Nigel and Anne
Nigel and Anne are serving with Wycliffe among an unreached people group in West Asia
All people names have been changed for security reasons.
Nigel and Anne are preparing to head to West Asia, with their baby, to serve with Wycliffe. This won’t be their first term overseas – they each joined Wycliffe when they were single. Anne joined Wycliffe when she was single and worked as a teacher for the children of people serving God in a country in West Asia for five years. Nigel, following his calling to work in translation, spent two years in West Asia learning the language and culture.
Though they were in different countries, they met at a training conference, and started dating from a distance. Now they are planning to return to West Asia to serve as a family. This is their story.
Anne’s Story: ‘I am excited to use my skills to help families serving God to flourish.’
Growing up in the US, I knew that I wanted to serve God overseas since I was a teenager. As I planned for college, I narrowed my choice of study to either nursing or teaching as either would open doors to working overseas.
I eventually found my calling in primary school teaching. I loved working with children and I loved that I was not restricted to one area of study, but could be a lifelong learner in every subject area. However, even though I knew I wanted to serve God overseas, I had not considered that God may call me to serve overseas by myself. I am definitely a homebody and during college I would get homesick every few weeks, so I made plenty of weekend trips back to see my family.
When I graduated, I was not at all confident in my ability as a teacher or my ability to live on my own so far from my family, so I found a job teaching kindergarten in my hometown.
I absolutely loved it, but after a few years I began to grow restless.
‘I began thinking and praying very seriously about going’
One day my sister-in-law sent me an email saying that she had met a family serving overseas who were on furlough and who were in desperate need of a teacher for the following school year, and would I be interested in a job like that?
The job did not mention a specific location at first, for security reasons, but was in the general region of Central Asia. I began emailing back and forth with the mother of the family and she gave me lots of information about the specific location, daily life, local culture, and the students I would be teaching.
‘I brought the idea before my family and my church for them to help pray through my decision’
It was a Muslim country and the area they lived in did not have a lot of modern conveniences. There was one hospital in the region where she and her husband worked, and people would often have to travel eight to ten days to reach it. She said: ‘Think Little House on the Prairie.’ She described having electricity only a few hours a day, needing to carry water, and having someone come to convert rooms in their house for an indoor kitchen and bathroom because most locals had theirs outside.
I was very excited by the idea of pioneer living, which is maybe not so appealing to most people. I began thinking and praying very seriously about going, and brought the idea before my family and my church for them to help pray through my decision.
‘A one room schoolhouse in the mountains of Central Asia’
After a few months, I found myself applying to the organisation that ran the school, renewing my passport, undergoing psychological and medical evaluations, looking up how to wrap a head scarf on YouTube, and a myriad of other tasks that would eventually lead me to my teaching post in a one room schoolhouse in the mountains of Central Asia.
‘Through God's grace I thrived’
I had only committed to one year because I was not sure I could handle living in such a hard place over the long term. But I thought to myself: ‘You can do anything for a year. Even if it's awful, you can throw yourself into the work and think of the kids!’
Turns out that I could not only survive there, but through God's grace I thrived there. I loved the international team that I was a part of, I loved my teaching partner who was a first-year teacher with lots of energy and ideas for our eight students from kindergarten to sixth grade, and I loved the students and their families who were with various sending organisations from around the world.
That year I found that God had given me a deep desire to help families sent to serve him, who are living in difficult places for the Gospel. Each family had their calling for evangelism, church planting, discipleship, or Bible translation, and I could help them to succeed in the work God has called them to by coming alongside them and ministering to their children.
‘We can only thrive here if each person in our family is thriving’
These children become what is known as ‘third-culture-kids’: they are a mixture of their parents’ culture and the culture they grow up in. They don't quite fit in with either culture, but are a unique combination of both. They face so much change and transition in their lives, friends constantly moving away, evacuations because of dangerous situations, etc. I could provide some semblance of stability and turn a potentially stressful schooling situation into an environment that was welcoming, predictable, and fun. As one mother said: ‘We can only thrive here if each person in our family is thriving.’
‘I still had dreams of one day starting a family of my own’
I had initially gone overseas with my home church being my ‘sending organisation’ and had supported myself from my savings. I had committed to going back to my job in the US after my year in Central Asia, but I felt a strong desire to return to the serve overseas.
