We hope that you are all well and enjoying the cooler weather and traditions of fall. We are doing well and regret that we have been so slow in writing to you again. We have so much to update you on that this will be part one of our fall newsletter and part two will be coming in a couple of weeks. The focus of this update will be on the five weeks of training we went through this summer in a course called Inter-Cultural Communications (ICC).
ICC training was an eye-opening experience for us. It was focused on how we can relate to and serve with people from a variety of cultures. Since culture shapes all of our attitudes about relationships, communication, personal space, worldview, etc, it is so important for us to understand how our own culture has shaped us. The first big lesson that we learned is that while previous generations of Wycliffe translators had to be pioneers, our generation needs to be partners. Translators used to have to go into a people group where they had never had any contact with Western culture, create a life for themselves, and begin their ministry from scratch. Thanks to God’s work through this generation of missionaries, there is now a large network of ministries involved with Wycliffe and a great foundation for the Bible translation movement in many parts of the world. Missionaries are now joining teams of people from many countries with diverse skillsets, working together to further Bible translation and Scripture engagement.
This leads to our second big lesson: dying to ourselves. We worked through the idea that dying to ourselves not only includes letting go of our material desires, our desire for comfort in our lives, and even possibly our lives themselves but it also means letting go of our ideas about how our ministry should go and how projects should happen. Our four main phrases of the training were “Suspend judgment”, “Tolerate ambiguity”, “Think gray” and “Assume goodwill”. We worked through multiple scenarios about how to apply all of these lessons in our ministry with people from all cultures as well as our community and family in our daily lives. Some of the scenarios were fun, some were stressful and frustrating, but they were all engineered to teach us how to look deeper at situations and evaluate if the issues at hand were violations of biblical absolutes or if they were cultural differences. Ask us more about the most entertaining day of our training next time that we talk with you.
As a part of our training we were encouraged to practice what we were learning by attending a local ethnic church. We were assigned to an Ethiopian church in Charlotte, but after a little confusion we walked into the wrong door and joined a Congolese church. The worship music was in a mix of French, Lingala, Swahili, and even a little English. The preaching was in French and thankfully they had an English translator. It was an incredible blessing to spend four weeks with them. They were very welcoming, the preaching was great, and the extended 1.5 hours of worship before the sermon was inspiring. We believe God had it in mind for us to attend there anyway as it turned out the church wanted to have a website but did not have anyone in the congregation who could create one. Phillip and Pastor Wily are working on plans for a site for them.
The final theme that we walked away with was the lesson that we are responsible for our faithfulness in ministry, not our fruitfulness in ministry. We don’t have control over the result of our ministry, but we have control over our obedience. Being involved in any ministry is basically God having a “take your son / daughter to work day”. It is His ministry and He is giving us a chance to be involved as a gift to teach and benefit us. As 1 Peter 5:6 says “Humble yourselves, therefore under the mighty hand of God”. That is exactly how we want to walk through our service with Wycliffe Bible Translators.
The ICC experience was a mix of fun and community with 45 people in the training, great spiritual growth, and mental / emotional exhaustion as we studied God’s word, prayed through, and processed tough emotional and spiritual issues. We were so drained but still had energy to celebrate Philllip’s birthday on the last day of class. The very next day the Drummonds (Dan & Martha, and Ross a few days later) came to visit. After five weeks of being out of our normal routines, Hunter’s behavior was far from ideal. Just in case you all thought that he had turned into a perfect angel since arriving in North Carolina, we can let you know that there were a few days that he was put to bed right after dinner because all he was doing was having tantrum after tantrum. And he needed it because both days he fell asleep immediately and slept the whole night! Thankfully he recovered after a week or so and we have insight into his personality that he needs a decent amount of downtime.
We enjoyed some very relaxing days around JAARS with the Drummonds, Phillip did go back to work but he was happy to (that proves that this is the job for him!) and we soon headed to Myrtle Beach for a short vacation. Then things got really crazy because we unexpectedly made an offer on a house while they were here! Most of you probably now know that we did get the house and are living there now and we will share all of the details of that, pictures and what we have been doing since then in our part two of our fall newsletter.
Thank you so much for walking with us,
Phillip, Melanie & Hunter Shipley