Category Archives: Wycliffe

When it rains, it pours

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:19‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Well, after many years of preparation and training, we are finally here in Papua New Guinea. Way too much has happened in the month since we left the States to update you on all of it, but it you want a snapshot of our lives here, I suggest you check out our ministry page on Facebook.

The only problem is that when you look at all of the beautiful pictures of gorgeous sunrises, natural caves, hidden spring-fed pools, and lush jungle, you might leave with the impression that we’re on an adventure filled vacation.

But life is not all sunshine and roses. It often rains, and when it does, it pours.

There are many wonderful things about living in a new culture, but the fact remains that adjusting to a completely new lifestyle takes a toll on you–physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Just for example, back in the States I lived a fairly sedentary lifestyle. I have a fitness watch which tracks my steps for the day, and back in the States I would rarely exceed 7,000 steps in a given day, unless we were especially active–like spending the day at the zoo or something like that. But since we’ve left the US, I don’t recall a single day when I’ve tracked less than 10,000 steps, and many days have me exceeding 15,000. Yesterday, for example, I never left our compound, didn’t go on any hikes, and did nothing except the basic chores like preparing meals and such and my step count was 11,537. Why so high? We spent the majority of the day chopping firewood, preparing meals, cooking over an open fire, and running back and forth to the bathroom to retrieve drinkable water. In order to help prepare us for life in a remote village, on the weekends we prepare all of our own food outdoors over an open fire using no refrigeration–all while trying to take care of two little kids. If I’ve had a day more mentally and physically draining than yesterday, I can’t remember it. On top of these weekends, we have class daily from 8:00-4:00, and occasional jungle hikes and open water ocean swims. Then there are all the new foods. Some are pretty good, but others are…well…interesting. Food has become much more of a commodity which is consumed for fuel here, rather than for fun like in the US. The physical drain is intense for someone used to a sedentary American lifestyle. I’ve lost over 25 pounds since we left the US without even trying.  (I’ve lost another 15 pounds since drafting this post almost a month ago!)

In addition to the physical demands, there are plenty of mental stressors, too. In the absence of local trash pickup, we are discouraged from using disposable paper and plastic goods. You don’t realize how dependent you are upon trash pickup until you’re forced to switch to cloth diapers (which must be hand washed…😳) and have to try to figure out alternatives to Ziploc bags and paper towels, which are nowhere to be found. When your kids are adjusting to new foods (read “explosive diarrhea”), cloth diapers can be the thing that just ruins your day. It seems like every other morning we wake up and the first thing we have to do is change diapers and wash bedding. It’s not a pleasant start to the day. On top of this, when you’re living is such close community with people you’ve just met from all over the globe, there are cultural stressors even amongst your fellow missionary colleagues. Add to that the exhaustion of spending hours a day learning a new language, making new friends, and learning the culture of the people to whom you minister, and even days which are physically less stressful can get the best of you.

Lastly, there’s the spiritual stress. You don’t realize how refreshing your Sunday church service is until you’ve sat through an entire service in a foreign language and only understood several words here and there. After a long, physically and mentally draining week, you look forward to the spiritual refreshment of Christian music and teaching, only to find yourself straining to understand bits and pieces of the sermon, and not recognizing any of the songs that are sung. Church service becomes just another culture and language learning session leaving you more exhausted than you were before. The Holy Spirit may be alive and well in the church you visited, but the spiritual truths of God’s Word are locked behind the gate of a foreign language and culture, inaccessible to you.  One positive takeaway from this experience, however, was being able to empathize with the many people who attend service every week in PNG in a language that is not their mother tongue, read scripture in a language that is not their mother tongue, and sing songs that are not from their culture or language. It gives me a greater appreciation for Bible translation and mother tongue scripture use.

In addition to the stress of cross-cultural church attendance, Satan is no fool when it comes to wartime strategy. If the Word of God is the Holy Spirit’s weapon, then those who advance the Word of God through ministry, missions, and/or Bible translation are spiritual weapons dealers. We endeavor to supply people with the very weapon the Holy Spirit uses to vanquish Satan…which puts a giant bull’s-eye on our backs. Indeed, since we’ve been here, we’ve noticed a sharp increase in spiritual warfare. Kids have had bad dreams, seen apparitions, and there have been various illnesses that just won’t go away. Satan doesn’t play fair, so unfortunately, it’s often the kids that get the brunt of the attacks. Satan is no match for God’s power, but Paul still describes the fight as a “struggle” for us.

