Margaret autoBio • 2018




2018 Jan 18 ~ Volunteer Chapel, Catalina, AZ


     Good morning. I'd like you to think about some things for prayer that you may not have considered as such before.

      Have you ever wondered how translators choose the language group with which to work? Well, this is how my husband John and I chose the Eastern Mixtecs. We were students in Norman, OK taking our first year course. One of the Chapel speakers was Cora Mak, translator for one of the many Mixtec language groups. She told about a Presbyterian missionary who had recently come to the Mexico Branch director to present the need of a Mixtec group her husband had visited shortly before his death. He had gone up into the mountains directly west of the capital city of Oaxaca along with a Mexican evangelist to preach to a group of people they had been told about. To their surprise many of the people they met did not speak or seem to understand Spanish. They returned to the City thinking about these folks who would never understand the gospel unless it was presented to them in their own heart language. Not long after this visit to the mountain village Mr Erdman was drowned in a swimming accident in the Isthmus. Mrs Erdman wanted to fulfill her husband's desire to have the gospel available to this group of people and she knew that SIL would be the ones able to do it.

      John and I returned to our room, burdened by Cora's message. I don't remember which of us said it first, but very shortly we each had said "That's where we need to go!" And that's why we requested assignment to the Eastern Mixtecs.

      We moved into the village of Santa Maria Peñoles with two little girls on March 17, 1957 and over the next 22 years we added three more children to our family; John earned a PhD in Linguistics and I earned an MA in Anthropology; we taught linguistics for 19 summers and John was Director of the program at the University of North Dakota for 9 years; he also taught linguistic courses in Spanish at three Mexican institutions for several winters; it was during this time that he was elected Branch Director and also was named VP of SIL, International for 6 and a half years; AND we published the NT in 1979 and a second edition in 2000.

      "But, I thought you were working on Hawaii Pidgin?!" Well, yes, but that's a different story. When John and I arrived in Norman the summer of 1955, we met four young people whom we thought were students like us — but they weren't — they were our teachers! One couple was translating for a group of Mixtecs living on the southern coast of the state of Oaxaca and the other couple for a Huichol group living in the state of Nayarit on the western coast of Mexico. As the years passed both Hank and Bobbi Bradley and Joe and Barbara Grimes not only completed the NTs they were working on, but both men also completed PhDs in linguistics. Hank became a translation consultant for several other Mixtec groups and linguistic consultant for other languages being studied by his colleagues. Joe was invited to teach at Cornell University and was on the faculty for 26 years. He had a special arrangement with Cornell which allowed him to teach one year and take the next year to give a workshop somewhere around the world of SIL.

      The wives of both these men also made strong contributions. Bobbi Bradley earned a graduate degree that allowed her to work with MKs (missionary kids) who had special educational needs. Barbara Grimes was asked by Dick Pittman (Uncle Cam's right-hand man) to develop a book giving all known information about the languages of the world which eventually became a resource known as the Ethnologue. Barbara was editor of the book for more than 30 years.

      Okay — more about why the Grimes began the Hawaii Pidgin project. One year Joe lectured on lexicography at the University of Hawaii which turned into a seminar on lexicography the following year. He and Barbara met faculty members who gave them information about this language — spoken by about half of Hawaii's population — which was developed by plantation workers approximately 100 years ago. The plantation workers spoke Hawaiian, Japanese, Mandarin and Cantonese, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean and some Melanesian languages. Pidgin — spelled   p i d g i n   as it's a technical term that has nothing to do with the bird — a pidgin is based on one language with borrowings from the different languages spoken by the people living there. It is known as a "pidgin" until its phonological and grammatical systems develop further and it becomes a "creole." As Barbara and Joe learned more about Pidgin speakers they discovered that these folks are the fishermen, construction workers, mechanics, farmers, road repairmen — and many of the women are house cleaners. Interestingly, they speak Tagalog or Ilocano (Philippine languages) to each other! Many Pidgin speakers also speak English but often their English isn't good enough to get a job as a bank teller or even a waiter in a first class restaurant. And because their command of standard English is not so good, attending church is not a favored activity — why go sit and listen to someone talking for an hour about something that you can't understand?

      The spring of 1988 Barbara was in Kenya for a conference while Joe remained in the US. She didn't have access to email so they wrote air mail letters to each other. (Remember those blue air mail forms?) Two of their letters crossed each other in the air with the essentially the same message: "I think God wants us to do the Hawaii Pidgin translation." A nice confirmation. The kind of confirmation that is really comforting when things are rough in the village — you can know that God sent you there and He will solve the problems.

