Posted Online: Jan. 05, 2013, 6:10 am

Aviator's flight plans include Bibles in every language

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By Claudia Loucks,

Photo: Claudia Loucks / correspondent
Bob Dontje, of East Moline, holds two Bibles that have been written in the ‘heart language’ of the people who received them.
EAST MOLINE – His "flight plan" includes making Bibles available to all people in the language they understand best.

Bob Dontje, of East Moline, is an aviation recruiter for Wycliffe Bible Translators, a faith mission. By 2025, he hopes to see translation programs for every language, he said.

Wycliffe members are self-supported. ''In other words, we are totally dependent on God to provide our needs," Mr. Dontje said.

Since its inception in 1942, Wycliffe has completed more than 700 Scripture translations,making the Bible accessible to all people in the language they understand best.

Bibles are written ''in their own heart language so they can understand it in a way that you cannot if using a language other than your own," he said.

Mr. Dontje became interested in mission aviation when a high school music teacher introduced him to the idea.

"I started college thinking I would pursue a major in vocal music, but after one semester found myself led to mission aviation instead."

One of his "greatest experiences" in his 32-year mission-work career was when heflew in a translated New Testament on July 17, 1996, in Kentewu, Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Mr. Dontje's aviation career began with training at Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, and at Moody Aviation, Elizabethton, Tenn.

He joined Wycliffe with 29 years of experience with Mission Aviation Fellowship, at which he served as a pilot/mechanic for many years in Papua, East Kalimantan (Borneo) and Sulawesi, Indonesia.

In 1999, he and his first wife, the late Neva Dontje, felt a strong call to return to the U.S. Shortly after their return, Mrs. Dontje became ill with cancer and later died.

Mr. Dontje went legally blind with cataracts.

After his wife's death and his cataract surgery, he returned to aviation work serving in Lesotho, Africa, as a pilot/mechanic and administrative adviser. He also had served in Sumatra, Indonesia, as an interim program manager; in East Democratic Republic of the Congo doing construction and refurbishing of housing for staff; and in Haiti for several weeks after the earthquake doing logistics.

Changes at Mission Aviation Fellowship and in his life led Mr. Dontje to seek other aviation pursuits.

He joined Wycliffe in January 2011.

After completing recruitment training, he's been actively seeking other new recruits.

After grappling with learning to speak Indonesian as a second language, Mr. Dontje learned to appreciate the value of having Scripture ''in your own heart language," he said. "Even after 14 years using the Indonesian language every day and being able to communicate in Indonesian fluently with respected government officials, understanding Scripture still didn't have the impact, as listening to it in English."

It also was quite difficult to leave Indonesia in 1999, especially ''without knowing what was ahead," he said. "There are times in life when things are not what they seem to be and being on shifting sand is not where I wanted to be.

"Thanks to God for keeping my feet solidly planted on a firm foundation," Mr. Dontje said.

He prays "that we are looking full into the face of God while standing on the solid rock of our Savior so the storm around us does not more us from the appointed task we have been assigned -- to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone around us."

Bob Dontje bio box
Birth date: April 21, 1955.
Hometown: Grew up in Ledyard, Iowa.
Family: Wife, Sally Dontje; sons, Matthew Williams, Nathan Williams, both of Moline, Josh Dontje, Yellowstone Park, Wyo., and Tim Dontje, Ledyard, Iowa; and daughter, Stephanie Dontje, Ankeny, Iowa.
Education: Moody Bible Institute and Moody Aviation, earning a bachelor's degree in mission aviation technology; also correspondence classes from Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Mo.
Favorite Scripture: "Jeremiah 29:11-13 and Micah 6:8."
Peak experience: "I have two, the dedication of the Bible translation in Indonesia and my marriage to Sally."
Pit experience: "Leaving Indonesia and losing my wife to cancer soon after."
One thing I feel strongly about: "Everyone in the world having scripture in their own language."

Contributions to Mr. Dontje and his ministry may be mailed to Wycliffe Bible Translators, P.O. Box 628200, Orlando, FL, 32862-8200, with a note attached that reads: "For the ministry of Bob Dontje," Account No. 271180.