Wycliffe Bible Translators USA hasn’t changed its vision in over 75 years. Everyone—all men, women and children—have the right to hear the Good News about Jesus Christ in a language and form they relate to best. We believe it’s an injustice when people don’t hear this message clearly, and we work to right that injustice.
Previously referred to as “distinctives”, our “core values” are the things we do that we simply don’t have to think about —we just do them; they’re in our DNA. The one distinctive I loved most was “service to all”. We now refer to it as “partnership and service.” This flowed genuinely from the heart of our founder, William Cameron Townsend. As Christ entered into the lives of those he encountered, Townsend believed in serving not just those with power and influence, but also those who lived on the margins of society. These acts of service motivated by love became a part of who we were (and still are) as an organization.
We are committed to entering into the lives of communities around the world believing that unless people see the Scriptures translated by our lives, they will not be attracted to the living Word, Jesus. As we translate Scripture, communities should see our lives as the first translation of love. Paul says it so well, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.
Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:3-8 NLT)
Jesus was the true act of humility and unconditional love. In the New Testament the Greek word for “humility” is used suggesting meekness of spirit and an outward expression of meeting people where they are, not where we wish they would be.
No story better illustrates this kind of love than one told about Townsend’s encounter with Juan. Juan was an older member of the Secoya community from the jungles of Ecuador. White skin, blue eyes and nearly blind, he was marginalized within a community that was already remote and marginalized in Ecuador. He was not attractive. A portion of his nose had been eaten away by disease.
As an act of compassion, someone had flown him to Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, for medical treatment. At 9,000 feet above sea level it is cold, even though it’s right on the Equator. Juan was customarily barefoot for the jungle climate, but not for long. Townsend happened to be visiting Ecuador, and when he saw Juan’s shoeless feet, he found a pair of loose-fitting slippers somewhere.
Here he is on his hands and knees putting the slippers on Juan’s feet. This visual image of Townsend serving the needs of this elderly man is still indelible in the minds of many in Wycliffe. If not this image and story, then one of many others because of multiple loving acts of Townsend that impressed so many in those early days of Wycliffe.
Our commitment to serving others continues. Our path and journey leads to Christ who was and is the ultimate example of entering into the lives of needy people. May we be faithful pilgrims on the path he places us, ever willing to travel to serve others, always in route to some new mission and always open to move and change to meet the needs of others.
I’d love to hear your perspectives and examples of service to all. Please feel free to write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.