Archive for January, 2013

This story was originally featured at Mission Network News.

What if you showed up to your first day of school and couldn’t understand what you were supposed to learn because your teacher was speaking a foreign language?

Maybe that was your experience. Maybe it wasn’t.

But for thousands of children in marginalized communities, education can be a struggle when they have to learn school material through a new language.

That’s why Greg and Diane Dekker with Wycliffe Bible Translators conduct Multilingual Education (MLE). Diane explains, “Multilingual education begins with the learner’s first language–the language they first learn to speak at home–and helps them learn the curriculum content in school in that language. Then it adds other languages that they need to learn, like perhaps the national language or English in addition.”

And just so children don’t get overwhelmed, Diane says, “[It] plans for introducing the other languages in a progressive manner. They’re learning one thing at a time, step-by-step, rather than immersing children in languages that they do not know.”

Why is it so important? “There is this big gap between English language learners and their achievement in school, and mother-tongue speakers of English and their achievement in school,” Diane says. “Sometimes that is blamed on other issues, but really if we create a scenario where these kids who don’t speak English as a mother tongue can actually learn through their mother tongue, then it helps them learn English better.”

Click here to read the rest of this story from Mission Network News.

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By Katie Kuykendall

Addie, giving a presentation to the translators

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

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 reallyaddie3 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

Having tea with her team

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Though I wasn’t able to attend, I followed InterVarsity’s 2013 URBANA conference with great interest.  One of the speakers, David Platt, challenged those in attendance to go and make disciples.

Of course there’s nothing new about that, but what I love about David is the fact that in referring to that calling, particularly in his book, Radical, David challenges our right to the “American dream.”   As I remember the challenge in the book, he states clearly that this ideal—the American Dream—can work against our call to “go.”

I was particularly challenged by one of the participants at URBANA who tweeted while listening to David speak, attributing a quote to him, “In Christ we have found someone who is worthy of losing everything for.” What are we willing to give up or sacrifice for God and His kingdom?

Probably because URBANA happened between Christmas and the New Year, the season of gift giving, this challenge got me thinking about the difference between wishing for something and actually buying it.

I don’t know about you, but I am an avid online shopper. I hate shopping malls, so I’ll do all I can online!  If you’re like me and shop online, you’re familiar with the concept of a “wish list.”  Many websites include this concept.  You know how it works: you wish for something, and then maybe, just maybe, someone will come along, check your wish list, and buy something off of it for you.

The wish list is distinct and separate from the ”shopping cart.”’  Once I move something to the shopping cart and give my Pay Pal account or credit card number, that means I’m willing to give up something to obtain what I want.

As I look toward 2013 and all of the opportunities it can bring, I wonder what I’m willing to move from my wish list—those things I am hoping/praying/wishing for—to my shopping cart?  What am I, what are you, willing to pray for?   What are we willing to sacrifice?

Wycliffe Bible Translators and its partners are involved in the greatest acceleration of the pace of Bible translation ever witnessed!  More people have more access to Scripture than ever before in the history of the Church.  For the very first time, there are more Bible translation programs in progress than there are Bible translation needs in the world!  Amazing!

The final Bible translation program start is within our grasp. This generation will see it happen: zero Bible translation needs; zero unreached people groups.  But what will we give up? What will we be willing to set aside so that God can use us?

I don’t have an answer for that, nor am I willing to make anyone feel guilty for what they don’t think they can set aside.  That’s between God and them.  But what I believe is that many are being called, and many who are called are willing to sacrifice to bring in God’s Kingdom.  God has uniquely prepared this generation to finish the Great Commission.

My prayer for 2013 is that we will move more and more from our wish list to our shopping cart, and we will be willing to sacrifice for something that is eternal.

