Bible Translators in Columbia Relying on God
- September 26, 2013
During a course on exegetical methods, Clay Strom ('77, Advanced Studies) remembers when one of his professors leaned on the podium to pose a question: "What if God took everything you had, and you had to rely just on Him alone?"
Clay never forgot the question because he and his wife, Bev ('72, BA in Missionary Nursing '77), have faced many dangers over the last 31 years as Wycliffe Bible translators in Columbia, South America. "I wouldn't trade any of it because I learned so much about how faithful God is," Clay says.
The Stroms arrived in a remote Columbian Amazon jungle village accessible only by aircraft or boat in 1982 and began learning the language of the Letuama/Tanimuka people and befriending them. Just three years later, guerrillas came looking to harm the American missionaries. By God's grace, the Stroms were at the Wycliffe Mission Center in the plains at that time, but their house was burned and the chief urged them not to return. Reluctantly they stayed away for two-and-a-half years.
"At the time we saw it as a catastrophe, but we see how God was in it," Bev says. The move allowed them to concentrate on producing literacy books in order to launch an education program and distribute scriptural materials in the Letuama/Tanimuka villages.
The Stroms also began recording the translated Word on audio cassette tapes, including a panorama of the Bible with Scripture passages, a salvation message, and songs. The tapes and hand-cranked tape players were distributed in isolated jungle villages beginning in 1989.
In 1994 a colleague, Ray Rising, was kidnapped just outside the center where the Stroms worked. The Stroms' prayers were raised to God continually until the missionary was released unharmed two years later. However, they grieved when five New Tribes missionary hostages were killed. Because of ongoing security concerns, the Stroms moved to the Wycliffe Center reestablished in the capital city of Bogota.
"Through that experience, we learned many lessons about surrendering our all to Him who knows all and can do anything. We know that when we feel helpless He is never helpless," says Bev. "He is the Almighty God."
After the last of their three children graduated from high school in 2004, the Stroms moved permanently to Leticia, a Colombian town bordering Brazil and Peru. There they helped develop a Bible training program in 2006 to prepare national missionaries to reach their own people. They also produced Bible-related films and translated and recorded the Old Testament in a paraphrased story style. They are in the final stages of translating a partial New Testament (2013) and will publish a topical Scripture book and school dictionary in 2015.