5 Things Software Developers Need To Do To Serve in Missions
What does it take to serve in missions as a software developer?
Todd Hoatson worked as a natural language processing software developer at a large secular company for almost 10 years before he considered serving in missions. Since joining the work of Bible translation in 1995, Todd has served in a variety of roles both in the U.S. and overseas with Wycliffe and SIL, our primary strategic partner.
If you’re thinking about serving as a software developer, Todd shared five things you’ll need to be prepared to do.
1. Embrace Creativity
While exploring opportunities to serve in missions, Todd learned about the software products often used by Bible translation teams. At the same time he was researching, his then-company announced they would be adopting a new, innovative technology — and it was the same technology developed by SIL.
Todd realized that if he served in missions, he could join a team that was leading the way in technological advances, creating new solutions and solving real-world problems. Todd said, “I continue to be impressed with my coworkers and their knowledge of the field and connections to cutting edge stuff.”
Paratext is software that assists with the translation process — from spellchecking minority languages to ensuring the consistent use of biblical terms. By supporting the work of translation teams, Todd has the chance to code solutions that make people’s lives more productive and have an eternal impact.
2. Collaborate Globally
As part of a global community, Todd has to look at things from new perspectives to develop faster, easier solutions that would work in a variety of contexts. At one point, Todd served with 30 people who were working with 20 different languages. He mentioned, “We have to work in a really different way a lot of times, because we can’t just assume we’re targeting people who have all of these advantages that we do.”
In addition to having limited resources, translation teams often face major challenges. For example, translation teams may have limited access to electricity, encounter transportation issues that make it difficult to meet or endure civil unrest in their country.
With all these challenges, Todd doesn’t want a team’s work with software to be one more issue or frustration.“I want it to be the kind of thing that they don’t have to worry about,” he said.
3. Value Others
Because solutions are offered to translation teams at no cost, at Wycliffe, we’re not motivated by customer contracts. Instead we’re driven by our passion to solve the problems that bog down Bible translation so that people can engage with God’s Word.
Todd strives to help others feel seen and heard by solving difficult problems and building new solutions. From his personal experience, Todd knows what it’s like to serve in the field and need to ask a software developer for help. The software developer’s care makes all the difference, and Todd wants to bring the same care to the people he serves.
Todd said, “People feel valued when you say, ‘We got the error report, we take it seriously and we really want to fix this.’”
4. Build a Purposeful Community
Although Todd works remotely from the U.S., he is part of a dynamic team with like-minded people from at least seven different states and three different countries. Todd's team seeks to embrace their differences and work in harmony as a reflection of unity in the body of Christ. Every interaction comes from a deep love for the Word of God and for people to access it.
Todd said, “We’re all doing this because we have some commonality in what we see as a priority. … That’s a real positive [and] I really value that.”
The team is also committed to helping each other thrive spiritually, mentally, emotionally and professionally. Every morning, the team meets online to share ideas, study God’s Word and pray for each other. Todd said, “l know my team members … care about me because of the way I hear them praying about my situation.”
5. Trust God
One day while working on a product, Todd discovered a problem that he needed to fix. But after several days, he still couldn’t determine how to fix it. He decided to take an hour of his day to pray about the issue. Immediately after, his team asked him to work on another task, and he had to set the problem aside.
Todd later returned to the product to find that, although he hadn’t made any changes, the problem was simply gone. He said, “[That] goes against all my training. That’s not how software works. … I just need to understand that God can do anything.”
Todd had questions and concerns when he was considering serving in Bible translation as a software developer. But ultimately, he wanted to serve in something that was more than just a job and had an eternal impact. Todd said, “I’ve come to believe that it’s not about me, and it’s not about my work. It's about [the fact that] God is doing something and I want to be a part of that.”