Remembering Margaret Hill: A Legacy in Bible Ministry

American Bible Society praises God for the life of Margaret Hill and her legacy in Bible translation and trauma healing work

We celebrate the life and the enduring global legacy of Margaret Hill (1941–2024), a widely traveled translation consultant, trainer, and author who did groundbreaking work in Bible translation, adult literacy, bilingual schools, community Scripture engagement, and trauma healing.

Margaret was a tireless and cheerful missionary entrepreneur, finding practical ways to help people encounter Jesus through the Bible. She dedicated her efforts to equipping others to make Scripture available, accessible, and applicable to daily life. Her work continues in programs in SIL International, Wycliffe Bible Translators, Seed Company, the Trauma Healing Institute, and American Bible Society.

Early Life

Margaret Valerie Hill was born in Birmingham, United Kingdom on July 6, 1941, the only child of Allen and Myvanwy Hill. She came to know Jesus Christ as her Savior as a teenager in Birmingham, where she met with other young Christians and prayed for Wycliffe missionaries. Her early education included degrees in elementary education at St Mary’s College, Cheltenham (1965), and in theology through London University (1967).

Margaret joined Wycliffe and SIL in 1966 along with five others from her prayer group. In 1967, she set off for Nigeria with Mona Perrin as her teammate. In 1976, the Nigerian government ordered SIL to terminate its activities in the country and Margaret experienced her first evacuation. She returned to the UK and completed a master’s degree in education and linguistics at Manchester University in 1978. During this time, she joined Holy Trinity Platt Church, which became her home church and a mainstay of her life.

Bible Translation and Beyond

In 1987, Margaret returned to Africa to work with the Ngbaka in northwest Democratic Republic of Congo, a group of over 2 million speakers with a vibrant church that wanted the Bible in their language. Margaret and Elaine Thomas worked with local translators to complete the entire Bible in Protestant and Catholic versions in 1995.

Before becoming involved in Bible translation, Margaret wanted to become a doctor. Her interest in medicine found an outlet while stationed at the mission compound in Gemena, DRC. She volunteered to work in the clinic, and the staff doctor came to appreciate her intuitions to diagnose illnesses, something he said could not be taught. Throughout her life’s travels, she carried basic medicines and posted hours when her “clinic” was open. She was especially delighted to share knowledge about local medicinal plants.

Margaret’s expertise in education led to both a flourishing Ngbaka adult literacy program and a Ngbaka school program with over 100 schools. Margaret developed the curriculum for grades 1–12, trained teachers, and raised funds for the program. She was on her way to DRC with donors to the program when cancer stopped her in her tracks in September 2023.

The Ngbaka learned to read the Bible in their language, but they didn’t know how to use it. Margaret pioneered a Scripture Use course for the church leaders. The course was translated and used around the world and eventually developed into Translating the Bible into Action, co-authored with Harriet Hill, now published by Langham Press (2022) and translated into 11 languages.

Political tensions flared up in DRC in the 1990s and the Ngbaka found themselves in a war zone. People were traumatized. Margaret developed basic trauma healing lessons for church leaders to teach their members. These were the seeds of Healing the Wounds of Trauma: How the Church Can Help, co-authored with Harriet Hill, Richard Baggé, and Pat Miersma.

That small book, first published by Paulines Publications in Kenya in 2004, spread globally and has become a library of resources, adapted into oral storytelling, radio, and television formats, with materials for adults, teens, and children. Versions have been contextualized and translated into 170 languages. Trauma healing continues under the direction of the Trauma Healing Institute, with over 15,000 organizations using the materials and more than 40,000 facilitators certified.

Margaret became a translation consultant with SIL in 1987 and a senior translation consultant in 2012. She helped develop Bible Translation Basics to train translators using more current communication theory. The book, co-authored with Harriet Hill and others, was first published in 2011. Margaret gave valuable input to the Institute for the Development of Languages and Translation in Africa (iDELTA) and taught in every session from 2010–2023. She had an inexhaustible supply of new ideas that kept learning fresh, and her positive attitude provided encouragement during hard times. She also served as the iDELTA medical officer, especially invaluable during COVID.

Her final wish was for memorial gifts to go to this training program through the Katy Barnwell Scholarship Fund, named after her like-minded colleague and friend.

A Life Enjoyed

Margaret enjoyed traveling the world to help missionaries, translators, and church leaders. She loved adventure, and recounted later evacuations from Gemena, Bangui, and Kinshasa as such. But she also had firm routines. A cup of tea could solve most problems, and a walk at 5:00 p.m. was a must no matter how busy you were.

She drew from her vast, practical expertise to tailor programs to each context. She came alongside people in the shadows and empowered them to believe in themselves, giving them opportunities to use their gifts. She was a genius at assessing what would work, cutting out the fluff, and expressing things in a way rural church leaders could understand—and teach others. A key part of her model was to pilot materials and revise them until they worked. She did nothing without testing.

Workshops with Margaret were participatory. She bored easily and so was careful not to bore others. If ever people began to nod off, she did not hesitate to lead even distinguished pastors and priests in calisthenics.

Margaret was a single woman of humble means, but she has left a legacy more valuable than money could buy. She is survived by friends and colleagues around the world who thank God for her life, for her friendship and laughter, her mentorship, her love of adventure, and her commitment to Christ.

Margaret served Jesus with her whole self, and quietly calls us to do the same.

Memorial gifts can be made to the Katy Barnwell Scholarship Fund in memory of Margaret Hill here.

A Farewell Interview: In early May 2024, while staying with friends in Manchester UK during a brief period of remission, Margaret was interviewed about her life and work. You can listen to her reflection on a life spent serving the Lord in the video below. Interview and recording by Philip Billson, one of Margaret’s many friends at Holy Trinity Platt. Used by permission.

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