Joe and Jana served the Lord with NTM for forty seven years, six spent on staff at Waukesha where Jana taught literacy and Joe worked in maintenance, and thirty three plus in Venezuela doing literacy and Bible translation in the Panare tribe. Jana translated and Joe did community development and some Bible teaching and literacy. Both were born in 1937, Joe in Colorado, Jana in Illinois.
Joe was raised in a Christian home but did not come to Christ until his third year in the Navy through the witness of Christians on board. After salvation, he would go into the Christian servicemen’s center on the Norfolk base and share Christ; and he worked with his church’s bus ministry.
When Jana came to Christ at age eleven, she knew right away God wanted her to be a missionary. Her parents entered NTM in1953 when she was thirteen. She took part in door-to-door witnessing and Bible studies at Fout Springs and Chico where she learned for the first time there were people without a written language, and no knowledge of Christ and what He had done for them.
Joe was introduced to NTM through the man who led him to the Lord, who went into the mission after leaving the navy. In his church an NTM couple who were serving in Japan shared their ministry with him. In addition, an NTM candidate came to the servicemen’s center and showed slides. While all these people helped to direct him into thinking missions, it was reading God’s word that made him realize the great commission was not done.
Jana and Joe met during training at Jersey Shore. They were planning to go to PNG, but the leadership asked them to go to Waukesha for a time. When the time came to choose a field (there were four open) they faced a dilemma. They decided to pray individually for a time, and then share with each other where they thought the Lord was leading. Both felt the call to Venezuela.
Deputation was a challenge; support was slow in coming and attendance at meetings was low. So after a year, they felt they and the four children (the fifth child was born on the field) should go ahead with only the $35.00 promised and trust the Lord to supply the rest. After being on the field, a church in Oklahoma began with enough support to last them through their first term.
One day in the town where they were living and working, they saw an Indian wearing only a loin cloth and this intrigued them. They asked coworkers who he was and were told he was Panare who the Orinoco River mission was going to reach. Two years later that ministry decided they did not have an adequate number of personnel to handle the work, so the NTM field chairman approached the Prices with the opportunity to do a survey of the Panare to begin a new work among them. Jana’s dream since she was thirteen would be coming true.
Three men from NTM went into the tribe to explain they would like to teach them how to read and write their own language in order to hear the word of God. God led them to the ideal place to begin the work. They learned later the location had the highest population of Panare; and the area least affected by the Venezuelan culture.
The missionaries also brought medicine. This was the biggest draw, at first. Then after they were in the tribe for two years, Panare began asking when the missionaries would be teaching about God. They were eagerly pushing NTM to bring them God’s word.
Jana said there were forty seven years of challenges, but one of the biggest came after moving into an unreached tribe to begin the work she believed the Lord had called them to do. She found so many things she could not do on her own. She taught linguistics for several years; but when it came to writing the language down, and figuring out what was being spoken (they spoke no other language than their own), she became aware it would be the Lord who would complete the job.
Another huge challenge was the trouble they had with their health over the years and the difficulties with the children. They had to leave the field several times; but, the amazing thing was how the Lord always brought them back.
The challenges were enormous, including having to work with villagers who seemed very ungrateful. When the New Testament was in the people’s hands, they would comment how grateful they were for God’s word, but seemed not to appreciate all the work required to complete it. Day by day Joe and Jana reminded one another they were working for the Lord and not people. Then an amazing thing happened. A deacon from the village church came to their home with an envelope containing money. The people had “gathered God’s money,” not to pay for the translation, but to show their appreciation for all their effort to bring God’s word to their tribe.
There was no sending church, but God supplied all their needs through churches who took on their support throughout the years, which continues into retirement.
Would they do it all again? “Yes, in a heartbeat.” The hard times drew us closer to God It was a privilege and honor to watch God work and give us the strength to keep us out there day after day to do what He called us to do. We watched Him building His church in the tribe, and saw the members reach out to their own people. In addition, eight other churches were started and their members were reaching out to their areas.”