April 10, 2000 - To the Niellim people who will forever have a place in my heart
Mark and I bowed in prayer. It was just minutes before I would give the 15-minute presentation I had rehearsed, and then the committee of three professors would cross examine me for an hour and a half. This is what they call The Defense. Nervousness began to gnaw at my stomach.
As we prayed, my thoughts turned from the thesis and the defense to the Niellim people. This thesis represented the culmination of two and a half years of Niellim friendships. The tears welled up inside as I prayed for Sosthenese, the Chadian who is learning the Niellim language in order to translate the Bible; for Michael, who is evangelizing and planting churches; for "R" and "F" the young Niellim converts now working with Sosthenese on Bible translation; for "Timothy," wherever he may be, that he would connect with the other believers; for the chief, that he would put his trust in God and Christ. The tears flowed freely.
The previous three months had been a laborious academic pursuit. In late February the realization hit me that this thesis would never be an earth-shattering discovery or revelation to the linguistic world and that the extent of its usefulness to the Niellim and to Bible translation was yet uncertain. "Cohesion and Salience in Niellim Narratives: A look at discourse particles and participant reference" wouldn't that really warm their hearts? That day in late February I wondered, "Is it worth it? It is only two little letters M.A. What is the use of those letters? Surely, bringing the gospel to the Niellim is more important than this masters degree." Amid such doubts and questions about the value of the thesis, the Niellim remained my motivation and focus. The thesis was a constant reminder to me of these people, a catalyst for prayer. I dedicated the work to them. "To the Niellim people who will forever have a place in my heart.""This symbolizes closure to you, doesn't it?" Mark asked as we finished praying. "Yes," I replied, and then hurried into the other room in search of one last item to take to the defense. Where was it? Scrounging through piles that had accumulated over the past three months, I searched. "Here it is!" A hand drawn picture colored in with pencil it was Niellim village and Niellim "mountains" complete with monkeys sitting atop the rocks. The artist was Koffi, the Chadian missionary who, together with Yusuf, planted the first Niellim church and then discipled the first believer and saw him baptized. Koffi had presented me with the picture as a souvenir of Niellim. Now, I could face the defense. It was for all of them that I had completed this work. Now it would be they who would accompany me through the hour and forty-five minute-defense... Two hours later the three professors marked "Passed, Unconditionally" on my evaluation form. Praise the Lord.
Turning in the final copy to Don Myrick - Czar of theses for The University Of Texas at Arlington
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