Bob Creson


Wycliffe Bible Translators USA

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By Katie Kuykendall

Several days into the Urbana conference, T.C. Barrs, a maintenance technician assistant at Wycliffe USA and a Wycliffe recruiter at Urbana, was working alongside the other recruiters in the exhibitor booth. The recruiters were introducing students to the Bibleless Peoples Prayer Project (BPPP)—an opportunity to pray for a people group waiting for a Scripture translation in their language. Twelve containers of prayer cards were displayed in the booth, representing twelve of the people groups in the world that need prayer.

Daniel, a student at the conference, was studying the prayer cards when T.C. greeted him and began sharing about BPPP.

“I see all these people without Bibles,” Daniel said. “But I want to pray for my language because my language doesn’t have a Bible.”

T.C. was speechless.

Daniel continued, telling T.C. that he came to the United States from the Congo on a student visa, studying to be a computer engineer with the hope of using his degree for a mission organization. His family still lives in the Congo. Daniel learned English at a young age—one of the eight languages he now speaks—but his family is still unable to read God’s Word for themselves.

“I don’t think I’ll ever forget what he told me,” T.C. said. “I’ve been here [with Wycliffe] for five years, being told that people need Bibles in other languages, but this put a face to it—a face I’ll never forget.”

T.C. and some of the other recruiters told Daniel about several Wycliffe linguists who had started out as engineering majors and found it to be an easy transition into Bible translation. T.C. watched as Daniel’s face lit up when he realized he could be the person to translate the Bible for his family.

“To see the hunger he had to get the Bible into his language—not for him but for his parents—I don’t think I’ll ever be the same,” T.C. said.

Though T.C. has always felt like he was at Wycliffe for a reason, hearing Daniel’s story completely changed his perspective about his work.

“I really want to do as much as I can to get Bibles to people like him [Daniel], no matter what I’m doing,” he said. “Even if I’m here doing maintenance…it has changed how I do my job. This is where God has me. Until God moves me, this is what I’m doing because I know that in some way what I’m doing is helping translation work in other countries. It has definitely put more of a burden on my heart to do my job and see Bible translation move.”


UPDATE: We originally referred to Daniel with the pseudonym, “David.” Since the initial publication of this post, it’s become possible for us to refer to Daniel by his real name.

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By Angela Nelson

Many of the people who speak languages that don’t have a Scripture translation are located in areas that are difficult or impossible to access. Sometimes God works out His purposes by bringing refugees from these places to work on Bible translation outside their countries.

This happened with a man named Hamza* who didn’t believe that God existed—a view that didn’t bode well in the restrictive West Asian country where he grew up. Those who didn’t adhere to the majority religion were often persecuted. And after being imprisoned once for his atheistic beliefs, Hamza realized he wasn’t safe in his own country.

So Hamza fled to Central Europe as a refugee. There he soon met several other people from his homeland—one of whom was very vocal about his Christian faith. Hamza got tired of hearing this man talk about Jesus, but he decided to attend church with the man anyway to see what it was about.

That’s where Hamza met Robert,* a Wycliffe missionary working with refugees who speak Shali*—a language spoken by almost four million people from Hamza’s home country.

Hamza liked Robert and friendship developed. Hamza offered to help Robert translate a short document, and Robert later returned the favor by going to Hamza’s apartment to fix his computer. While he was there Robert took the opportunity to tell Hamza that God had a plan for his life. Hamza listened politely, but he wasn’t ready to accept the message yet. In fact, at the time he thought Robert was crazy.

Months later, as Hamza was feeling particularly discouraged and homesick for his family, he happened to pass by a church where he heard people singing in his mother tongue. Softened by this personal connection, Hamza went inside and finally opened his life to Christ that very night.

As a new believer, Hamza was eager to serve God by helping Robert and several Shali refugees with the Shali translation project. And after working with the team for several years, he’s now become the team’s co-leader. Together they’ve translated the Gospel of John, the story of Joseph, and the story of Abraham. They’ve almost finished the book of Acts and have many other Scripture portions in the process. The finished Scriptures have been distributed via booklets and audio CDs and have been broadcast on satellite TV and on the radio in Hamza’s home country. The team has also created a website, a Facebook presence, a YouTube channel, and an iPhone app to help people download text, audio, and video versions onto their computer or smart phone.

