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J.R. Bucklew

Follower of Christ - Husband of Feven - Father of Maraki - Non-profit Leader - Deaf Ministry Strategist - Visionary - Innovator

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  • J.R. Bucklew

From Explorer to Pioneer: A Next Steps Announcement

Updated: Apr 25, 2020

The last decade of my life has been quite a whirlwind. I have had the privilege of being able to work on the field in Ethiopia, launch a first of its kind mobile app for the distribution of scripture in Sign Language, and work with some fantastic people to help put sign language projects at the forefront of the Bible translation movement. Indeed, this was not something done by any single person but was the joint effort of me, the fantastic team at Deaf Bible Society, and the wonderful leaders at multiple partner organizations around the world. The strategy was prayer and hard work. As I've previously shared along this journey, I got off-course in my walk with Christ. I equate my experience in the Word and prayer during the years of 2016 - 2019 as having been more or less the concept of studying marriage vs. living out marriage when it came to my relationship with Christ. I would engage in scripture to prepare for a speaking engagement, presentation, or radio show, but not for just me being with Jesus. I would pray in staff meetings and with partners to petition the King, but I wasn't walking through the garden with Him on my own in my private life. The last 6 - 7 months have been quite refreshing. While our world seems to be flipped on its head in light of COVID-19, I seem to be in a place where I've never felt more joy, rest, and comfort than I do right now. That is primarily due to the fantastic walks through the garden I have had over this sabbatical season. I am hopeful and confident that the Lord is working in your life even in the chaos because I have seen how incredibly He has been working in my own life. A few weeks ago, I was listening to a sermon by Matt Chandler, teaching pastor at the Village Church in Flower Mound, TX. He started sharing this idea that all of our idols can be categorized into four groups. 1) The idol of power 2) The idol of control 3) The idol of comfort and 4) The idol of approval. This concept was a great way to wrap up some of the things I recognized needed changing in my life. Indeed, my role and things like Deaf Bible Society had become idols in my own life. The need to maintain position and organization had superseded my need to love Christ and know Him fully. That idol needed to be shattered and God had His way of doing just that. When our family entered 2020, there were undoubtedly some unknowns. We knew we wanted to serve God and use our gifting but didn't know how or where He would take us. It seemed the majority of the last decade was spent exploring for the sake of the Sign Language Bible cause. What do I mean? Well, an explorer generally is someone who travels in search of geographical or scientific information. In this context, it was a journey of exploring the needs of Deaf churches around the world. Identifying the underlying challenges ministries had for Sign Language Bible Translation and engaging with churches that wanted the Bible in their Sign Language. As we began to pray through several opportunities that presented themselves, there was one that seemed to stand out. There are several reasons we leaned into this organization. From the fact that they had a stellar internal discipleship and prayer focus to, they wanted to do something complementary to the Bible Translation movement and not competitive. That's not to say that others are competitive, but to say that this organization's work and focus was to fill the gap. Several organizations today are working off of a model that engages the local church and provides it with support and resources to do Bible translation well. For these guys, their focus is primarily on the areas where there is no Bible and no Church. How will those receive God's Word? This was a rather exciting thought for me as I love a good challenge. Of course, because of my experience in Ethiopia working in villages with many Deaf people who (because of social stigmas) were never exposed to Ethiopian sign language, and were not literate in the written form of the local spoken language, I wanted to think about those who had no Bible, no Church, and no language. Now tell me... How will those "hear" the Gospel? Indeed, the good news is to be taken to them as well. We felt the Lord answer our prayers and leading us to make the transition from explorers in this movement to being pioneers in this movement. To work alongside a team that was praying for and supporting other ministries who are engaging local churches to start sign language Bible translations. While focusing their efforts on the Deaf people groups that were more challenging to engage, they have no Bible and no Church. After several months of what I called a pretty brutal recruitment process, I say that because these guys left no stone unturned in mine and Feven's lives. We experienced everything from multiple 100+ question assessments, their leadership meeting with our pastors, us meeting with counselors, their leadership meeting with leaders of other agencies and partners, excruciating times of silence (that's mostly just my issue that the Lord was teaching me patience in lol) and more. Their review team then took our file, prayed, and felt the Lord leading them to accept us into their organization. So, I am excited to announce that we will be joining Pioneer Bible Translators! I will be taking a role with them as their Development Director for Sign Language Projects. My time will be focused on working with donors, churches, and foundations to generate resources for the ongoing cause of Sign Language Bible Translation and Church Planting. I'm thrilled to be able to continue in the work of creating awareness, excitement, and resources. So that Deaf leaders can focus on the hard and much-needed work of training other leaders, planting churches, and translating the Bible, especially in the harder to reach places in the world. God is good! We will also be working with Pioneer Bible Translators part-time engaging in ministry work among the Deaf in Ethiopia. I look forward to sharing more about that with you at a later time. For now, be praying for us as we begin this transition into serving the Lord under the umbrella of Pioneer Bible Translators. Thank you for your prayers! We think of so many of you as you walk these uncertain times, but we can have hope in our sovereign God that none of these things have taken Him by surprise. He is still in control even when we don't understand it all. Until all the Deaf have seen, J.R., Feven, and Maraki

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