Two Reasons Why Other Nations Value Canadian Organizations

I belong to Inscribe, a group of Canadian Christian writers. We are very aware that we differ— in a good way— from Christian writers who are not Canadian. My guest blogger this week, Roy Eyre, has some valuable insights into our uniqueness as Canadians not just for writers and mission agencies but for any Canadian organization. He is president of Wycliffe Canada, a student of leadership that he blogs about on thebackrowleader.com. He is a design thinker, an amateur futurist and a husband and father of three. Here’ Roy

Last year, Wycliffe Canada recognized its 60th anniversary. As good Canadians, we did it in an understated way. As the second-largest Wycliffe organization, Wycliffe Canada is used to flying under the radar, working quietly under the shadow of our larger neighbour to the South. And yet, we should be celebrating. Since our inauspicious start in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in 1951, we have brought a number of unique characteristics to the world of Bible translation because of traits unique to Canadians.

I want to re-introduce Canada to you in two distinct forms. First, in the metaphor of family. Wycliffe Canada, and indeed Canada as a whole, is the middle child. And second, in the fact that within the Wycliffe Global Alliance, Wycliffe Canada is the largest minority.

USA

Canada

UK

Middle Child

Like a typical middle child, Canadians are known for traits such as hardiness and persistence. Often overlooked and overshadowed by our “older brother,” we get the job done but don’t need recognition to keep going. We’re the unassuming ones, sitting in the back row in our casual clothes. Sometimes we prefer not to be the one in front.

We’re also peacemakers and negotiators, with an easy-going manner. Where others polarize, Canadians bring a refreshing and balanced viewpoint as bridge builders. We work within arguably the most multicultural nation in the world. That badge comes with its challenges, including multilingualism, pluralism and a dwindling Christian base. But it also gives us incredible ability to listen, read people well and see all sides of a situation.

We’re also the innovator of the family. Psychologist Kevin Leman says, “If a firstborn is a company’s CEO, the middle child is the entrepreneur.” I’ve often described Wycliffe Canada as big enough to put significant resources behind an initiative, but small enough to remain agile and take advantage of trends.

The Bible translation movement is like a family, and that family needs middle children. Combine traits like hardiness, persistence, peacemaking and nuanced thinking with our country’s stellar reputation on the worldwide stage, and we should continue to send our people to some of the most difficult roles and locations around the world.

Largest Minority

Wycliffe Canada is the second-largest Wycliffe organization, well behind Wycliffe USA and followed by our counterparts in the U.K. and Korea. The Chinese church in Canada is helping me understand that being the “largest minority” brings certain obligations and duties.We’re only now exploring what that unique status means:

  • It gives us a platform to speak on behalf of the other minorities and represent those who are overlooked and unheard.
  • It also means we should lead the other minorities in our inclusiveness, inviting others to the table with us.

I think we’re prepared to step up to that responsibility on the global stage, provided we can figure out our own identity and voice. For starters, Canadians don’t generally relish high profile roles. In addition, our own journey as a country complicates our efforts to speak out. I think David Staines captured neatly the dilemma we face as a post-colonial nation – not in the sense of being a colonial power, but a colony:

Part of the history of Canada is an account of the slow realization of its own independence, an acceptance of its importance within an international framework, and most significant, a discarding of the colonial mentality that characterized the country and its actions for many years…

Canadians’ closeness to the United States, both geographically and historically, along with its dual French and English colonial influences, give it a complex identity. Complicating things even more is the nation’s shifting demographics due to heavy immigration. We are heavily influenced from many sides and therefore struggle to forge a distinct identity. However, we are independent; we can speak for ourselves. At times our opinions may align with our larger neighbour. At times, they will be contrary. The important thing is stepping up to the microphone, despite the challenge of speaking with a single voice.

In recent years, Wycliffe Canada has not participated fully among our fellow resource-providers in the global Bible translation movement. But we’re not navel gazing; we’re gathering our opinions. We play an important role, and it’s time we find our voice and take up the responsibility.

Grandson Sees Impact of God’s Word in Jamaican Language

Although I don’t blog regularly during July and August, I wanted to post this exciting guest blog from our 21 year-old grandson, Tyler Vanderveen, in which he gives a first hand, eyewitness report of what happens when people hear the Bible read in their own language for the very first time.

Tyler is working with Wycliffe Caribbean in Jamaica as part of the onsite internship with his school, Ambrose University, and the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination in Canada. He works under director John Roomes whom Jo and I recruited when I was director of Wycliffe Caribbean nearly ten years ago. We oriented and trained him to be my successor.

Tyler & visiting fiancee Corisa at celebration in Emancipation Park. Note bottle of Ting, Tyler's favourite pop.

Now here’s Tyler!

While returning with my boss John Roomes from a Wycliffe retreat we passed through the town of Kendall, about 70 kilometres east of Kingston. We stopped to participate in a March for Righteousness gathering in the town square at which John’s brother had asked him to speak. Two local pastors had already preached to the group gathered before the stage, reading the gospel of Luke from the New King James version.

John, however, did not speak in English as the pastors had, but spoke in Jamaican Patois. He also focused his preaching, not at the group of Christians near the stage but at the group of men playing dominoes across the street, at the taxi drivers in the parking lot, and at the people in the market.

Soon a small crowd gathered at the edge of the market, listening intently. In the first minute that John began to read from the gospel of Luke, recently translated into Jamaican, a homeless man ran all the way from the back right to the stage, his face alight with understanding. At the same time, some Rastafarian men who were listening to the event from behind a tree came around to the front to listen.

I had already been told that many people in the rural parts of Jamaica do not understand English well. I had taken that to mean the people in the hills and far from the cities. But on the way back to Kingston, John told me unless a person lives in one of the two main cities, Kingston or Montego Bay, they probably don’t understand English that well. The business people or those who finished high school will speak it better but the poorer, less educated people won’t.

John also told me that the Rastafarian religion split off from orthodox Christianity because they wanted to maintain a sense of their African heritage. They wanted a Bible in Jamaican Patois that they could understand. Most of what they believe is loosely based on a version of the Bible that they can’t really understand.

It seems that every time the church in Jamaica moves toward being more Jamaican and less British, Rastafarians are interested. They are watching and waiting for a church they can be a part of.

John says that when the whole Bible is finally translated into Jamaican and churches begin to preach from it, many Rastafarian people will come to the Lord. They have tried to understand but could not in the English speaking churches, but when they hear the Bible taught in their own Jamaican Patois language, all the truths they gleaned from the old English Bible will be strengthened and the things they got wrong will be corrected.

This is an exciting time to be working in Jamaica. First, God is beginning to use the portions of the Bible that are already translated into Jamaican to draw many people to Himself. Also, during this 50th year of Jamaican independence churches all across Jamaica are praying and working for revival and renewal. Pastors compare the ever present crime, corruption, violence, drugs and gangs as chains that must be thrown off before Jamaica can flourish. These Satanic bonds can only be broken through the power of God’s Word in the language of the people.

Many pastors and church groups are praying that God will make this 50th anniversary a year of Jubilee as it was in the Old Testament. We are praying that the bonds of crime and violence in Jamaica will be thrown off. We are praying for revival. All the things that are holding Jamaica away from God will be removed, as the bonds of the self enslaved man would be removed in the year of jubilee.
Please join in Prayer for Jamaica. Pray that the love and power of Jesus will restore Jamaica, that revival and renewal would come to Jamaica.

Love and Blessings

Tyler