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Wycliffe Bible Translator Chet Bitterman’s Death Motivated Others for Missionary Service

Jesus Himself said that the end would come only after the “gospel of the Kingdom” is “preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations” (Matthew 24:14). As His coming approaches, Jesus wants the whole world to know about Him.

The Wycliffe Bible Translators tell us that the Bible needs to be translated in yet another 2,200 languages before everyone in the world can have a copy of the Scriptures in their own language. Wycliffe is working to complete the task and they are getting very close to getting it done. In fact, their goal is to start translating the last language by the year 2025. (www.lastlanguagescampaign. org)

Nearly 29 years ago, on January 19, 1981, when there were 3,000 languages to go, seven armed terrorists burst into the Wycliffe Bible Translators’ office in Bogota, Columbia, and took one of the translators captive. His name was Chet Bitterman, and they held him for seven weeks before shooting him in the head.

Some saw this as a setback to Wycliffe’s work, but Wycliffe’s founder, William Cameron Townsend, saw it differently. He called it a “tremendous advance,” because “young people have been awakened in a new way.”

The fact is soon after Chet Bitterman’s death, nearly 100 students at his Alma Martyr, the Columbia Bible College, pledged themselves to missionary service. Chet’s widow, Brenda, vowed to return to Bible literacy work, and his younger brother, Craig, applied to Wycliffe hoping to become a Bible translator. In addition, a new chair of Linguistics and Bible Translation was established at California’s Biola University in Chet’s memory.

Chet’s father, Chester Bitterman, Sr., made this comment at the time: “On a human level, Chet may have lost his life, but we believe that God is not finished in this. We haven’t read the last chapter yet.” (Bible Illustrator #2379-2385)

Indeed not! After 29 years, we see that the so-called “setback” only speeded up the process. & That’s what we need to pray for today when times are tough. We need to pray that God’s Word spreads even faster during these days and that people would respond to that Word as they never have before.

From a sermon by C. Philip Green, Anticipating Advent -- Part III, 12/19/2009

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