‘Reading through these stories for the first time, I knew that’s what I wanted to do,’ Ruby* says, her eyes lighting up at the memory.

Ruby’s first work assignment led her to Indonesia, to research some of the country’s 700+ languages. Photo: Marc Ewell

‘I loved languages, and now I read on the website of an organisation named SIL** about unwritten languages. I didn’t even know that such languages existed, nor that people were needed to develop writing systems. This sounded exciting; this is what I wanted to do.’

Ruby follows up on her words. She attends several events to learn more about linguistics. She raises funds to be able to go overseas. And only a few years later she leaves for Indonesia, a country with hundreds of unwritten languages. Her goal: helping to develop some of them by researching their linguistic situation. When she sets out, it is for life. That’s what she joined the organisation for; that’s what she raised support for.

‘I have a very strong sense of being part of the work’

But only two years later her life is turned upside down. Her sister is diagnosed with brain cancer and Ruby decides to return to the States. She wants to be close to her sister on the long road of decline. But how can she do linguistic research from her native Colorado? Ruby’s hopes for her future seem to be dashed, the assignment of her dreams gone.

Yet she knows that she wants to remain part of that work. She wants to impact people through the word of God in the languages they know best. But how to do this? Perhaps by serving in an administrative role? After all, she had worked several years as an office manager before joining SIL. And how to finance such a role? Life in the States is so much more expensive than in Indonesia!

‘Working from home in administration is just as important as working overseas in a language project’

Her church, however, rallies behind her. They understand that working from home in administration is just as important and worthy of their support as working overseas in a language project. So, when Ruby is offered work as an administrative assistant for projects in the Mediterranean region, she is ready to commit herself to something new.

Ruby’s hidden gift

In her administrative role, Ruby helps Roma communities
access God’s word in their own language. Photo: The
Advocacy Project on Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA

It doesn’t take long until her supervisor spots her skilful handling of the spreadsheets which she uses for event planning. He sees her potential for managing finances, a gift that Ruby herself is as yet unaware of. When she is asked to give some of her time to do finances for projects involving Roma communities in Europe, she is willing to give it a try. And, much to her surprise and in spite of a steep learning curve, she likes it from the start!

‘I do well with details, and looking at all the cells of a budget report doesn’t intimidate me,’ she says with a laugh.

‘A budget report doesn’t intimidate me!’

Ruby quickly learns how to balance accounts and to plan budgets. After a while she does so well that she gives up her administrative assistant role to work fulltime in finance, vastly increasing the number of projects she is responsible for. She tracks spending, reimburses expenditures and collates information for funders. She is involved with the payment of mother-tongue translators and helps to prepare their work contracts. As part of the leadership team, she gives input into strategic planning. She communicates with both project staff and funders. Sometimes she even goes to visit some of the countries where projects are located.

‘Even though I am normally not physically close to the project work,’ Ruby says, ‘I know what’s going on, because I get to read all the reports. I often interact with team leaders directly, hear how their work is going and how funding can help to do more work on the ground.’ She particularly enjoys helping people to see how finance is connected to achieving their goals. Ruby loves the quick turnaround of seeing results from her finance role and how that impacts the other team members.

‘I have a very strong sense of being part of the work,’ says Ruby. ‘Doing finance wasn’t the reason why I joined the organisation, but it turned out to be a good fit for me. I find my work deeply rewarding.’

Silke Sauer

*Name changed for security reasons

**SIL is Wycliffe’s primary partner organisation