Archive for the ‘Short term mission’ Category


Volunteering abroad to build schools or dig wells might make people feel good about themselves – but it can be detrimental to those who are supposed to be helped.

I can’t remember how, but I came across this article by Daniela Papi on the BBC News Magazine 1 May 2013 entitled Is gap year a bad thing? It has prompted me to blog on short term mission again, but first…

Here are some of the things she writes…

I feel that the growing practice of sending young people abroad to volunteer is often not only failing the communities they are meant to be serving, but also setting these travellers, and by extension our whole society, up for failure in the long run.

We must stop volunteering abroad from becoming about us fulfilling our dreams of being heroes. The travellers are not just missing out on learning the lessons that lead to more sustainable changes in themselves and in the world, but they are also often negatively impacting the people they are meant to be “serving”.

Volunteering to take care of orphans might not sound too bad at first – at least I didn’t think so on my initial orphanage visits. Imagine if an orphanage near your home had a rotating door of volunteers coming to play with these children who have already been deemed vulnerable.

People often say, “doing something is better than doing nothing”. But it isn’t. Not when that something is often wasteful at best, and at worst causing a lot of harm.

Daniela is highlighting the same issues that Christian mission short termism continues to debate. It’s not that it is bad or wrong or always a disaster… but it is a continuous challenge to assess the needs of the people we claim to serve, not the self-satisfaction of Gappers, short termers with misinformed intentions and unrealistic expectations.

In short, the short term trip that you are planning to advertise or to go on… what will it achieve in the context of God’s mission to the people he created?

woman in tentIn the meantime, here’s a Wycliffe UK suggestion for a trip that probably won’t do anyone any harm, but might help you think about your future. Two Week Stint in France this coming summer

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Two Week Stint

Wycliffe Bible Translators UK are recruiting for a two week holiday with a difference!

Two Week Stint will run from Saturday 27th July to Saturday 10th August 2013, near Valence in the south of France.

Participants will join a group from across Europe as Wycliffe Bible Translators UK and ATB France* host a bilingual, cross-cultural and productive holiday, with plenty of opportunity for time spent with God and some adventure thrown in too!

In the mornings, participants will have a chance to worship, draw closer to God and reflect on his mission to the world – and join one of three tracks: creative, linguistic and teaching / literacy

For more details on Two Week Stint and to register go to www.wycliffe.org.uk/twoweekstint

* L’Association Traduire la Bible

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Change the world

No, I thought not. We rarely do, come to think of it. But God does… all the time and the wonderful, exciting, scary thing is that he wants us to be part of it. Part of his mission to the world he created.

I really appreciated Eddie Arthur’s recent post We Are Not World Changers

Eddie wrote the blog in response to seeing a number of tweets and articles from churches and mission agencies claiming that the people involved in them are changing the world. Eddie was not convinced.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that these people are not wonderful, hard-working, dedicated and well-intentioned. I just don’t believe that they are changing the world. Oh, and I don’t believe that the world isn’t being changed. I just don’t believe that they are the ones changing it.

A few years ago a colleague and I got a bit annoyed with more than one mission agency whose advertising encouraged people to believe that by going on their short term summer teams, they could make a difference.

I think we would both have agreed with Eddie’s thesis…

Let me explain. When Christian ministry (be it through a church or mission agency) is successful  it is God who achieves that success; not the church or agency. Paul planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the seed to grow. God calls us to work alongside him. He uses our efforts – the slick and professional as well as the gauche and embarrassed – to bring glory to himself. We serve God and God changes the world.

As we get together tomorrow as a Wycliffe Bible Translators church engagement team, my prayer is that we will look to God and listen to his promptings as he invites us to be part of enthusing the UK and Irish churches to be part of God’s mission to his world through Bible translation.

What a privilege to be invited by God to work alongside him!

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dust cloud from Iceland volcano

dust cloud from Iceland volcano

This blog is less about volcanic dust than about positive outcomes of short term mission. Perhaps there has been more than enough said on the blogosphere about  short term mission – so why write another blog?

Because I love a good news story!