Of course, as a missionary entering the field for the first time, all of these stressors (and many more!) hit you all at once. When it rains, it pours. The stress of adapting to all of this change while struggling to be a good spouse, parent, student, and minister can be crippling.

The last few days, it has felt like all of this stress and change of the past month has finally caught up to me. I found myself thinking this morning, “I know that God is supposed to provide grace for each day, but I just don’t see it. Where’s the grace I need to get through the day? Where is God, and why doesn’t he lend me a hand?”

Then it started raining–really raining, not just meataphorically raining. We were supposed to go to the beach today. Now you might be thinking, “What a bummer!” But actually, the rain was just what the doctor ordered. See, a trip to the beach here is no mere vacation in the sand. It’s a big ordeal, especially with kids. There’s all the normal preparation of swimsuits, sunblock, last minute (cloth) diaper changes, etc., but then there’s also a very bumpy 45-minute drive down the mountain in the back of a packed truck with 50 other people. Then there’s baths for kids and the inevitable rush to the bucket-showers, and the long wait in line for your turn at one of the three showers in each bathroom which serve over 50 people. After a long stressful week, I was not really super excited about the beach trip.

So it rained. Rather, it poured. One of those relaxing tropical rainforest monsoon-season gully-washers. So, the beach trip was cancelled. I wasn’t terribly disappointed, though I did feel bad for the kids at first. But, as I watched the rain, it felt as if God was washing away all of the stress of the past week. The kids all made the best out of it and had a blast playing in the rain, throwing water from the downspouts all over each other, and rolling in the mud puddles.  (Missionary kids, or “MKs” as we call them, are a creative bunch!)  Turns out, most of the other parents weren’t thrilled with the idea of a beach trip either, so in the end, God provided just what everyone needed–rest for the adults, and water to play in for the kids. He brought the beach to us, all the way to the top of the mountain.

Some of the kids at POC playing in the rain with their dad.
One happy baby, playing in the rain! (Our kids were napping, so they missed out on the fun.)

God provided just what I needed to get through the day.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. ”

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (ESV)

In Awe of His Grace!


For the past few months, we have prayed and prayed that God would help us to reach our goals and make the move to GIAL in July. But, as of June, we seemed to be a very long ways from that goal. While we originally felt like God was leading us to GIAL in July, the numbers simply weren’t adding up, and so we felt God had effectively shut that door.  This, in turn, left me a bit discouraged at the prospect of having to delay our training another six months, especially since balancing my job with my ministry and family had become increasingly difficult and was placing a lot of strain on our family. It seemed as if we were battling an unseen force that simply did not want us moving forward in our ministry!

But God’s timing is immaculate. About the time that I was struggling with all of this, I read a book that just so happened to discuss spiritual warfare (And the Word Came With Power, by Joanne Shetler). Then, our men’s ministry began a study on spiritual warfare called “The Invisible War.” Then our pastor began a sermon series on spiritual warfare! I’ve learned not to believe in coincidences, especially when they happen in rapid succession and in multiples. So, I realized that clearly God was trying to teach me an important lesson about spiritual warfare.

One night in men’s ministry, we briefly discussed a passage from Daniel 10, where Daniel has a vision of an angel after having fasted for 21 days. (“Coincidentally,” I did a 21 day fast modeled after Daniel’s fast in this passage earlier this year, which is the only fast I have ever done of that type and duration.)   In Daniel’s vision, the angel gives the reason for his delayed response, which gives a telling insight into the nature of spiritual warfare and answered prayers:

“Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia…”

Daniel 10:12-13 (ESV)

What I could not see in the midst of my struggles was that “from the first day that [I] set [my] heart to understand and humbled [myself] before [my] God, [my] words [had] been heard.” God had already answered my prayers. Perhaps he even dispatched an angel or two on my behalf!  Only heaven knows, but clearly there is a biblical precedent for such an idea. Whether God’s messengers were battling demons in the past couple months in order to bring about the next step in our ministry or not, I can’t be certain. But, I think that would explain a lot of the things that have been going on in our lives recently. Regardless, God has answered our prayers.

