob Arminius (1559-1609), who questioned Calvin’s veiws of grace and predestination and preached that Christ died for all—not just the elect—and that individuals could resist grace and even lose their salvation); Jonathan Edwards; Karl Barth (1886-1968 summed up his sermons and writings as “Jeus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so”).

Evangelists and Apologists: Justin Martyr, (180-165, a philosopher and gives one of the earliest descriptions of Christian worship—readings of apostles and prophets, discourse of admonison, followed by prayers and communion, then a collection—especially for the widows and orphans—welcoming of strangers, etc.); Clement of Alexandria, 150-215 was the theologian for the intelligentsia and preached against greed, not wealth; Gregory Thaumaturgus, 210-260, founded a Christian community and was said to work miracles; Antony of Padua (1195-1231, a preacher to the poor who at times attracted crowds of 30,000 and had an astonishing knowledge of the Scriptures; Blaise Pascal; George Whitefield, 1714-1770, although mentored by the Weley brothers, he was a Calvinist who preached to large crowds across America; Charles Finney; Dwight L. Moody; Billy Sunday; Billy Graham.

Pastors and Preachers: Ambrose of Milan, John Chrysostom,  349-407 is said to be the early church’s greatest preacher. “Eloquent and uncomprimising preaching” with some 600 sermons and 200 letters surviving; Richard Baxer, 1615-1691 was a moderate in the age of extremes whose books Christian Directory (over one million words) and autobiography, The Reformed Pastor, are still read today; John Newton, Charles Simeon, 1759-1836, was an untiring activist and helped to found the London Jews Society, the Relitious Tract Society, the British & Foreign Bible Society and the Church Missionary Society; Lynam Beecher; Thomas Chalmers; John Nelson Darby, was the father of dispensationalsim, seeing history as progressive and dividing it into eras; Charles Spurgeon, Harry Emerson Fosdick, 1878-1969 is called the popularizer of liberalism, one who challenged the fundamentalists and was bankrolled by John D. Rockefeller.

Musicians, Artists, and Writers: Rembrandt Harmensaz Van Rijn, 1606-1669, left behind 650 paintings, 280 etchings and 1,200 drawings. One of his most famous paintings is The Return of the Prodigal Son; Johann Sebastian Bach; George Frideric Handel 1685-1759, and composer of Messiah; John Bunyan; Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1811-1896 and author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which shook both the North and the South and was probably one of the most influential novels ever published. During her child-rearing years she read to her seven children two hours each evening; Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 1821-1881, a troubled Christian who wrote Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamozov; George MacDonald, G.K. Chesterton, 1874-1936, wrote 70 books and hundreds of newspaper columns. His most famous are his works Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man; Dorthy Sayers, C.S. Lewis

Poets: Dante Alighieri, Geoffrey Chaucer, 1343-1400, acclaimed as medieval England’s greatest storyteller. The Canterbury Tales is a collection of stories written in Middle English and wer told as part of a story-telling contest by a group who traveled from Southwark to the Canterbury Cathedral; John Donne, 1572-1631, was an English poet, satirist, lawyer and priest. His phrase “for who the bell toils—it toils for thee” comes from his book called Devotions upon Emergent Occasions; George Herbert; John Milton; Anne Bradstreet, 1612-1672 is called America’s first poet, although born in England but came to America with the Pilgrims; Isaac Watts; Charles Wesley, 1707-1788, who averaged 10 poetic lines a day for 50 years and wrote 8,989 hymns (56 volumes in 53 years), 10 times that of Isaac Watts; Fanny Crosby, the blind hymn writer, e.g. “All the Way My Savior Leads Me,k” “To God be the Glory,” and “Pass me not, O gentle Savior”; T.S. Eliot, Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe.

