June 17, 2017 9:33 pm
It must have been quite a shock to my cousin, Bryan Burtch, to suddenly have to deal with the five girls who had invaded his home. Sure, we were his cousins, but until we all arrived to take over his world, we had lived miles away from him. Now, whether he liked it or not, we were also his step-sisters.
Bryan in the arms of his earthly father
It all happened when my father married my Aunt Lillie. She had been married previously to Oscar Burtch, but he had died at a very young age leaving my aunt a widow who had to raise her son, Bryan, by herself. My own mother had died 4 years previously, leaving my father a widower, and so both families were incomplete. So it was that my father married my aunt and how my cousin became my step-brother and my Aunt became my step-mother.
We four girls didn’t know what to do with a brother and I don’t think he knew what to do about us. We needed all the bedrooms upstairs, so Bryan’s bed ended up in the hallway. Add to that the fact that we had only one bathroom. Two or three of us could crowd into the bathroom but Bryan didn’t have a fighting chance.
Bryan’s high-school graduation photo
I don’t know where he learned it but he was very skillful with his hands. Those hands were always fiddling with something, making something new. One winter he took the back off an old church pew, put runners and a steering wheel on it and, ta-dah, we had a toboggan. All of the children in the area lined up on that pew and it zipped down the hill like a rocket. The only problem was pulling the heavy thing back up to the top of the hill.
We lived in Otego, NY and there was a beautiful fire pond a couple miles up the road. Bryan taught me how to ice skate. He was also the one who built a fire on the ice in the middle of the pond so we could skate round and round and warm up by the fire.
Bryan was older than any of us (born June 25, 1926). He went off to Wheaton College, then to Dallas Theological Seminary so we didn’t see him that often. We didn’t realize at the time that we had an intellectual giant in our midst.
Bryan with his wife, Shirley
One time when he was home for semester break he heard that I had gone forward at a missions meeting. He told me that wherever I would go in the world I would probably have to learn another language. “The best thing you can do” he told me “is go to Wycliffe’s summer linguistic school. It will help you to learn French, Russian, Spanish or any of the major languages in the World. But if you decide to go to one of the language groups in the world that doesn’t have an alphabet or written language yet, then you must go to that school. It’s the best in the world.”
I remembered his advice. When I graduated from Practical Bible Training School, now called Davis College, I had no other direction. Remembering Bryan’s wise words, I applied to Wycliffe Bible Translators, and I credit Bryan for setting me on such a good path.
He went to Peru and then to Columbia translating a New Testament in each of those countries. And because he was a Greek expert he helped hundreds of others sorting out exegetical problems. He served as a consultant checker right up to the end of his life. He had learned to play violin as a child and continued to play as an adult. It seemed there was nothing he couldn’t do once he set his mind to it.
I’m very proud of Bryan’s accomplishments. He had a clear understanding of why he was placed on this earth. He never deviated from that calling. His goal was never to rush and get through a translation project as fast as possible. His great urge was to make the Bible as accurate and understandable as was possible, God helping him.
Inspired by him I went to the Huixteco people in southern Mexico, then to the Nabak people in Papua New Guinea. Now this month, just a few days before his 91st birthday Bryan was promoted to his heavenly home. I will miss him, but the New Testaments he translated, and all the countless other projects he was a consultant for will remain to tell his story, the story of a man who lived his life well by living it for God. I wish there were more men like Bryan who were so sure in their faith and so dedicated in their convictions.
Bryan, you have earned your rest!
This post was written by Grace Fabian