Wycliffe Engage Indonesia 2010

Wycliffe Engage Indonesia 2010

Having had a number of short term mission experiences, including the Wycliffe Engage team to Indonesia in 2010, X contacted us last week, came to visit and told us that it was time to apply to Wycliffe for linguistic training.

So what has this to do with Icelandic volcanic dust clouds? Our Engage orientation weekend was just days after the Thursday when dust clouds totally disrupted air traffic around the UK and Europe. X was one of the brave few who actually got to the weekend.

For me, this is definitely a short term mission good news story. Now all we have to do is pray X through the application process while completing final year at university.

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The first time we met was when she volunteered to help with the Wycliffe stand at an event at the end of August 2012. She was not long home after having spent her language year abroad with a Wycliffe family in Mozambique. Soon after she returned for her final year at university.

Unlocking the secrets of an unwritten language

Then we began to correspond by Facebook message…

9 October 2012

Hi John! Hope you’re well. Thank you for prayers. Let me tell you how the Lord’s been working, and how he has answered my prayers. I’ve been thinking and praying so much about the MA course [MA in Field Linguistics with Wycliffe]. And talking to a lot of mature Christians, who I look up to and whose words I take seriously. The Lord has been doing wonders in my life in the last month, since being back in Oxford. So much to praise him for.

Most of all for the revelation of something of the size of his love, that my heart cannot even hold the weight of it…  he has filled me up to the absolute brim with the knowledge of his love, and how unfailing, never-ending, completely satisfying it is. And the reality of that is something I haven’t known before – to that intensity anyway.

I have been loving what I’m studying too, which is awesome. My research project is so exciting, and I don’t struggle to find motivation. I know it’s only the start of term but things are so busy, and could get overwhelming, but I’m helped to keep focus.

That’s a bit of where I’m at. Wanted to let you know I’ve not forgotten about next year. I’m more and more excited about it.
God bless…

10 October 2012

Lovely to hear from you and even more to hear how God is speaking to you. So we are here ready and waiting for your decision!

God bless, John

16 October

I’d like to start the application process, John!

I don’t know what the first steps are for that… I imagine paper work?!

God bless…

16 October 201

Praise the Lord! OK, where to start…

Have you officially talked to your church? Who should we contact? Guess you should send us a name and contact details.

Looking forward to hearing back from you.

PS Wycliffe enquirer form attached

17 October 2012

I’m going to ‘officially’ chat with [my minister] on Saturday, although I already talked a bit about it with him over the summer. So yeah, after that I guess you can go ahead and get in touch with him.

20 October 2012

Hi John,
Just spoke to [my minister]. He said he is very happy for you to get in touch, and to meet up and talk!
Talk soon,
p/s  Let me know what I need to do next after you’ve had a good chat with [my minister].

22 October

I’ve arranged to talk to [your minister]on Thursday morning.

25 October

“Excited: today a minister agreed to commend one of his members to apply to Wycliffe Bible Translators as a linguist – the first from N. Ireland for a looooong time!”

Just couldn’t resist posting this on Facebook!

Had a great chat with [your minister]. We’re now working towards you getting online access to the application papers. But enough of admin! I’m happy that we’ve got this far

God bless, John

25 October 2012

Hi John!

Very much looking forward to starting the application papers. Let me know about that.

Today I’ve been working on the Introduction section of my research paper! These are the opening two sentences:-

“This linguistic study came about because of a passion for Bible translation, a curiosity about how texts hold together and the opportunity to do practical field work observing the Makonde language in use, over a period of 10 months in Mueda, Cabo Delgado Province, Mozambique. The research for the study was carried out in the context of an SIL language development programme involving the translation of the New Testament, started in 1992, and works closely with two portions of their translated scripture, namely the Healing of the Paralytic (Mark 2:1-12) and the Parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-32).”

How cool is that? To be able to write a paper which will contribute to my final mark and for this to be what is is about!
Be in touch.
Love in Christ,

28 October 2012

And so it begins!
I see that [my colleague] has e-mailed you the link for accessing the application papers.
God bless you as you get into the process.

Wycliffe Bible Translators UK is keen to talk to people like this girl in the blog – and not just linguists – see here

Interested in finding out more about studying linguistics with Wycliffe Bible Translators? Take a look at this.

