Beyond Good Intentions

Some years ago I reported to the board of directors of the ministry where I then served that we could definitively say that we were among the most well-intentioned ministries in the world.

It was not a compliment.

I should also quickly say that in the years immediately following this conversation we managed to both raise our intentions and take action to make them reality.

This week four cancer charities made the news because the gap between their words and actions grew so large that it called their integrity into question. I don’t know the leaders of these charities, or what representations they made regarding their response to cancer, but the public outcry is informative. No one is complaining that their vision was too audacious. No one is complaining that their research or services were ineffective. The complaints are that they were overwhelmingly self-serving.

Serving others is the very definition of charity. It is the absolute minimum requirement.

Integrity requires that our actions match our words. But aiming low in order to guarantee success serves no one. Aiming for an unprecedented impact may reduce the probability of success, but this is how progress occurs. Exerting the faith, energy, and creativity required to achieve unprecedented impact is good stewardship of our lives.

Aim high. Serve others.

Nepali Heartquake

“It’s a heartache… so hard to live. Kill or cure!”

This was the plea of a dear Nepali friend of mine today. It’s hard to hear my friends crying in pain.

After being hammered by the 7.8 earthquake seventeen days ago, this morning they were slammed by another 7.3 earthquake. In between these major quakes they’ve had hundreds of aftershocks.

Most of the aftershocks are physical. But some are spiritual. Pray For Nepal - Wycliffe Associates

Plate tectonics explains that the Indian subcontinent is subducting under the Eurasian plate, creating the spectacular Himalayas and predictable earthquakes. Not surprisingly, explanations of plate tectonics are small comfort to the people that live there.

Nepal is a country of spiritual people. Nepal is the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama, more popularly known as Buddha. The largest majority of Nepalis identify themselves as Hindu. There are small minorities of Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians. Only around one-half percent of Nepalis describe themselves as “non-religious”.

In the days immediately following the April 25, 2015 earthquake there were a number of news reports describing the spiritual interpretations of the cataclysm by the local people. The most frequent interpretation was that Nepalis had angered the gods by their unfaithfulness.

Hopefully Christians are looking at these, and similar, events through the lens of scripture.

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Romans 8:22-23

My Nepali friend is right. The events in Nepal are heartaches. There is only one eternal cure.

I groan with them, and can only respond with compassion. You can too.

Filthy Rags on My Lens

These days the conversations on social media often reflect the collision of political and religious values. Writers on all sides, with much more notable names than mine, are predicting the imminent apocalyptic end of life as we have known it. Some cheer this end as an indication of the triumph of human enlightenment and justice. Others see today’s trends as the accelerating degradation of human kind. One, both, or neither, may be true.

I’m not saying that these issues are not important. I’m also not saying that I don’t have a personal view on the issues of the day. What I am saying is that there is another perspective on these issues that I have not seen in the dialog.

I appreciate that others are arguing in the public arena for values that I hold. But my values are not decided by the latest poll, by the popular majority, or even by the Supreme Court. When someone with contradictory values comes knocking at my door I’m not likely to make the news. But I do have to make choices about how I relate to people that think and act differently than I do. All of us have to make these decisions, and our choices are weighed in the changing balance of civil and criminal law.

I also believe that all of us, including me, fall short of God’s unchanging standards. All. Fall. Short.

I recognize that not everyone believes in God or standards that supersede our own. But since I do, I see others through this lens. The standard I rely on says that all my righteous acts are like filthy rags. Filthy. Rags.

If I ignore my own filthy rags it is easier for me to be offended and critical of the filthy rags of others. I suspect that others have the same experience as they look at me.

But when I look at the filthy rags of others through the lens of my own filthy rags all I see is… filthy rags. I will admit that I am much more comfortable with my own filthy rags than with the filthy rags of others. But that doesn’t make my filthy rags clean in God’s eyes. Comparing rag filth is a popular sport, but ultimately pointless. All. Fall. Short.

According to the standard I rely on, my righteousness and yours, is completely contingent on God’s grace and forgiveness. The good news for all of us is that God sent His son, Jesus, to pay our immeasurable debt of sin.

It’s unfortunate that bad news, bad behavior, and bad attitudes get better media coverage than good news.

Did you feel it? (5/2 Nepal Earthquake Update)

You heard about the earthquake in Nepal. You saw the photos and videos.

But did you feel it? Did it move you?

I’m grateful that our friends and ministry partners in Nepal were not physically injured by the earthquake or numerous aftershocks. But they spent most of this week outside as the damage to buildings was evaluated. That meant sleeping outside, on the ground, under improvised tarps, in the cold rain. Communicating with friends and family, inside and outside Nepal, has been difficult. Dividing attention between taking care of their own families, responding to the needs of their neighbors, and resuming the priorities of life has been challenging for them.Girls in Tent City in Nepal after Earthquake

On the opposite side of the planet it has been interesting to observe the range of responses. On Monday it seemed that every nonprofit, every business, and every individual was focused on Nepal. At the end of the week I received a message from a ministry clarifying that they are not planning any response to the events in Nepal.

