A Fellow's Journey from Washington to Wycliffe - page 1

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From the Fall 2012 issue of Knowing & Doing:  


A Fellow's Journey from Washington to Wycliffe

by Jeanne Thum
C.S. Lewis Institute Fellow


  If you could do any job, what would it be?” asked Art Lindsley as part of my vocational analysis as a C.S. Lewis Institute Fellow in March, 2006.
  “Well, the job I seem most suited for is chief operating officer. The organization that I have always loved is Wycliffe Bible Translators. The Bible has greatly impacted my life, and I can’t imagine being a Christian without one in my native language. So my dream job would be chief operating officer of Wycliffe.”
  Trying another method to draw out my preferences, Art asked, “If you were given a million dollars and could do anything, what would you do?”
  “Well, I like to work,” I replied. “I have no driving personal dreams. So I would seek to be COO of Wycliffe. But then I wouldn’t have to raise my financial support!” I may have exasperated Art a bit in the moment. But six years later, I can foresee that my “dream” could possibly become a reality—without my intentionally seeking it out.

Eager for Cross-Cultural Ministry

  I headed into missions work right after college. Feeling drawn to the most challenging unreached people, Muslims, I studied Arabic, took a Modern Islamic Thought class, and flew off to London to do outreach. But after nine months overseas full of frustration over ineffective strategies, I came home with my hopes dashed, the way forward unclear.
  Having college friends in the Washington, D.C., area, I moved there and found work with an international organization. Throughout my twenties, I envisioned myself returning to Christian ministry. A “short-termer” mentality hooked in: this job will just tie me over until . . . But into my thirties, God didn’t seem to be leading me anywhere, so I settled in.
  In 1997 I said yes when a friend asked me to help organize an event for “emerging urban leaders,” folks in their twenties working in inner-city ministries. This introduced me to some of the challenging needs of my own locale. For a year I attended and worked with a small dysfunctional but sweet church in NE Washington that ministered to its surrounding community. Realizing the congregation wasn’t good for me long-term, I moved on to a church on Capitol Hill that had a vision to reach out to the neighborhood to their east and south. Going all out, I bought a house in a poor section on eastern Capitol Hill and began to lead a Bible study for neighborhood high school girls. During that time I also taught a class on white privilege and race.

Professionally Languishing?

  Professionally, I tried for years to get a job with an urban ministry. I saw the potential benefits of my administrative and management skills combined with my cross-cultural experience. But I got nowhere, not even one job interview. I wondered if God was listening, if He cared. I wanted His direction. I wanted to “do good to those in need.” Instead I had little vision for my work, carrying out responsibilities I didn’t care much about. My challenges were mostly outside of work, where I kept taking cross cultural risks.

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