[All above written with permission from the applicant]

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Irene Walker’s Thanksgiving Service | Hamilton Road Baptist Church, Bangor | Tuesday 18 October 2011

I was asked to give a summary of Irene’s years with Wycliffe: here is an edited version.

We are told that people today will typically have at least four careers. This is contrasted with previous generations who tended to have a job for life and a gold watch presented to them on retirement.

Irene Walker broke the mould.

It has been fascinating to read the four page document that was hand written by Irene and simply entitled My Life Story. As I look through it I count at least four careers and at least two retirements. The first retirement came in 1974.

Irene simply says: “At age 55 I took early retirement and went to Papua New Guinea with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Both my parents had died and I had no responsibilities so it was easy for me to take this step.”

And so in 1975 Wycliffe had a new short term member with many years experience in primary teaching and secretarial work .

During her first 3¼ years in Papua New Guinea, Irene was part of the support team mixing administrative roles with teaching the children of the translator families. Her role as pay clerk at the Ukarumpa Centre enabled her to get to know many of the nationals who worked there. Irene also visited Wycliffe families in remote village locations and attended several New Testament dedications.

As a short termer she returned home after this first term, but quickly sensed God guiding her to return for a further 3½ years with an assignment in the aviation department looking after the accounts and statistics. If the day job sounds routine, the other activities sound more adventurous.

Colleagues have found some extracts from her prayer letters during that second term in PNG.

December 1980

November 1st was a very special day for the people of villages on the banks of the Sepik river for on that day their own Yessan-Mayo New testament was dedicated!…The previous day some of us had flown out from Ukarumpa and then travelled upriver in two canoes joined by planks of wood, enjoying the beauty of the river, the birds and foliage, and the little villages on the bank.  It was a wonderful experience to rejoice with the people in song and prayer and reading from their own New Testaments.

March 1981

I have acquired a car; bits of it are held together by tape but all vital parts work and it successfully negotiates mud, a flood, a plank bridge and herds of water buffalo between the centre and the aviation department.

November 1983

This will be my last circular from PNG!  I expect to leave here on 29th December, spend some time in Australia and London, and reach home towards the end of January.  I shall be sorry to leave the many friends I have made here but look forward to renewing friendships at home.  Several very dear ones have gone to be with the Lord during my time here; I shall miss them but know there will be a glad reunion in Heaven.

People at home ask me if I am coming back to PNG.  I have no plans to do so.  People here ask, ‘’What are you going to do at home?’’  I usually tell them I intend to put my feet up and have a good long rest.  Just now I feel I need that but I know that in a few months I will be ready for fresh adventure!  I am praying constantly for the Lord’s guidance and recently I have had some indication of His leading.

And in her Life Story Irene wrote: “Again I had visits to translation projects, travelling by plane, heliocopter, speed boat, canoe and motor bike. The most exciting dedication was on the island of Goodenough, where I had previously spent 6 weeks helping the translators and enjoying the beautiful island with its grass-skirted ladies.”

Several Wycliffe colleagues who knew Irene in PNG e-mailed me when they heard that she had passed away.

Irene left a very special legacy in the PNG Branch. Heather Patrick

 I just want to respond to the news of Irene’s death and to say what good and positive memories I have of her. She was a dedicated, enthusiastic and much valued member of the team. Hamish Ralston

 I have known Irene for many years. She’s been a dear, faithful friend. Those of us in the flats often got together for morning tea/coffee on Saturdays. Irene would open presents sent to her and then give them to others as gifts. She’s been a faithful financial and prayer supporter ever since leaving here. I’m going to miss her, but I know she’ll be glad to be able to move around in heaven. Lynn Wood

So having retired at 55 and spent 7 years as a “short termer” with Wycliffe in Papua New Guinea, one would have thought that it was time to retire properly. Not at all! Irene’s fresh adventure was another career as part of the N. Ireland based team of Wycliffe UK.

