Faced with the rapid spread of COVID-19, Daniel and Rachel Lewis were at a crossroad: Should they stay in Ethiopia where they served as teachers at an international school or should they return to the U.S.?
“It was a huge, heartbreaking, gut-wrenching decision,” Rachel said. “Everyone felt this extreme uncertainty about what was the best choice.”
But they weren’t alone during this uncertainty.
“Leaders from Wycliffe USA and SIL* were contacting us daily to pray with us and ask how we were doing, both personally and in our community,” Rachel said. “They asked us how they could support us in this decision-making process. It was very personal.” She continued: “They were able to provide a lot of well-informed, wise advice that considered both the needs of Ethiopia and the U.S. … But it was always ‘How are you doing?’ first rather than just encouraging us to leave.”
When Rachel and Daniel ultimately decided to return to the U.S. with their young child, travel was challenging. “But at every airport, our leadership would contact us [and] ask how they could be praying [or] helping practically,” Rachel said.
This kind of care has only continued upon their return. Daniel and Rachel’s Wycliffe USA coordinator, Tori, debriefed them and has helped them find housing and other supplies. “She has been amazing,” Rachel shared. “... It's a very familial feel that we’re all in this together.”
Our Mission is People
Caring for people is part of Jackie Lebron’s passion; she serves as the lead benefits specialist in HR at Wycliffe USA’s Orlando headquarters.
“Having worked in corporate America for over 20 years ... it’s been refreshing to be able to work in an environment where the person comes first,” Jackie shared. “We see each other as children of God.”
Jackie added: “[My team likes] to say that we serve at Wycliffe not work at Wycliffe, because serving comes first.”
Jackie and her team in HR serve families through every stage of life from marriages to births and adoptions to health crises and more. And Jackie feels privileged to be able to walk with people through both their logistical and spiritual seasons of life.
“I get to pray for people, which is not something I normally get to do in corporate America,” Jackie said. “[And] I get to follow up with people and ask them how they are doing [and] keep them on my prayer list. It's probably the favorite part of my job.”
“Ultimately our mission is people,” Jackie concluded. “We’re [translating] the Word so that people can be transformed by the Word. And so the root of everything that we do — our purpose, our basis — is people.”
Caring for People Practically
“The tasks are important, but relationships come first. That’s why we do the work that we do,” Daysi Russell, the senior director of staffing at Wycliffe USA, affirmed. “But at the same time,” she added, “we need to ask, ‘Are you healthy? What's important to your vitality, and what do you need? How can we work together to meet the needs that you have?’”
Daysi concluded: “Our ethos in the Wycliffe family is to care for people in whatever season of life that they are in.”
This care occurs in a wide variety of ways, from educational scholarships for children of missionaries and employees to encouraging mothers to bring their newborns into the office until they’re 8 months old. A clinic on site at the Orlando headquarters provides consults and healthcare, while career development services encourage internal mobility so people can find the job that fits them best. Wycliffe provides flexible schedules so that employees can care for children, parents or deal with illness. It also offers counseling and spiritual and personal development resources to bring balance to their lives.
Daysi has seen this kind of staff care demonstrated in her own life.
“In the past year, both my coworkers and the teams I serve on have really demonstrated so much care and compassion as I’ve dealt with my mother’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s,” she said. “Just knowing that people are praying for my mom and my family has given me such a sense of peace and sense of community. …They hear me, they see me, and they care about me and my family.”
Rooted in Love
Rachel Kull serves as the director of human resources for North and South America and affirms that caring for people is a biblical mandate.
“We must love and disciple one another, and ... build each other up,” Rachel said. “The Scriptures say others will know that we are in Christ because of the love we show other people. … We need to focus on people. God sent Jesus to die for people. … And God uses people to spread his Word.”
*A primary strategic partner.