What do an energetic little girl and her inquisitive macaw have to do with Bible translation? If you ask Melissa Paredes, Wycliffe USA’s associate director of education programs, she’ll give you a passionate answer.
In 2014, Melissa and her team saw an opportunity to introduce the concept of Bible translation to children using fun, illustrated characters. Kate, a Wycliffe missionary kid, and Mack, her pet macaw, were born! Whether through their first book “Around the World With Kate & Mack: A look at languages from A to Z,” their fun downloadable activities and resources or “Kate & Mack and the Tower of Babel,” kids get the chance to learn about God’s global mission through Kate, Mack and their friends.
Melissa said: “Kate and Mack and their adventures were born to help facilitate conversations with kids and families as we introduce them to the world, languages and cultures. [We wanted someone] kids could relate to, that they could see themselves being friends with, so she could help share stories of other kids around the world.”
Melissa’s enthusiasm for both Bible translation and serving children began during her own childhood. “I’m a Wycliffe missionary kid,” she said. “When I was 12, we moved to the Philippines, where I spent the next six years. Even though I only lived six years of my life overseas, I consider that to be hugely formative in who I am today.”
Although Melissa originally dreamed of opening an orphanage or becoming an author, she finds great fulfillment in her role with Wycliffe: “I’m working to create materials and programs that teach the next generation about Wycliffe and the work of Bible translation. … I’m able to combine my love for kids and passion for raising up the next generation with my love for writing.” She concluded: “It’s been pretty cool to see [God] blending together all these dreams and passions of mine.”
Resources With a Bigger Purpose
Kate and Mack have all kinds of adventures in their books, but they also teach kids about God’s heart for the world through downloadable activities, devotionals, international recipes, Sunday school lessons and VBS materials. Melissa has one consistent vision that threads throughout all these resources: “I really want kids to see the diversity in what God has created — not only in creation, but in his people — and to do that from a biblical perspective. … [I want to] open their eyes to this huge world that’s around them, even to their neighbors right down the street who may have different cultural backgrounds than they have.”
Melissa has three children of her own, ages 3, 4 and 6, and that shapes her passion for creating children’s content: “My heart for [my children] is [for them] to know and love Jesus. … That helps influence and channel what I create with Kate & Mack, because I want other kids to experience Jesus for themselves too.”
And speaking of her children, Melissa’s kids always look forward to testing out the new materials at home! “My kids are just now starting to get to the age where the content for Kate & Mack is age-appropriate. They love Kate & Mack from a visual standpoint. They love looking at the books. They actually think I work at ‘Kate & Mack’ rather than ‘Wycliffe Bible Translators,’” she added with a laugh.
Not only are Melissa’s kids beginning to understand God’s love for the world through the resources she creates, but they’re also learning to practice their own budding faith. Every November, their family prints out the Kate & Mack gratitude tree, and each day they add a leaf that details something they want to thank God for.
“By the end of the month, you have this tree that’s filled with leaves describing all the things you're grateful for,” Melissa said. “They’re still young enough that they don’t fully grasp the concept [of gratitude], but they’re also young enough that their childlike innocence and gratitude are so much deeper in some ways.”
Changing the World
Melissa believes that Kate & Mack resources not only invite kids to know God’s love but also equip them to begin making a global difference immediately. “It’s important for us to start planting seeds [for kids] at a young age so they grow into a fruitful harvest,” she said. “If I can start teaching them about God’s heart now, the experiences that they’ll have over the years will help nourish that understanding of God’s love, and it will allow them to, in turn, manifest his love in deeper ways.”
You’re never too young to make an impact in the world, and Melissa has seen kids impacted by the work of Bible translation. “We’ve had some kids who’ve saved up their allowance and they want to give it to people who don’t have the Bible. How beautiful is that?”
Melissa concluded with a smile: “I would love it if [people] 40 or 50 years from now say that they have been a part of this [Bible translation] movement in some capacity their entire lives. That they have seen years of God’s faithfulness, years of him answering their prayers, years of lives transformed because they have the Word of God.”