By Katie Kuykendall
Addie, giving a presentation to the translators
Psalm 119:133 reads, “Guide my steps by your word, so I will not be overcome by evil” (NLT). That was Addie Williams’ desire. But she never imagined God would guide her steps out of a successful career and comfortable home, and into a more challenging job in a village five thousand miles away.
After thirty-eight years working full-time for the Federal Trade Commission, raising three kids, and attending a Bible college in the evenings, Addie decided it was time to retire. Though many welcome retirement as a long-awaited opportunity for rest, Addie felt God calling her to something more. She couldn’t shake a strong feeling that she should spend her retirement in ministry.
“I wasn’t sure what the Lord wanted me to do,” she said. “I wasn’t sure, but I knew God had a plan.” Addie decided she needed to listen more closely to find out.
“The Scripture says order your steps in God’s Word,” she said. “I felt like God was saying, ‘I can’t order your steps in My Word if you’re not in My Word!’” So she studied Scripture, prayed, and listened. She also went back to seminary and kept her ears open for God’s instruction.
At work with her team
When a friend suggested Wycliffe Bible Translators, Addie was intrigued. She’d always valued missions, attending a church that supported foreign missionaries and taking a couple short-term trips herself.
Addie studied at the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics in Texas, where she realized the linguistic skills God had given her. She finally got her first taste of the field of Bible translation when she took an exploratory trip to Nigeria!
“It was exciting to be working with new people in a different location, learning about a different culture,” she said. “I was excited to be a part of Bible translation in a way that I hadn’t thought about before.”
Addie joined a team in the Adamawa cluster—several groups with no written language working together to translate Scripture more quickly and efficiently. After three weeks of helping begin developing a writing system, Addie was hooked.
“It was such a blessing and encouragement to see their enthusiasm to want to make the sacrifice to be part of the project—to do a translation so their people can have the Word of God,” she said.
In 2008 she became an exegetical assistant for The Seed Company, one of Wycliffe’s partners in Bible translation. She now lives in Nigeria three to six months of the year, happily enjoying her “retirement” in a new office—a simple building with unreliable power in the heat of West Africa.
“I didn’t necessarily think I would live in another country,” Addie said. “I didn’t really have a firm idea of what I wanted to do, so to have something materialize that was workable and something that I felt like I could do was exciting, how God just put the skill together with the need.”
As local language speakers translate Scripture for their own families and neighbors, Addie works alongside them offering guidance and instruction. She also leads workshops several times a year to help the translators improve basic translation principles. With Addie’s help, one language group has completed translations of the Gospels and is finishing the script for the “JESUS” film, a movie about the life of Christ based on the Gospel of Luke. Since 1979, more than 200 million men, women, and children worldwide have indicated decisions to follow Jesus after viewing the film.
For the local speakers who have been waiting to finally embrace the Gospel, Addie can’t finish her work soon enough.
“Some of the older people are praying that they don’t die before the ‘JESUS’ film is done,” she said. “They’re anxious to have the Word in their language and to be able to hear it and understand it.”
What was once Addie’s desire is now a way of life. For Addie, being guided by God’s Word meant helping translate it. What does it mean for you?
Having tea with her team
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