Celebrating 50 Years: Lynn Silvernale

In her 50 years of ministry, Lynn and her team completed a monumental task: translating the Bible into the language of an unreached people.

From Message magazine issue "All Things to All Men"

Ministry workers abounded in Lynn’s home church.

They looked somewhat like heroes through her wide young eyes. One day Lynn discovered a box full of pictures and articles from the Message magazine that her mother had collected over the years. She spent her elementary school days reading the wonderful stories of ABWE workers.

Lynn went on to fulfill her childhood dream of becoming a ministry worker when she left the comforts of home behind for East Pakistan in 1961.

This past July, Lynn was awarded a Presidential Citation for 50 years of extraordinary service with ABWE.

Q: How did God first call you to cross-cultural ministry?

A: My family frequently entertained ministry workers in our home. Through hearing them tell of their experiences, I knew by the time I was eight years old that God wanted me to go into ministry. One Sunday a few years later, I heard Dr. J Buswell read Romans directly from the Greek New Testament, which sparked my interest in Bible translation. That desire was affirmed when a couple doing Bible translation work in India presented their ministry at my church.

Q: What was the best part of living overseas and doing cross-cultural ministry?

A: It was a great privilege to live in a different culture and see those people come to Christ. You learn a lot about God’s sovereignty—that didn’t become real to me until I went to South Asia. I saw his sovereignty accomplished through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Q: What moment had the biggest impact on your ministry?

A: The greatest impact came through a Bengali woman named Mrs. D. She was an English teacher at a local high school, and I thought she could serve as our translator. Mrs. D. thought she was a Christian because she had been born into a Christian family, but she didn’t really understand her need for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I approached her one day about this and tears sprang from her eyes as she said, “No, I don’t think I am a real Christian.”

A few months later, Mrs. D. told me the Holy Spirit had convicted her of her sin. She gave her life to Christ, saying it was like God had tugged on her hair and said he wanted her to be our translator.

Q: What is your favorite memory from the field?

A: I was eating lunch in an apartment with some other ministry teammates when we heard a plane flying overhead. We immediately stood from the table and cheered as we watched it from the window. It was carrying the final draft of our Bengali Common Language New Testament to Bangkok for publication.

Another fond memory was witnessing Mrs. D. finally hold 29 years of work, which is how long it took us to translate the entire Bible from English to Bengali, in her hands for the very first time. She was dying from throat cancer and passed away soon after.

Q: What advice would you give someone considering cross-cultural ministry?

A: If you feel the leading of the Lord, pursue it and find out more about it. I had felt for years that God wanted me to be a ministry worker, but one day after I applied to ABWE I wondered if this was really God’s will or only mine. Around that time, I heard Pastor Tom Younger speak at a conference about how the Lord can only steer a moving vessel—that told me to keep moving!

ABWE President Paul Davis remarks on Lynn’s legacy:

“I’m humbled to be able to serve alongside missionaries like Lynn Silvernale. Although she’s in her 80s, Lynn continues to work as tirelessly in the Lord’s service as she did in her 20s and 30s. If I had a goal for what my life looks like when I ‘grow up’—it would be modeled after Lynn’s life and ministry.”