Tag Archives: Wycliffe

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.

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.

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.

IMG_6455
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!

We’re In! The Hill’s are going to PNG!

Dear Family, Church family, and friends,

God has done a lot in our lives since we sent the last email and we are thrilled to be able to announce that we are now Wycliffe members! (We even get our own “@wycliffe.org email addresses! haha) Although our official employment date is not until September 1, our employment paperwork has all been submitted and we have received our job offer from Wycliffe to serve in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Thank you all for your prayers and support—God answered your prayers in ways we could have never dreamed! In the name of brevity, I won’t list all of the ways God provided for us in this email, but if you want a glimpse of his provision, check out our previous blog post here.

While we will miss our family and friends greatly, we know beyond a shadow of doubt that this ministry is where God is leading our family. There are currently over 1,900 languages in the world without a shred of scripture. Imagine having no access to scripture in English! Think of the last time God revealed something profound to you that changed your spiritual walk. Was it while you were reading scripture? While you were listening to a sermon on a passage of scripture? In your small group at church, talking over a passage of scripture? What would your spiritual walk look like if you never heard God’s word in your language? Carl F.H. Henry once said, “The gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.” Similarly, it’s only good news if they can understand it! We will have the incredible privilege of being a part of bringing God’s Word into one of those 1,900 languages—specifically, one of the 300+ languages without scripture in Papua New Guinea. (For more information about Wycliffe and Bible translation, click here).

But, before we can jump in and start translating, there is a good bit of training we must undergo, and we need your help! Our first part of training for Wycliffe will be a two-week training session and orientation in Orlando from October 18-31. Our cost of attendance, which covers room and board, airfare, and cost of training, is about $3,500 for our family. We’ve sold just about everything we can sell to meet our financial requirements for application, so we need ministry partners who are willing to pray for us and partner with us financially to bring God’s Word to the Bible-less. Would you prayerfully consider advancing the Kingdom by partnering with us in our ministry? If God is leading you to partner with us financially, please look below for information about making a tax-deductible donation.

We also desperately need prayer partners. The task of translating the Bible into a foreign language is a God-sized ambition, and is something that will only come to pass with God’s miraculous provision. Please pray 1) for our training, 2) for God to raise up other prayer and financial partners, and 3) for God to begin preparing the people to whom we will minister to receive the Gospel.

We hope to begin sharing our vision for ministry soon with local churches, so if your church would be interested in having us speak, please contact me and we can make arrangements. Again, thanks for your prayers and support! Please continue to pray for us as we take these next steps in our ministry.

Donations can be sent to:
Wycliffe Bible Translators
P.O. Box 628200
Orlando, FL 32862-8200

Or, you can make your donation securely online.

Please include a separate note with your donation stating: “Preference for the Wycliffe ministry of Jason and Jennifer Hill, #239685.”

For His Kingdom,

Jason, Jennifer, and Josiah Hill
Wycliffe Bible Translators
Skype: jasonjennifer.hill
Cell: (501) 941-8072

We’re applying to Wycliffe Bible Translators!

This article was originally written June 24th. See the paragraph at the end for updates since that time. Thanks so much for your prayers! God has provided above and beyond what we expected. Due to God’s provision, we are now ready to apply for Wycliffe, and the truck hasn’t even sold yet! Although we still need to sell the truck, we have already begun our application to Wycliffe. Please continue to keep us in your prayers as we take these next steps. Throughout this journey, God has taught me a lot–especially about discerning his will. When I was in college, this was something I struggled with a lot. How do I know what God’s will is for me? How do I choose what to major in? What job to take? Is God calling me into this ministry or that one? Over time, God made his will clear, but it didn’t happen the way I expected or on my timeline. This past Wednesday night at Bible study, we studied the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. I’ve read this story many times before, but in light of all that has transpired in our lives recently, one particular insight into discerning God’s will became apparent to me.

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went.” (Acts 8:26-27a ESV)

Notice that at first Philip was given a very general command. God told him to head south to the desert. Philip didn’t receive instructions about the precise location he was to go to, the exact timing, who he was to meet, how to get there, or what he was supposed to do once he arrived. The Spirit simply said “Go south” and he obeyed.

