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Archive for November, 2015

Surviving a Shooting: One Year Later

When Jason Derfuss stepped outside the library on Florida State University’s campus, he had no idea his life was about to change forever.

“I walked out the front doors and heard a gunshot go off behind me,” Jason Derfuss4Jason said. “I turned around, and the gunman was running at another student and shot the student in front of me. I realized I was in danger, and I turned and ran.”

Jason had just checked out a couple of books for a research paper about John Wycliffe — the man credited with translating the Bible into English for the first time in the 14th century, and whose work inspired the name Wycliffe Bible Translators. Hours after the shooting, when Jason opened up his backpack, he discovered that both books had bullet holes through them.

He and his roommate dumped out the contents of the backpack and a bullet dropped on top of the pile. Jason was overcome with emotion, suddenly realizing that he had been the shooter’s first target.

“The books were so incredibly thin; they shouldn’t have even slowed [the bullet] down,” Jason said. “For somebody to be at point-blank range like that, and for those two books to stop it — it is absolutely incredible.”

Jason Derfuss1It’s been one year since Jason survived that shooting. After the ordeal, he and his family learned about Wycliffe’s headquarters in Orlando. Jason knew he had to see it. He visited the Wycliffe Discovery Center this week, touring the exhibits and sharing his story with a group there.

“It was very eye-opening to see the work that’s been going on here, and to see how John Wycliffe inspired it to be done. One of the reasons we can study the Bible today in our heart language is because of his work,” Jason said. “He met with the probable reality that he’d be excommunicated and even killed for his actions, and still pressed on and dedicated his time to translating the Bible. He made it more accessible for the common person to enter into a relationship with Jesus. I admire that quite a bit.”

Now Jason views the past year since the shooting as a gift from God, and Jason Derfuss2believes God saved him for a greater purpose. He keeps those library books on his desk, right next to his workspace, as a constant reminder of God’s call to share his story with others. Jason gives God the glory for saving his life.

“As disciples we’re called to pick up our cross daily,” he said. “Seeing [the books] on a daily basis is just that — picking up my cross. It’s a daily reminder that God has done so much for me. And if I’m feeling any negative emotions, I can look at them and instantly be grateful again.”

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If you’re like most Americans, right now you’ve got Christmas shopping on your mind. And if you’re like us, shopping might have you a little overwhelmed, or frustrated, or disheartened. Enter Giving Tuesday, an internationally celebrated day for giving back.

With Wycliffe, don’t just shop for stuff. For just $6, you can give someone the hope found in the Gospel of Luke, in his or her own language.

On December 1 (Giving Tuesday) you can help us spread the hope of the Christmas story to those who have never had it. It’s the perfect opportunity to reflect on what God has blessed us with so that we might be a blessing to others! Click here to learn more about how to help Wycliffe celebrate Giving Tuesday by providing the Christmas story to people worldwide who’ve never had it in their language. Our goal is to fund the printing for 500 books of Luke on December 1. You can help us make it happen!

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calendar

Can you believe that Christmas is just around the corner? If you still have Christmas shopping to do and are looking for some unique presents for your loved ones, the Wycliffe Village Shop is the place for you! Our newly redesigned store features plenty of gifts for your family and friends. And the best part is that your purchase helps people around the world receive the Bible for the first time in their own languages.

Check out the store’s new design and array of products. The Village Shop features an assortment of hand-crafted jewelry, nativity scenes from around the world, colorful handbags and purses, carved wooden bowls, beautiful postcards, engaging and inspirational books, Wycliffe-related apparel for both adults and children, and much more!

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With Open Hands

Trevor, Sarah & fam

By Melissa Paredes

“If [God] has called you to serve him overseas, he will show you and go before you,” said Sarah. “But above all, wait on him, and hold onto your plans with open hands.”

That’s just what Sarah and her husband, Trevor, have done over the years as they’ve followed God on a journey of service with Wycliffe.

