Twenty-eight years ago, Sean and I sat wide-eyed in our linguistics classes in Dallas, Texas at Wycliffe Bible Translator’s training school. Young and overflowing with motivation to make God’s Word available to people in every language around the globe, we benefited greatly from the sound and practical teaching we received there. Our instructors were not just “armchair” linguists but missionaries themselves who had actually done the kind of work they were training us to do. Their linguistic expertise helped to prepare us for the work of language analysis and Bible translation, and their stories of the Lord’s faithfulness on the field helped to encourage us to trust the Lord to be faithful to us as well, as we prepared to serve an unreached people group far from home.
After finishing up our training in Dallas, Sean and I got married, raised our financial support, started having kids, went to France for language school and ended up in a remote village in West Africa, ready to do what we had been trained to do—translate the Bible into a language that had never been written down before. Being told that there were “no known Christians” among this people group, our zeal was great to make God’s word available to them. The road has been slower and windier than we ever imagined when we were sitting in the linguistic classes in Texas, one thing has been affirmed over and over to us is the truth of what our veteran missionary instructors told us as we sat in their classes: The Lord is faithful and can be trusted.
We are still on that slow and windy road of Bible translation for the people group we lived among in West Africa, but due to unrest in the area we have not been able to return to our village since 2011. Doors opened in 2012 for us to move to western Canada to teach at Wycliffe’s training school, even as we continue the translation project in West Africa remotely.
We realize that we have come full circle in some ways. We are now “veteran missionaries” and we have our own stories of the Lord’s faithfulness. As Sean and I look out at the wide-eyed students in our CanIL classes, we are reminded of our younger selves not so long ago. As we teach our students the practical skills they will need in linguistics and anthropology when they get to the field to work on a Bible translation project, we also want to pass on to them two things in particular we have learned about our God: He is fully worthy of our trust, even when the ministry road gets windy, and things don’t turn out quite like we imagined they would from the perspective of our desks as students. And He is always worth more than whatever is given up for Him along the way.
Sean & Lezlie Allison, Wycliffe Bible Translators / Canada Institute of Linguistics