In the last number of years, love and loss collided in Dave Stadt’s life. Dave’s story is an ongoing testimony of God’s faithfulness in working inside of his heart to act according to God’s good purposes - even in the midst of heartbreak. Through a series of bends and turns, God has moved Dave’s heart towards catalysing a new Bible translation project for a people group he had never heard of before as a lasting legacy to both his late wife and his late Mom.
But, let’s start at the beginning. Dave has been working in IT at SIL, an affiliate of Wycliffe USA, since leaving the Moodie Bible Institute. In 2009 he fell in love with Margie and they got married later that year in August. Margie was a nurse who cared for others, while she herself struggled with various health challenges. After only eight wonderful, but too-short years, her health took a sharp decline. No longer able to work, she tragically died in the fall of 2020. In the midst of Dave’s grief, he received a payout from insurance which caused him to think deeply about how to use this money to honour his precious Margie. He decided to give towards a four-language project in Nigeria, as well as a separate translation project in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian project finished in late 2021, and Dave went to visit them last summer where he met Bible translators from all around the world. There was excitement and joy amongst them as the partners and translators came together in one place. They felt united in their passion for continuing to take God’s Word to the ends of the earth through mother-tongue translation projects. He met three translators from Cameroon at the headquarters of TWFTW Ethiopia, where he got to share his heart around honouring his wife’s memory by giving towards heart-language Bible translation. One of the translators from Cameroon was particularly moved by Margie’s story, which in God’s providence, led to an unexpected chapter in Dave’s life.
On his way home from Ethiopia, Dave landed in the US to receive the terrible news that his mom, Vonnie, had received results from tests showing that she had pancreatic cancer. Only one short month after he got back from Ethiopia, his beloved mom went to be with the Lord. He had a difficult time processing this devastating loss on the heels of feeling so enthused by the experience of sharing Margie’s legacy. His mom had always been his biggest supporter of his work in heart-language Bible translation, and her absence left a massive hole in his life, compounded by the loss of his wife. In less than ten years, Dave had lost his wife, his mom, and even his dad.
He admits that this brought about a huge struggle with the Lord. He says, “I found out the hard way - three times - that we are not guaranteed tomorrow. As Christians, knowing that the Lord is coming back and that the worst years in human history are still to happen, we have a window of opportunity now. To do good now. And we don’t know when that window is going to close - when reaching the lost will no longer be an option.”
There is a certain kind of clarity that is found in the stillness of loss, a particular perspective that is difficult to explain. But it creates a vision of sharp focus that separates the important from the urgent. Dave feels the urgency to make the most of the days we have left, with whatever God has given us - even in loss.
He came to the painful conclusion that even though he is having a difficult time walking the road of grief, if he waits for these losses to make sense, he might miss a lot of time and opportunity to do something with the time he has left. Dave says, “I had the means to do something, so I can’t wait until I am feeling better, because the needs out there in mother-tongue Bible translation work are there right now.”
A few months after his mom’s passing, he received an inheritance from his mom. He remembered the Cameroon translators he had met in Ethiopia with great warmth - God had given him a heart for them. He had heard from them that there are around 332 languages in Cameroon. One language group stood out to him because the translator said that some of the people who are Christians had previously requested help to translate the Bible into their language, but the project could not go ahead because there were no funds. Dave believes there are many Christians who have the means to be major catalysts in projects just like this one, where funds are needed from inception to completion. He thought to himself, ‘Well, I can do that!” His heart is for language groups that have been overlooked and ignored, and he wants to step up for this group in Cameroon as a start. When he heard about them, he thought, ‘I am not going to ignore you!’
And so, between Margie’s and his mom’s inheritances, these Bible translation projects have been supported and brought into action in a way that no one could have planned. Dave hopes to inspire others to do the same as he is doing, because there are many language groups who want and need the Bible but don’t have one yet. Not because there is a lack of men and women who want to learn how to translate the Bible into their own language, nor is there a lack of training and equipping, but sometimes it's simply that there is an open space for a catalyst to step in and bring that project to life.
Dave has had the privilege of knowing and hearing about all that is needed and happening in Bible translation because of his time with SIL. However, for many who have a heart for the Gospel going to the nations through the translation of God’s Word, they perhaps don’t realise how much of a need there is for partners in the translation work. Partners and translators are like two bookends holding the 66 books of the Bible together, one heart language at a time. Both ‘bookends are called, equipped and emboldened to step out in faith, in whichever way God has made provision for them. Indeed, the window is open, and the opportunities are there for the Body of Christ to use their skills, time, resources, expertise, and passion to eradicate Bible poverty.
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