And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him…Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. (Acts 8:29-35 ESV)

Once Philip obeyed God’s initial, general directions, God revealed his will in more detail. By obeying the part of God’s will that had been revealed to him, however unspecific it was initially, Philip placed himself in the exact location that he needed to be in to receive God’s more specific instructions. And, once Philip obeyed and got into the chariot, God’s will for him to share the gospel with the Ethiopian became obvious and imistakable. When I was younger, I prayed very hard for God to reveal his will to me. But, when I prayed for God’s will to be plain, I wanted to know what, when, where, why, how, and I wanted to know it all now! I assumed that in order to be following God now, I needed to know exactly what God wanted me to be doing in the future. But God works exactly the opposite! If you want to ensure that you’ll be doing what God wants in the future, then make sure you’re following his will for you right now! It doesn’t matter whether God’s will for you is specific–“Go to XYZ college, get a degree in business, take this internship, and this job”–or if its more general–“Get an education, grow in your walk with God, honor God with your finances, etc.” By following his unspecific revealed will we place ourselves in the right place for God’s more specific will to be made plain. This concept is taught more explicitly in Romans 12:1-2.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1, 2 NIV)

By transforming and renewing our minds into the image of Christ (God’s general will for all Christians), we grow in our faith and place ourselves in a spiritual position to hear and discern God’s will more clearly. Allow me to illustrate with my own experience. When I was fourteen, I felt God’s clear and unmistakable call into ministry. But despite the clarity of that calling, it was not a very detailed calling. I began preaching in small churches around my home and preparing myself for a career of ministry. In high school, I realized that I would need to get an education in order to better prepare myself for ministry, so I began looking for colleges. Over time, one particular college began to stand out, and I applied and was accepted at that school. Unfortunately, during my late high school and college years, my relationship with God grew distant, and my ability to discern his will was hindered. I selected a major (Biology and Chemistry) largely without consulting God, and made many other decisions on my own as well. On a mission trip to India during college, however, God began to reveal to me that he wanted me to serve in foreign missions, though I didn’t yet know in what capacity. I prayed for God to reveal his will to me, but when all the details weren’t clear, I decided to go ahead and make plans of my own–medical missions. As you might imagine, those weren’t God’s plans, and that would later become painfully clear after loosing my job as an analytical chemist, two days before I would have bought a home in Sherwood and began the application process to medical school. After some soul searching, prayer, and reflection on what I knew God’s general will was in my life–missions and ministry–I decided to pursue education that would place me more in line with the general portion of God’s will that had been revealed to me and leave the specifics for a later date. That step of obedience placed me exactly where I needed to be (Southern Seminary) to hear God’s next, more specific directions. I began hearing about a missions organization that I’d never heard of before–Wycliffe Bible Translators. I was intrigued by their mission, and attended several presentations they conducted on our campus. The more I learned about them, the more interested I became. Then, after hearing the testimonies of Ed and Linda Speyers and other Wycliffe missionaries, it began to sink in that this just might be the work God was preparing me for. Almost eleven years after my initial call into the ministry, I attended Total-it-Up at the Dallas campus of Wycliffe in January 2014. During that week-long conference, God unfolded his more specific will for us and it became obvious that this was where God wanted us. Finally, we had a more specific direction (though there are still many details left to be determined!), and we knew what needed to be done. But before we could move forward, we had some debt to take care of.

And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. (Acts 8:36-38 ESV)

