It is with sadness that we announce the passing of Grace Thiessen. Grace was a long-time EMC Associate missionary, having served in missions for the past 40 years.
Originally from Steinbach, Grace trained as a teacher and taught school in Blumenort before joining Wycliffe Bible Translators in 1974. She began her service as a teacher to missionary children in Bolivia for two years. During this time, the Lord revealed a desire and passion for language and Bible translation. She received her training in linguistics and accepted an appointment as a translator in Mexico.
Grace was paired with another translator, Joan Smith, and they began work among the Yareni Zapotec people in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. In the early years of their ministry, they were not allowed to live in Mexico because of restrictions imposed by the Mexican government. The Mexico Branch of SIL is located in Catalina, Arizona, near Tucson, where Grace and Joan continued the work remotely. Later they were able to live in Oaxaca, but they maintained their home in Catalina.
After 35 years of diligent work, the translation has been completed and is currently being prepared for printing. There are only a few hurdles left before the New Testament can be printed and distributed to the Yareni Zapotec people.
Grace and Joan also worked with the local translation team to produce a recording of the New Testament. Since most of the Zapotec speakers are not inclined to read, a recording is an essential tool for the Scripture to be embraced. The recording has been completed and is being prepared for distribution.
It was during the recording sessions in Oaxaca that Grace began to feel pain in her upper body. Tests revealed that she had pancreatic cancer, so Grace returned to her home in Catalina. Medical specialists in Arizona confirmed this diagnosis, but did not recommend treatment as the cancer was too advanced. Joan, her long-time friend and co-worker, provided hospice care for Grace.
Grace finished her journey here on earth on April 19 at 1:00 a.m. We are saddened by her passing, but rejoice that she is now fully healed and with her Saviour. There will be a memorial service for Grace in both Manitoba and Arizona.