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Discovering what is unshakable

‘Lucy’s accident has only increased my passion for Bible translation’

John and Rosalie Rentz have been involved in Bible translation work for more than 30 years. Serving jointly with TMS Global and Wycliffe Bible Translators, the Rentzes have worked to translate the New Testament into the Äiwoo language. Äiwoo is an unwritten language spoken by a people group in the Solomon Islands.

John and Rosalie moved to the Solomon Islands in 1987. They spent years learning the Äiwoo language and culture before training a group of local men to help translate Scripture into their language.

In 1993, the Rentz family experienced a series of setbacks that changed their ministry. That year, John’s father was diagnosed with cancer. The family spent a few months in Waycross, Georgia, caring for him before he passed away. Just after returning to the Solomon Islands, John fell and shattered his elbow. For the next six months, John was greatly incapacitated and had to scale back his ministry involvement while his elbow healed. After he regained full use of his arm, John contracted hepatitis. He was moved to New Zealand in order to get adequate medical care and rest. After three months, the Rentz family returned to the field. John relapsed quickly.

“I truly grieved having to leave the field and translation work,” John remembers. “I think I loved it too much. I knew what it meant to be a missionary, but I had lost sight, in some ways, of what it meant to be a child of God.”

John and Rosalie began ministering with the Wycliffe New Zealand home office. John served as an associate director and the coordinator of member care. “It was incredibly rewarding work,” John said. The couple served in that office for the next 16 years.

Despite everything they had been through, the Rentzes’ hardest challenge lay ahead. Their 27-year-old daughter, Lucy, was severely injured in a cycling accident in the US. Lucy lingered in a coma for 14 months before she passed away in John’s arms on September 4, 2016.

John and Rosalie were in the highlands of Papua New Guinea when the accident occurred on July 1. It took 16 hours for news to reach them, and they landed in Denver on July 4 to be with Lucy. Lucy never regained consciousness after the accident. After a series of respiratory infections, she passed away in Tauranga Hospital in New Zealand.

“I believe that God allows us to go through experiences that can shake us to the core,” said John. “In those times, He is able to teach us to trust in Him and trust in the promises of His Word, and to let go of the things that are shakable.

“As it says in Hebrews 12: 25-29, only unshakable things will remain. What do we have in this world that is unshakable? Only God is unshakable and we can hold on to God’s Word and trust in Him.

“Lucy’s accident has only increased my passion for Bible translation,” John said. “I cannot imagine going through crises without having a strong foundation in scripture. I want all people to have access to the life-changing Word of God.”

This year, the Rentzes will return to the translation work they have always loved. Based in Tauranga, New Zealand, John and Rosalie will continue to translate the New Testament into Äiwoo.

“When we were first living in the Solomon Islands, I was working with a Reef Islander named Thomas,” said John. “He would check the translation as I worked on it and make comments about naturalness and clarity. One day, I gave Thomas three chapters of Matthew to read. He stayed up all night reading the verses. In the morning, Thomas said, ‘John, I’ve heard these stories all of my life and they never made sense to me. (He attended an English-speaking church on the island.) But this is my language, and these stories make sense to me for the first time.’

“When we dedicated the Gospel of Mark in 2004, we visited every village in the area. It was incredible to see people reading and hearing the Word of God for the first time in their own language. People stayed up late into the night, listening to scripture. They were hungry for God’s Word and were soaking it in.”

Please pray for the Rentz family as they continue to mourn Lucy’s death. Pray for the translation work with which they are involved. All people deserve the Word of God in their own language.

Photo: The Rentz family in 2013. Lucy is pictured on the left.