Denominational Founders: Menno Simons, 1496-1561 was an Anapaptist peacemaker and founder of the Mennonites; John Knox, 1514-1572, the Presbyterian who advocated violent revolution. He tried to destroy what he felt was idolatry and purify Scotland’s religion; John Smyth, 1554-1612, was exiled to Amsterdam from England. He baptised himself, showing that baptism had noting to do with water but was for the the baptism of the Spirit. Although a Mennonite he is remembered as the first baptist; George Fox, 1624-1691, is regarded as the first Friend (Quaker)—sacraments were rejected and services took place in silence until someone felt called to speak or pray aloud; Nikolaus von Zinzendorf, 1700-1760 and founder of the Moravians—religion of the heart, which influenced Wesley; John Wesley, 1703-1791, the methodical pietist who, although an Anglican, is considered the founder of the Methodist tradition; Francis Asbury; Richard Allen, 1760-1831, an African American born into slavery and converted at the age of 17. He began preaching on his plantation and at local Methodist churches. By 1786 Blacks made up about 10 percent of the Methodist church—he began the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1799 and there are over 2 million members today. Established Western U. (Pkansas) and several others (Allen U, Edward Waters college, Morris Brown College, Paul Quinn College in Dallas and Wilberforce U in Ohio); William Miller,  1782-1849, and founder of what has become Seventh Day Adventism; Alexander Cambell, 1788-1866, founder of the Christian church—lack of support for infant baptism; Aimee Semple McPherson, 1890-1944, founder of the Foursquare church movement (Jesus as the Only Savior, the Great Physician, the Baptizer with the Holy Spirit and the Coming Bridegroom).

Movers and Shakers: Benedict of Nursia, 480-547, was the father of Westrn monasticism, who established 12 monasteries with 12 monks in each and is the patron saint of Europe; Bernard of Clairvaux, 1090-1153 was a medieval reformer and mystic who esteemed Christ as a model and put an emphasis on the Virgin Mary; Dominic, 1172-1221, founder of the Dominicans, the order of the preachers. The mind has always payed a cetral role in the order (referred to as the Black Friars); Fancis of Assisi, 1182-1226, was born in Italy and is known as the patron saint of animals but is honored by the Church of England, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and other groups; John Wycliffe, Joan of Arc, 1412-1431, charged with 70 counts of heresy and burned at the stake; Ulrich Zwingli, 1484-1531, was a leaderof the Reformation in Switzerland. He introduced a communion liturgy to replace the Mass. He knew Greek and Hebrew and had a library of 300 volumes; Ignatius of Loyola, 1491-1556, was a Spanish knight from a Basque noble family who foundeed the Society of Jesus (Jesuits); Phoebe Palmer, 1807-1874, was mother of the holiness movement, concentrating on prayer and fasting; SØren Kierkegaard, 1813-1855, was a Christian existentialist. He “was not just a suffereing prophet…. He was a man of deep, almost mystical faith, and his acerbic pen could also compose lyrical prayers.”