On Sunday, July 12, a generous ministry partner made a sizeable donation to our Wycliffe ministry. What they did not know was that their gift was exactly the difference between what we needed for our first semester of tuition, fees, and books at GIAL and what we had saved! The very next morning (Monday), I received an email from the Admissions department at GIAL, offering me a $1,200 scholarship if I would begin classes next week (July 22)! Jennifer and I were blown away. Could God really be moving things so that we could go to GIAL in July, like we had prayed? We prayed about it, thought about it, and consulted some of our partners for advice and prayers.  While we had enough money for our first semester, we wouldn’t have any for the second semester. Plus, we were only at 49% of our ministry budget, and we needed to be at 80% to afford our living expenses. On top of that, the fully furnished home we had reserved was rented out, and wouldn’t be available until December 21. There were other concerns we had, but those were the big ones. When we went to sleep that night, we were still very unsure about where God was leading us.

Tuesday morning we received a lot of feedback from our partners. Some encouraged us to “Go for it!” while others advised caution. Their advice was extremely helpful, but definitely served to illustrate the conundrum we were in. Around noon on Tuesday, we had found a possible housing solution, but it wasn’t great, and we had also discovered that childcare would be expensive. Fearing that this would place an even greater strain on our already greatly stretched budget, we were about to decide that we would just stay in Arkansas. And then the phone rang. It was the GIAL Housing department calling to inform us that a generous homeowner had just called in his home for rent while he was in China for a year. It was 3 bedrooms, 2 baths with a garage and a yard. Best of all, he wanted some Wycliffe missionaries to stay in it RENT FREE and just pay utilities!!! We were completely blown away. The drastic reduction in our expenses meant that we could afford to live off of about 60% of our budget while we were at GIAL! Just that day, one new partner had joined, and another increased their giving, putting us at 53%, well within range of what we would need and be able to raise in the next couple months. Plus, that meant that we would soon have a surplus, which we could save for our second semester tuition and our other launching expenses! Jennifer and I knew that we couldn’t say “no” to that, so we accepted and began making arrangements to move to Dallas in less than a week.

I sit here tonight having finished one day of packing, with only three more days to finish packing for the move to Dallas, completely flabbergasted at God’s provision. Why he would care for little old me is completely beyond my understanding. I’ve been humbled to the point of tears several times today. Today, a friend from church came and folded and stuffed our paper newsletters for us, Jennifer’s mom and aunt helped us pack, another church friend gave us $200 for moving expenses and took our newsletters to be stamped and delivered, and the men’s ministry at church prayed over me.

I am in awe of God’s grace. I don’t deserve this kind of lavish grace! I’m just a sinner! Who am I that God should bless me like this!?!? I’m nobody! I feel like Isaiah in chapter six when he was confronted with God’s glory: “I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” I’m so humbled by his grace.

Why would we give our lives to serve as missionaries in the jungles of Papua New Guinea? It’s not just because there are lost people out there.  There are lost people here, too.  It’s not because we’re adventurous–we’re not, really. It’s because this is the kind of God we serve, and we want our lives to show that he’s worth it!   He’s the kind of God who lavishes grace on “such a wretch as I.” And once you’ve met Jesus, there’s just nothing worth living for but him. He has saved me, given me a hope and a future, given me a purpose in life, forgiven my unforgivable sins, and adopted me as a son into his family, granting me an inheritance that is beyond comprehension! And just like Isaiah, the only response I can give to his grace is: “Here am I, Lord, send me!”
***Update: Since writing this post last night, we found out that I have been granted an additional $500 scholarship, and another new monthly partner just joined out team!  God is good.

What God is teaching me in the wait

Let’s face it–nobody likes to wait.  But waiting is a part of life.  Since I felt God calling me into the ministry when I was 14, I’ve been waiting to see exactly what that ministry would look like.  In the following 12 years, God has begun to reveal some of the details about the ministry he has for me, but we still have not yet began the actual process of translating scripture, and won’t for some time.  God has called us to serve in Bible translation with Wycliffe Bible Translators, but there are many steps in the journey before we can begin the process of translation.

Waiting can be frustrating at times.  “God, why can’t I just ________?  Why am I waiting right now?  What am I waiting for?  Why aren’t things happening when I thought they would?”  But, through the years and even the past few months of waiting, God has taught me some valuable lessons about waiting that I’d like to share with you so that perhaps you might be encouraged by the thread of grace in your wait.

