Tag Archives: missionary

First Newsletter from the Hills

Dear Friends and Family,

For those of you who don’t yet know, Jennifer and I have felt for some time that God might be leading us to serve as foreign missionaries. We have had the opportunity to go on two mission trips together (India in 2007, Haiti in 2011) and both felt that God was leading us to commit to more than just the occasional mission trip. We have been praying that God would make his will for us plain, and we believe that he has answered that prayer.

This January, we had the opportunity to go to Dallas for a one week “Taste Of Translation And Linguistics” (aka–“TOTAL it up”), which allowed us the opportunity to have a unique peek into the life of missionaries with the organization Wycliffe Bible Translators. While there are many great missions agencies out there, Wycliffe was a perfect match for us. Hearing the stories of how lives were changed when people finally had God’s Word in their heart language for the first time was exciting. We both have a passion for God’s Word and for unreached peoples, and God has planted a desire deep in my heart to take the gospel to those who have never heard (Rom. 15:20-21). Furthermore, the nature of Bible translation plays to my spiritual gifts and talents and was a perfect fit for the type of work I would most enjoy. The week that we spent at TOTAL it Up confirmed that God was calling us to serve as missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators and we are excited as we take the next steps forward.

But, becoming foreign missionaries is no easy task! Amongst the many obstacles we have to overcome is debt reduction. As many of you already know, Jennifer and I have been taking some drastic steps to meet the debt requirements that we must attain before applying to Wycliffe. In April, we held a huge yard sale where we sold quite a few of our valuables. God blessed us immensely in that we were able to raise over $1,800 in one day at a yard sale! (Talk about a “God thing!”) Next, we moved to a smaller, more affordable place in Jacksonville, cutting our rent budget in half. These steps have allowed us to make some great leaps forward towards our debt reduction goal, but we still have just over $2,500 left to pay off before we can apply. While that may sound like a lot, we are actually quite close to being able to accomplish that goal. In short, if we can sell my truck (2003 Dodge Ram 1500) and bike (2009 Fuji Aloha 1.0), then we will have reached our goal and be ready to apply! If we were to accomplish that this month, that would put us on track for becoming Wycliffe members by November, just in time for a mandatory training session in January at the Wycliffe HQ in Orlando. But, in order to make that training in January, we have to apply by the end of June!

So, here’s how you can help. First of all, please pray for us! While that may sound cliche’, it’s anything but! Paying off $2500 of debt in less than a month is a BHAG (Big Holy Audacious Goal), and is something only God can pull off! (Kind of like making $1800 at a one day yard sale!)  Since I started writing this, I’ve already had one person contact me about buying my bike and another about buying my truck! So please remember us in your prayers! Secondly, please pass the word that we have a truck and bike for sale! You can view my ad for the truck here, and the bike here or here.  Hopefully, by the time you read this they will no longer be for sale, but just in case, spread the word!

Thank you all for your continued prayers and support. We will keep you posted as we make progress in this journey. Please consider becoming a follower of our blog, so you’ll receive our periodic updates and prayer requests in your inbox.

In Christ,

Jason, Jennifer, and Josiah Hill

A couple Q & A’s:

Q: Where will your assignment be and what language will you be working in?
A: In short, we don’t know yet. Once we are accepted with Wycliffe, we will spend the next 2-3 months collaborating with missionaries in the field to determine a good fit for us. If we’re able to apply in June, we should know those details by October.

Q: If you do apply by July, when will you be moving overseas?
A: Once accepted, we will have to attend a two week training session called “Equip” which will train us on raising support. Then, we will have to raise our support. There’s no set time on that process, but it often takes around a year to become fully funded. After we are fully funded, we will move to Dallas for one year of training at the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics (GIAL). Upon completion of that one year program, we will be “deployed” to our initial assignment. In short, the process takes about 2 years or so after acceptance to get to the field.