Missionaries: Patrick, 415-461/93, the patron saint of Ireland, evangelized Ireland and hundreds of Celtic Christians went to othr countries because of his example; Columbanus, 543-613, was an Irish missionary to Europe and was one of the most successful evangelists ever. He also composed a commentary on Psalms and “He shared with other saints a great love for God’s creatures. As he walked in the woods, the birds would alight upon his shoulder that he might caress them and the squirrels would run down from the trees and nestle in the folds of his cowl”; Cyril and Methodius, 815-885, were Byantine Greek brothers and missionaries among the Slavic peoples; Francis Xavier, 1506-1552, was from a Spanish-Basque family and the first missionary to Japan. He insisted that missionaries adapt to the culture and learn the language; Matthew Ricci, 1552-1610, was a controversial Jesuit evangelist who first went to Macau, then mainland China. He “could speak Chinese as well as read and write classical Chinese, the literary language of scholars and officials. He was known for his appreciation of Chinese culture in general, but did condemn the prostitution which was widespread in Beijing at the time.” He became a Confucian scholar and his methods werecriticised by the church; John Eliot, 1604-1690, acclaimed “apostle to Native Americans”, translateed and published the entire Algonkan (Massachusett) Bible, the first printed in American in 1663. In 1666 he published the grammar of Massachusett. Confused American culture with Christianity, giving haircuts, clothing and villages to the people; “In 1689 John Eliot donated 75 acres of land in Jamaica Plain to support the Eliot School, founded in 1676. Under the donation, the school was required to accept both Negros and Indians without prejudice, a great exception for the time.” According to Neville B. Cryer (in Five Pioneer Missionaries, The Banner of Truth Truist, 1965), Eliot received his BA from Cambbridge at the age of 18 and was particularly interested in Hebrew and Greek (20 years later he was still reading them daily), as well as philological studies. At the age of 24 he decided that his life’s work was to preach and he was mentored by Thomas Hooker, the Puritan colonial leader who founded the colony of Conneticut. He, with other Pilgrims landed in North America in 1631. He ministered among the “Red Indians”, Algonquins who already knew of a life force called Manito. Eliot considered this spirit to be the same as the unknown God that Paul had declared to the Athenians. In 1644 he began to study the Massachusetts dialect of the Algonquin language grouip, which was unwritten. In 1646  he preached the “first sermon ever preached in an Indian tongue by an Englishman—it lasted 75 minutes. He was committed to community development and the establishment of the Indian “parying towns”. He proposed that Indians should go to Harvard to learn English and teach teir language to the English (p. 214). In 1680, when he was 76 years of age, he did a complete revisionof the Indian Bible.

William Carey, 1761-1834, is the father of modern Protestant missions and had been impressed by the Moravian missionaries so in 1792 he organized a missionary society. In 1799 he was invited to Serampore near Calcutta, under the protection of the Danes. Over a period of 28 years he and his pundits translated the entire Bible into Bengali, Oriya, Marathi, Hindi, Assamese, Sanskrit and parts of it into 209 other languages and dialects.” David Livingstone, Hudson Taylor, [David Brainerd, 1718-1747, had a ministry among the Delaware Indians of New Jersey and the the Susquehanna tribes of Indians “Much of Brainerd’s influence on future generations can be attributed to the biography compiled by Jonathan Edwards and first published in 1749 under the title of An Account of the Life of the Late Reverend Mr. David Brainerd….it has never been out of print and has thus influenced subsequent generations, mainly because of Brainerd’s single-minded perseverance in his work in the face of significant suffering.” For details, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Brainerd; William C. Burns, 1815-1868. In 1847, “Burns went to the Chinese empire via Hong Kong. During this long ship journey, he spent a lot of time studying the Chinese language.” “In 1855 Burns met Hudson Taylor and the two worked together for quite some time. Both had the courage to advance into the Chinese interior. Hudson Taylor regarded Burns as one of his spiritual mentors and wrote about the depth of Burns’ prayer life. Taylor, however, influenced Burns in the way in which he sought to contextualize his ministry by breaking with missionary tradition to wear Chinese clothing while evangelizing in China’s interior. During his twenty years of preaching the gospel in China, Burns also spent a short period wrongly imprisoned at Guangzhou.”;  Henry Martyn, 1781-1812, “was an Anglican priest and missionary to the peoples of India and Persia, arriving in India in 1806. “He occupied himself in linguistic study, and had already, during his residence at Dinapur, been engaged in revising the sheets of his Hindustani version of the New Testament. He now translated the whole of the New Testament into Urdu also, and into Persian twice. He translated the Psalms into Persian, the Gospels into Judaeo-Persic, and the Book of Common Prayer into Urdu, in spite of ill-health and “the pride, pedantry and fury of his chief munshi Sabat. “; John G. Patton, 1824-1907, was a Scottish missionary to the New Hebrides. He “learned the language and reduced it to writing. Maggie taught a class of about fifty women and girls who became experts at sewing, singing and plaiting hats, and reading. They trained the teachers, translated and printed and expounded the Scriptures, ministered to the sick and dying, dispensed medicines every day, taught them the use of tools, held worship services every Lord’s Day and sent native teachers to all the villages to preach the gospel. Enduring many years of deprivation, danger from natives and disease, they continued with their work and after many years of patient ministry, the entire island of Aniwa professed Christianity. In 1899 he saw his Aniwa New Testament printed and the establishment of missionaries on twenty five of the thirty islands of the New Hebrides.]