During a midweek interview a Christian journalist asked me why Wycliffe Associates is involved in responding to the earthquake. The answer is simple.

We care about the people of Nepal.

We cared about them before the earthquake. We have friends and ministry partners there. I have traveled there multiple times personally. We have had staff, volunteers, and partners there for several years. We had teams and projects underway in Nepal the day the earthquake hit. We are committed to helping all of the people groups there to have God’s Word in their language. This is a long-term relationship and commitment for us.

“If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” James 2:15-17

When a tragedy happens to people you care about you cannot stand idly by. You cannot say, “It’s not my job.” I will not say, “Be warmed and filled.” The very same neglected rural minority groups that we work with are in danger of being overlooked, again, by the response to the urban masses.

We are working to assure that no one is beyond the reach of human compassion, Christian love, or God’s Word.

Let the Spirit move you.

Nepal Earthquake: 5/1 Update

Providing food and tents for a community to the north of Kathmandu. In this community, 98 of the over 140 houses were destroyed by the Nepal Earthquake, according to the local contact with whom we have a relationship. The Wycliffe Associates + Translation Movement Nepal team is on the move right now! Thank you for the resources. To help more people devastated by the quake and to support the Bible translation work taking place, visit the Wycliffe Associates website.

Nepal Earthquake: Homes Destroyed

Families Displaced by the Nepal Earthquake

Contrasts: Bible Translation Today (MAST Update)

I receive a lot of email. To some, email is a huge hassle. I don’t mind it at all. It is a great way to stay in touch with lots of people all over the world.

Today in my email stream I had two messages that reflect a stark contrast in the world of Bible translation today.

The first email described the decision of a small group of Christians who, despite experiencing the greatest natural disaster on the planet in the last week, are continuing to work on translating the New Testament into their language. This is the team that drafted and checked half the New Testament during just two weeks this winter using Wycliffe Associates’ MAST strategy. They had planned to get back together this week to resume drafting and checking, with the goal of completing their New Testament in the coming weeks. Their goal is to publish it this summer. The fact that a huge earthquake occurred in their homeland has not deterred them. They are pressing on. If they achieve their goal, they will have gone from having zero verses of scripture in their language to the full New Testament published in less than one year!

The second email announced the upcoming dedication of a completed New Testament in Peru. The New Testament translation in this language has taken almost 60 years.

There are a lot of things that might be said in comparing these two Bible translations. I don’t know the second group, so I can’t speak firsthand to their situation. I do know the first group. These Christians are a persecuted minority, less than 1% of the population that speaks their language. They have a very strong sense of urgency to get the Good News to their families, friends, and neighbors. Their thirst for God’s Word is inspiring.

The New Testament contains ~7956 verses, depending on which version you count. To translate this number of verses in 60 years the second group had to draft and check an average of 1 verse every 2.75 days. The first group drafted and checked an average of 34 verses per day during their translation of the first half of the New Testament using Wycliffe Associates’ MAST strategy.

Our team is working hard to assure that the first group has every available resource they need to produce a translation that is accurate, natural, and clear. In fact, in recent months we’ve come alongside translation teams from 115 language groups who are using this same strategy to get God’s Word to their people. In another email today I saw that we have 120 more languages already asking for our assistance as soon as possible.

Churches around the world have a growing sense of urgency for getting God’s Word to the people, and are taking the initiative to move forward. We are working hard to keep up! If you’d like to help just give us a call at 1-800 THE WORD.

Earthquake in Nepal: An Update

This weekend the television news of the earthquake in Nepal was regularly interrupted by commercials for the upcoming release of the film San Andreas. Images of Dwayne Johnson leaning out the open door of a flying helicopter to rescue someone from a crumbling steel and glass skyscraper are a far cry from the real-life drama on the ground in Kathmandu. Picture, instead, ancient clay bricks falling from above pummeling and burying people below, rifts in the ground making roads impassable, and building facades tilting precariously after their interior structures collapsed completely.

Devastation in Nepal! Help Now

I picture the faces of people I know and love grimacing in pain – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I see them cut off from communications with their families, sleeping outside in the cold rain, wondering where their next meal will come from. I hear them crying, sobbing, in prayer. The good news is that God knows His children, hears their cries, and gives peace that surpasses understanding.

Others make their way to the shrines and temples, ringing bells and spinning prayer wheels, burning incense, in a vain attempt to awaken gods of mankind’s own creation. The hopeless silence is deafening.

The international aid response is moving rapidly toward Nepal. I understand the airport is still open, which is fortunate since that will be the primary conduit for incoming aid. One interesting misconception about earthquakes is that all food suddenly disappears. A moment’s reflection reminds us that this is not true. But the normal food supply lines from the rural areas to the city are disrupted, so the food supply in Kathmandu will soon be insufficient. The governments of both China and India, which border Nepal, are responding with assistance.