Q: You have a wife and small child. Why would you move to some dangerous third world country when there’s people here in America who need Jesus and it’s much less risky?
A: There are over 1,900 languages left without any portion of God’s Word in their heart language. In short, that’s not “OK.” While it’s true that ministry is desperately needed here in America, and it’s perhaps true that America may be generally safer than, say, the DRC, those people need Christ just as much as Americans do. Furthermore, they have NO scripture, NO ministers, and NO hope of ever hearing the gospel unless someone goes and tells them. “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” Rom. 10:14-15, ESV Meanwhile, Americans have a plethora of English Bible translations to pick from, churches on every street corner, and prepackaged gospel presentations available at the click of a remote control. We cannot sit back in comfort and relative safety while the world burns. Some are called to ministry here, some there. Regardless of location, all Christians are called to be involved in missions–some are primarily senders, and some are primarily “goers.” (Though I think all of us have a duty to both.) We have been called out to go, so all we can do is joyfully “trust and obey.”

Missionaries: God’s Navy Seals?

Last night, I attended a meeting for Wycliffe Bible Translators. It made quite an impression upon me. I have been strongly considering serving with Wycliffe for the past year or so, but unless I am sorely mistaken, that calling was confirmed last night. I met with Ed and Linda Speyers for coffee yesterday morning and talked with them about their experience with Wycliffe while serving in Suriname, South America. After my classes, there was an interest meeting for Wycliffe where Dennis Cochrane spoke about his experience translating for a primitive people group in Papua New Guinea. Dennis’ story is shocking and inspiring, so I will do my best to relate it here.

Dennis and his wife served in a remote village tribe in PNG for over 10 years. This tribe was so remote that the only language they had ever heard or spoke was their own. They literally lived in the stone age; they had no metal instruments. Even their axes were made of sharpened stones. They were an animistic people, meaning that they believed that spirits were associated with almost everything. They were particularly superstitious about these spherical shot-put sized rocks (probably debris from an ancient volcanic eruption) with iron-ore cores. Many (if not most) of the people had such a rock. They believed that spirits lived in these rocks, and in order to appease these spirits when misfortune arose they would sacrifice a pig and rub the pig’s blood over the spirit-rock. (They, of course, had never heard of the sacrifice God had made once-for-all through his Son, Jesus Christ.)

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After several years of building relationships and trust with the people, and through the miraculous providence of God, Dennis and his team finally had the privilege of translating portions of the Bible into the native language. Since the natives had no written language, this process also involved teaching the people to read their own language. This particular people was a very community-based people, meaning that they didn’t decide anything major without first convening the community and agreeing upon it. So, after months of careful deliberation and study of the newly discovered “carvings” from God (their term for “writings”), and despite the strict warnings of the spirit-people (their “priests”) that doing so would result in the wrath of the spirits, the majority of the community–over 2,000 people–simultaneously accepted Christ and ceremonially smashed their spirit-rocks.

Some time during or shortly after this mass conversion, Dennis was working with a native who had been serving as their translator. One day while they were translating a particularly profound passage of scripture, the man asked Dennis: “Did your father have God’s carvings?” Dennis replied, “Yes.” The man hesitated, sensitive to his culture’s accepted belief that embarrassing someone is one of the worst faux pas one can commit. Then, cautiously, he asked, “Did your father’s father have God’s carvings?” Again, Dennis replied that he did. The man, becoming increasingly nervous about pressing the matter further, hesitated for a few moments before asking again: “Did your father’s father’s father have God’s carvings?” “Yes.” Dennis replied, knowing what the man wanted to ask. The man didn’t dare press the question further, and Dennis didn’t offer an answer to the question he knew the man wanted to ask. Indeed, we, Dennis’ people, have had possession of God’s carvings for some 600 years. The question that was ringing loud and clear in both of their minds was this: If your people have had God’s Word for so long, why are my people just now finding out about this?

Today, there are about 2,000 languages that remain to have a translation work started. I wonder, how many people upon hearing the Good News will stare at us blankly and ask that question: “Why hasn’t someone told us this before? Our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents have perished without this saving knowledge, yet you’ve had it in your language for 600 years!?!?”

Now, as I have grown in my spiritual maturity I have come to realize that not every Christian is called to be a foreign missionary. So I will not argue that every Christian is called to translate the Bible into these remaining 2,000 languages. Nor will I argue that every Christian ought to be a foreign missionary. (Though I will admit that I find the disproportionately small number of foreign missionaries troubling.) But, I have also grown to understand that every Christian is called to be a missionary.