1.  God’s timing is perfect.

It may seem cliche’, but it’s true.  To quote one of my favorite Bible teachers in my church, David Wagnon, “We’re just not that smart!”  You and I simply do not have see all the pieces in this grand puzzle called life.  In hindsight, I’m very grateful that God made me wait for some things.  Had God followed my timeline instead of his divine plan, I would not be married to my wonderful wife.  I would not have been given this wonderful ministry.  Frankly, my life would be a wreck!   Galatians 4:4 says, “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son…”  The Earth waited thousands of years for the perfect timing of the Messiah.  Jennifer and I will get to the mission field exactly when God plans–not a moment sooner, nor a moment later.  God is always right on time.

2.  God is glorified most when things go by HIS schedule, not OURS.

Think about the Exodus.  The Hebrews were rejoicing that God had finally freed them from the tyranny of their Egyptian masters.  Then, while their backs are up against the Red Sea, here comes the Egyptian horde!  Now, of course we know how the story ends.  God parts the Red Sea and the Hebrews walk through on dry ground with the Egyptian army close on their tail.  Just as the Hebrews clear the sea, God releases the waters and the Egyptian army is destroyed.  (I’m particularly fond of the portrayal of this scene in the animated film Moses: Prince of Egypt.)

Now here’s a question you may have never thought to ask–couldn’t God have parted the Red Sea before the Hebrews arrived so that they could have just meandered through at a more leisurely pace without the Egyptian army breathing down their necks?  The Egyptian army would have arrived just in time to see Israel safely on the other side of the sea with absolutely no way of pursuing them.  (No doubt they would have been puzzled at how two million Hebrews crossed such a body of water!)  God’s people still would have been saved, and they wouldn’t have had to face the threat of death.  Why did God wait until the last moment, when it seemed there was absolutely no hope of escape?  I think the answer lies in Romans 9:17, “For Scripture says to Pharaoh: ‘I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.'”

Our lives serve one primary purpose–to bring glory and honor to our Creator.  For those like Pharaoh who spurn him, God gets glory in their perfectly timed and executed judgment.  For those like Moses who seek his face, God gets glory in their salvation in his perfect timing.  God gets glory when things happen on his seemingly impossible timeline!  Have you ever experienced an Exodus moment, where just in the nick of time God provides exactly what you needed?  That is God using you for what you were created–to bring him glory.

Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends.  –George Mueller

3.  God has placed you in this time and location in history for a ministry that only you can do.

Despite the fact that I am not yet in the process of translating scripture for a Bibleless people group, that doesn’t mean that I have not yet begun my ministry.  One important lesson that I’ve learned over the years is that I am NEVER to wait to begin my ministry.  It is true that I am waiting in a sense–waiting to move to Dallas to begin linguistic training, then waiting to move overseas and begin translation, and then I’ll be waiting to learn the language, etc.  But, I am not to sit idly by and wish I could be doing ministry!  Every time I share with individuals and churches about the need of Bibleless people groups, I am ministering–both as an advocate for the Bibleless and as an encourager to the church in America!  That’s ministry, and it’s an awesome ministry!  While it is true that I have not yet begun the next phase of my ministry, I cannot fall into the trap of thinking of my ministry as some future destination–it’s more of a journey with many different phases along the way.

God has gifted every single Christian with spiritual gifts that he intends for us to use wherever and whenever he has placed us.  In that sense, we should never be “waiting” to serve, but rather look for opportunities to serve right where we are, even in the midst of the waiting.  If you currently feel like you’re “waiting” to start your ministry, I encourage you to ask yourself this question: “What ministry opportunities might God be wanting me to take advantage of right here and now?  Who has God placed in my life to whom I can minister?  How can I use my spiritual gifts right where I am?”  

4.  Slow down, be patient, and be thankful for this time in your life.  It will soon be gone. 

Our natural instinct when waiting is to try to find a way to make the waiting happen more quickly.  But in so doing, we often miss a lot of important blessings that God has put in our wait.  For instance, Jennifer and I are currently waiting to begin our training in Dallas, TX at the Graduate Institute for Applied Linguistics (GIAL).  We had originally hoped to begin our training in July, but we have shifted our goal back to January in order to give us enough time to more fully develop our team of ministry partners.  While I am anxious to get to PNG soon so that we can begin the process of Bible translation, six months is not a lot of time and it will pass quickly.  I could look at this time as just a delay, or I could choose to see it as a blessing.

