Where would you send 18 under-thirties to explore how they can be involved in Bible translation? I suspect the South of France might not be top of your list. Surely somewhere more exotic and dangerous – with insects for food and outside toilets? Something out of an old-school biography that more closely resembles a military academy than a family holiday?
But instead we find ourselves in Charmes-sur-Rhône, near Valence, in 35 degree heat. We swim, buy fresh bread, eat good cheeses – and we learn how the Bible can be translated. In enviable surroundings we learn how we can play a part in helping all language groups access life-changing Scripture.
So we are taught linguistics, literacy and Scripture engagement. We hear first-hand experience of translation projects. We learn about the realities of life in unfamiliar environments and how to work with a culturally diverse team. All of this is done in French and English, amongst a group from six nations, speaking 11 languages.
Every day is framed, morning and evening, by worship, a Bible reading, and prayer. Our singing is a chaotic mix of French and English and we often pray unsure if we are understood by those around us. But as we hear from the Bible in our own languages about our missionary God, we know that he cares for people from every nation and language. We are reminded that the Church has a mission, that our local churches live it out, and that we as individuals all play a part.
Much is said of God’s heart for the nations, of the translation work left to be done and of the sacrifices each of us will make in our own way – but there is never the sense that Wycliffe is for a certain ‘type’ of person. There are no superhero missionaries here, just everyday missionaries – self-professed language geeks, teachers, students and church interns, all exploring how their gifts can help serve God, their local churches, and those yet to hear God’s voice in their language.