“The act of giving sacrificially allows God to expand your heart with a breathtaking generosity.”
Travis Mitchell has experienced this firsthand, as has the church where he serves as a pastor, First Baptist Church (FBC) of Brewster. They are a small congregation consisting of only around 100 people about 60 miles outside of New York City, but they have recently become involved in work that has changed both their lives and the lives of people across the world.
It started a few Christmases ago when Travis wanted to help his congregation recognize the realities of Bibleless people groups around the world. He presented the congregants with one copy of the Gospel of Luke in the Etulo language during the church’s Christmas service — a gift that was given from Pastor Travis on behalf of the church. The congregation was touched when they realized that this Christmas would be the first time the Etulo of Nigeria would read the story of Jesus’ birth in their own language.
That Christmas service was the beginning of FBC Brewster’s investment in Bible translation. When the congregation spent the fall of 2015 in an eight-week sermon series titled “Word of God,” the church began to pray about and raise funds to sponsor the book of Galatians for the Babanki in Cameroon. Each week, Travis would take a few minutes during his message to highlight the need for Bible translation and why it was so crucial that the Babanki have the Word of God in their own language. These weekly reminders opened the eyes of many people within the congregation and spurred them toward supporting the translation project.
THE GLOBAL PARTY IN HEAVEN
FBC Brewster’s involvement in Bible translation allows Travis to continuously be surprised by God. As the church was giving to the translation of Galatians, a congregant came up to him and said: “Who knows — one day in heaven, someone from the Babanki people group might come up to me and say ‘I thank our God for your obedience to get his Word in my heart language. It changed my life, and the lives of my family and community.’”
This encounter gave new insight to Travis about giving to Bible translation. “The degree to which someone embraces Jesus’ mission to make disciples of all people groups,” he said, “is the degree to which they are preparing for the global party in heaven.” This partnership with the Babanki wasn’t only a way for the congregation to learn more about Bibleless people groups around the world — it was also a way for the individuals and families to realize the eternal implications of the work they were contributing to.
Travis shared, “I don’t want to be in heaven and say ‘Praise the Lord that I am here by his grace, but I didn’t help out much with contributing to all of the other people groups being here.’”
And that is precisely why he believes Bible translation to be important — because its impact is not only earthly; it is eternal.
“I ALREADY HAVE ENOUGH”
When his congregation began to give generously to the Babanki translation project, Travis noticed something extraordinary happen. “It was not just writing a check [for them] and then moving on to the next need,” he explains. “I have seen people change from a perspective of ‘I need more; I don’t have enough’ to a perspective of overflow, of ‘I already have enough.’”
But more than just that, these individuals and families have begun to look at the ways that they are blessed — with job promotions, raises, and new opportunities — as ways to increase their giving, rather than increasing their lifestyle. As a pastor, there is nothing that Travis enjoys more than seeing his congregation continue to live as a model for God-centered generosity.
WHY THE BIBLE MATTERS
Travis and his congregation support a variety of causes in their church, both locally and globally. But Bible translation is not just an extra box to check off their list. It has become the lens by which their church sees the rest of the world, because they believe Bible translation is a crucial component in fulfilling the Great Commission.
“As a Christian and a pastor, I wrestled with [the idea of making disciples of all nations] for a long time, like I know so many others do,” he says. “Here is what I concluded, with the Word of God as my guide: Making disciples of all people groups includes everything we do. And the ultimate goal of making disciples is to bring about the kingdom of God. That was Jesus’ driving mission in life. The kingdom of God is what this broken, messed-up world needs. ... The local church should be seeking God’s kingdom and his righteousness and his justice for their local and global communities. This is, by God’s grace and through his power, what our church is trying to do.”
God’s kingdom is meant to be filled with people groups and languages all over the world. In ushering in his kingdom, God has given his church the commission to make disciples — and a critical way of doing this is through Bible translation. As the Bible is translated into the languages that people understand best, the global church is helping to usher in the transformation of hearts and lives that comes only through understanding the gospel.
“God’s Word creates light and hope. It speaks and transforms,” Travis says. “I know, because I came to Christ through reading the Bible. This is what God is doing in the world — pushing back the darkness through the light of his Word.”
THE NEXT STEP
A small but passionate and generous congregation, FBC Brewster reached their goal of funding the entire book of Galatians for the Babanki people of Cameroon. Watching his church glimpse the fulfillment of God’s vision for the world has given Travis immense joy. “God’s vision is so much larger and grander than just what he is doing in the life of the local church or community,” he notes. “God’s vision is for the world and the local church to say ‘yes’ to bringing his Word to a Bibleless people group. Once that happens, there is a sense of joy, a sense of awe, that God by his grace and through his power used us — the church — to make his name great.”
Prayer is also a powerful part of achieving God’s vision. Pastor Travis believes that “when a local church partners with a Bibleless people group, you become the answered prayer for brothers and sisters in Christ — and those who do not yet know him — who are desperately longing for his Word in their own heart language.”
Travis’s encouragement to his church and to any and all of those considering partnership with a Bibleless people group is simple: “Be the answer to someone else’s prayer.”