Trevor currently serves as an arts specialist in a small minority language group in Brazil, helping Christians engage with Scripture by incorporating verses and stories into local art forms — music, visual art, dance and even drama. He also helps language communities across the country use their own indigenous art forms to impact people’s lives with God’s Word.

But it’s not just Trevor who is involved. “One of our favorite aspects of [raising our kids in another country and culture] is that we get to go on this adventure together,” shared Sarah. “We all experience the joys and hardships of it together and learn to trust in God and lean on each other more.”

Some of the hardships their family experience come from living in a country with different values and beliefs. This can be difficult, especially when working with people who don’t have an understanding of God or his power. Sarah shared about how a friend once asked them to drive her sick mother to visit the local shaman for treatment. The friend was pregnant and not doing well, but Trevor and Sarah were conflicted: they wanted to help, but they didn’t want to go against their convictions to do so.

“We prayed about it … and felt that God was strongly telling us that we should not facilitate the devil’s work,” Sarah shared. They knew that denying their friend could mean causing a rift in their friendship and a breaking of trust, but decided it was more important to obey God. Although they said no to that first request, a few days later they were able to help their friend by taking her to the hospital — God allowed them the chance to continue to build the friendship without compromising their beliefs.

Experiences like this have helped Trevor, Sarah and their kids learn to rely on God better. “Oftentimes it is in the struggle — and in those moments where we just don’t know what to do or where to turn — that we realize more fully that God is the source of our strength,” shared Sarah. “We may be far from what feels comfortable to us, but seeing his faithfulness to us in our weakest moments causes our own faith to be built up. This, in turn, causes us to all the more passionately want to tell others of how good it is to be one of his followers. He takes care of us.”

And they’ve experienced that faithful provision in many areas of their life. For example, when a colleague was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Trevor and Sarah thought her failing health would halt the translation project. But God has since raised up people from the language community to carry on the work.

Sometimes the enemy’s attacks are frighteningly tangible. “Because [these people] live in a very animistic culture, encountering the spiritual realm on a daily basis is very much a reality for them,” Sarah shared. “The wife of a mother tongue translator was being tormented by spirits to the point that one afternoon she fainted and collapsed. I was able to help get her to the hospital after the event occurred and heard more of her story of what all had transpired during this particular attack. Before she fainted there had been dark spirits who had been trying to pull her away from her husband (who is a strong believer), grabbing at her neck and trying to choke her. She said that that had happened on more than one occasion, where they were trying to pull her away from her husband, likely because he knows the truth.”

Trevor and Sarah see situations like this one as a visible sign of the spiritual battle going on for the souls of these people. “We have wanted to quit many times,” Trevor said, “because it feels like everything around us is either falling apart or becoming spiritually and physically dangerous.”

“But then we step away from the situation,” Trevor adds, “and see that the enemy is working so hard to capture and enslave these people because God seems to be on the brink of doing something absolutely amazing. We want to be there to see what he has in store, whether we’re directly involved or not!”

So that’s why Trevor and Sarah both keep working to reach people with God’s Word in the language that speaks directly to their hearts. “It is our relationships with these people and with God that fuel the energy to push forward in our current work,” Sarah explains. “Even though there are challenges and fears that try to discourage us from continuing, God continues to confirm in our hearts and minds that he has us right where he wants us for the time being. It is his work, and we are thankful to be a part of it for as long as he [will] allow us to remain [here].”

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intl bible day

Image courtesy of YouVersion.

Tomorrow, Monday, Nov. 23, Christians around the world will set aside time to celebrate the Scriptures.

“We believe that setting aside a day to honor God’s word gives Christians a chance to show solidarity despite differing backgrounds, denominations, and political beliefs,” Elise Inman, spokeswoman for the National Bible Association, told the Christian Post. “International Day of the Bible is truly meant to be a time where Christians set their differences aside and unite to honor the Bible.”

To participate in the International Day of the Bible, you’re encouraged read, listen to, or watch any passage of the Bible at noon local time, either privately or in a group setting.

If you’re looking for inspiration, YouVersion has created an official 10-day reading plan for the event. You can also share your favorite Bible verse on social media with #BibleCelebration, and see what verses others are sharing.