      Hawaii is the 50th state of the US which meant that in the SIL system it was under the North America Branch administration. So the Grimes contacted the NAB administration about doing a translation for Hawaii Pidgin speakers — but were told that NAB was not taking on any more projects.

      And so the Grimes began to think that they would resign from WBT so they could do the project. Inasmuch as they were members of the Mexico Branch they went to the Branch Director — who happened to be John Daly — to tell him of their decision. Not wanting to lose such valuable members, John talked to them about how to overcome the problems they had encountered. Finally an agreement was made: The Grimes would do the project under the auspices of the Mexico Branch. Joe said that since the Hawaiian Islands where Pidgin is spoken and the state of Nayarit where Huichol is spoken are both 21.5 degrees north of the equator, the Hawaii Pidgin project could be considered an extension of the Huichol project!

      Thus the Hawaii Pidgin translation project was begun and over the course of the years 26 different speakers of the language worked with the Grimes as co-translators. The NT was published in 2002 and since that time numerous editions have been printed and close to 95,000 copies have been sold! That's more copies sold than any other NT translated by WBT members! Some of those copies have been purchased by tourists who have seen the book in a bookstore like Walden Books or Barnes and Noble, at Costco or the airport and said, "What's this? Why, it's the NT!" (Da Jesus Book)

      Almost as soon as the NT translation was begun in Hawaii Pidgin some people were asking for the OT, too. And so the Grimes began to study Hebrew and Joe's chart of who did what shows that Barbara drafted many of the OT books. Her life was cut short by two strokes, one of which occurred on their 62nd anniversary on March 1, 2014. Not long after her death Joe wrote to the Branch Director asking if there might be someone who would join him in the work to do some of the work that Barbara had done. I knew that Joe had had open heart surgery the previous year, so I wrote a note asking if he was having more physical problems. I was a bit scared to write, since I had always been intimidated by the man's brilliance, but he wrote a nice note back assuring me that he was doing fine physically. After a few messages went back and forth about this and that (mainly our children who had grown up together) Joe invited me to join the team to help with editing — "Didn't you help John when he was translating for the Mixtecs?" he asked.

      It was in August of 2014 when I began listening to Joe work with Earl Morihara as he finished translating the last book— Ezekiel — or as he reviewed other books for comprehension with Dottie Kusumoto. Twice a week, two or three hours each time, I listened and watched what was on the computer screen, and became acquainted with spoken Hawaii Pidgin. Eventually I understood enough to ask questions which sometimes pointed out something important that needed clarification!

      In September of last year Joe received the file for the third and final proofing of the entire Bible in Hawaii Pidgin. Darryl, the typesetter who lives and works in Dallas, told Joe that it should take the team about three weeks to finish going over the third proof text, but for one reason and another it has now been four months. Not being a native speaker of Pidgin Joe assigned me to do certain jobs that don't require me to know the language like Dottie and Earl. And so I checked that type styles were correct, that titles were similar, and I found some things that needed to be changed so as to have them the same as others of the same kind. When I finished going over all of those checks I began with Genesis, reading verse by verse, watching for any typos — and I've found some! At the beginning of this week I finished reading through Isaiah.

      As often happens when translators are coming to the end of the project illness or accidents or something occurs to slow things down. The first week of October Joe received word that his younger son Keith — who had never shown signs of heart trouble — had died of a heart attack in the middle of the night. Joe called his older son who is a translator and consultant in Australia and Chuck arranged to fly to eastern Tennessee where Keith's widow and daughter live. The two men were with Susan and Sarah for about a week for the funeral, etc. But when they called for plane reservations to return to Oklahoma where Joe lives they were told there were no flights available due to an approaching hurricane! So they arranged for a vehicle in order to drive — because they had to go west a long way before turning south what should have been a fairly short trip took 10 hours! Joe was scheduled to give a paper at a linguistic meeting in Dallas a few days later so he drove Chuck there where he was able to get a direct flight back to Australia. A few weeks later Joe went out for his usual early morning jog around the property where he lives in a retirement community and suddenly found himself flat on his face on the sidewalk! After two days in the hospital and many tests it was determined that he had blacked out because one of the medications he was taking had slowed his heart down too much! Oh yes — the fall had also caused him to crack his cheekbone. One cardiologist was saying that Joe should have a pacemaker installed but another cardiologist said "No, let's see if a change of medication takes care of the problem."

      As of today Joe's chart shows that the third proofing is about 23.6% complete. At this rate the proofing will not be completed in time to have Da Good An Spesho Book printed and ready for dedication this year. We ask for your prayers.


/dk/bio/2018-01-18.php       Stephen R Elliott • 2018 Jan 21 • 2018 Jan 21