JOE AND BARBARA GRIMES – Heroes of the Faith

24 Jul


When I heard that Joe and Barbara were leaving Hawaii in mid-August, I wanted to see them one last time before they moved to the mainland. Since I was on sabbatical till September I would miss them before I came back, so I drove out to Ka Punawai Ola in Kapolei, the nursing home where Barbara was staying. When I got there, husband Joe and their son Chuck were visiting too.

Joe and Barbara have been worshipping the Lord at First Prez for 27 years! You may not know this but they are heroes of the faith who have tremendously contributed to the Kingdom of God.

   You see, Joe and Barbara are Wycliffe Bible translators. They have devoted their lives to Bible translation since graduating from Wheaton College 50 years ago. They are currently coordinating the process of translating the Scriptures into Hawaii Pidgin English for the estimated 500,000 Pidgin English speakers, and especially for the estimated 100,000 to 200,000 (according to a University of Hawaii study) who use Pidgin English as their primary language. These are the ones who found reading the Bible in English too difficult.  

The Hawaii Pidgin New Testament, known as Da Jesus Book, was dedicated in Hawaii in June 2001. By October 2003, it was in its fourth printing having sold more than 85,000 copies (you can even get it at COSTCO). In fact, it has been on the bestseller list in Hawaii 16 times! The goal now is to have the Old Testament in Pidgin too. (Their son Chuck, by the way, is also a Wycliffe translator, who’s currently translating the Bible for a people group in Indonesia.)

But more than that, the Grimes are the creators of The Ethnologue (, a reference website cataloging all of the world’s known living languages. Barbara was Ethnologue’s longest serving editor from 1974 to 2000, and Joe did a lot of the field research. This scholarly journal and site is the definitive global standard for all languages and cultures of all people groups. It is used by governments and universities all over the world, and recognized by the United Nations. 

So if anyone anywhere in the world wants to know the cultural background of a certain people group, The Ethnologue is the first stop, thanks to the Grimes. This is an incredible contribution to the work of God and to the world.

Wycliffe is predicting that within the next generation and for the first time in history, all people groups will have a version of the Bible translated into their native languages. 

Bible translation may not sound very appealing, but it is critically important. It’s painstakingly slow and gets little public acclaim. Imagine people not even having a Bible! First Prez wanted to be there for our Wycliffe partners, and so for at least the last 20 years, Wycliffe has been the biggest recipient of mission money from First Prez. In our own small way, and in the Grimes’ big way, it is becoming possible for all peoples, all nations to have a chance to read God’s word in their own languages. This is an amazing accomplishment considering the millions of languages that exist today.

The Grimes alone have completed four full Bible translations in their five decades of ministry, which is an incredible number. Aside from translating the Bible to pidgin, Joe is also simultaneously working on a translation for a Mexican people group—astonishing to say the least. 

Joe and Barbara are leaving for Oklahoma so they can have a better environment for recovery from medical issues. Barbara had a stroke on May 3rd and needs six months to recover. Joe had heart surgery on June 14th. And with their Medicare coverage running out, they will need to move to a Christian retirement home to where some of their Wheaton friends have also moved. We will miss Joe and Barbara.

Fortunately there will be some folks in Hawaii who will take over for the Grimes in finishing the last part of the Pidgin Bible project, which has the books of Job, Song of Songs, and Ezekiel only remaining.

As Joe and Barbara leave Hawaii, let’s give them our fondest aloha. I can just imagine God saying to them, “Well done, My good and faithful servants, Joe and Barbara. You are heroes of the faith.”

4 Responses to “JOE AND BARBARA GRIMES – Heroes of the Faith”

  1. Scott Schultz July 24, 2013 at 6:22 am #

    Thank you for sharing a lovely tribute to these amazing servant leaders!

    • Scott Schultz July 24, 2013 at 6:23 am #

      BTW, nice shirt!

  2. Debbie Mellberg July 25, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

    Thank you for this beautiful tribute to this amazing couple, true servants, of the King. They are dearly loved by their Huichol brothers and sisters in Mexico who as a result of the Grimes’ answer to their call, love and discipline have God’s word, the New Testament, in their heart language.

  3. Eric April 11, 2017 at 1:22 pm #

    Joe and Barbra see you in heaven love you both with all my heart. Aloha my bradda. Agape Eric Hashimoto

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