When Linda Johnson Jones ’72 chose to double major in math and Spanish, many saw it as a contradictory pursuit. But to her roommate Susan Weimer Felch ’72, M.A. ’74, the daughter of Wycliffe Bible translators in Papua New Guinea, Linda’s academic interests suggested a latent aptitude for linguistics.
Linda, who had felt called to mission work since high school, says the seed was planted. In 1973 she enrolled in a graduate-level linguistics course at the University of Florida, which confirmed her passion for language analysis and her calling to Bible translation. She transferred to the University of Michigan to earn a doctorate in the field, studying under leading linguist Dr. Kenneth Pike.
After joining Wycliffe Bible Translators, Linda and her husband, fellow linguist Larry Jones, began work in 1983 among the Yawa people on a remote island village in eastern Indonesia. But in 1991, Larry was invited to assume increasingly demanding leadership roles with the mission, and the family moved to Jakarta and eventually to Manila.
In 1993, Linda assumed leadership of the Yawa language work, which by then included completed translations of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The work progressed slowly. She was simultaneously homeschooling their three young children, and communication with Andowa, the couple’s Yawa co-translator, was severely challenged.
Nevertheless, by June 2011 the translation was completed, and Linda and Larry traveled to eastern Indonesia with their family and a group of friends to participate in celebrations dedicating the New Testament in the Yawa language. The trip, which included ten days of festivities, the official induction of the Joneses’ three children into the Yawa “tribe,” and a terrifying boat ride following the eruption of a tropical storm, was filled with enough highlights for many lifetimes. Most thrilling of all was the unexpected news within one month of the Joneses’ return that all 2,000 copies of the Yawa New Testament had sold out. Two thousand more copies were quickly ordered.
Today Linda looks forward to working as a consultant with other Bible translation teams—now mostly composed of mother tongue speakers— with plans to serve in Nigeria and Indonesia.
Front row left to right: Linda Johnson Jones, Yawa co-translator Andowa (holding the NT), Larry Jones
Back row left to right: Charity Barker Jones (Wheaton '04), Nate Jones (Wheaton '05), Caleb Jones, Charis Jones
by Dawn Kotapish ’92