Inner Travelers: Anthony the Great or Antony the Great (ca. 251–356), also known as Saint Anthony, Anthony of Egypt, Anthony the Abbot, Anthony of the Desert, Anthony the Anchorite, Abba Antonius and Father of All Monks, was a Christian saint from Egypt, a prominent leader among the Desert Fathers. “Anthony is notable for being one of the first ascetics to attempt living in the desert proper, completely cut off from civilization. His anchoretic lifestyle was remarkably harsher than that of his predecessors.” “He probably spoke only his native language, Coptic, but his sayings were spread in a Greek translation. He himself left no writings. His biography was written by Saint Athanasius and titled Life of Saint Anthony the Great. Many stories are also told about him in various collections of sayings of the Desert Fathers.”; Hildegard of Bingen, 1098-1179, was a Benedictine visionary and writer who believed that her visions and interpretations were from God; Catherine of Siena, 1347-1380, was a mystic and political activist whose teaching was the image of a bleeding Christ, “the Redeemer—ablaze with fiery charity, eager sacrfice, and unqualified forgiveness.” Thomas à Kempis, 1380-1471, was author of the most popular devotional clasic, promoting humility and “trust not yourself.”; Teresa of Avila, 1515-1582, was from Spain and a Carmelite mystic and administrator. She wrote the Counter Reformation in response to the Protestant Reformation, comprising: ecclesiastical or structural reconfiguration, religious orders, spiritual movements and political dimensions; John of the Cross, 1542-1591, was “was a reformer of the Carmelite Order and is considered, along with Saint Teresa of Ávila, as a founder of the Discalced Carmelites. He is also known for his writings. Both his poetry and his studies on the growth of the soul are considered the summit of mystical Spanish literature and one of the peaks of all Spanish literature.”;  Brother Lawrence, 1611-1691, was a practitioner of “God’s presence” and was born “Nicolas Herman in Hériménil, near Lunéville in the region of Lorraine, located in modern day eastern France” and, “Despite his lowly position in life and the priory, his character attracted many to him. He had a reputation for experiencing profound peace and visitors came to seek spiritual guidance from him. The wisdom he passed on to them, in conversations and in letters, would later become the basis for the book, The Practice of the Presence of God.”;  William Law, 1886-1761, was the champion of the werious, devout, and holy life and his book A serious call to a devout and holy life (1729) influenced Wesley, Whitfield, Samuel Johnson and others.; Andrew Murray (1794-1866) was born in South Africa and educated at Aberdeen in Scotland where he received his master’s degree in 1845. In 1889, he helped found the South African General Mission (SAGM), which became the South East Africa General Mission (SEAGM) in 1891. SAGM and SEAGM merged in 1894 and because its ministry spread to other African countries, its name was changed to the Africa Evangelical Fellowship (AEF) in 1965. AEF joined with SIM in 1998; Oswald Chambers, 1874 in Aberdeen, Scotland;,died 1917 in Egypt, “was a prominent early twentieth century Scottish Christian minister and teacher, best known as the author of the widely-read devotional My Utmost for His Highest.”