We have precious little time left here with our family, friends, and our church.  Once we’re gone, it could be more than three years until we see many of those people again–and some we may never see again this side of heaven.  We have counted the cost and we’re aware of the sacrifices, but perhaps it’s God’s grace that we be delayed a little while so that Jennifer can have our second little boy (Isaiah James Hill, eta Septwmber 22!) while we are here in Arkansas, surrounded by family and loved ones. Perhaps it’s God’s grace giving us six more months here with the family, friends, and church we love.  Something tells me that there will be days ahead when we will long for a few extra moments with loved ones.

5.  God uses times of waiting to strengthen us and mold us into the servants he needs us to be. 

Think of the godliest people in the Bible.  Who comes to mind?  Moses?  David?  Jesus?  Paul?  Do you know what they all have in common?  Every single one of them went through a long period of waiting to begin their ministry.  

Moses waited 40 years in Midian before beginning his ministry of leading the Hebrews out of Egypt.  Then, he wandered in the wilderness with them for another 40 years (because of their disobedience) and ultimately died in the wilderness without ever entering the Promised Land.  According to  II Samuel 5:4, “David was thirty years old when he began to reign” and he was probably about 15 when Samuel first anointed him king, which means that David waited 15 years to become king of Judah, and then an additional seven years to rule over Israel!  Jesus himself didn’t begin his official ministry until he was 30!  Paul waited over three years after his conversion to go back to Jerusalem (Galatians 1), and didn’t begin his missionary journeys for several years after that.  I could go on…

Why is it that all of the godliest men in the Bible waited to begin their ministry?  Of all people, why did Jesus himself wait so long?  He knew exactly what ministry he was called to–couldn’t he have started when he was 20?

Hebrews 5:7-9 gives us an important–and startling–explanation:

“In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.  Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.  And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him..”

Pay close attention to what you just read–Jesus learned obedience and was made perfect…Does that surprise you?  Wasn’t Jesus already obedient?  Wasn’t he already perfect?  Here’s another surprising verse from  Luke 2:40:

“And the child [Jesus] grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.”

Now it’s no surprise that Jesus grew–he was human, after all.  But this verse seems to indicate that Jesus grew in wisdom, too.  Jesus learned obedience, was made perfect, and became strong and filled with wisdom.  Wasn’t Jesus already perfect?  In the sense of “sinlessness,” yes–absolutely.  Wasn’t Jesus already obedient?  To the commands he had received at that point in time, yes.  Wasn’t Jesus already wise?  For his age, yes.  But there were bigger commands and tougher temptations yet to come.  Jesus had not yet been tested with the cross.  Before he would be ready to endure the shame and agony of the cross, he had to endure the agony of a 40 day fast.  Before he could perfectly obey his heavenly Father as an adult, he had to obey his earthly father as a child.  Before he could fulfill his ultimate Ministry to the world, he had to be faithful in his immediate ministry to his family.  Just as a good earthly father does not give his 5 year old son a 100 lb. load to carry, the Heavenly Father, out of his love, never gave his Son more than he could handle at that point in his physical and spiritual development.

So here’s the point:

If it was necessary for Christ himself to undergo 30 years of waiting, trials, and refinement to become the person that the Father needed him to be to endure his ministry and the cross, how much more waiting and refinement do you and I need!  In our zeal, we are eager to do God’s will–and rightly so!  But we can’t begrudge the times of refinement that God uses to develop us into the person that we need to be in order to carry out that will!  God knows the type of character we need for the ministry he has given us, and he oftentimes uses the periods of waiting in our lives to prepare us.  We may think we’re ready, but only God knows when we’re truly ready, for only he knows what the future holds.

So what is God trying to do in your life to prepare you for the next step?  What character traits is he trying to develop in you?  What sins is he trying to purge from your life?  How is he teaching you to depend upon Him?

Waiting is not always pleasant, but perhaps if you look hard enough, you’ll see the thread of grace in your wait.

Why not just teach them English?

A translation project takes a long time, and a lot of effort.  Many times the languages we work in have no written form, so part of our job may involve transcribing their oral language into written form, developing an appropriate alphabet, and teaching them how to read and write in their own language.  All of this happens alongside the many years of work required to translate the Bible verse by verse into that language.  So, naturally, the question arises: “Why not just teach them English (or another majority language)?”