We often marvel at those who would leave behind their homes, family, friends, and even give their lives to fulfill God’s calling. But isn’t that exactly the level of obedience and sacrifice to which Jesus calls all of his disciples? Was Jesus only talking to career, foreign missionaries when he said: “Whoever wishes to be my disciple must take up his cross and follow me,” or “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me,” or “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it,” or “everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life?” No, these are not commands for foreign missionaries only. As a matter of fact, instead of the words “foreign missionary” in these passages, what we most often find is the word “disciple.”

The disturbing trend that I often find in churches nowadays is to label foreign missionaries as some elite class of super Christians, the “special forces” of Christianity, when in fact Jesus has called every single Christian to be so radically devoted to him that they would gladly give up their home, career, family, friends, and even their own lives to serve him. After all, if only the Christian elite who receive some special call are required to live so sacrificially, then we can dismiss the uncomfortable implications of these passages as inapplicable since we’re just “normal Christians.” But these passages aren’t speaking to some mythical, legendary Christian elite, these passages reflect the Christian norm. (At least, what the norm is supposed to be.) There is no Christian equivalent to the distinction between normal soldiers and special forces.* Instead, the only such distinction I see is that those called to be teachers and pastors must have the spiritual ability to teach. (But even this is more of a difference in spiritual gifting, not one of differing levels of expected obedience.) Save this distinction, the remainder of the qualifications for even these positions are simply that these people exemplify normal, Christian living (one wife, not a drunkard, well reputed, etc.). Every soldier in God’s army is to be special forces material, which is to say that no Christian is truly anything special! We are all expected to exemplify the same level of sold-out, radical obedience whether God calls us to share the gospel with our neighbor or to a stone-age tribe in Papua New Guinea. To use a biblical illustration, is the foot expected to be any less obedient than the hands? Every Christian is a missionary. The only difference between a foreign missionary and a Christian living in their homeland is location. They’re both missionaries. They’ve both been gifted by God with a number of spiritual gifts unique to the particular setting in which they serve. Some missionaries are disguised as teachers, some as doctors. Others are disguised as lunch ladies and janitors. Some are disguised as mechanics, some as lawyers, and some as pilots. Some are not disguised at all but, instead, serve openly in vocational ministry, able to devote more of their time to their service of equipping other Christians. But regardless, all Christians are missionaries living in a foreign land with a sole purpose–reaching a lost and dying world with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

When we as Christians begin to adopt this biblical mentality of true discipleship, I imagine that it won’t take very long for the remaining 2,000 people groups to get a Bible. I imagine that neighbors and coworkers here in America will hear the gospel. I expect we will see our prayers answered for God to send laborers into the harvest. And, I expect that we will see the most bountiful harvest we’ve ever seen. Perhaps you are one of those called to translate the Bible into one of the remaining 2,000 languages. But, it’s likely that God has gifted you with other gifts and abilities. Here’s my challenge to you: Will you translate the Bible into the languages of the neighbor across the street, your coworkers, and your friends and family? Will you put the Good News into words they can understand? Or will your children and grandchildren one day stand ashamed when their children or grandchildren ask them that dreadful, unanswerable question? “Why am I just now hearing this news?”

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”(Romans 10:14, 15 NIV)

Lord, please send workers into your harvest, both here and abroad. The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are, indeed, few. Amen.

*If there is such a biblical distinction, I would argue that unlike the Navy–where all ordinary soldiers are not expected to one day become Navy Seals–all “Christian soldiers” are intended to one day mature into “Christian special forces.” However, I still find such a distinction misleading since it implies that one can be a faithful soldier without living up to Jesus’ standards of discipleship. Furthermore, it seems to evoke an unbiblical admiration of those who are simply living in obedience to Christ’s commands and places more attention on the soldier than the commander. See Luke 17:7-10. Perhaps a better illustration is the one Paul gives–some Christians are hands, others are feet, but all obey the head, which is Christ.