At first, God’s will for our lives is usually vague and unspecific. Occasionally God reveals specifics up front, but that is rare. As we take steps of obedience in the portion of his will that has been revealed to us, he reveals his more specific will. Then, as we pursue that, he provides, just as he provided a body of water for Philip to baptize the Ethiopian. In the last few months, we’ve seen God do exactly that. Knowing that Wycliffe was God’s will for us, we decided to have a yard sale to pay off debt, and God blessed us with $1,800 earnings in one day! We knew we had to cut our budget down, so we began looking for a new home. God provided one at half the cost of our former rental home, and it’s less than a block from our church! When taxes came around, God blessed us through a tax debt that was over $2,000 less than we had expected! Then, just this last week, after finally deciding to sell my bike, a buyer came and bought it for $850. Do you remember how I said that once we take steps of obedience to follow Gods will he provides? The next day our rent deposit from our previous home arrived in the mail–$830! Then, a couple days later, the final payment from a roofing job I did in March (that had been delayed by the mortgage company) finally came in and I was paid on that–quite a sizable bonus check! God provided so well that we were able to pay off all that we needed in order to apply before we had even sold the truck! In sum, when we set our minds to follow God’s will and began taking concrete actions where we knew he was leading, he provided the rest. In six months, we were able to pay off over $6,000 of taxes, debt, and past due medical bills–not counting the truck!** It’s no fun to sit and wait without a clear sense of direction in your life. I’ve been in that position. I was there for eleven years, and it still don’t know all the specifics. The natural instinct is to read more into God’s will than what might be revealed to you and to make a path where there is none. But part of the way that God grows us into mature believers is through teaching us patience in those waiting periods and teaching us how to discern his will. Your holiness is God’s will for you, and that doesn’t happen overnight. But, as you offer your life as a living sacrifice and focus on transforming and renewing your mind to the image of Christ, he will make his will plain to you. And once he has made it plain, go forward in peace knowing that he will provide everything you need in his perfect timing. Updates (as of August 17th): Our application moved through more quickly than expected, and we received an official job offer from Wycliffe on August 5th! In God’s usual timing, the day after receiving our official job offer from Wycliffe, I sold my truck. Since the beginning of the year, God has enabled us to pay off about $10,000 of debt, plus our truck. We will be traveling to Orlando, FL for our first portion of training in October, and we have selected Papua New Guinea for our country of assignment (though our official invitation to PNG has not yet been finalized). We still have not figured out all the specific details of our assignment, but we know that God will reveal those things to us as we need to know them. Thank you for your prayers! Please continue to pray for us, and we hope you will begin to prayerfully consider partnering with us in our ministry in the future.IMG_1303.PNGIMG_1303-0.PNG

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.”

My new blog name, and what it’s all about

So, you’ve probably noticed that the last blog post you got from me wasn’t from “Jhillinlouisville.”  That’s because I’ve changed the name of my blog, along with its design and focus, to reflect what I want my ministry (and my blog ministry) to be focused on.  So, I owe it to you–my subscribers–to let you in on the what, why, and how of Acts 1:8 Ministries.

The “What” (and “Where”) of Acts 1:8 Ministries:

“Acts 1:8 Ministries” is a description of the focus of my family’s ministry.  It comes from the famous verse in the Bible often called the “Great Commission,” which is Christ’s last recorded spoken words after his resurrection before he ascended into heaven.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

Acts 1:8 (ESV)

So, in short, the “what” of Acts 1:8 is that we are all called to be “witnesses” of what Christ has done for us and, as Matthew 28:19-20 states, we are to “make disciples”  in our hometowns (“Jerusalem”), in our region (“Judea”), and to “the end of the earth.”  I believe that that verse, as well as many others, teaches that every Christian has an obligation to share the gospel and make disciples in those three areas.  Some will be called to spend more time witnessing locally, and some–like my family–will be called to primarily serve overseas.  But all of us are required to spend some time in each of these areas.  I cannot forsake sharing the gospel with my neighbor simply because I’ve been called to foreign missions, nor can someone who is called to serve locally forsake foreign missions.  We are all called to serve in “Jerusalem, Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  Acts 1:8 Ministries is one of the means by which I aim to be a witness and make disciples.  So, some of my blog posts will be “witness” posts–telling of what God has done in or through me–and some of my posts will be “disciple making”–engaging my readers in critical thinking of practical issues based upon biblical teaching.  Occasionally, I will also give status updates of our progress towards the mission field.