‘I was back in my beloved mountain town teaching again’
It was during that year back in the US that I joined the Wycliffe team and worked on partnership development, so that by the following school year, I was back in my beloved mountain town teaching again, with a host of prayer partners and with very experienced people around me to help me navigate the many technicalities that come with life serving God overseas.
As much as I loved my job, I still had dreams of one day starting a family of my own. This dream had been firmly relegated to the back burner, perhaps indefinitely, until one day, after five years of teaching in Asia, I met Nigel at a conference. He had been working in a neighbouring country learning the language of wider communication before heading back to the UK to finish his training in linguistics with Wycliffe.
After eight months of long-distance courtship and a few more in-person meetings, we got engaged. Now we are married, and God has blessed us with our first child. We are now planning to return to the country where Nigel has been working in. He is excited to use the skills and training God has given him to join a translation team that will help a minority language group get the Bible in the language they know best for the very first time, and I am excited to join him and to use my skills to help other families serving God to flourish.
Nigel’s Story: ‘Wow, this has to be the best job ever!’
Growing up going to church, I knew about the work of Wycliffe, and I always thought it sounded very interesting. Then as a young adult I had the opportunity to travel to Thailand for the wedding of a close friend and I decided to get in touch with some of the Wycliffe people who were out there to find out more.
I remember very clearly when a person serving in Bible translation showed me round his office, and I got to see what a typical day looked like for him and the two local translators he worked with. I believe that day they had been thinking through translation options for Greek terms for ‘lake’ and ‘boat’ into a language which didn’t have these words and as he explained some of their discussion I just thought: ‘Wow, this has to be the best job ever!’.
Later I enjoyed a meal with his family and noted that as exciting as this work was, it was not without cost for him and his family to live in the place that God had prepared for them.
‘I was open to working with an unreached people group’
I was encouraged by my parents and by my church family to continue praying about joining Wycliffe and this took place over some years. I went and studied theology – and took the opportunity to learn Hebrew and Greek. Then, having joined Wycliffe, I took the School of Language and Scripture MA training course in Linguistics, learning much during this time which would equip me for the work ahead.
‘I could see God’s clear leading in that decision’
When it came to being placed in West Asia, I was particularly open to working with an unreached people group and I wondered if there was a context where much of the linguistic work had been done or was being done by others, but there remained a need for translation and Scripture engagement. This line of questioning led to me being placed in a country in West Asia and I could see God’s clear leading in that decision as I had had many opportunities during my training in the UK to get to know people from this country.
The amount of work that needs to be done is vast. Though it can be difficult to get visas to live and work in the country, there are languages spoken there which have effectively zero Scripture, there are also completed New Testament translations in major languages which require Scripture engagement work (producing and distributing audio/visual products, as well as print, for use in evangelism and discipleship) and a number of significant unreached language groups with no project up and running. There are only a handful of people serving in this country, but we pray for more people to come and join the work.
‘There can be strong opposition to the message of Jesus’
We have been placed to work in a language project with an unreached people group. Anne will have some time to learn the language of wider communication, while I will jump into learning the language of the people among whom we will work.
In a Muslim context there can be strong opposition to the message of Jesus, so having wisdom and building trust will be very important parts of our work. But there are many different ways that we can build relationships and be a blessing to the men and women who become part of our daily life.
I will look to find a language teacher from among the people who speak the language and will seek to build friendships and relationships. Please pray that God will bless these relationships and open doors even during language learning to identify people who would be open to the message of Jesus. Such efforts are futile but for God’s working, and the role of prayer is vital. While the security situation necessitates being discreet, it means that the need for prayer is all the greater!
Pray for Nigel, Anne and their family
- Pray for Nigel and Anne in their language learning, that they would learn the languages well and thrive in the area where God is placing them.
- Pray for Nigel and Anne as they learn to be parents in a different culture.
- Pray that God will be glorified as Anne uses her teaching gifts to support other families send to serve in this part of Asia.
- Please commit the work and the people Nigel and Anne will serve to God, especially that many of those who have not heard the gospel will do so as a result of this translation project.