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Bible Translator, Wycliffe Bible Translator/Summer Institute of Linguistics;
Children’s Pastor at Fountain Valley United Methodist Church, CA;
Pastor of Grace United Methodist Church, Indiana;
B.A. in Classical Civilization, University of CA;
M. of Div. from Anderson School of Theology, University of CA
Bible Translator, Wycliffe Bible Translator/Summer Institute of Linguistics;
Maternity Nurse at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, California;
B.S.N. (R.N.) from Anderson University;
Married to Ken;
Children are Caleb, Hannah, Abby, and Kate
CBN.com After dedicating his life to Jesus Christ in December 1989, Ken Nehrbass planned on being a pastor in Southern California. While at the University of California he read the book Peace Child by Don Richardson.
Richardson talked about how he brought the Word of God to a people who had never heard of Jesus. By the time Ken set the book down, he knew that he was made for Bible translation. He knew he had the ability to learn other languages, that he loved the Bible, and enjoyed the outdoors-- what better mix for a Bible translator?
Ken was hooked. Even the discovery that the work takes a lifetime sacrifice could not deter him.
The youth group at Mendy's church took regular short missions trips to Mexico. It was while praying in a Mexicali church that Mendy heard God calling her to missions. She had been listening to a man who spoke only Spanish praying to the Lord. After a moment, she realized that the language she was hearing was English. When she began to listen, she heard the Lord saying that if she was obedient to Him, He would send her to the ends of the Earth and would show her great and mighty things.
Both Ken and Mendy knew that after they graduated from Anderson they’d begin translating the Bible into a tribal language somewhere in the world, and they began praying for the people with whom they’d eventually live. They married in 1995. They worked as a pastor and a nurse in California, started their family, and began linguistics and cross-cultural training with Wycliffe Bible Translators/SIL. Seven years after they married, they began their work on Tanna.
MINISTERING TO THE PEOPLE OF TANNA
Ken and Mendy have been ministering since 2002 with the speakers of "Naha" in a primitive village setting on a small volcanic island called Tanna (in the nation of Vanuatu). They live in Yanemilen village-- one mile from the world’s most accessible active volcano, Mt. Yasur. While working in the village, they have developed an alphabet, began teaching literacy, provided medical care, and translated 25% of the New Testament. Additionally, they consider themselves fortunate to have hosted a number of short term mission groups that have been the impetus for various community development projects. They’ve seen through the completion of a reliable water supply for three villages (about 300 people) and a need for a hurricane-proof church building.
They partnered with Wycliffe International because it is one of the largest mission organizations in the world. As translators, they do not plant churches. They serve the church in helping to translate the scriptures. They share Wycliffe’s vision “to see the Bible accessible to all people in the language they understand best.”
Bible translation in a traditional culture involves: teaching literacy in the vernacular; teaching the background of the New Testament times; and evangelism and strengthening of the church.
“The poor, hidden, tiny people groups in forgotten countries are not as convenient or glamorous, but God desires them. That's why we work with a small people group (2,500 people) whose language may disappear in the next 100 years,” says Ken.
Their goal is to translate the entire New Testament, plus other literacy materials, Bible story books, Old Testament selections and Psalms, and educational materials.
“Our passion is for people to know God's truths in the language they speak best, so they can know Him best,” says Ken.
Their commitment is for, more or less, a lifetime. They are overseas for a block of four years, and then in the U.S. for a year-- then, back overseas for another four years. Currently, Ken and Mendy are on furlough in the United States until July 2008 while. Ken finishes up courses for the Doctor of Missiology at Biola University. They hope to have the Bible translation completed some time around 2013.
Aside from the translation work, Mendy’s main focus is home-schooling their four children. She is regularly called upon as the area nurse. Health needs range from simple wound care to assisting in deliveries of babies with complications such as retained placenta, and everything in between. She has also translated AIDS awareness and prevention materials and has held health education workshops.
PEOPLE OF TANNA
Life in the village is quite remote and certainly different from American life. Most inhabitants live in small green houses in sparsely populated villages. The weather is hot and humid. Most of the food that the people of Tanna consume is grown in their gardens. There are no shopping malls or restaurants or movie theatres on the island -- just some stores with tuna and rice and cooking essentials like oil and flour. Mendy says the majority (two thirds) of their family’s diet comes from what they have shipped into the village and the remaining portion (one third) comes from food grown in their garden. Some of the amenities they enjoy are solar and generated power. They collect rain water and pump it through their house for drinking and bathing (and for the toilet). They also recently set up a radio-phone, so they can get emails in the village.
“On the island of Tanna there are 2500 people in our language group and about 150 people in their village,” says Mendy.
With six languages and 24 dialects, translating the Bible into the Southwest Tanna language is no small task. But, what is even more challenging is the low literacy rate. Ken and Mendy have to be creative in finding other ways to help people hear the Word of God. Once a book of the New Testament is translated, they have local speakers record audio versions of the book, and then they distribute the Scripture books on small solar powered audio unit called “Megavoice” players. They have also produced the first ever DVD's in the Naha language, including one 80 minute DVD called God’s Story which shows God’s plan of redemption from Genesis to Revelation.
Before Ken and Mendy were sent by Wycliffe in 2002, no missionary work had been done among these mountainous villages. John Patton brought the Gospel to the coastlands of Tanna more than 100 years ago, and Christianity has slowly influenced some villages where Naha is spoken. Indeed, the door is opening for the Gospel to come. Naha speakers adamantly opposed Christianity for decades, yet in the past 10 years about 20 churches have sprung up as people from neighboring language groups have influenced the Naha speakers for Christ.
However, the majority of Naha speakers hold to certain “cargo cult” beliefs; for example, many believe that a spirit named Jon Frum will bring about a new age of peace and health, and will usher in much desired cargo like trucks, refrigerators and guitars. Obviously, in addition to translation, a great deal of their mission work involves discipleship and evangelism.
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