‘I am fully convinced of the power that the word of God has to save and change people and through those people to transform societies, and I am thankful to have the opportunity to play a role in getting that word to people groups that haven't had it before in a language they can really understand.’
From the earliest days of his Christian life, Chris felt a deep calling to serve God. ‘Going to study at Bible college just made sense,’ he says. His intention to find a job in youth ministry was frustrated, though, and he struggled to know what to do.
He worked for a number of years in Ulster Bank and served with the youth in his local church, Woodlands Presbyterian. Through a partnership with a local youth discipleship organisation, he went to Romania in 2015, 2016 and 2017 with a team of young people from Woodlands. Seeing how different language groups interacted and learning some Hungarian reignited his love of languages.
Chris’ passion for mission is also his church’s: an emphasis on Bible teaching, a heart for prayer and a commitment to one another combine to create an environment in which people are equipped to listen to God and pursue his calling on their lives. ‘My minister had encouraged me to look into Wycliffe and Bible translation while I was at Bible college, because of my interest in the biblical languages.’ Although with hindsight Chris describes this as ‘a more natural fit’ than youth work, at that time it wasn’t what he wanted to do. Then around 2015, a mentoring programme began in Woodlands for the young people and youth leaders. His mentor, an elder at the church, had himself been sent by Woodlands as a church planter in the 1970s, and had continued to be involved with mission after returning home. ‘He saw the calling I had to serve God and my heart for mission,’ shares Chris.
‘A passing interest became a clear call...’
‘He encouraged me in my faith, especially in terms of seeking where God wanted me to serve. He brought me along to a mission conference in Bangor and challenged me to talk to people at five exhibition stands.’ One of these was the Wycliffe stand. Over a few years, he got to know people from Wycliffe and heard more about Bible translation at various events. He began praying with church leaders, who encouraged him to attend Wycliffe’s First Steps and Next Step events (now called Discover and Explore). In Chris’ words, ‘a passing interest became a clear call’, and he joined Wycliffe this year.
Chris began training in Gloucester in July, and says the course ‘has been both intense and practical’. (The picture at the top of this page shows one language-learning activity in which students use props to practise speaking and listening skills.) During the first six weeks, students focus on preparing to live among people with a different language and culture, and spend the remaining three months learning to analyse language and culture. ‘I have enjoyed the course so far and feel well prepared for the work I've been called to do,’ Chris says. The remainder of the course takes place after an assignment lasting 18–24 months, which allows students to be involved in a Bible translation project and collect language data for the final dissertation.
Chris is now exploring potential assignments and is willing to go anywhere God calls him: ‘Even in the uncertainty of where I should go, I am confident of the call of God on my life and I’m excited to be involved in Bible translation work.’
If you would like to find out more about serving with Wycliffe, or you know someone who would, why not come along to one of our events?