Concordia alumnus Tim Beckendorf works with the Khwe translation team. Photo courtesy of Lutheran Bible Translators.
by Benjamin Middendorf
Lutheran Bible Translators missionary and translator Rev. Tim Beckendorf returned to Concordia on Oct. 27 to discuss the opportunity of Bible translation with Rev. Dr. Mehl’s Mission of God class.
Beckendorf has visited the campus several times in past years, speaking to Mehl’s class as well as to linguistics classes and alumni of Concordia.
“A translator is basically providing the means by which evangelism can happen,” Beckendorf said. “Because if you don’t have God’s word translated into (a) language, the evangelist has nothing with which to work.”
Beckendorf graduated from Concordia in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in music. He also graduated from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis and was ordained in 2003. He has received a master’s degree in applied linguistics from the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics in Dallas.
“I served as a volunteer missionary in (Slovakia) in 1993-94, and that just kind of got in my bloodstream,” Beckendorf said. “While at seminary, I met with an LBT recruitment person, and it just went from there. I like languages, so this was a good fit.”
In 2005, LBT placed Beckendorf and his family in Shakawe, Botswana, in southern Africa. They have served as missionaries and translators there for over a decade, coming back to the US every few years for several months.[Text Wrapping Break]Beckendorf works with the Khwe people, who live along the border between Botswana and Namibia and use clicks as part of their language, which is also called Khwe. There are around 6,000 speakers of Khwe according to some censuses, as well as five different dialects within the language.
“I just love translating, it’s the best job in the world to be a translator,” Beckendorf said. “You get to work with God’s word every day, and it’s just fascinating and rewarding to see what happens when people encounter God’s word for the first time in their language.”
LBT is an independent Lutheran organization that places translators in communities around the world that lack translations of the Bible. Tim Bain, recruitment coordinator for LBT, also visited campus for several days to speak with students about the mission field that LBT serves, and their potential vocations as translators or missionaries.
Beckendorf has worked with several other translators from multiple denominations to produce a panoramic Bible in the Khwe language, which uses selections from both the Old and New Testament to tell the story of salvation. Part of the translation work includes developing spelling rules and codifying the language, as well as negotiating with the Khwe people whose dialect is used for translation. Beckendorf said that the translators hope to translate the entire New Testament after this project is finished.
“There are so many languages and so many people out there that still don’t have God’s word,” Beckendorf said. “(If) you have a jar that’s filled (about a fourth full), that’s the (languages) that have the whole Bible. Then you have a jar that’s filled (about halfway) that has just the new testament. Then you have a jar that’s overflowing, that’s all the languages that have zero (biblical translations). There’s a huge need and opportunity.”
“(He was) very insightful on how Bible translation makes an impact, not only on different countries around the world but in communities and people groups that are often overlooked in society . . . and by their governments,” senior pre-seminary major Ryan Maser said. “And yet these people are valued and are hungry for the word of God. Where the word of God is translated from the original languages . . . no matter if you’re educated or not, if you have social status or not, the word of God is still able to be available to you and have an impact in your life.”