The “Why” of Acts 1:8 Ministries:

Why in the world would someone leave what is arguably the greatest nation in the world, move to some third world country where they know absolutely no one, can’t speak the language, and don’t know the culture simply for the hope of making disciples?  Paul explained it well in his letter to the Romans:

For”everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 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? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

Romans 10:13-15 (ESV)

The simple truth is that there is no hope of an eternity in heaven without repentance from your sins and belief in Christ.  (See my pages on The Gospel for a full explanation of the Bible’s teaching on salvation.)  And, as Paul states, those who don’t know about what Christ has done can’t believe in him.  They can’t learn what Christ has done for them unless someone tells them.  And we can’t tell them without going to meet them where they are.  So, as Christians, WE MUST GO.  It’s tragic enough that there are people who have rejected the gospel after hearing it, but it’s simply unacceptable that millions would perish without ever having heard the gospel.  It’s our responsibility as Christians to make sure they have the opportunity to accept the gospel.  And that is what Acts 1:8 Ministries is all about.  Why would people pack up and move to a third world country to share the gospel?  Because…

the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

II Corinthians 5:14-15

As far as the specific “why” of Bible translation, consider the following statistics from Wycliffe.  Of the approximately 6800 spoken languages in the world, just under 2,000 have no portion of the Bible translated into that language.  That amounts to about 209,000,000 people who have no access to the Bible in the language that they understand.  We’re not just talking about the number of people who haven’t heard the gospel, we’re talking about the number of people who have absolutely no hope of ever hearing the gospel because it’s not even in their language!  We can’t hope to see successful church plants in these cultures if God’s Word is not even available to them.  God’s Word is powerful and has the ability to transform entire people groups.  (Check out this story for a great example.)  The foundation  Wycliffe’s “Vision 2025” is their goal to begin a translation project in all of those remaining languages by the year 2025.  Due to technological and strategical advances, combined with people who are willing to count the cost and share the hope of Christ, they are on track toward meeting that goal.  I, for one, would like to be a part of that.

The “How” of Acts 1:8 Ministries:

Well, obviously my blog plays a part in how I carry out the Great Commission.  But since I’ve already talked about that, I’ll concentrate on our progress towards going on mission with Wycliffe.  (I’ve learned through experience and Biblical teaching not to assume that I know what the future holds, so I will offer this disclaimer: “If the Lord wills,” these are our plans for the future.)

Before we can proceed any further with our plans with Wycliffe, we need to confirm that Bible translation is, indeed, where God wants us.  In January, Jennifer and I will be going down to Dallas for TOTAL it Up (TOTAL= Taste Of Translation And Linguistics).  TIU is a one week crash course on translation, held at the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics (GIAL), designed to help aspiring translators discern God’s calling to the field.  Jennifer and I would certainly appreciate your prayers for that week, both for our spiritual discernment and for God’s financial provision for the cost of tuition and travel.

In the meantime, Jenn and I are focusing on paying of our debts and getting me through seminary.  Seminary is not required for service with Wycliffe, but will certainly be helpful in missions.  Getting rid of debt, however, is a requirement.  So, we could certainly use your prayers in that area.  We have just completed Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey, and that has helped us a lot.  Pray that God would provide in abundance so that we can use that money to pay off debt and get on the field sooner.

Once we have paid off enough of our debt, we can begin the application process with Wycliffe.  That process will take a couple months, and once accepted we will counsel with Wycliffe to determine which language and people group we will have for our initial field assignment.  After six weeks of online orientation and a two week training session in Orlando, FL, we will then begin the process of raising funds.  We hope that you will prayerfully consider supporting our ministry if/when that time comes.  “How are they to preach unless they are sent?”  Just as important as the missionaries who take the gospel are those who send them.

Upon completion of raising the funds we need for our assignment, we will move to Dallas to attend GIAL for one year, where we will be taught the basics of language acquisition and translation.  Then, it’s off to who-knows-where.  We will work for two years on our initial field assignment.  During that time, we will work on learning the language and building relationships in the community we live in.  Then, we will come back to GIAL for another year of more specialized training before heading back overseas for our final field assignment, which will culminate with the release of a new translation of the Bible in a language that didn’t have one before.

You may or may not be called to a career in foreign missions, but we hope that you will partner with us and support us in prayer as we pursue our calling to take the gospel “where Christ has not been named” and to those “who have never heard.”  (See Romans 15:20-21)  Thanks for your dedication and support!  We will keep you posted!

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.