On Sunday 28 August 2016 at 10.30 am, I had the privilege of speaking at Newtownbreda Presbyterian Church in Belfast as they sent Wycliffe UK member Clare Orr back to Senegal. Here is an edited version of what I said…
Back in the days when the Wycliffe office was on the Beersbridge Road, we had a world map on the wall. And on the map we had a piece of paper with some verses from Matthew chapter 9.
Clare’s Dad has already read Matthew 9: 35-38 for us. In NIV, it is entitled The Workers Are Few.
We had the last verse on the office map, the words Jesus spoke to his disciples: “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Just before this, Matthew tells us that Jesus had compassion on the crowds: “because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
In a way this passage sums up what we’re doing here this morning. You’re sending – or perhaps more accurately, re-sending – Newtownbreda’s worker Clare back to the harvest field where she has worked before – and where Jesus still has compassion on people who are harassed and helpless; people who need a shepherd; people who need to hear the good news of the gospel; people who need to find Jesus as their shepherd..
And by the way, there are people around us here at home, or maybe even sitting here in church this morning, who are harassed and helpless who need to find Jesus as their shepherd.
The verse on the world map was both an encouragement and a challenge to us working in the Wycliffe office.
- We were so encouraged every time we produced Wycliffe News and read the updates from around 50 people from Ireland working around the world in Bible translation and literacy and many other roles
- We were challenged by Jesus’ words because we knew that there were still many millions of people yet to hear the good news in their heart languages
It was such a joy when Clare walked into the office one morning back in late 2012… We thought she was there for a bit of a chat. But no, Clare came straight out and said, “I want to join Wycliffe. What do I have to do?” So we told her; she applied in early 2013 and was accepted in spring 2013; started training in August 2013; and in February 2014, she went to Senegal.
This morning, together, we are sending Clare back to Senegal…
Clare with an Ebola poster
Because what she is doing there is important!
Do you remember the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014? Do you remember the Ebola prevention posters that Clare and her Senegalese colleagues produced in – I can’t remember how many languages… Those posters – produced because Clare was there working in literacy development – helped to save lives by giving people information about how to avoid Ebola in a language they could understand.
There are lots of ways in which literacy helps people – and it is a very important part of what Wycliffe does. But our main aim is that people can have access to the Bible in the language of their hearts.
So why is literacy crucial?
There’s an old Wycliffe saying that Bible translation without literacy is like a tin of beans without a tin opener. If you can’t get the tin open, you can’t eat the beans.
Yesterday morning I searched the kitchen cupboards in vain to find a tin of beans. So I’ve had to make do with a tin of Cream of Tomato Soup with a hint of basil. You need a tin opener to get access to and enjoy the soup.
It’s a little parable… If the Bible is translated into your language, but you can’t read – how do you access and enjoy and be challenged by God’s word?
Actually with modern tins, you don’t actually need a tin opener. You have this little pull thingy. Perhaps you could say that the little pull thingy is literacy. Clare, and literacy specialists like her, provide little pull thingies🙂 If only it were so simple…
Be assured that our prayers and best wishes go with you, Clare, in the weeks ahead.
Jesus still has compassion on those who do not know him. Jesus still says to his disciples, to us…
“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”