By Angela Nelson
Jannah Welcome’s love for Scripture stirred her curiosity about the history of the Bible. As she searched the Internet for information, she came across Wycliffe Bible Translators, an organization dedicated to seeing the Bible translated for people who don’t have it in a language they can understand clearly.
As Jannah read about Wycliffe’s ministry around the world, she noticed that their US office was located in her hometown—Orlando, Florida. She told her husband Shawn that she wished she could work at a place like that—where her work would make a difference for God’s kingdom.
A few weeks later, as her husband Shawn was running a weekly community poetry night called Di-verse Word, he happened to overhear a young woman talking about Wycliffe. Shawn introduced himself and told her about his wife’s interest in the organization.
The woman invited Jannah to the office for a tour and, “By the end of the tour, I was literally just crying,” Jannah explained. She knew it was where God wanted her.
Today, Jannah works in Wycliffe’s Discovery Center, an awarding-winning exhibit where people can learn about Bible translation and how they can get involved in bringing God’s Word to people who don’t have it. She leads tours and takes care of purchases and online orders that come through Wycliffe’s Village Shop. She is also part of a response team that answers e-mails and phone calls about Wycliffe’s ministry.
Shawn has also gotten involved. Because of his talent in performance poetry, Wycliffe commissioned him to write and perform poetry at several fundraising events and Scripture celebrations. In his poem entitled “Shades of Gray,” he parallels his experience teaching English to high school students who speak other languages with Wycliffe’s mission to make God’s Word accessible to language groups all over the world.
Ranked fourteenth in the nation at the 2007 National Poetry Slam, Shawn loves to write poetry that can “bring light in a dark decadent world, thirsty for hope and hungry for change,” and Jannah can attest to the impact she’s seen it make in people’s lives.
As Jannah looks back at the last two years at Wycliffe, she’s glad to be where she is. “When the days get rough—whether it’s something that’s personal that I’m dealing with or something that’s work related—I can look at the bigger picture, and say, ‘I’m here. It’s for the greater cause. Someone’s going to get the Word of God and their life is going to be impacted in a way that’s going to shift everything for them.’”
This article was originally written for the Women’s Missionary Magazine, a publication of the Women’s Missionary Society of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
By Shawn Welcome
ESOL……..English for Speakers of Other Languages.
It’s the classroom in public schools you might qualify for if you have an accent…..for a smoother transition into the fluent majority.
Besides the poetry, I’m a tutor at Wekiva High School….Which is like the mall cop of teachers! Badge, no gun…No license to run anything but, I pace myself anyway.
Within my first few days as a tutor, Alain says to me, “Do you speak creole? You look like Wyclef.” I say, “no.” He says, “Sooo you’re just like regular Black, huh.” Sadly, I say, “yeah ” Funny……but since then I wanted to swallow every Rosetta Stone my stomach could hold cuz I really wanna help them. They… they still got flavor yall. America’s melting pot keeps its seasoning in ESOL classes.
And if students are somehow “dumb” because they struggle with English…….then Ludwig Van Beethoven is a blibbering idiot. Place dunce hats on Mother Theresa and Ghandi. Does this make sense to you? A million questions interrupt conversations with myself like Mr. Baseball? Why is it called the “World Series” when you never leave home base? Newsflash…the WORLD is more than New York and L.A….., Florida and Chicago.
Will we ever see clearly across the Prime Meridian? Transcend oceans and embrace diversity when she cries at our doorstep abandoned with no blankets.
What happens, when you mix Spanish, French, Creole, Vietnamese, and Russian speaking students in a classroom….two bilingual teachers….and give assignments in English? HOW do you assess them? I’m not mad, just, never seen this shade of gray before.
And then there’s Wycliffe. A Christian based organization founded by college student Cameron Townsend whose mission, is making God Word available in a language and form that people understand best…..specifically indigenous people.
The Berik Tribe in Papua New Guinea regard the gallbladder as significant as we see the heart. So John 3:16′s “For God so loved the world” in their translation starts off like, “For the world sat well in God’s gallbladder.” Enlightenment by any means necessary. Send them out. Live with natives. Learn the language. Then translate the Bible.
It’s a mission impossible process easier said than done….spear to neck…sweat bullets…death and salvation are in love! Almost….inseparable!
Many have died for, in essence, becoming ESOL students….in places like Papua New Guinea…..
But crossing the life threatening line of linguistics is worth the reward!
Les langues diferentes sont belles!
Y no me importan lo que piensan los demas!
Heaven! Heaven is and will always be multicultural!
It’s gonna look like the most beautiful pack of m&m’s I’ve ever seen! From ESOL classes East to West…. to indigenous encounters with Wycliffe…..we become connected with shades of gray! Shades of gray is all we’ll see when these concrete walls of fear collapse.
And out of the ashes rises increasing humility……….to listen.