About Us: A Legacy of Love
History of the Aztec Ministry, from generation to generation to generation:
In 1961, Dick Beller (a graduate of Detroit Bible College) joined Wycliffe Bible Translators as a single missionary. He partnered with a fellow single missionary, Bill Sischo and lived among the Michoacan Aztecs beginning in 1962.
(The Michoacan language group was described to be the very most difficult tribe to access in all of Mexico. Dick and Bill had to travel 24 hours by bus from Mexico City to the end of the bus line and then hire a mule train to carry them 36 hours over a steep mountain trail. Just locating the mules themselves for the mule train took often two full days as they were scattered in the mountains and packing them was a creative process. We have read stories of how at night up on the mountain top they would unpack the mules and allow them to graze and rest. The problem was the next morning often they discovered one or two mules had taken off for home! They would repack the mules that were easily located and continue on the trail. These men showed such great courage and compassion as they reached the Michoacan Aztecs with the love of God. Bill Sischo completed the New Testament translation in Michoacan Nahuatl.)
Patricia Cowan Beller accepted Christ as her Savior after attending a Billy Graham Crusade in Atlanta, GA. She graduated from Baylor University and joined Wycliffe in 1959. God called her to be a missionary and particularly focus on Bible translation through the deaths of Ecuadorian missionaries: Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Peter Fleming and Roger Youderian. See their story:
Pat joined the Mexico Branch of WBT and was a single missionary for five years among the Otomi Indians and helped to finish the translation of the New Testament into the Otomi language. She then worked among the Mixteco Indians and completed language analysis in Mixteco.
Dick and Pat grew fond of each other while working in Tlalpan (a linguistics headquarters in Mexico City) in December of 1967 and were married in June of 1968. Together they were assigned to the Huasteca Nahuatl language and began to live among the people in the village of Cuatenahuatl, Hidalgo in 1969. This ended up being an Eastern dialect village (Huasteca Nahuatl Oriental).
There they built a home and provided urgent medical care in a primitive clinic. They had three children during these early years. Richard Beller, Michael Beller and Tami Beller Gaddis. Linguistically, they completed various publications (reading primers, cartillas, textos, etc…) and a popular two-volume language course called Curso del Nahuatl Moderno (printed in1979 and reprinted in 1982,1985). They completed the translation of the Eastern Huasteca Nahuatl New Testament in 1984.
They soon discovered that the Huasteca region was really comprised of three main dialects: Eastern Huasteca Nahuatl-nhe, Western Huasteca Nahuatl-nhw, and Central Huasteca Nahuatl-nch (yes, the language code is nch). They completed the Western New Testament in 1986, a bilingual hymnal in 1987 (213 hymns), a revision of the New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs in Western Huasteca Nahuatl in 2000, and then three complete Bibles (Western-2004; Central-2005; Eastern-2005).
During these years we also lip-synced the JESUS film into Eastern and Western Huasteca Nahuatl, as well as translated the movies Genesis (nhe, and nhw), Lucas (nhe, and nhw) and El Progreso del Peregrino (nhw) (Pilgrims Progress). We also have recorded the three New Testaments on audio and produced music CDs.
I, Tami Beller Gaddis, in my youth, primarily participated in the translation of hymns (from 1984 to 1987) and teaching hymnal usage in guitar conferences from 1987 to 1990. I married my husband, Richard Gaddis, in 1992 and began to grow together a large family of currently 16 children. We live in Knoxville, TN, and my husband (an internal medicine physician) has a private medical practice. From 1989 to March of 2012, I played a key supporting role for my parents through printing and mailing their newsletters and helping procure medical supplies for short-term medical teams that served in our region from the U.S. (We still (2013) have a small surgical room in our home in Huejutla and have provided a place where nearly 900 sight saving cataract and pterygium surgeries have been performed to-date. Although this is paused now due to a family medical concern with the Spanish Ophthalmologist’s elderly father.)
Pat Beller faced declining health in 2005 and a brain tumor was found in October of 2006. She passed away from brain cancer on June 21, 2007 (Dick and Pat Beller's 40th wedding anniversary).
We raised $45,000 in her Memorial Fund and were able to prepare her final life’s work: a 768-page bilingual hymnal for publication. With Pat gone, I (Tami Beller Gaddis) became the primary driving force that completed the necessary back translations for copyright permissions (under Dick Beller's direction) and slowly I took over correspondence with language associates as my language skills were revitalized. We thank the Lord for his provision of Marilyn and Walt Agee, who for two years prepared the PDF’s for the hymnal, and Susan Hawthorne who obtained all of the copyrights needed for the 472 hymns. We published 8,000 copies of this Nahuatl hymnal in December of 2011.
Dick Beller was living in Tucson supervising the translation of the Nahuatl dictionaries. He experienced chest pain following his daily walk and just days later, on March 5, 2012, died during the surgery to repair a ruptured aorta. We thank the Lord that he was spared a lengthy illness, but were shocked with this great loss. The NEW 8,000 Nahuatl Hymnals arrived in Mexico in April, 2012, just after his death.
(You can read their Death Notices here at this Facebook link below.)
In March of 2012, the torch of the Aztec Ministry was placed in our personal hands. My brothers and I met together just after Dick Beller's death and decided that this ministry to the Nahuas of the Huasteca was now our responsibility. We (each of the 3 married couples) committed ourselves and personal funds to keep reaching the Nahuas with the love of God.
The Lord enflamed that generational torch once again and grew in us a renewed vision and fervent desire to reach the Nahua people with the love of God. We have an Aztec Ministry home in Huejutla de Reyes, Hidalgo, Mexico, from which we translate and distribute the various materials. But our primary offices are currently located in Tennessee.
Currently, we have 4 language dictionaries in progress. These dictionaries were a primary passion of my father’s and he laid the foundation of all of this work. We have Cesar working on a Central (nch) /Spanish dictionary in FLEX with about 6,000 entries. Cirilo is working on a Western (nhw)/Spanish dictionary in FLEX also with over 6,000 entries. Here in our home in Tennessee we are faithfully working on completing and archiving Eastern (nhe) to ENGLISH words and have created a comparative dictionary. Since August of 2012 (when we began this project with a Moody Bible Linguistics student) we have archived approximately 5500 English entries with grammar rules, phrases and a large medical section etc… We have also created a short (so far 40 page) Nahuatl language course for English speakers.
Since our father’s passing in March, 2012: we have daily overseen logistics at the home in Huejutla and language associates; we have printed a third edition of the Western Bible and a second edition of the Eastern Bible. We have also designed 2 websites in Nahuatl. We are trailblazing a new avenue through which we can deliver the Bible in Nahuatl into the hands and hearts of the Nahua people.
We are also working on 2 books for children and youth that will tell the Gospel story in beautiful pictures along with strong Biblical content. See Good and Evil Book Project and Children's Bibles Project .
To the next generation: Four Beller granddaughters are also actively helping in the Aztec Ministry. Two years ago, two of them (Evelyn Gaddis and Jacqueline Gaddis) attended the Wycliffe Bible Translator's TOTAL IT UP conference at SIL in Dallas. There they learned about Bible translation and linguistics. They dreamed about additional Nahuatl literacy projects and asked the Lord to direct them to their role as we desire to someday translate materials in a fourth dialect, Far Western Huasteca Nahuatl, and a fifth dialect, Southeastern Huasteca Nahuatl—these two dialects have NO materials or Scriptures (and they are frequently requested).
So there is much more work to do! We ask for your prayers and support as we seek to serve the Lord among the Nahuatl speakers of the Huasteca. Please contact us to share how you would like to be a part of this growing ministry.