By Richard Gretsky
Once he’d graduated from college and gotten married, the most logical thing for Tim Stirtz to do was to put his education degree right to work. Feeling called to missions, he and his wife, Toni, moved to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where Tim began teaching. He soon found, however, that there was one major problem with this plan.
“(Although) I liked it,” Tim said, “I didn’t really connect with the kids as well as I thought I needed to.”
They gave it two years, but ultimately decided they would look for a position that was a better fit for Tim. They moved back to the United States, unaware of what would be next. Eventually, the church that had been partnering with them financially decided to send them to Amman, Jordan, to learn Arabic and get to know that culture, in preparation for future service. While there, they continued to wonder what their missionary role would look like.
“We were considering how the Lord could use us overseas, and we met some Wycliffe colleagues who were (also) learning Arabic,” Tim recalled. “They told us about the work going on with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Sudan.”
The Stirtzes listened as their new friends told them about Sudanese believers who needed help translating the Bible into their languages. But despite Tim and Toni’s strong interest in that work, Tim didn’t think he had what it took to be involved in Bible translation.
“I (had) always thought, until then, that translators had to be really smart people, and I never thought of myself in that group,” Tim said. “(But) we were doing well in the language school, and (we) decided to give it a shot.”
So the couple attended linguistics school with SIL* in Dallas, Texas, for two years. Then, with newfound enthusiasm, they took an assignment in Sudan, Northeast Africa.
Now, after twelve years working in Sudan and South Sudan (the world’s newest formally recognized country), Tim has made a big impact. He currently serves as linguistics coordinator for the South Sudan Branch, running grammar training workshops for various language development teams preparing for Scripture translation. All the while, Toni diligently assists with administrative paperwork and cares for their two boys, Jonathan (14) and Joshua (11).
All told, Tim’s technical precision and teaching acumen has assisted more than a dozen language projects within the last year (including ‘Beli, Mundari, Lopit, and Cara**), and he has big dreams for the people of those languages.
“I would like to see them writing and reading well in their languages so they have a good foundation for Scripture when it’s ready; so that they will be able to easily understand it when they get it—and may then be changed by it.”
Tim’s hard work has certainly benefitted his Sudanese friends, but he’s also learned much from them.
“I’ve really enjoyed the time in Sudan and South Sudan. … I’ve learned a lot about the commitment of the Sudanese and their strong faith in God despite their circumstances,” Tim said. Then he added, “Yeah, it’s probably been a big part of the reason I’ve remained committed to the Lord—following their example.”
For Tim, the time has been second to none, and all he had to do was step out to trust Christ and pursue something that was on his heart, regardless of whether he felt capable of doing it, or even knew it was on the horizon.
“I would definitely encourage anyone who’s interested in language development to give it a shot. It’s not so much about intelligence as it is about hard work and a faithful spirit—devotion to the work, to the people, to the Lord.”
*One of Wycliffe’s primary partners
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