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Despite Guyana murder, Bible translation efforts continue

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–Relatives and friends of two Wycliffe Bible translators murdered in an apparent home robbery in Guyana have seen God working amid the tragedy.

Rich Hicks, 42, and his wife, Charlene, 58, were found dead March 30 outside their burned home in an isolated area near the town of Lethem in southwestern Guyana near the Brazilian border, according to a Wycliffe news release. Authorities have labeled the deaths as homicides and arrest warrants have been issued. The burned home and later the bodies were found by a friend.

Despite the tragedy, relatives have seen much good emerge.

The Bible translation the Hickses had undertaken among the Wapishana people will continue, reported David Richards, registrar at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., and brother-in-law of the Hickses.

Although some of the translation was destroyed in the fire, the Hickses’ Guyana language helpers and a co-worker, Bev Dawson, are committed to continuing with the translation, Richards said.

“The Wapishana people are taking up the baton,” said Richards, whose wife, Karen, is the executor of her sister’s will. “… The people are taking ownership of it.”

One of the natives who helped the Hickses with the translation spoke of the importance of the couple’s work at their funeral service on April 8 in Guyana.

“This will not stop us,” said a Wapishana woman identified as Olive. “We will continue on to finish the Wapishana translation. We like the Wapishana Scriptures. We can remember it. When we hear English we forget it, but when we hear the Scriptures in Wapishana, they stick. We remember them when we go back to our houses, lie in our hammocks and think about what they say.”

Memorial services were held in Whitby, Ontario, Canada, on April 9; in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada, on May 1; and in St. Charles, Minn., on April 16.

The murders have upset the close-knit Wapishana community where the Hickses had served since 1994.

“For the Wapishana people, this was a horrendous thing that happened to them because these things just don’t happen that often,” Richards said of the region that was considered to be relatively safe.

Richards said the Hickses had been struggling to find an appropriate translation for the word “justice.” He said their deaths may give the natives an opportunity to better understand the word as an investigation continues and as they reflect on the tragedy.

Richards said the memorial service in Canada was another way God has used the circumstances for His glory.

Due to the intense media attention in Canada where Rich was a dual citizen, Richards said the pastor who led the memorial service was given a platform to share the Gospel through various interviews.

“They asked him, ‘Why would God let this happen?’ and he responded, ‘I don’t know why, but would you be asking this question if it hadn’t?’” Richards recounted.

Although the family is struggling with the ongoing whirlwind surrounding the couple’s death, Richards said they ultimately know God has a plan and will use their lives and testimony for His glory.

“We want God to be glorified in it,” said Richards, whose family had planned to spend a week with the couple in August. “We don’t know God’s purposes but in His sovereign plan, He is accomplishing what He intended. Our hope and assurance is that they are with Him now.”

Midwestern Seminary President R. Philip Roberts said the seminary family has grieved with the Richards family and are thankful for the faithful and sacrificial service of the Hickses in spreading the Gospel in their corner of the world.

“Although we did not know the Hicks personally, we honor and venerate their sacrifice in the service of the Gospel,” Roberts said. “It is stuff on which the fulfillment of the Great Commission one day will be built. Our prayers and thoughts are with the Richards family in their loss.”

The Hickses had been married for 13 years and met in Dallas while serving at Wycliffe in 1990. Two years after they were married, they left for Guyana to work on language development and translation of the Bible for the Wapishana people.

Rich Hicks, who also held dual citizenship in the United States, was a linguist/translator, while Charlene, who grew up in a missionary family, served as a literacy specialist.

The couple did not have any children, although, as Richards put it, “the Wapishana people were constantly invited into their home and became like family.”

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  • Cory Miller