By Richard Gretsky
Some people think of missionaries as super-human—leaping the entire breadth of the Atlantic Ocean in one bound, leading entire countries to Jesus, all while dodging flights of arrows. But that’s not what they are. Most are pretty normal, actually; except that they’ve committed to roll up their sleeves, travel far from home, and serve however they can.
Such is the case with Bob and Nancy Schaefer.
They were both raised on dairy farms in the Ozarks, but didn’t meet until college. Then, in the summer of 1969, they got married and joined Wycliffe.
Assigned to Ghana in 1971—the same year their son Paul was born—they moved to the Farefare village of Zuarungu in April 1972. Later, they welcomed two more children into their family—one in 1974 and one in 1977.
Bob and Nancy acclimated quickly to a life of translation in the village, as the diligence necessary for it closely mirrored the “farmers’ hours” they experienced growing up in Missouri and Arkansas.
Their down-to-earth, diligent effort translating Scripture has paid great dividends for the local people: in 1986, the Schaefers and their local team finished the Farefare New Testament, followed by the Buli New Testatment in 1996, the Birifor New Testament in 2006, and the full Farefare Bible in 2008. They expect to finish the full Buli Bible in 2015.
To this day, they still live there (as does their son, who works with a neighboring people group) helping to translate the Scriptures. Since 1983, their job has slowly shifted from strictly translation to primarily serving as consultants for local translators—something they speak fondly of.
“You have to be prepared not to seek position for yourself, but rather to help others be in the position to do the work of Bible translation,” Bob said.
“In most of our work, more or less, we are offering shoulders to stand on,” Nancy added. “[And] the thing that stands out to me is absolutely how much you can learn from the people that you work with.”
With the help of those people, these selfless farmers-turned-translators have enabled many more people to access God’s Word in their own language. So when talking about missionaries’ success, this couple may not be super-human, but they’ve played a major role in leading people to Jesus, and that’s super enough for them.