“I’ve just been amazed—people have been downloading this [app] all over the world,” Robert said, “Even inside [Hamza’s country] where it isn’t easy to have an iPhone, people are downloading and using the app, even though there’s risk with using [it].”

For many of the Shali, having God’s Word in their heart language is well worth the risk.

*A pseudonym

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“Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take” (Proverbs 3:6, NLT).

This month, Wycliffe will hold three TOTAL It Up! (TIU) courses in a variety of cities, including Kent, WA; Dallas, TX; and Stevens, PA. Through TIU, adults and teenagers interested in Bible translation learn the basics of translation and linguistics, and are taught by experienced translators. This five-day course makes a great introduction to the work of Wycliffe and the worldwide Bible translation team.

  • Ask God to begin preparing the hearts of participants even now, so that when they attend the course, they will be ready to hear from Him regarding the call He has placed upon their lives.
  • Pray for TIU teachers and organizers, that they would feel encouraged as they prepare lessons and coordinate program logistics.
  • Pray for good health for all participants during the upcoming TIU sessions, and for meaningful interaction between students and staff.
  • Pray that each TIU student would be radically impacted by what he or she learns about Bible translation. Ask God to speak clearly to each student about the direction for their lives.
  • Pray that many interested people will learn about the upcoming summer TIU courses as well, and sign up soon!

Learn more about TOTAL It Up! and sign up to participate at a location near you.

This announcement was originally featured on Wycliffe’s PrayToday blog. Click here to read more prayer updates and requests from Wycliffe.

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By Elizabeth Wilson

Elizabeth is an instructional designer at Wycliffe. She designs and implements training tools for Wycliffe personnel worldwide. She also has experience in Bible storying for an unreached people group in South Asia, and blogs at http://www.elizabethstories.blogspot.com/. Elizabeth is one of twenty-seven Wycliffe personnel who served at the Urbana 2012 conference.

Eliz and Nala

Elizabeth and her dog, Nala

Sarah*, a student attending the Urbana 2012 conference in St. Louis, Missouri, approached the Wycliffe booth, but hid behind a friend she had been following around the exhibit hall all afternoon. I introduced myself and asked how the day was going. After some generic answers, she shared more deeply how inadequate she felt about serving the Lord. She didn’t feel a draw to the other side of the world, and felt frustrated because she didn’t know what to do with her life or if anything she would do would ever really matter.

I shared a graphic with her—a bar graph with various job roles along the bottom ranging from missionary to NBA basketball player. Two bars for each role go up vertically on the chart. One bar is salary. The other bar is “potential for kingdom impact.” Not surprisingly, each role has different salaries. But  each role also has the same exact high level of “potential for kingdom impact.”

First, I shared that no matter what Sarah did with her life, the potential for kingdom impact would be exactly the same as long as she was following the Lord. Second, I shared that she did not have to figure it all out by the time she left Urbana. She replied, “Really? Wow, that’s the best news I’ve heard all day!”


We prayed and decided to stay in touch. I look forward to how Sarah may serve the Lord, wherever she lives and whatever she does.

At Urbana, a big priority for the Wycliffe team was to first listen to students and then help brainstorm what God might be teaching them. This was hard for me, as my tendency is to solve problems based on small pieces of information rather than try to understand the full story and lead someone to their own conclusion. My task-oriented, black-and-white personality likes to have a definite answer to questions right now!

But I realized that the “solution” Sarah needed was simply to know that she did not need to have a specific answer in the immediate future.

There is a deep element of trust involved in the “not knowing.” But Sarah’s response was one of relief. It challenged me to view trusting God in a new light—as a comfort to know that He is in control and sovereign, and I can completely trust Him.

I am thankful for the experience to not only serve God through serving the students, but also to learn from Him and learn from the students too!

*name changed

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