National Lutheran News

The Bunkowskes recognized for commitment to world mission

Eugene and Bernice Bunkowske, pioneering missionaries in West African Bible translation and in mission service around the world, were recently given the Lutheran Bible Translators (LBT) Lifetime Achievement Award. The award was presented in recognition of their more than 50 years of Bible translation, linguistics, communications, mission, outreach, volunteer and education service to Christ around the world as well as in the U.S.

“Dr. and Bernice Bunkowske have shared, lived, and acted on their passion for reaching out and spreading God’s Word to the whole world over half a century … so far,” the Rev. Dr. Douglas Rutt, LBT board chair, said as he presented the award to the Bunkowskes at LBT’s annual dinner.

“God has always shown us the way and blessed our efforts in His time. The glory is His,” Dr. Bunkowske said. “In 1960, after graduation from Concordia Theological Seminary and feeling called to the mission field, we started our first overseas evangelistic and hospital mission efforts in the Ogoja province of Nigeria,” he said. “There, Bernice and I joined with LCMS World Mission missionaries the Rev. Morrie and Lois Watkins, helping to train local evangelists, and establish a Bible school.”

Eugene (center) and Bernice Bunkowske received Lutheran Bible Translators Lifetime Achievement Award for their commitment to mission throughout the world and in the United States. photo provided by Concordia University, St. Paul

Those early efforts, developments, mission needs, ideas, potential solutions and organizational efforts, helped lead to the 1964 formation of Messengers of Christ, Inc. Rev. Watkins became the first executive director of the organization, which later became LBT.

God has always shown us the way and blessed our efforts in His time. The glory is His.

Through the 1960s, ‘70s and early ‘80s, the Bunkowskes identified and worked on many early Bible translation and language projects in Nigeria, including Yala, Boki, Yachi, and Kukelle language translations. Eventually Eugene had responsibility for 60 African countries, and Bernice served as United Bible Society secretary from 1974 to 1980.

The return

Returning to the U.S. in 1982, Eugene served as a professor at Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, Indiana. There he founded and directed the PhD Program in Missiology as well as the Lutheran Society for Missiology (LSFM). The LSFM publishes Missio Apostolica as well as its “Communicator” newsletter.

Bernice finished her BA in education from Concordia Teachers College, River Forest, in 1984, and served as editor of the “Communicator.” She was also active in the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML) serving at Ft. Wayne in the Indiana District as well as on the national LWML Christian Outreach Committee

Eugene also served as an Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod vice president from 1989 to 1998. In 2002 he became Professor of Christian Outreach at Concordia University, St. Paul, occupying the Fiechtner Endowed Chair of Christian Outreach at the Hoffmann Institute of Christian Outreach.

“Without God-given experts like Dr. and Bernice Bunkowkse, who combine a lifetime fervor for mission outreach overseas through Bible translation with practical hands-on and technical experience, LBT’s efforts would not be nearly as successful,” Marshall Gillam, LBT executive director, said.

At present, more than 70 LBT missionaries are serving in 15 countries on five continents currently working on more than 80 Bible translation and Scripture engagement projects. Through the efforts of these missionaries, the Bible has been translated into 33 different languages.

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