Activists: John Woolman, 1720-1772, was a Quaker who preached and wrote against slavery as early as 1754; William Wilberforce, Elizabeth Fry, 1780-1845, born of wealthy parents in England, dedicated her life to helping the downtrodden;  Sojourner Truth, 1779-1883, was born a slave named Isabella Baumfree. She could not read but she could preach and when she asked God for a new name he named her Sojourner “because I was to travel up an’ down the land, showin’ the people their sins, an’ bein’ a sign unto them.” Lord Shaftesbury, 1801-1885, named Antony Ashley Cooper, was a godly English statesman who built model tenements on his own estate; William Gladstone, 1809-1898, was Prime Minister who was raised in an evangelical home  and also became a prolific author on a variety of topics, including poetry, politics, economic and church history; Harriet Tubman, 1820-1913, was raised in slavery in eastern Maryland but escaped in 1849. She was known as the “black Moses” because of her aqctivities with the underground railroad. She also worked for the Federal Army during the Civil War; Catherine Booth, 1829-1890, was co-founder of the Salvation Army and preached on the absolute equality of women in ministry; William Booth; Walter Rauschenbusch, 1861-1918, was championof the social gospel who “saw humankind as progressing swiftly toward the kingdom.” Martin Luther King was greatly influenced by him.

Rulers: Constantine, 280-337, is debated by historians as having been a Christian at all, blending paganism and Christianity for political purposes; Theodosius I, 347-395, as the emperor who made Chtistianity the Roman relition; Justinian I and Theodora I; Leo I; Gregrory the Great, 540-604, wrote a book called On Pastoral Care, demonstrating his concern for the work of the priests; Charemagne, Innocent III, Louis IX, Henry VIII

Scholars and Scientists: Origen, Eusebius and Caesarea, Jerome, The Venerable Bode, Erasmus, Nicholas Copernicus, William Tyndale, John Foxe, Francis Bacon, Galileo Galilei

Martyrs: Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp, Perpetua, Thomas Becket, John Huss, Thomas Crammer, Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer

And the list goes on within WBT and SIL: William Cameron Townsend, 1896-1982, founded WBT and SIL. “The ethos of these organizations is that once the Bible is available to a culture, the Christians of that culture can become far more autonomous, and the locals should be the leaders of their church. Local Christians should be freed from depending on other organizations or cultures for training and leadership.”

Kenneth Lee Pike, (1912-2000) “Pike was born in Woodstock, Connecticut, and studied theology at Gordon College, graduating with a B.A. in 1933. He initially wanted to do missionary work in China; when this was denied him, went on in 1935 to study linguistics with Summer Institute of Linguistics (S.I.L.). He went to Mexico with SIL, learning Mixtec from native speakers there.

In 1937 Pike went to the University of Michigan, where he worked for his doctorate in linguistics under Edward Sapir. His research involved living among the Mixtecs, and he and his wife Evelyn developed a written system for the Mixtec language. After gaining his Ph. D. In 1942, Pike became president of Summer Institute in Linguistics (SIL). The Institute’s main function was to produce translations of the Bible into unwritten languages, and in 1951 Pike published the Mixtec New Testament. He was the President of SIL International from 1942 to 1979.

As well as and in parallel with his role at SIL, Pike spent thirty years at the University of Michigan, during which time he served as chairman of its linguistics department, professor of linguistics, and director of its English Language Institute (he did pioneering work in the field of English language learning and teaching) and was later Professor Emeritus of the university.

He was a member of National Academy of Sciences, the Linguistic Society of America (LSA), the Linguistic Association of Canada and the United States (LACUS), and the American Anthropological Association. He served as president of LSA and LACUS. Pike was nominated for the Nobel Prize 15 years in a row and the Templeton Prize three years (Headland 2001:506).

Eugene A. Nida, 1014-2011, “Nida has been a pioneer in the fields of translation theory and linguistics. His Ph.D. dissertation, A Synopsis of English Syntax, was the first full-scale analysis of a major language according to the “immediate-constituent” theory. His most notable contribution to translation theory is Dynamic Equivalence, also known as Functional Equivalence…. Nida also developed the “componential-analysis” technique, which split words into their components to help determine equivalence in translation.” “Nida then sets forth the differences in translation, as he would account for it, within three basic factors: (1) The nature of the message: in some messages the content is of primary consideration, and in others the form must be given a higher priority. (2) The purpose of the author and of the translator: to give information on both form and content; to aim at full intelligibility of the reader so he/she may understand the full implications of the message; for imperative purposes that aim at not just understanding the translation but also at ensuring no misunderstanding of the translation. (3) The type of audience: prospective audiences differ both in decoding ability and in potential interest.”