And just like in PNG, Irene had a varied contribution to make. From 1981 to 1989 Irene:

  • Spoke about Wycliffe in various churches and prayer meetings
  • Did office work alongside the then N. Ireland Coordinators Ian and Claire Gray
  • Was secretary and later a member if the Wycliffe N. Ireland Committee
  • Ran the Wycliffe Bangor prayer group
  • Coordinated the Call to Prayer project
  • Spent a few months in Pakistan doing office work and again teaching missionary children

Paul and Linda Farncombe were Wycliffe members in Pakistan when Irene visited:

We and the girls really enjoyed her being in Hyderabad and have fond memories of Aunty Irene.

Paul now works at our centre in England and he passed on some records about Irene’s time with Wycliffe

9  December 1975 – Accepted as Short Term Assistant of Wycliffe Bible Translators  ‘to serve as a bookkeeper in the Papua New Guinea Branch for a period of two years.’

31 March 1989  – Completion of Short Term service

Irene’s “short term service” with Wycliffe Bible Translators lasted almost 14 years!

By the time my wife Ruth and I were joining Wycliffe, Irene had reached 70 and had retired from the Wycliffe N. Ireland office and so we had very little official contact with her. However we remember a kind and generous lady who took a very prayerful interest in us and our two young children as we went off to Ivory Coast to teach in a mission boarding school.

Her interest in Wycliffe children is well illustrated in this message from Kenny and  Andrea Woodrow, Wycliffe N. Ireland members currently in Tanzania:

We have very fond memories of time with Irene. When we first joined she invited us to visit her a few times and she was always interested in what we were doing, praying for us and interacting with [our son] Josh.

Many Wycliffe N. Ireland colleagues would have wished to be here this afternoon to share in giving thanks to God for a colleague, a friend, a prayer supporter, a selfless servant of God who brought her skills, experience and her passion to being part of the worldwide Wycliffe team bringing God’s Word to people in their heart languages.

Perhaps this last e-mail extract from Mary Endersby in Cameroon can act as a summary:

Irene was a real champion; she kept in touch with me steadily over many decades, even when my replies weren’t very forthcoming. It was always an encouragement to receive her letters – so well-written, informative and always carrying traces of that special sense of humour of hers :). And she always reminded me of her prayers, and those of the Bangor prayer group. 

It was a privilege to have known Irene and be blessed by her untiring ministry through her faithful partnership in prayer and correspondence. And I know I wasn’t the only one …!

Towards the end of her Life Story, Irene wrote these words:

“I am very thankful to God for an interesting and varied life.”

What more can I say, but echo Irene’s words and thank God for all the ways in which she served Him in His mission to His world.

John Hamilton 18 October 2011

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Wycliffe Bible Translators UK is a member of MAP – the Mission Agencies Partnership in N. Ireland.

MAP logo

MAP is made up of a group of 45 mission agencies who have come together to form a partnership.

At the heart of this partnership is the strong belief that by working together member agencies can be more effective in their approach to global mission.

Central to all that MAP does is the desire and commitment to see “mission at the heart of the local Church and the Church at the heart of mission”.

You can look up events and opportunities posted by Wycliffe and the other 44 agencies.

From time to time we will post Wycliffe news stories on the MAP website.

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Application forms for Wycliffe Engage 2010 summer teams went live on the website very recently – and it prompted 2009 Cameroon Engage team member Ben to take up his pen…

I saw recently that the application forms for Engage 2010 are available and it prompted me to write something about why I think Engage is so good and why I think people should do it!

"Meeting people who have to constantly battle to just live a life as a Christian and still want to tell everyone about Jesus is powerful."
Why do Engage? Because it’s amazing, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll see God move in amazing ways. It’s affected me in such a positive way and really grown my relationship with God massively!

Then just last Saturday, at our Wycliffe and Me day in Belfast, Lyndsey shared about her experience on the 2009 Burkina Faso Engage team. Her enthusiasm was so infectious, I wanted to apply myself!


Stanislas explains to the girls about his work

Stanislas explains to the girls about his work

Read the rest of Ben’s article here.

Read about the 2009 Burkina Faso team here and here.

Provisionally, teams will visit Cambodia and Cameroon during the summer of 2010.  We also hope to offer a third trip. Find out more here.

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Eddie Arthur recently posted a blog under the title Am I a Dinosaur?

