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Missionaries translate through language maze

his parents in translating the

Two families serve

New Testament.

"I was just 8 when we moved

to Papua New Guinea," he said.

on Pacific island

"So I learned the language play

News-Sentlnel staff writer

ing soccer and volleyball with the

people. By the time (my parents)
had devised the grammar, I knew
(how to speak) the language.
His decision to help translate

"I'll never marry a mission

That's what Bonita Blevins

told John Pryor when he asked

her to marry him about the time
she was graduating from Young
High School.
"That's just fine because I

was made while he was in high


"We take high school by cor

respondence," he said. "Instead

of taking Spanish or French as
my foreign language, I took
Greek to help prepare me for the

have no intention of becoming

one," he vowed.
At the time, he was a student
at Johnson Bible College in South

work of translating.
"Meanwhile, I also read the

textbooks my parents had gotten

Knox County where she was the

daughter of Dr. William Blevins,

at the institute on creating a new

the academic dean. Pryor's older

brother, David, had preceded him


to the East Tennessee campus

from their home in Stillwater,

Mark, the shortest of the four

gospels with the simplest gram

Okla., and had written his youn

matical structure.

ger brother about the dean's

"I finished it a year ago," the

college senior said this week.

He started with the book of


"He picked me out for John,"

she said this week with a smile.
The two are back on campus,
two missionaries on leave, along

with their nephew, also John

"Then I went back this summer

to revise it."

He said he does not plan to

Julie Elman-Roche/News-Sentinel staff

John Pryor, a senior at Johnson Bible College, translated the book of Mark Into the Pidgin

Pryor, the son of the elder John's English used by natives on Papua New Guinea, where he lives with his missionary parents.
brother, David.
Both families now live in Pa

pua New Guinea, and are busy

translating the Bible into the lan

guages of the people they serve.
Although the two families are
stationed only about 60 miles

apart, the people they are work

ing with speak entirely different
"We have 700 different lan

guages in Papua New Guinea,"

Bonita Blevins said. "Not just di
alects completely different

languages. But they all speak a

kind of Pidgin English as the

trade language. It has borrowed

from English, Spanish, German,
Chinese and others."




University of Tennessee in three

ing the Bible into languages that

years, majoring in education. She

graduated at the top of her class,

still had no written Bible.

with her only B's in music educa

tion and art education.
"Once we decided to get mar

ried, I was in a hurry," she said.

"Our parents didn't want us to

get married until we had finished

True to his word, John Pryor
did not become a missionary
at first he trained for and be
came a minister of youth.
His older brother, David Pry

They went at it the hard way,

studying how to first create a
written language and grammar
for languages that are only spo

Perhaps inevitably, John and

Bonita became intrigued (after

their First reaction of incredulous

After ail, it's bad enough to get
into translating the Bible into an
other language, but to do it for a

or, and hiswife, the former Shar

language where there is no alpha

bet, no grammar and no history

on O'Brien of Falls Mills, Va.,

however, felt called to become
language missionaries, translat

tley did. Then ihey didn't.

of Ireading and writing? It was

ecough to make them laugh. And

"We went to the International

Linguistics Center in Dallas, Tex

as, operated by the Wycliffe Bible
Translators," Bonita said.
"It is nondenominational,"
John added.

"First they teach you how to

make all the possible sounds with
your mouth," Bonita said. '*Then
they show you how to move from
there to creating a grammar for
(any) language."
The two have just completed a
book on the story of Joseph and
his brothers from the Old Testa

Meanwhile, 60 miles away, the

younger John Pryor, son of Da
vid and Sharon, decided to join

make Bible translation his life's

work, but he does plan to return

to help his parents complete the

New Testamant, a task they hope
to be able to finish in eight years.
In the meantime, ham radio
serves to keep the families in
touch with each other on the
South Pacific island and with the

family members here on the

Johnson Bible College campus.
"I was given help by Roy

Ziegler, KF4CB, a salesman who

lives in Morristown," the older

John Pryor said.

"Bonita's dad was a signalman
in the Navy during the war

(World War II)," Pryor said. "He

said, 'If you ever get your license,
I'll get mine,'" Pryor said.
"I got mine in 1980 while I was
Please see BIBLE, oase B3

. .


Soeclal to The News-Sentin^

In Papua New Guinea, John Evin Pryor keeps

In touch with the folks in Kimberlln Heights
with long-range ham equipment.

Continued from page B1

home on furlough, and he had his in '81," he added,

shaking his head in admiration.

"There's no substitute for it," Pryor said. "Where

we are, there are no telephones."

The two families use 2-meter rigs for short-range

communications between their homes and out in

trucks. But they use long-range equipment to keep

in touch with the folks in Kimberlin Heights.

"We (brothers) are in touch each day," Pryor

said. "We actually see each other one to three times
a year."

Bonita Blevins Pryor uses a 2-meter rig for

short-range communications between their
Papua New Guinea home and trucks.

There also is a time schedule for checking in with

other missionaries in the area about three times each

"We talk to East Tennessee about two or three

times each week," the elder John Pryor said. His

wife, Bonita, has earned her technician's license,
which means she has passed the written exam for
her general license, but still has passed only the nov
ice license code speed. All she has to do now is pass
the faster code exam to get her general license.
That license allows ham radio operators to use
voice as well as code on a wide variety of frequen

Should be a snap for someone who finished UT in

three years at the top of her class.