John Theodore Bendor-Samuel (9 June 1929 – 6 January 2011) was an evangelical Christian missionary and linguist who furthered Bible translation work into African languages, as well as making significant contributions to the study of African linguistics. Amongst his friends and colleagues he was widely known by his initials, JBS. He had an instrumental role in the founding of Wycliffe UK; the West Africa Linguistics Society and the Forum of Bible Agencies. He pioneered SIL International‘s work in several countries in West Africa.

William R. Merrifield (1932-2008) was a Chinantec scholar and pioneered the work on color terms in SIL. He was a long time director of SIL at the U. of Oklahoma and other places and the Coordinator for Anthropology for SIL International. His consulting in anthropology took him to many countries of the world.

Richard S. Pittman, (1915-1998) “was one of the early leaders of the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL). He led the organization’s advance in the continent of Asia and was a gifted linguist, statesman, writer, educator, and mentor. He responded to his Christian, humanitarian and professional calling with amazing energy, awesome dedication, and great ability, at considerable personal cost, and with remarkable results.” “In 1955 Dick was appointed SIL’s Asia & Pacific Area Director. He travelled constantly over the next twenty years, and negotiated contracts with governments or their agencies for the beginning of SIL work in Papua New Guinea (1956), Viet Nam (1957), India (1960), Nepal (1966), and Indonesia (1974). He also made numerous trips to countries where official contracts did not result, including Laos, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. During a number of these years Dick held the post of Deputy General Director of SIL (the General Director being Cameron Townsend.)

In the late 1970’s the Pittmans moved to the United States. Dick researched, designed, and supervised the construction of the Museum of the Alphabet and the Mexico-Cárdenas Museum in Waxhaw, North Carolina. These museums provide thousands of visitors yearly with the opportunity to learn a little about the great work of providing writing systems for the world’s languages, and the part that Mexico and Cárdenas had in furthering that endeavor.

Dick Pittman was a prolific writer, though with typical humility he published a number of books with no author’s name on them. They include, besides his linguistic work, a series of books on international relations and other foundational issues for SIL, and biographical works. He was a memorable teacher and mentor, with a constantly inquiring mind and an unforgettable penchant for apt analogies from biology and horticulture.” His Ph.D. dissertation (U. of Pennsylvania) was published in the journal Language on the grammar of the Tetelcingo language of Mexico.

Howard McKaughan (1922-2013) was a long time SIL linguist and founder of the linguistics program at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. McKaughan is best known for his work with Asia-Pacific languages. In 1953 he was among the first group of SIL linguists to begin working in the Philippines. While researching the Maranao language of the southern Philippines, McKaughan was one of the first linguists to propose an analysis of voice systems in Philippine languages, a complex grammatical issue. McKaughan’s career would later include work in Hawai’i, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand.

Robert E. Longacre, “humbles his company. His reputation, embodied simply by an austere but gracious demeanor, conveys a heightened understanding of the world and its people before he speaks a word of his story. Dr. Longacre found a noble craft, dedicated his life to it, and in turn his craft shaped this remarkable oral history.“