Join millions across the world as we gather to read Scripture together!

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What can you do with $6 during your Christmas shopping? You could probably buy a Christmas-themed coffee, or a few decorations for your tree or even a stack of Christmas cards to give to your family and friends. Can you think of a meaningful, inspiring gift you could buy someone for just $6?

We can! This year you can share the Christmas story with someone who’s never heard or read it before. Help provide language groups around the world with a printed copy of the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke for just $6 — the same amount that you would spend on a coffee or a few decorations!

Giving Tuesday

What: Your chance to give the Christmas story to someone who needs it!
Just $6 prints the book of Luke.
When: Dec. 1, 2015
How: Watch for more details soon!

e Celebration

You’re invited to join us on December 1 for Giving Tuesday — the globally celebrated day dedicated to giving back. It’s a great opportunity to reflect on all God has blessed us with and to be a blessing to others!

Stay tuned for more details as we get closer to the big day. Together we can make Giving Tuesday an incredible chance to give the greatest gift of all.

“…but the angel reassured them. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!’” (Luke 2:10-11, NLT).

You don’t want to miss it!

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A Lack of Pictures

Cameroon

The old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words” is a gross underestimation, especially for the observant and/or loquacious. There’s so much to see and describe in the world around us, especially if an image includes people. People are far more complex and I believe that just about everyone could have a pretty interesting book written about them.

[But I] cannot bring myself to photograph much of Cameroon for several reasons — not yet.

The [largest] reason is [because of] walls. Cultural walls. We’re in a situation where walls (literally and figuratively) abound. But at the same time, we’re trying to eliminate or at least reduce the number of cultural walls because they prevent us from getting inside the culture. We will always be cultural outsiders here, but it’s necessary to get as close to “insider status” as possible to best do our work.

In an effort to aspire toward eliminating, averting and more easily traversing walls [while] becoming a cultural insider, I realized that I can’t pull out my camera right now because I would effectively construct a nasty, slippery, thorn-covered wall. If I went just 150 meters down my street and took pictures, not only would [a] “perceived as rich” wall become a bit higher because of the value of my camera or iPhone, but I would then objectify the people that live on my street. They would be nothing more than an exhibit at the zoo. They are well aware that a powerful person (me, in their eyes) wouldn’t take a picture of them or their living condition out of envy.

They would immediately know that it was out of pity because they know that the house I live in has a wall around it to keep out bad people and wild dogs. They know that my house has two toilets that flush. They know that a woman comes to help my wife with household chores and goes to the market for us. They know that my kids go to the school that costs a lot of money. Why would I be interested in them?

Until I show them the true answer to that last question — “Why would I be interested in them?” — I can’t just snap away at will. I have to become genuine to them. I have to show them that I am interested in them beyond just having pity. I must show that I am their neighbor, that I am navigating life just like them, that this is my home right now, that I’m trying to parent my kids well — that I want to see a fruitful increase in their lives and purpose. I have to demonstrate that I am a person of integrity who isn’t out to take advantage of them, even though I may not get to know them on a truly personal level (I have a lot of neighbors).

My hunch is that a formula of consistency over time will be key in establishing credibility in my neighbors’ eyes. And when it finally comes, I hope that being able to take some photos of our neighborhood, our street, and inevitably our neighbors that live there, will actually help to remove some walls. However, until then, I will only lock the images in my mind as best I can.

As a parting thought, I see a bit of the life of Christ in my conundrum. Jesus came to save a people in need but he didn’t do it as a conquering hero. He did it as a humble servant. He left the splendor of heaven to muck it up in our broken world. By no means do I make this analogy as if I’m some kind of savior or even comparable to God, nor do I want to equate America to heaven and somehow superior to Africa. But Jesus gives an example of ultimate humility that I need to re-study and model. I need to follow through on [being a] humble servant before I pull out a camera, lest I be misperceived.

To read Chris’ complete post, visit the Gassler’s blog.

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