A Fellow's Journey from Washington to Wycliffe - page 2

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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


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  I thought about what people saw on my résumé: administrative and finance experience. I had been repeatedly promoted in a large nonprofit because I had well-suited business skills. God seemed to say, “Go with that.” I was increasingly disappointed, even angry. “So this is it? Does this say that I have no people skills, no ministry gifting, so I just do boring financial work that doesn’t really help people? Is this all I’m going to end up doing in life?”
  As I enrolled in accounting classes, more doors opened for me professionally. I became chief financial officer of a nonprofit medical clinic even though I had never worked in an accounting department. My attitude also shifted profoundly. I saw that helping nonprofits run effectively, with financial soundness and integrity, can free them up to pursue their missions. Most nonprofits are desperate for good financial people. I was glad to be able to bring that gift to the table. I realized that if my job responsibilities were broader and more challenging, finance work wasn’t so boring after all.
  I applied to the CSLI Fellows Program in April 2005, thinking I was going to be in Washington, D.C., for many years. But then in 2006, I met a couple at church who were Bible translators in Papua New Guinea. I told them how I’d supported Wycliffe for years and always thought about working for them. But now that I was into finance, I didn’t know what I could do or how it would ever work. They quickly explained the need for finance staff in Papua New Guinea and eagerly took my contact information. They emailed me six months later, telling me their CFO had had a stroke. “Would you consider coming here?”

Open Doors

  After telling God that I really didn’t want to have to raise my financial support, He reminded me of the many ways He had provided for me over the years. I couldn’t contest that. “Okay. I’ll begin to move forward with this and see if you open doors.” Within one year, I was in Papua New Guinea.
  Since then, life has been an incredible experience. I thought I was coming to work in a nonprofit but discovered that Wycliffe runs a center of operations in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Amazingly, I was given oversight of the finances of a town of ministry workers, complete with five planes and two helicopters, a school, grocery store, clinic, hardware store, print shop, and utility services (power, water, roads, and trash removal). Because of the weak infrastructure of the country and the remoteness of most of the eight hundred language groups, Wycliffe found this the best way to support Bible translation here. I’ve also learned that “stone age” is actually a description of a way of life and not always a pejorative term.
  Although I originally could fathom committing for only two years, I’m now going on four and a half. I am set to go on furlough in August and return to Papua New Guinea in January,  2013 for two more years. What keeps me here? It has been the most challenging professional experience of my life. I could never have gotten such a job in the States, with a paid salary and serious competition. I was definitely underqualified. But I had enough of the right experience and skills to make it work. I’ve been able to see real change as a result of my efforts and much growth in my management and leadership skills. And I have enjoyed working with others motivated by the same cause and learning more about the Bible translation movement worldwide.

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