Bob and Dallas Creson have a hard time remembering when they were not a part of Ventura Missionary Church. Bob started attending with his parents, Bob and Betty Creson, nearly 55 years ago! Dating through most of high school, they attended after they were married. Leonard DeWitt, then senior pastor of VMC, helped officiate their wedding. Dallas' parents, Windsor and Jeane Lacewell, also attended VMC.
After graduating from college, Bob went into business with his dad doing pipeline construction, primarily for agricultural irrigation and drainage. Over the next eight years, the Cresons had four children, served in all aspects of church life and various leadership roles. For a few years Dallas was on staff at VMC running the nursery and preschool age departments. Bob found time to volunteer as a Reserve Police Officer for the City of Ventura.
Bob remembers that business in those early years was good. Then, all at once, there was a downturn in the economy and business dried up - a year of drought - as he puts it. He says, "Dad and I went from the best financial year we'd ever had to the worst. During the period of plenty, Dad had 'retired' and was spending a good deal of time out of the office. Almost overnight our income fell to the point that I had to lay off most of our employees and ask Dad to come back to work."
During that year of drought in the business, God dealt intensely with Bob and Dallas about a change He would bring about; they just didn't know what He was preparing them for at the time. While they wondered what God was doing, He continued to provide for them but He also used the time to pry them out of their status quo.
They began to examine how they could invest the next portion of their lives. Dallas says, "The more we thought about it, the more restless we became. We began to feel as if we had our shoes on the wrong feet..." Not sure how to interpret these new feelings, they shared them with Pastor C. Leslie Miller, their Sunday school teacher, who had been a missionary to the Belgian Congo. Asking him if God could be asking them to make a move, his response was thoughtful, saying, "If it gets harder to stay than to go, that could be one indication that God is stirring your hearts and asking you to make a move."
Bob says, "After twelve months, business started coming back - not quite to what it was before, but back to a level that should have allowed us to become comfortable again - but we could not. We continued to feel as if we might be headed for something different, even though we didn't know what that might be. We loved VMC and our friends, but it was getting harder and harder to stay put; it seemed easier to go into an uncertain future than to remain where we were. We wondered if God might be leading us toward missions."
Bob and Dallas began checking on possibilities, and Wycliffe Bible Translators responded with opportunities to further Bible translation that intrigued them. Having been transformed by God's Word, they found it very attractive to think that they could be a part of helping people who had never heard one word of Scripture in their own language hear Jesus speak to them in words they could truly understand. Wycliffe exists to eradicate Bible poverty - the lack of understandable Scripture in a usable form - so that all language communities will have access to God's Word and have the opportunity to be transformed by it, ultimately reflecting God's glory. They decided they wanted to be a part of that.
As winter, 1982, changed to spring of the following year, they knew they could no longer hold back deciding to open the next door, even if the future was uncertain. Bob says, "I was reluctant to tell my dad, but his response surprised me, 'Your mother and I always knew this day was coming.' He went on to recount the story of my dedication as a baby. The pastor, taking me in his arms, had said, 'Bob and Betty, are you willing to let this little boy go wherever God calls him' Dad said they'd replied, 'Of course.' Then the pastor added, 'Even if that means as a missionary to Africa?' Dallas's parents were equally receptive and encouraging."
Approaching the leadership of the church, including the chairman of the missions committee, John McVittie, and Gene Cherrie who was the Church Business Administrator at the time and, John Strubhar, Senior Pastor, they all enthusiastically endorsed their intentions and rallied the church behind them.
The Cresons officially started their service with Wycliffe Bible Translators in August of 1983 and began exploring possibilities for assignments. Originally assigned to Mexico, they were commissioned at a special evening service led by John Strubhar. Bob and Dallas remember John saying, "We must pray for this couple because whenever a couple dedicates themselves to this kind of service, the enemy will attack."
Bob says, "No truer words were ever spoken. Within days, I was in Parkland Memorial Hospital, in Dallas, Texas - a herniated disc in my back. Thank goodness for a cautious surgeon who helped me through the initial easing of pain and God who, over the next six months, began to heal my body. During that time however, Mexico, for various reasons, was no longer an option for our assignment."
Wycliffe leadership suggested they consider going to Cameroon, which served as a regional hub for most of French-speaking Africa where there are over 1,200 languages, with 275 in Cameroon alone. This assignment required fluency in French so en route to Cameroon they spent 16 months in France for language study. Arriving in Cameroon in January 1987, they began serving in administrative and leadership roles until July 1994, leaving when their daughter Emily graduated from high school. Bob ended his time as the field director for Cameroon and Chad.
After consulting with the VMC Missions Pastor, Bob Klamser, it was agreed that Bob was being led to assume a role at the International level with Wycliffe as the International VP for Personnel, serving out of Dallas, Texas. During this time, Bob was also very active in Crisis Consulting International, an internationally strategic ministry in which VMC also invests. Bob chaired the board for nearly 10 years. Dallas also served in International Personnel, leading a team that processed staff members from around the world.
In the larger Wycliffe context worldwide during this time, changes were taking place. In 1999 Wycliffe and international partners adopted Vision 2025 - the goal of seeing a Bible translation in progress in every people group needing it by 2025. That was a bold step, a step of faith, requiring a commitment to change the way Wycliffe worked: To work with a renewed sense of urgency, in partnership with others; to look for creative strategies that would multiply our efforts; to build capacity into others; and to ensure that what we started could be sustained. God continues to honor that commitment.
Soon after, in 2000, Bob was asked to be the International Field Director, responsible for the oversight of the 1,500 in-progress Bible translation projects around the world. Along with field directors and area directors, he helped set the strategies that would enable accomplishment of Vision 2025.
In May of 2003, Bob was appointed as the President/CEO of Wycliffe Bible Translators USA, the largest of over 100 Wycliffe organizations that are all a part of the Wycliffe Global Alliance. Bob and Dallas relocated to the Wycliffe USA headquarters in Orlando, Florida.
Since moving into this role, Bob and Dallas say, "We have been humbled and grateful to watch the commitment to Vision 2025 translated into action through a variety of new approaches: cluster projects; oral Bible story-ing; computer adaptation; digital Bibles; satellite communication systems; creative partnerships and more. These and other innovations are delivering the Scriptures to more people faster than ever. We've watched new translation programs start at a record pace and the number of language communities needing translations drop dramatically. When we started in 1983, the number of language communities needing the Bible in their own language was well over 3,000. Today, the number of remaining Bible translation needs are about 1,600."
The Cresons describe themselves as, "International staff of VMC on loan to Wycliffe" saying, "Spiritually and emotionally, our journey is completely interwoven with VMC, and we could not do what we do without your love, prayers and financial investments in us. We believe one of the reasons you've partnered with us over these 34 years is because we share an appreciation for the transforming power of God's Word and an ever-deepening commitment to remove the barriers that prevent people from accessing and engaging with the Word. Thank you for all you do to build God's Kingdom through Bible translation." To give toward the ministry of Bob and Dallas, note "Missions & Outreach" on your check, bill pay or online gift.