Reason #1: A second language is not your heart language
At a Good Friday service in 1980, Leonard Bolioki stepped to the front of the church he attended in Cameroon and began to read the story of Jesus’ crucifixion.  Before, this passage from John’s Gospel had always been read in French, the trade language of Cameroon, but this time the priest had asked Leonard to read it from the newly translated passage in the local language, Yambetta.

As he read, he became aware of a growing stillness; then some of the older women began to weep. At the end of the service they rushed up to Leonard and asked, “Where did you find this story? We have never heard anything like it before! We didn’t know there was someone who loved us so much that he was willing to suffer and die like that… to be crucified on a cross to save us!”

Leonard pulled out his French New Testament and showed them that the story was in the Bible. “We listen to this Passion Story every year during Holy Week,” he told them, but they insisted that they’d never heard it before. That instance, Leonard says, is what motivated him to translate the Scriptures into the only language his people could really understand—Yambetta!

Even though these people knew French, French was not the language that spoke to their hearts.  It’s true that over time, and with great effort, you can learn a foreign language enough to communicate.  But, when it comes to the truths of the Bible, these must resonate on a deeper level than merely a head knowledge–the Scripture must penetrate to the heart.  That can only be accomplished in their native language, their “heart language.”

Reason #2: Language is tied to identity

Reason #3: God loves people of ALL languages

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (‭Revelation‬ ‭7‬:‭9-10‬ ESV)

The Bible tells us that there will be believers from “all languages” and “all peoples,” and commands us to make disciples of “all nations,” not just those in the majority.

Scripture is replete with examples of how God meets us where we are and communicates to us in the language and culture we understand best.  No human language or culture is supreme, and there is no human language or culture God cannot communicate in.  God gave his Word to the Hebrews in Hebrew, to Arameans in Aramaic, to the Greeks in Greek, and to all who were present at Pentecost in their own language.  If it’s a good enough strategy for God, it’ll work for us!

Food for Thought…

There was once an island, on which the people had a Bible, but it was in a language that only the educated people could understand. Then a man came and translated the Bible into the local language. The government at this time permitted the Bible, but only in their original translation. As soon as the Bible was available in the local language, the leaders feared what this would do to their power over the people. They declared this new translation illegal and burned every Bible and killed every translator, every printer, every user of the Bible that they could find. But God was with our Brothers and Sisters on that island, and He changed the hearts of the government. Finally, after many generations, the Bible was now not only available, but also legal.

“For God louede so the world, that he gaf his ‘oon bigetun sone, that ech man that bileueth in him perische not, but haue euerlastynge liif.”

This was John 3:16 in the first translation of the Bible in the local language on the island called…England.*

Brothers and Sisters, you and I are living proof of the impact of God’s word in our heart language, English.  We have been blessed to have God’s Word in our heart language for over 600 years since the first translation by John Wycliffe, and over 400 years since the translation of the King James Version.  What a blessing that our ancestors weren’t satisfied to merely teach us Latin!

 

 

*I am indebted to Tiffany Archer, a fellow Wycliffe member whom we met at Equip, for this illustration.

2014: God’s faithfulness on display

Well, another year has gone by!  And since so much has happened, we’d like to give you a recap of how God has been working in our lives in the past year and what we expect God will be doing in the year to come.

It’s crazy to think that just a year ago we were in Dallas at the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics for a Wycliffe recruiting event called “Taste Of Translation And Linguistics” (aka–TOTAL It Up).

TOTAL It Up! January 2014, Dallas, TX

We had suspected that God might be calling us into service with Wycliffe, but we honestly didn’t know that much about the organization and we had a thousand questions!  Throughout the week, we had the opportunity to hear testimonies from many different Wycliffe missionaries, learn a little about translation and linguistics, and learn about how Wycliffe functions as an organization.  Each day our conviction grew that this was where God was calling us to serve.  By the end of the week, we had no doubts.  We drove home from Dallas as firmly convinced that God was calling us to serve with Wycliffe as we were that we were breathing!  God had finally revealed the next step of his plan for our lives, and we were ecstatic with joy!

But there were still a lot of unknowns.  I had felt that God was leading us to join Wycliffe and attend training before the end of the year.  But, before we could apply to Wycliffe we had some debt to pay off.  I was a contractor, and we were barely surviving the winter on my earnings.  How could we ever expect to pay off the thousands that we owed in such a short period of time?  And, where in the world did God want us to serve?  Were we really qualified to do the task God was calling us for?  How do we tell our family that we’re leaving?  My mind was swirling with questions about the unknown as we made our drive back to Arkansas.  But, I knew without doubt that if God had called us to this ministry, he would provide the means.

