When you think about God’s call for your life, what kind of path do you imagine?
Flexibility and growth has been the hallmark of Morris and Wendy Johnson’s 34-year career with Wycliffe. From the moment that they joined, instead of asking, “Why should we go?” they’ve asked themselves “Why shouldn’t we go?” That question has led them on some great adventures as God has used their talents and passions in ways they never would have expected!
Here are four ways Morris and Wendy have seen Wycliffe support their growth and careers:
Freedom to Make Changes
It’s common these days for people to switch companies and have multiple jobs or even careers in their lifetime. At Wycliffe, however, Morris and Wendy learned that having a varied career didn’t have to mean leaving the organization.
Morris and Wendy initially planned on serving in aviation in Colombia, but when the country’s situation changed, they found themselves in Papua New Guinea. After a year of working in aircraft maintenance, Morris was challenged when he heard about the need for translation teams to reach the language groups still without translated Scripture.
In college, Morris had been drawn to translation because of his background in biblical studies, but the timing to pursue translation hadn’t been right. Although Morris was an adept aircraft mechanic, he wasn’t passionate about it like he was languages. “[There] was this pull toward translation again,” he reflected. “So we prayed and talked about it, and eventually ... made a trip out to a village ... and decided yes we’d make that switch.”
Little did Morris know that his background as an aircraft mechanic gave him skills that were also useful in translation. “It allowed me to do things that others couldn’t do. ... Everything that I learned I could apply to something else.”
Freedom to Acquire Training
Shifting roles is difficult if you aren’t equipped with the right training. In order to be an effective translation team, Morris and Wendy were sent back to the U.S. to take more classes in linguistics. Once they completed the courses, Morris and Wendy headed back to Papua New Guinea to work alongside the Kela people. However after several years of translation work, the Kela people indicated they wanted to focus on other things. Morris and Wendy realized God was asking them to shift directions again.
“That was really hard,” Morris admitted. “We thought that was where we’d spend the next 20 years. We were pretty heartbroken.” He continued: “We thought, ‘What’s next? Should we go home [to the U.S.]?’”
But Morris and Wendy’s managers encouraged them to stay in Papua New Guinea, and they offered Morris a position in the translation office for a year while the couple figured out their next steps. “During that time, we were actually able to take more training in biblical studies. [Our managers] were so supportive and encouraged us to get further development and training. That really helped keep us going,” Morris said.
Wendy agreed: “If a person wants to grow … there is just so much room for it, and Wycliffe encourages it and supports it. So you can try different things. If you need further training, you have that available.”
Freedom to Follow God’s Call
Being able to follow wherever God leads you is critical. “Wycliffe has always encouraged us [to pursue God] … if [he] was calling us to do something,” Wendy said.
So when Morris and Wendy felt God’s tug on their heart to serve as translation advisers to the Adzera language community in Papua New Guinea, they joyfully began work. But after years of growing and thriving in a translation program with the Adzera people, Morris and Wendy realized they needed to address some ongoing health issues, and once again, God was asking them to shift in a different direction.
Although they could no longer live in a Papua New Guinean village, Morris and Wendy remained passionate about being a part of the global Bible translation movement no matter the role. So, Morris began helping out in the IT department in language software support that served the Papua New Guinea translation programs while they prayed about their next steps.
And sure enough, God had a place for them: Morris and Wendy were asked to serve as children’s home parents in addition to the IT role. “That was our favorite job by far,” Wendy said.
Morris and Wendy believe that part of following God’s call is filling needs. “When we see a need we can fill, we step into [it],” Wendy said. “It's a gift of faith God has given us, and he sustains us in that. There is that sense [that this task] is worthy and God has given us enough vision of himself and this ministry to take on challenges.”
When Morris and Wendy returned to the U.S. to spend time with their children who were preparing for adulthood, the couple was asked to serve as recruiters. “That was the last thing we planned to do!” Wendy laughed. But to their surprise, their wide range of experience in a variety of positions had uniquely prepared them to share about Wycliffe’s needs and roles with others.
Freedom to Invest
Morris soon realized that his strengths were actually better utilized in administration not recruiting. Until that point though, Morris had strictly avoided administrative positions. “I told [my manager] that I didn’t have any [administrative] experience,” Morris said. “But he saw a seed that could be developed and grow.”
And Morris’ manager was right: Morris has thrived in administration and now serves as the senior director for workforce planning and recruitment.
Wycliffe desires to invest in the people that God calls to serve in Bible translation. Throughout Morris’ and Wendy’s career, key people saw their gifts and talents and encouraged them to try new things. And so after many years as a recruiter, Wendy was asked to serve as the global workforce planning liaison for all the countries around the Pacific Ocean as well as for sign languages worldwide.
Wendy said: “There have been times I’ve been in meetings … when I just marvel that I'm having these discussions on [this high] level. How did I get to this point? I never would have dreamed I would be having these conversations ... but somehow I’m there!”
“God doesn’t work the same way we think he should,” Wendy continued. “His ways are higher than our ways. He never wastes the things that he brings into our lives.”
After 34 years, Morris and Wendy are still looking ahead to the future. “Even now we ask, ‘What's next? What is God asking us to do now?”’ Wendy said.
“The longer we’ve been in Wycliffe,” Morris observed, “the more it has allowed us to see the richness and the breadth of the task. [Facilitating] access to the [translated] Word of God … always has new challenges and new ways we can contribute.”
Wendy agreed. “Where else would we be? What else would we do? God has not called us to anything else. We believe in Bible translation. He has called us to keep at this. There is always something new to learn. There is a job we haven’t done yet!”