he was only expecting a few weeks of work, maintaining trails in the backcountry. but coming out of trail crew, david hamilton knew he was giving his life to full-time missions.
as the only christian on the crew, and at age 16, he’d unexpectedly become the leader of a men’s bible study each night. this got him into his bible, where he read in matthew. at the same time, his parents prayed every day for him. he realized if he believed what he was reading, god was calling for his all as a missionary.
the decision to attend boise bible college was a “no-brainer.” david had grown up meeting bbc reps every summer because he lived at pleasant valley christian camp, where his father dan was the camp manager for 29 years. to david, when someone decides on full-time ministry, bbc is the place to go.
boise bible was everything david thought it would be. he found professors who refused to let him skate by, led by example, and challenged him to do hard things. danny harrod modeled for him humble and gentle leadership and molded his missiology and passion for bible translation. derek voorhees’ classes were always challenging, but he was always encouraging and taught him to exegete scripture, a skill he will never stop using.
those two professors showed up out of nowhere one day at a driving range david, silas moe, and isaac hirtle were at, hit all their teed golf balls, then made a run for it, giving everyone a good laugh.
professor ben williams was also influential in david’s life, teaching him not only preaching but the joy of preaching. he taught david to take god’s promises seriously and not put him in a box.
boise bible’s coursework was demanding, always requiring david’s best and molding a strong work ethic. his graduate-level linguistics training was complex but very doable after bbc.
david found a lot of community at bbc. lifelong friends include silas moe, tyler mosier, isaac hirtle, hunter croft, and mike gritton. living in the dorms for four years was an absolute blessing of being in a beautiful community of peers who are still shaping who he is today. david recommends dorm living to anyone who can do it; he says, “there is plenty of time after graduation to live by yourself.”
a rich and varied life in college made hard work sustainable. yearly camping and animal-watching trips to yellowstone national park between finals and spring conference with his best friends provided time to relax together. helping to organize onevoice (a multi-cultural worship service with choirs from local churches and singing hymns in different languages) during missions emphasis week was a highlight each year, giving him a “just a little picture of what worship in heaven will look like.”
a ten-week internship in mongolia with his best friend silas moe between his junior and senior years was where david felt the pull to join pioneer bible translators. we’ll let him relate in his own words one experience among many:
one afternoon i got to visit a local village elder, 86 years old, the oldest man in his village. in a country with a male life expectancy of 65, living to 86 is a pretty big deal. he was an important elder with the khoton people, a small minority people group located in uvs province. he became a christian only a few years earlier. this was a huge victory for the kingdom of god, especially due to his prominence among the people. however, his eyesight was not what it used to be, and he no longer could read. while he may have had access to a bible, he still did not have access to god’s word.
when we visited him, he greeted us with joy as we entered his ger (mongolian yurt). we shook hands, and he greeted me with a very formal and honoring greeting of smelling both of my cheeks. we then presented him with customary gifts for his hospitality and began to talk with him about jesus and encourage him in his faith. after some teaching from the gospels, we prayed with him. he was so grateful for our visit he gave us each a 1,000 tugrik note. it was not even close to a large sum of money (around 50 cents), but we both felt humbled, honored, and valued by this old man.
i pulled from my backpack an audio bible. our missionary host explained to the man how this device worked and how it could be solar charged, cranked, or plugged in. by the time he was finished, i had it ready to go. i turned it on right to genesis 1:1. when it started playing, the khoton elder became ecstatic! he began jumping up and down, yelling with joy as he heard, in his heart language, god’s holy word. i have never seen someone so excited about god’s word.”
life after boise bible college
david is now a translation specialist with pbt and is gearing up for long-term service starting in 2021. his wife melissa is also a translation specialist with pbt, with prior experience with wycliffe, translating the word in the jungles of the philippines. they were married in january 2020.
boise bible college gave david a place to become the man christ had called him to be. discipline, virtue, and values were fostered in a community designed to allow people to grow. amazing friends were made and remain today. he learned leadership, first of himself then of others. preaching skills were learned, and are still used. and he learned greek, which is an “invaluable foundation for bible translation.”
humble, scholarly mentors and a community designed to allow students to grow and influence the school’s culture in innovative ways make for amazing preparation for ministry, in david’s view. but even if a person isn’t planning on full-time ministry, he says go anyway. a year of bible college is affordable and will be a year to draw near to god, learn from the best, discern your future, and make valuable and virtuous friends for life.