This is John Daboney, a Ghanaian from the Nawuri language. He is holding his copy of the Nawuri New Testament at its dedication on November 23.
John was the main reviewer for the translation of the New Testament into the Nawuri language. As a reviewer he was an unpaid volunteer and John is retired. In Ghana, that means that he has a very modest income. He lost his wife a year ago. She had a job that brought in most of their income. But rather than go out and find work or do some farming, John kept devoting all his time to review the Nawuri translation. He put in thousands of volunteer hours pouring over each verse to check that it was clearly and accurately translated. In April 2012, I stopped briefly in Kpandai, where the translation office is located. The translators told me that John’s suggestions were many and invaluable. He saw things that were not clear and had a knack for knowing how to say things more clearly and accurately. Some people just have a gift for their language. They are invaluable in the translation process.
John has a problem with his eyes for which he underwent an operation two years ago. He needed more treatment but he postponed it because of time and lack of money. For him, the translation was higher priority.
Missionaries who travel to difficult places get recognized. Books are written about some of them. But across the world and across the centuries, tens of thousands of local people play crucial roles in the missionary endeavor. They contribute with little or no pay. Sometimes, they are persecuted. I met another Ghanaian whose father was the first pastor from one of the language communities in northern Ghana. His childhood memories include that most people were against is father, considering him a traitor for leaving the traditional religion. The believed that he endangered everyone because the spirits and deities would certainly retaliate for being abandoned and everyone would suffer. But his father showed immense faith and perseverance. Now Christianity is widely accepted.
No missionary biography will be written about that pastor nor about John Daboney. When I see their contribution I think of these verses in Hebrews:
Many of these people were tortured, but they refused to be released. They were sure that they would get a better reward when the dead are raised to life. Others were made fun of and beaten with whips, and some were chained in jail. Still others were stoned to death or sawed in two or killed with swords. Some had nothing but sheep skins or goat skins to wear. They were poor, mistreated, and tortured. The world did not deserve these good people, who had to wander in deserts and on mountains and had to live in caves and holes in the ground. (Heb 11: 35-38, CEV, emphasis mine)
John Daboney and many others like him really are better than the world deserves, better even than we missionaries deserve. In mid February, John passed away suddenly; barely three months after the dedication of the translation to which he was so dedicated. In Ghana and in many other places more like him continue to work on the translations in their languages. Pray that God would meet their needs and that He would encourage them. But most of all, thank him for calling them and filling them with unselfish faith.