Posts Tagged ‘John Bendor-Samuel’

How many times have you read in a newspaper or heard on the radio an anonymous statement like the title above?

How often have you wondered about the person behind the brief comment… about the story of their life?

Having published a very brief statement on Friday past, the Bucks Free Press has today published a more detailed tribute to the man behind the headline – my friend and colleague Dr John Bendor-Samuel.

Dr John Bendor-Samuel

TRIBUTES have been paid to an 81-year-old pedestrian who died after a collision with a car in Studley Green last week.

Dr Bendor-Samuel, of Water End Lane, Studley Green, was a leading linguist and language specialist who pioneered Bible translation and literacy work in Africa.

The father-of-five died in hospital after the accident on Wycombe Road at 6.40pm on Thursday. The cause of the collision is being investigated.

In the 1950s Dr Bendor-Samuel effectively founded and established the UK branches of Wycliffe Bible Translators, based in Horsleys Green, and the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), along with brother David and wife Pam.

A statement from Dr Bendor-Smith’s family said: “For Pam, his children and Grandchildren John was a hugely loved husband, father and grandfather, the gentle patriarch who gave himself unstintingly in love, wisdom and practical care.”

Dr Bendor-Samuel was born in Sussex and gained a host of academic qualifications at Oxford University and London University.

He later entered the ministry of Wycliffe Bible Translators and began serving with the SIL, a non-profit Christian organisation, in 1954.

He served in Peru, working in the Jebero language and then Brazil, with the Terena until 1961.

From 1960, in response to requests from several African churches and mission leaders, John lived, first at Achimota, Ghana, and then in Nigeria for the next 14 years.

During this time he directed SIL’s work in West Africa, and helped the organisation expand to more than a dozen other African countries.

From 1982 to 1994 he was the editor of the Journal of West African Languages. More recently he had been researching and archiving SIL’s work in Africa.

Eddie Arthur, executive director of Wycliffe Bible Translators UK, said: “John was a towering figure on the international mission scene. He was well known and widely respected around the world for his passion for God’s word and the needs of minority people groups.”

Freddy Boswell, executive director SIL, said: “Few people have impacted global language development and Bible translation over the last half century as did our beloved friend and colleague, Dr. John Bendor-Samuel.”

A police press release last week gave Dr Bendor-Samuel’s age as 83.

The next time I read or hear such an anonymous statement, I will pause… I hope I will remember JBS… and I’ll wonder what amazing story might lie behind the headline.


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It is a measure of the esteem in which JBS is held around the world that my post on him yesterday received a record number of hits.

Colleague Eddie Arthur, our current Wycliffe UK Director has posted a thoughtful and grateful tribute in Sitting in a Giant’s Seat – thoughts that all of us who knew John can only echo.

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Dr John Bendor-Samuel - JBS

When we returned from our teaching assignment in Ivory Coast in 1997, John Bendor-Samuel (JBS) was Wycliffe UK Director ie my boss. I recall him arriving at our home in Belfast one afternoon, removing his shoes at the door and extracting a pair of slippers from his bag. After tea, he was promptly in the kitchen, sleeves rolled up and washing the dishes. That was JBS’ servant attitude.

My other abiding memory is the passion of his speaking and his passion for the Bibleless peoples of the world. Every time I heard him speak, I wanted to jump up and shout: “Yes! I will join Wycliffe!” The last time I remember wanting to do that was at Belfast Bible College – at which time I had been a Wycliffe member for some ten years…

JBS died last night in hospital shortly after being struck by a car near his home close to the Wycliffe Centre in England.

Articles have been posted on Wycliffe International and the Wycliffe UK Blog

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