But things got worse before they got better, and our faith and resolve were tested severely.  The next 2-3 months that followed were, financially speaking, the worst of our lives.  The winter got worse, nobody seemed interested in home improvement projects, and what few jobs I did get were delayed by the bitter cold, snow, and ice.  It was the coldest, wettest winter that I can recall in my lifetime.  We fell behind on our bills, and paying off debt seemed like a fantasy.  So, we prayed…a lot!

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Wycliffe Equip Training Class, October 2014, Orlando, TX

God answered.  Through my quiet time and during sermons at church, my attention was directed over and over to stories such as Abraham’s call in Genesis 12.  Abraham, or “Abram” as he was called at the time, was told to “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you,” and was assured that he would be tremendously blessed.  But, before he received the promised blessings, Abraham had to take action.  Without knowing all the details–without knowing even what “land” he was supposed to go to!–Abraham had to first pack up and start walking.  I realized that God was calling me to take the first step in faith.  Knowing that our high rent was partly to blame for our financial difficulties, Jennifer and I knew that moving to a more affordable house was one of the first steps.  When our lease was up in April, we moved to a smaller, much more affordable home in Jacksonville and had a big moving sale.  God blessed us immensely, and within three months of that move, we had paid off several thousand dollars worth of debt, sold our truck, and applied to Wycliffe!  Though we had begun to think it impossible, God arranged everything so that we could complete our training in October as we had originally hoped, and even begin developing our team of ministry partners by the end of the year.

As we look forward to the year to come, there’s a lot more change coming!  We hope to have fully established our team of ministry partners by May so that we can move in June to Dallas to begin our linguistic training.  Throughout the past year, God has showed us over and over that he will guide our steps when we rely upon him and step out in faith where he leads.  He always provides.

To all of our readers, family, friends, and ministry partners–THANK YOU!  You are an encouragement to us and we pray that God will bless you, just as he has blessed us through you.

Just for fun–Here’s the year in review of our blog!

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 760 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 13 trips to carry that many people…Where did they come from? 14 countries in all! Most visitors came from The United States. Canada & Russia were not far behind…

Click here to see the complete report.

Something worth giving your life for

In the last few weeks, I have been surprised to find that there are actually quite a few people out there who are as crazy as we are.  I’m growing quite accustomed to puzzled looks when I tell people that we’re missionaries and plan to move to the jungles of Papua New Guinea.  I’m getting used to people describing our ministry as a “mission trip,” as if we will only be gone for a couple weeks, and I usually just laugh it off when someone incredulously replies, “You’re going to be gone how long?!?!
But in the past few weeks, there have been a couple of responses that have surprised me.  After speaking briefly with one lady, I was shocked to hear her reply: “I know you’re not supposed to envy, but I can’t help but wish I could go back to my 20’s and do what you’re doing!  Another man I spoke with lamented how he’d always wanted to go into missions, but was unable to do so because his wife had left him and remarried, and the mission agency he was interested in wouldn’t accept divorcees.
Not long ago, a group of people were getting a tour of the Wycliffe JAARS center for aviation in Waxhaw, North Carolina. The host showed a film and told how the Bible translators were entering a new language group every nine days and publishing a New Testament every 17 days. She told stories of how the translated Word of God had power to transform lives, and in many places was transforming whole communities.
At the end of her presentation she asked if there were any questions. An old gentleman stood up in the back of the room. His eyes were brimming with tears. It took him a moment to compose himself so he could speak.
“Yes, I have a question,” he said, “What do you do when you are 85 years old and for the first time learn about something worth giving your life to?”

As a young Wycliffe member, I’ve had to ponder my response to situations like these.  My heart breaks for the old man who finds himself nearing the end of his life only to realize his life has been wasted in vain pursuits.  And for the lady who regretfully wishes she had followed a different path in life.  And for the man who finds himself thrust into a position where he is disqualified for the ministry he longs for.  What can you say?