“Planning to become a preacher, Bob attended and graduated from Faith Seminary in Pennsylvania. A speech impediment (successfully treated many years later), and acute interest in language, directed Bob to the written word and eventually the Summer Institute of Linguistics. Newlywed and “the greenest pair ever let loose across the border,” the Longacres settled with the Trique people in remote, southern Mexico. They were true pioneers: the village was accessible only by foot or animal, living was rough, and the people were not particularly interested in a foreign presence or message. While he documented their language, Bob learned the Trique mythology and a bit of their worldview, witnessed the community change as Western and Trique cultures overlapped, and he discusses the difficulties involved in living between two different worldviews. While working on the Trique New Testament translation, Bob worked all over the world. He taught summer courses at the University of Oklahoma, held workshops and conferences for linguists stationed across the globe, and published volumes on research both thriving and dying languages. In the sixties, after nearly twenty years of work, Bob completed and dedicated the Trique translation. Dr. Longacre explored and documented unknown territory for the world’s linguistic community, starting with the Trique tonal language. He documented their five emic levels of tone, the first language for which that number of levels was demonstrated. In the fifties Bob received a PhD in Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania under Zellig Harris. He did the first serious historical study of the vast Otomanguean language phylum, of which Trique is a part. He adopted the Tagmemics model of language, and modified Kenneth Pike’s approach to syntax, grammar, and discourse. Although this was in the hey day of the transformational generative model developed by Noam Chomsky, Bob contributed significantly to the field of applied linguistics by enabling literally thousands of linguists to discover the structure, and deal with the mysteries, of many languages. Bob and Gwen moved to the International Linguistics Center, where Bob received an appointment to the University of Texas at Arlington, and is now Professor Emeritus.”


Joseph Grimes, long-time SIL linguist and consultant is best known for his work on discourse and as associate editor for Ethnologue for many years.

David Thomas (1930-2006) was a distinguished linguist with SIL. He and his wife worked in Southeast Asia and he is remembered for his energetic teaching, editing, mentor to students and for his field work in Mon-Khmer languages. [For a summary of his life, see the obituary by Ken Gregerson—on line at www.-01.sil.org.]

There are, of course, many other mission leaders: in PNG, we can note the contributions of the Lutherans, London Missionary Society, Polynesians, Catholics, Methodist Overseas Mission, Anglicans, and others. Consider also the work of BTA and Nationals such as: David Gela, Tom Polume, William Edoni, Mari Kapi, Les Gavara, David Muap, Misty Baloiloi, Nemola Ropasi, Raka Taviri, Cholai Polume, Kumalau Tavali

Contemporaries include: Ralph D. Winter (1924-2009), was an American missiologist and Presbyterian missionary who became well-known as the advocate for pioneer outreach among unreached people groups. He was the founder of the U.S. Center for World Mission (USCWM), William Carey International University, and the International Society for Frontier Missiology. He focused his mission strategy from political boundaries to distinct people groups. Winter argued that instead of targeting countries, mission agencies needed to target the thousands of people groups worldwide, over half of which have not been reached with the gospel message; (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_D._Winter).

Donald Anderson McGavran (December 15, 1897–1990) was the founding Dean (1965) and Professor of Mission, church growth, and South Asian studies at the School of World Mission, Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. A child of missionaries in India, and later a missionary himself (1923–1961), McGavran spent most of his life trying to identify and overcome barriers to effective evangelism or Christian conversion. McGavran identified differences of caste and economic social position as major barriers to the spread of Christianity. His work substantially changed the methods by which missionaries identify and prioritize groups of persons for missionary work and stimulated the Church Growth Movement. McGavran developed his church growth principles after rejecting the popular view that mission was ‘philanthropy, education, medicine, famine relief, evangelism, and world friendship’ and become convinced that good deeds – while necessary – ‘must never replace the essential task of mission, discipling the peoples of the earth’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_McGavran).

All of these people (and millions more) are witnesses to the accomplishments of a life lived in faith in God and his son Jesus Christ. There are also millions of stories that we don’t know—Polynesian missionaries to Melanesia, unnamed nationals who gave their lives in service to God. We want to know the stories for, as CS Lewis said “The historical impulse—curiosity about what men thought, did, and suffered in the past—though not universal, seems to be permanent.” Present Concerns: Ethical Essays, p. 100.


[1] Presented to colleagues at an anthropology seminar in a series of devotions March 19-22, 2012.