One uncommonly known truth is that typically most of the assistance needed to respond to any disaster will come from within 100 miles of the location. While several provinces of Nepal have been affected, many others have not. The Himalayan mountains create a physical obstacle to assistance from the north, but the southern border with India provides several probable routes for assistance to reach Kathmandu by ground.

This is not the place for me to give detailed information about our people and partners on the ground in Nepal except to say that the information we have, so far, is that all are safe. Homes and offices are damaged. Ministry activities are disrupted. But the people in our immediate circle are safe. We expect that people in their Nepali family circles have been injured and killed. Disasters of this scope quickly reduce the normal degrees of separation.

Even as the international aid rapidly ramps up experience shows that within a very short time, sometimes just days or weeks, international interest will move elsewhere and the aid to Nepal will stop. Often this leaves people in the rural areas completely beyond help. These least reached are the ones we are focusing on. We are already in communication with our local partners to evaluate the immediate needs, respond compassionately and appropriately, and strengthen our long-term partnership with these minority language groups.

You can share financially in our response in Nepal by going to the Wycliffe Associates website, or by calling us toll-free at 1-800 THE WORD.

I’ll provide additional updates here in the coming days.

Business Consultant Needed

Business As Mission (BAM) has been a growing strategy in international mission circles for more than a decade. The basic premise is that international business and missions are not only compatible, but can be very synergistic. A quick Internet search on this topic surfaces numerous resources and mission organizations that are using BAM to accomplish their goals. You won’t see us in that Internet search for a variety of reasons, but in several strategic international locations businesses are vital resources to advance Bible translation.

Today we are recruiting Business Consultants to increase the impact of these businesses.Business Consultant

Ideally we are looking for someone with extensive personal and professional experience in business management who is willing to work internationally as needed.

Business teams, including local managers, are already in place. The Business Consultant will work with these teams to build and refine sustainable business strategies that directly serve Bible translation teams. Mentoring these local teams in personnel selection and management, financial management and accounting, sales and marketing, and public relations will prepare them for long-term success.

If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about this opportunity to use business experience to advance Bible translation, just email us or call Ruben Garay toll-free at 1-800-THE WORD (800-843-9673). Ruben will give you more details about the position requirements and qualifications, and will connect you with our business team to explore options.

Thank you for helping us get the word out about this service opportunity!

Spreading the Word!

Since introducing MAST in my early December blog entries, my posts have been on a wide variety of other subjects. Today I am circling back to MAST to update you on developments over the past few months.

Word about MAST has been spreading virally.

Word about MAST is spreading within overlapping Christian church networks worldwide. Church communities without Scripture are mobilizing local people and resources to begin translation at an exciting pace. By this time next week 93 languages will have begun using MAST parallel drafting and checking strategies to launch or accelerate Bible translation for their communities!

MAST in action

Photo courtesy of CABTAL Cameroon, 2015.

Some have used MAST to translate Bible stories as a way to build local conversations around biblical truths and prepare the way for Scripture translation. Others are using this strategy to translate books of the Bible for the very first time. Still others are using MAST to reinvigorate translations that have stalled for a variety of reasons. It is thrilling to see church and community Scripture engagement broaden and deepen as they increase local initiative to advance Bible translation!

As the number of languages involved increases, the number of ministries partnering with us in this strategy is also increasing. At least a dozen ministries are working in this strategy with us. This enables us to learn from one another and expand our experience in how to best encourage and support local churches as they pursue their goals for Scripture impact in their communities. It is already clear that the application of this strategy will vary somewhat in each specific situation based on God’s unique provision.

I’m reminded of 1 Corinthians 12:18 where Paul says, “But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” The global church, the body of Christ, is diverse. Also, the local body of Christ in the U.S. is different than the local body of Christ in Nigeria or Indonesia. Seeing Bible translation unfold in new places and new ways because of God’s unique enabling is inspiring.

May this be a year of unprecedented progress for God’s Word among the nations!

Team Leaders Needed!

The most urgent need in a rapidly expanding team is for Team Leaders.

Just a few weeks ago I sent out an appeal recruiting Bible scholars to become part of a team that is developing notes to assist Bible translators in understanding Scripture passages. The good news is that people have responded in unprecedented numbers and are anxious to get involved!

In fact, so many have responded that we already need additional Team Leaders to coordinate this work.  The Bible in Italian

The people we are looking for should have experience managing decentralized teams, project management experience, excellent computer skills, teaching or training experience, and a solid base of biblical knowledge. Experience working with volunteers would be helpful. This position may be filled from any location with reliable Internet connectivity.

The translation notes developed by these teams will be released under Creative Commons: Attribution/Share-Alike licensing through our mobile translationStudio app. You can download this app to Android devices through the Google Play Store by searching for: translationstudio, and you can download it directly from Google Play by clicking this link.

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about this opportunity, just email us or phone Jennifer Cunneen toll-free at 1-800-THE WORD (800-843-9673). Jennifer will connect you with our Training Department Manager and give you more details about the job requirements and qualifications.

Thank you for helping to spread the word about this opportunity to advance Bible translation!


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