Jeff McGriff, 53, is originally from Ohio, USA. When he and his wife, June, realized that God’s calling for them was to missions, they soon became interested in doing Bible translation work with Wycliffe. After completing the required training courses, however, they did not feel a calling to a specific location on the globe. So they decided to let the organization’s assignment committee make the decision, saying, “We will go wherever you feel the Lord is leading us.” Then the day before the assignment committee was planning to meet, McGriff had a special encounter with the Lord as he was looking through Operation World by Patrick Johnstone.
“As I was reading through [the section on the Philippines], the Lord spoke to my heart… this is where we were to go,” said McGriff, as he thought back to that time.
“Finally, I just released it to the Lord and I said, ‘No. You spoke to my heart last night. You can speak to them as well.’”
The day they were expecting the phone call from the assignment committee, McGriff struggled with the desire to call them instead, to tell them about this special encounter.
“Finally, I just released it to the Lord and I said, ‘No. You spoke to my heart last night. You can speak to them as well,’” explained McGriff.
When the assignment committee finally called them, Jeff and June were expecting the committee to give them several options. What they were told, instead, was, “We think the one place in the world you ought to go is the Philippines.”
For Jeff and June, it was a clear confirmation that God was calling them to serve in the Philippines, whatever trials lay ahead.
In the Philippines, they felt that Panganan, home to the Matigsalug people, was the place to be. When Jeff and June flew in, June had immediately felt at home. So the McGriffs joined Robert and Margaret Hunt there in 1991.
The traditional religion of the Matigsalug people revolves around the belief in many gods, or spirits. The people strive to appease the gods so that nothing bad will happen to them. This explains why many of them would attend a Christian church on Sundays. They were scared that if they did not, some god would be angry with them.
Jeff McGriff and Glenn Stallsmith, Director SIL Philippines
Though the McGriffs and Hunts did not participate in any overt evangelistic activities, they trusted the translation process itself to quietly explain the truth of the Scriptures to people.
Other challenges abounded. First of all, it was extremely humbling to arrive in Panganan as an expert in linguistics, yet begin with zero understanding of the local Matigsalug language.
“You’re [kind of] like an idiot when it comes to communicating,” McGriff explained. “It was hard because it was a daily, hour by hour, minute by minute humbling of yourself to get out there and actually try to speak. The temptation was, of course, to hide in the office. It was difficult to do something that I was not good at, at first.”
Dancing with the stars
One trial that was especially disheartening was the event of their oldest daughter, Jennifer’s, sickness. An unexplained fever filled their hearts with concern. They considered calling for a plane to evacuate them, but they felt they were supposed to stay in Panganan. After two worrisome days, June had a dream in which she heard the word “Roseola.” Upon further investigation through the assistance of a medical manual, she found that Jennifer’s symptoms matched Roseola symptoms exactly. The medical manual said that the fever should break after three days – and it did. They felt reassured of God’s sovereign control over them in Panganan.
God continued to strengthen the faith of the McGriffs as they continued to serve Him, right up to the completion of the New Testament. The dedication ceremony took place in Sinuda on Thursday, July 21st, 2011. Though not all of the McGriff family were able to attend, Jeff and his son, Jared, as well as Jared’s wife and her family, were present.
Though Jeff is now working as a network specialist in information technology in the U.S., he continues to hope and pray for God’s work to be fruitful among the Matigsalug people. He prays that both the audio-recorded Word and the written Word will produce fruit in Matigsalug lives and that the Old Testament will also be completed. He also prays for Tano Emboc, one of three Matigsalug mother-tongue translators, that he will be able to successfully complete his training in order to become a translation consultant.
A couple decades have passed since the McGriffs began to serve the Lord amongst the Matigsalug people. Jeff and June experienced years of both trials and joy. It began with utter surrender to God’s calling to go to the Philippines.
Photos by Tomoko Taguchi
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Tomoko Taguchi served as a Communication Intern in June - July 2011.