Leonard Livingston (L.L.) Legters was one of the most significant leaders in Bible translation, but he didn’t just impact the lives of those he ministered to — his legacy continues through the work of his son, grandson, great-grandson and their families.
L.L. Legters began his ministry by serving as a missionary to Native American tribes in Oklahoma in the early 1900s. He later partnered with William Cameron Townsend to expand the work of Bible translation into Mexico and form organizations that would one day become the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) and Wycliffe Bible Translators.
Four Generations Serving in Mexico
L.L. Legters helped open the door to Bible translation in Mexico and his family continues missions work in the country today.
His son, David Legters, served in the Yucatán Peninsula as one of Wycliffe’s first missionaries. He traversed the jungles on foot to reach remote Mayan villages, working on Bible translation and literacy.
David Legters Jr. continued the family tradition his grandfather began in Southeastern Mexico. He served in church leadership on a national level, and also established numerous churches and a seminary.
A fourth generation missionary and L.L.’s great-grandson, Mark Legters serves in Merida, Mexico. He and his wife, Altia, work to equip local Christians to impact their own communities with the gospel. They pastor a growing church, plant churches, train local pastors and church members at a Bible institute, and serve the community with business training, mentoring and arts education.
Because he was raised in Mexico, Mark doesn’t consider himself a foreigner — and neither do the people he serves. “Mexico is very much our home,” Mark said. “And because my family has been in the country for so long, we’ve made strong connections and have seen the way God is moving as Christianity continues to expand in our ministry areas.”
Four Generations Answering the Call
When you’re raised in a family of missionaries, there can be an expectation to continue the work. But being a missionary kid and growing up in the field doesn’t automatically mean you’re called to missions.
Mark originally pursued a different vocation in the U.S. It wasn’t until after he was in a plane accident while traveling for his corporate job that the Lord made it clear to Mark that he was called to ministry. It was a turning point in his life, and Mark and Altia moved to Mexico in 1998. They’ve been serving as full-time missionaries ever since.
Every Legters son has experienced their own path to ministry, but Mark sees God working in generations, not just in individuals. “When [God] chose my great-grandfather, he wasn’t just choosing an individual,” Mark explained, “but the generations coming afterward that would continue in that work.”
Four Generations in Changing Times
In the early 1900s through 1950s, most missionaries in Mexico were pioneers serving in isolated corners of the country. Since then, the culture has shifted and missions work looks a little different.
“I’m not in any physical danger like my family used to be,” Mark explained. “And yet, we still face dangers today. … They affect our minds and our souls. If I could, I would ask my great-grandfather for encouragement and advice on how he would cope with some of these new challenges.”
L.L. Legters’ love for Scripture and his desire to see it translated into every language never wavered, and that passion was clearly infectious “What we do and what we believe, we are to pass on to the next generation,” Mark said. And there’s no greater family tradition than continuing the work of missions started four generations ago.