Some things take a long time. Bible translation is an excellent example of a facet of mission work which involves a long term commitment. Some missionaries are directly involved in translating … and others are involved in training or consulting, but all of these roles take a significant number of years.

He was commenting on another blog which was discussing whether or not long term missionaries were becoming obsolete. This blog gave three excellent reasons why long term mission engagement is still needed.

The Numbers Argument
Long-term missionaries are still necessary in many places in the world today because in many places there are an insufficient numbers of Christians, mature Christian leaders, and churches to carry out the task of evangelizing their own people…

The Cultural Contextualization Argument
…In cross-cultural teaching and discipleship, it is necessary to understand where people are coming from in order to most effectively help them to understand and apply the Bible accurately. Prepackaged Bible teaching from a Western perspective, addressing the issues of the Western church, and geared towards listeners from a Western background is going to be limited in its effectiveness because it fails to address many of the challenges and issues that Christians in other parts of the world are facing. I am not saying that such teaching is completely ineffective but merely that it is often limited in its effectiveness and is likely not as effective as its teachers believe it to be. Such training by short-term foreign missionaries can be helpful but it is short-sighted to see such training courses as the only necessary strategy in foreign missions today.

The Incarnation Argument
Besides the above practical arguments, there is the Biblical argument from the incarnation of Christ. Jesus Christ descended from heaven and became a first century A.D. Jewish man. He entered into history in a specific time, specific place, with a specific identity. Jesus took part in the life, language, and culture of first century Judaism and all his teaching was appropriately geared to the background and understanding of his listeners.

But Eddie also plugged the opportunities available for short term experience with Wycliffe Bible Translators UK.

Wycliffe Engage teams give a great insight into the work of translating and are a huge encouragement to all involved, but Scripture translation can not be accomplished by summer teams. It takes a long term involvement of a team of people from all sorts of backgrounds and cultures to see God’s Word made available.

You can read other blogs on this or related topics here and here

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Wycliffe Bible Translators UK has sent three all age Engage summer teams overseas this year: one to Cambodia in partnership with Action Cambodia; one to Burkina Faso; and the third which will return from Cameroon in a few days time. We believe that these teams have been successful, but we will certainly be reviewing the feedback and learning for the future in the light of much debate worldwide about short term mission.


Ben showing kids photos of his family

Wycliffe UK Director Eddie Arthur has posted an insightful blog on this topic.

Short term mission teams are an important aspect of the life of an organisation like Wycliffe Bible Translators. Most people who become involved in mission long-term start off making a short term visit to the field with a summer team of some sort. (Read more)

Eddie’s blog also quotes colleague Phil Prior’s provocative challenge for western churches to re-assess what they may be offering to African or Asian churches in the light of… what if the western church got a similar communication from overseas?

Don’t start by thinking about what it’s like in some African village to have a visit like this. Think what it would do in your church. What’s this saying? You can’t take care of your own people? You don’t know enough to teach the people? You don’t have a different group for the children, they go with the adults, so should you start something for my visit? What about the building, if someone else builds it is it yours? Then how to look after a group of 20 people in a different culture? And when you welcome guests isn’t it polite to offer a meal, so that’s 21 people to cater for?

You’ll need to read the whole of Phil’s blog What on earth are we doing with mission? to fully understand this comment – but it really is food for thought.

Meanwhile we have got some excellent feedback from a translator colleague who has been hosting the Cameroon team on the Ndop Plain:

“Praise the Lord for help with the first two weeks of the Engage Team. The children’s clubs in Bambalang went well. They were well attended, and the children received the message well. In the second week, part of the team assisted in the three day teacher training workshop held in Ndop. There were 30 participants from 9 languages, and the technical and general logistical support that the team provided was invaluable. The workshop would not have been possible without them. This is the final week and the team are running a further four day children’s club. They have also been using the ‘Sabre’ based recorded scriptures around the local compounds, playing the Christmas Story. We are excited at being able to teach consultant-approved memory verses from translated scripture. Pray for the club, for a good debrief in Mbingo and for safe travel to Yaounde and onward.”

So if you want to find out if a Wycliffe UK Engage team is a worthwhile thing to do both for the team participants and the local host communities, you could start by browsing the Engage pages on our website.

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