GBIM) in Brazil. Through thousands of Bible studies and sermons, Bill’s spirit has continued to beat strongly for his Lord and the people along the Amazon River.Editor’s Note: Bill and Imogene Burk have served more than 50 years with Grace Brethren International Missions (
Knowing that he will not always be around to teach, he and GBIM’s Wayne Patton decided to make audio recordings of Bill’s commentaries available on compact disc (CD).
And so it is that each day Bill rises with purpose and works with joy on completing a project which may be the capstone achievement of his ministry.
In the 1970s, missionary Bill Burk traveled the rivers and waterways that make up the Amazon River near Belem, Brazil. Along the way, he would distribute biblical commentaries on cassette tape to the new believers he was discipling and to individuals he was evangelizing.
He had recorded these commentaries since some of the people he worked with didn’t know how to read or didn’t read well. Later in his ministry, he produced written commentaries for those who could read. Using a common form of Portuguese, the commentaries went verse by verse through each book in a simple format.
Because tapes don’t last long in the tropics and have fallen out of use in Brazil, Bill’s audio ministry had fallen to the wayside. As Grace Brethren International Missions (GBIM) missionary Wayne Patton learned about Bill’s past work, he saw the importance of not only preserving Bill’s labors in the Word, but making them available to the current generation of Christians, some who also can not read or read well.
Bill and Wayne realized it was important to have a native speaker record the lessons and to allow the person the freedom to change the examples and commentary, making it more relevant to the people and culture of today.
With funds from a grant, Bill and Wayne began working with local church leaders to develop an audio commentary on the book of Mark, using compact disk (CD) technology. Pastor Nonato of Marituba carefully listened to the old tapes and developed a product based on Bill’s style.
Over the next six months, Nonato faithfully recorded an eleven-CD-set commentary of the book of Mark. Luis, a Brazilian evangelist and church planter, learned to operate the equipment and recorded and edited each chapter.
The CDs contain a verse-by-verse study on the book of Mark targeted to unbelievers and new believers who would like to know more about the Bible. They use language that is understood by the common people and incorporate commonly understood illustrations and stories.
As copies became available, people snatched them up as quickly as they could be made and gave them to friends. The mission staff anticipates this will become a well utilized resource, one that will be played again and again.
The first book chosen for the written commentary revision was the book of Acts. Church planter Cuca and his wife, Lydia, reviewed the revised copy. Joelcila checked it for Portuguese errors and formatted it for printing.
The resources were developed and about to be released. But there was a problem. What should this new ministry be called?
Bill was ready with an answer. Above his desk, hanging straight and true over a Bible, is a plumb line, serving as a reminder that by God’s Word all will be measured. And so was born Plumb Line Ministries, based on the verses of Amos 7:7-8:
This is what he showed me: The Lord was standing by a wall that had been built true to plumb, with a plumb line in his hand. And the Lord asked me, “What do you see, Amos?”
“A plumb line,” I replied.
Then the Lord said, “Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.”
With one volume done, prayers are needed for the next commentaries. Pastor Benedito, a Brazilian-supported missionary to the town of Boa Vista, is developing the audio commentary on 1 and 2 Peter, which will be completed by the end of December. Early next year, Nonato will develop a commentary on the book of John.
The next book in the written commentary series will be the book of Daniel. It is being edited and formatted by Cuca and Lydia.