I joined Wycliffe 25 years ago. One of the things that attracted me to this amazing ministry was its love for and commitment to minority peoples of the world. I believed, as many of you do, that the greatest contribution we can make is partnering with these communities to ensure Scripture is available in their languages. We want to see them flourish as ethnolinguistic communities. Wycliffe’s commitment and love are as strong now as 25 years ago.
When Cameron Townsend came to Guatemala, God opened his eyes to the plight of the Cakchiquel and other indigenous people there. But Townsend didn’t just translate a book — he gave his heart to the people God had called him to serve. He advocated for them, their language and their culture to the Guatemalan authorities. He worked tirelessly so they would have education and work opportunities. He hurt and he wept and he got angry when he saw how racism, prejudice and oppression were burdens the Cakchiquel had endured for centuries.
Like Townsend, I have seen countless missionaries demonstrate that heart of justice for minority communities around the world. I think of Tom, my anthropology teacher, and his work for and on behalf of the ethnolinguistic community of the Philippines. I’m reminded of Mark and Estella and their partnership with local Bible translators in the Pacific, laboring with them and seeing the local church own and lead the Bible translation movement. And I recall many conversations with my good friend Andy as I listened to his heart for Deaf communities around the world. As we individually strive to be better — more diverse, more inclusive — we can draw from the deep, rich legacy of our organization. We can ask ourselves: “How can we turn that same heart of compassion, that same thirst for justice, inwardly to our teammates, to our churches and to the communities in our own country?”
Townsend’s stories and so many others demonstrated how communities and entire nations were transformed as the gospel message became available through Scriptures in a language and format that spoke to people’s hearts. The transformation wasn’t just in behavior. It wasn’t about adopting a new religion. It was a transformation in hearts, in families, in businesses, in education and government.
But something wonderful also happened — the translators and missionaries were also transformed, their lives forever changed as they saw the Holy Spirit in action. This helps me understand that though God has invited us to this wonderful ministry, we’re not just mere instruments to get the gospel message across — we’re part of the message.
As I think of current events — of the injustice, racism, bigotry and sexism that plagues our nation — we need to seek to not only be agents of transformation, but pray that God will also transform us so that how we live our lives as individuals and as an organization may reflect God’s message of love and grace to the world.
We’re presented today with unique, seemingly insurmountable challenges but I believe the Lord is actually presenting us with opportunities. Wycliffe USA’s leadership is committed to our journey of diversity, inclusion and belonging, but it’s up to us as individuals to be transformed and be agents of transformation in this journey. It takes all of us together. My prayer is that we will be bold and courageous; that we will be the change we want to see.
Serving with you,
José de Dios
Executive Vice President for People and Culture