After the Israelites had conquered most of the promised land under Joshua’s lead, Joshua began portioning out the land to the 12 tribes.  In Joshua chapter 14, Caleb comes to Joshua with a special request.  Caleb recounts the story of how, when he was forty years old, he had spied out the land under Moses’ lead and brought back a favorable report.  While the other spies bemoaned the impossibility of the task, Caleb confidently asserted, “God will be with us!  We can do this!”  Nevertheless, the Israelites fearfully and disobediently refused to obey God, and God cursed them to wander in the wilderness for forty years until the entire generation, except Caleb and Joshua, died off.  Because of his obedience and faith, Moses promised a section of hill country to Caleb as his inheritance.  Now an old man, Caleb cashes in the promise:
“Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old!  I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.  Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”
Joshua 14:10-12
Whether or not Caleb could actually still bench press what he could when he was 40, his faith was every bit as strong.  He knew that God was the source of victory, not his own might, and that God could use an 85 year old man just as well as he could a 40 year old man.  Instead of looking back on the 45 years wasted wandering around in the desert, Caleb looked up at the fortified hill and said, “See that hill up there?  Let’s go take it for God.”
If you’re reading this, then you’re life is not over.  You may have regrets and you may wish you had spent your life differently.  But if you’re still breathing, then God has a purpose for your life.  Perhaps God will enable you to give more generously than you ever thought possible.  Perhaps he will lead you to be a prayer warrior like Joshua, whose prayer for the sun to stand still in Joshua 10 was granted!  Or, perhaps God will lead you to pack up your bags at the ripe old age of 85 and move overseas!  Regardless, when God reveals something worth giving your life for, then give your life for it.  Charge the hill for Jesus.

We’re back from Orlando!

So how was training?  Like drinking from a fire hydrant–more information than we could possibly process in two weeks, but incredibly refreshing!

These past two weeks were incredible!  There were 47 adult trainees (including the two of us), 16 children (including our little guy), and a host of staff.  I was blown away by how many different types of roles within Wycliffe were represented by our training class alone: pilots, mechanics, teachers, house parents, security personnel, accountants, administrators, recruiters, museum directors, artists, journalists, language surveyors, linguists/translators, IT and software developers, and more!  We had the opportunity to hear everyone’s testimony, and it is truly incredible to see how God worked through so many different people in so many different ways to bring us all to the same place.  It was such a perfect illustration of the body of Christ, with all its many members, working together to advance the Kingdom.

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Tim, Codi, and daughter Noah Gauci; Serving as house parents in PNG.

We were blessed to have the opportunity to connect with so many people with the same passion we have!  Tim and I hit it off immediately, and by the end of the week both our wives were rolling their eyes at us.  I had the opportunity to talk with Tim one night on the way to the grocery store and was inspired by his passion for reaching MK’s (missionary kids) for Jesus.

The Phillips; Serving in PNG as teachers.
The Phillips; Serving in PNG as teachers.

The Phillip’s have already served overseas for several years in Southeast Asia, and now they and their six kids will be serving in PNG.  Many people silently wonder, “How could they take their kids overseas?”  But these were perhaps the best behaved, most well-adjusted, godly children I have ever seen!  I can only hope that our children turn out that well.  Plus, Josiah loved them!

Josiah playing with the Cirre's and Phillip's kids.
Josiah playing with the Cirre‘s and Phillip’s kids.

We had the opportunity to take a much needed break on Saturday at the beach, just a 45 minute drive from the Wycliffe HQ.  Josiah wasn’t a big fan of the water or sand at first, but he warmed up to it after a while.  We haven’t had much opportunity to have family time lately, so this was a tremendous blessing, even if it was only for a few hours.Josiah's first time at the beach!

We also received some phenomenal training that will serve us well in the years to come.  We covered topics such as maintaining spiritual health in spite of a harsh/hostile environment, raising kids in another culture, public speaking skills, maintaining balance with ministry and family, record keeping, technology skills and usage, managing finances, and a whole host of additional topics!  We had the opportunity to hear story after story of life transformation brought about through Bible translation, and we left our training feeling both “Equip”-ed and inspired.  Hearing the testimonies of the other trainees and the testimonies of lives impacted by Bible translation reminded me why I signed up!  As Wycliffe’s founder, Cam Townsend, once said: “The greatest missionary in the world is the Bible in the mother tongue.” 

We are so excited to be a part of this ministry!  Our next stage of training is a one-year program in Dallas, TX.  In order to make the departure deadline for PNG that Wycliffe has set (September 2016), we need to begin our training in Dallas next July.  Please remember us in your prayers as we take these next steps!