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.
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.
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.