As I mentioned in an earlier post, it's Missions Week at our church. It's always nice to hear from missionaries around the world. Some of the missionaries I enjoy hearing from the most are from an organization called Wycliffe Bible Translators. The goal of Wycliffe is to translate the Bible into every language on the planet. Oftentimes this necessitates Wycliffe translators to create a written form for the language for the first time in history. Bible translation and literacy go hand-in-hand and in many remote areas on our planet and in addition to bringing the gospel message, literacy allows people to improve their lives in other areas (such as improved agriculture and sanitation acquired through reading).
Literacy class in Chad
Today, there are over 6,800 languages in the world today. Since 1942, Wycliffe has produced Bibles for the first time for about 700 of those languages and they are currently in active translation work in about 1,500 additional languages. UNESCO estimates that there are about 750 million non-literate people living today and about two-thirds of those are women.
Language surveyor at work in Papua New Guinea
My great-grandfather, Ed Goodner, was on the Wycliffe Board of Directors from its founding in 1942 until his death in 1957. My great-grandfather, known for his keen sense of humor, often journeyed abroad with other Wycliffe members to lay the groundwork for translation work in those countries. Dawson Trotman (founder of another organization called the Navigators), often accompanied the Wycliffe people abroad.
I'll repeat a couple anecdotes about my great-grandfather from a book about Trotman called, Lengthened Cords, by Ethel Wallis:
Daws was accompanied on his trips to Mexico by other Wycliffe board members, William Nyman, Dr. John Hubbard, and Ed Goodner. The later was the object of most of Daws' jokes. Ed, according to Daws, presumed to be able to manage fairly well in Spanish, so the other non-Spanish-speaking board members left the bargaining for taxi fares to him. Ed had been instructed that a fair rate for a given distance was dos (two) pesos, and he developed a fixation for that amount. When a certain taxi-driver came out with "uno cincuenta" (a peso and a half) in answer to "How much?" Ed Goodner stuck to his guns – "dos pesos." After some argument, the taxi-driver gave up and accepted two pesos for a peso-and-a-half ride. Ed Goodner's reputation asa linguist suffered appreciably at that point thanks to Daws.
Another time Ed Goodner saw a group of Mexican people all dressed up and walking down the street.
"This must be a Mexican holiday," he said. "I think I'll just step over and ask them what day it is."
As he returned to the other board members he said, "Yep, just as I thought–it's a big holiday. Today is Jueves." Upon discovering that "Jueves" meant "Thursday," Daws had all that he needed for jokes on Ed Goodner for several conferences to come. When I last saw Daws at our Wycliffe conference in September, 1955, he was still teasing Ed Goodner, privately and publicly, about his dos-pesos-Jueves brand of Spanish.
Curiously enough given his rudimentary foreign language skills, Ed Goodner's youngest daughter, Jane Goodner Nellis, spent her life working with Zapotec Indians in Oaxaca, Mexico, and was known for her work in the Zapotec tongue.
Extended Goodner family
Standing, back row: Jane Goodner Nellis and Neil Nellis
Seated, middle row: Ed Goodner holding my father, Don Maas, and Mary Grow Goodner
Seated, front row: brothers Dave Maas and Richard Maas