Timothy, Anna and their family serve God through Wycliffe in a country in Southeast Asia.

All people and language names have been changed for security reasons.

Anna: We have one life, death is certain, and while our hope is everlasting life, we’ve got to really make the most of our limited time on earth now for the kingdom of God. Giving people God’s word seems like a really good place to start. Then they’ve got the truth themselves, they can discover more and serve God themselves, and the kingdom of God grows.

The Bible is the word of life… It’s just not fair that we’ve got it in our language, while other people don’t

The Bible is the word of life, and if you believe it you know it’s essential, and that everybody needs it. It’s just not fair that we’ve got it in our language, while other people don’t.

Timothy: Our work is not just about Bible translation, it’s about relationships, it’s about coming alongside marginalised people at the bottom of the social structures in their country.

I’m a linguist and literacy teacher and see that language-related ministries can impact people’s lives in many ways. We’ve been privileged to draw alongside the Paumawal people, to pray with them, to see their lives, and to encourage them that they haven’t been forgotten about. They are a small group and they are so poor, but so sacrificially generous at the same time. I always feel that I’ve come away with so much more than I’ve given.

‘I ran back to Jesus, so thankful for his grace’

Anna: My mum had a strong faith when we were growing up, but my dad didn’t. So my brothers and I went to church really to please my mum. It wasn’t until I left home and went to university when I realised that what the world had to offer was not what I wanted. I very much ran back to Jesus, so thankful for his grace, that he was there with arms open wide, waiting for me to run back to him.

Timothy: My parents didn’t go to church, so I was never part of that culture. I had a sheltered loving family life, so for me going to university meant suddenly becoming aware of a bigger world. I started asking the big questions, so I was on some kind of journey, I was seeking.

God met with me in a very personal way. It was peaceful and gentle, a precious moment when I knew God was real

Then I met Anna and she had faith in Christ. She was working in Turkey for a summer at a Christian hotel, and I was the lovesick boyfriend, so I followed her out and ended up working at the same hotel, surrounded by Christians. Anna was a holiday rep, and when she would take guests off on trips it was pretty quiet during the day, so there were just a few ministry leaders and guests around, real diamonds that I really needed to meet. They were good at listening and I remember I could see faith in them, I could believe what they were saying and that kind of opened my eyes.

I remember praying that classic prayer, ‘Lord if you are there, I promise I’ll try and find you.’ My first personal encounter with God was in my room on my own. I’d been reading John’s Gospel where Jesus is praying for all believers to be one in him (John 17:20–23), and I was mulling that over and talking to God about it in a very matter of fact kind of way, and suddenly I noticed that tears started to roll down my left cheek. I was suddenly aware of a presence with me in the room as God met with me in a very personal way. I was truly speechless. It was peaceful and gentle, a precious moment when I knew God was real. It’s been something I’ve held on to ever since.

‘We didn’t want to just float through life’

Anna: The first steps on our journey to serving through Wycliffe also started in Turkey. Timothy had studied linguistics and the son of one of the hotel guests worked for Wycliffe, documenting unwritten languages, analysing the grammar and phonology. That was the first time we heard of Wycliffe and it really resonated with Timothy as an amazing application of the degree which he had just finished.

We had a desire to serve and to live our lives for a purpose other than just pleasing ourselves

Timothy: We got married and then went to Australia for a year. There we visited a friend’s church and met some visiting missionaries from Indonesia. They were due to go to the Wycliffe centre in Melbourne to give a talk about discipling Christians in a Muslim context, and they invited us to come along. We were given a little tour around and saw a New Testament being typeset. Then when we came back to England for us both to do our postgraduate teaching qualifications, we went to our closest home group and the couple who hosted it had a son serving with Wycliffe. So having never heard of Wycliffe before, we bumped into Wycliffe people three times in a year. God was guiding us.

Anna: We both didn’t want to just float through life, we both had a desire to serve and to live our lives for a purpose other than just pleasing ourselves. But as we were thinking about Wycliffe, we came across the scripture from Ezekiel 3:5 where God said ‘You are not being sent to a people of obscure speech and strange language, but to the people of Israel’ – that is, our own people.

God has been so faithful to us

Timothy: I went to talk to my Pastor and he told me to get my teaching qualification under my belt and then to see. We both got jobs in the same school, and we started having our three children. So for 10 years the Wycliffe dream was on the shelf, but not forgotten about.

‘Dust off old dreams’

Anna: Then one Sunday a lady in our church felt the Lord was saying ‘to dust off old dreams.’ We both immediately thought of Wycliffe. We talked to our church leadership and they supported us in exploring serving with Wycliffe again.

Timothy: We needed to go to Bible college for a year, and getting the fees for that seemed a huge hurdle. But God provided amazingly when I got a phone call from a family member just before the deadline saying ‘do you want some help with your tuition fees?’

Anna: All the way through God has provided and he clearly guided us to serve in Southeast Asia.

Timothy: It was foundational that God called us as a family. The door was closed when we were young, married and free and could go whenever we wanted. It opened when we had three children.

God has definitely used us as a family

Anna: We did encounter lots of people being fearful for us. It’s one thing sending us, but sending us and our beautiful children who were 10, 8 and 6 at the time… Maybe people prayed for us more because of the children! But I think that God has definitely used us as a family and perhaps people have accepted us in different ways because we come as a family.

I really feel a sense that our children have been a blessing to people, to single people also serving overseas. We’ve been able to be a family to those people too and I think that has helped people who are serving long term.

Timothy: The frequent house moves and big transitions have been difficult for our children; saying goodbye to friends is hard, and something that makes me question if we have done the right thing. But on the whole our children would say themselves that they are grateful for the experiences they’ve had, and they are aware they’ve seen places in the world they wouldn’t have otherwise ever seen.

If it’s God’s will for you to be doing something, then there is no better place for you and your children to be

You always feel that you don’t want your decisions to limit your children in any way. But we’ve always talked about things as a family, and we’ve always asked them how they feel about things, so they’ve always felt like they’ve had a part in the decisions and that has helped them. Recently God has opened doors in a wonderful way for our eldest daughter to pursue her dreams, and for her to see God at work in her life when she surrendered to his will has been a blessing for her – and for us. God has been so faithful to us as a family.

Anna: I believe that if it’s God’s will for you to be doing something, then there is no better place for you and your children to be. God has got their lives in his hands and if we submit to his will and his plan for our lives, he makes the way. God is good and he wants good things for us. It might be hard at times, but ultimately he’s a good, loving God and being in his will is the best place for you and your family, but you need to be sure it is God’s will.

A foundation of prayer

Timothy: Our pastor advised us to get plugged into a network of churches and recommended we apply to become Assemblies of God associate missionaries. That was really positive; it laid a foundation of prayer. As we began sharing our plans with potential partners and churches we first got a lot of people and groups who said they would commit to praying for us, so we’ve had really strong support in prayer since that time. The finances really came at the last minute.

Our sending church has shared the journey and the vision with us

Anna: Our sending church has shared the journey and the vision with us. So our work has very much been a ministry of the church. We feel very much part of our home church, very prayed for and cared for. So that has been foundational. We feel very blessed.

Timothy: We also feel very blessed to have churches supporting us from a number of denominations. I think it helps to look past the differences and be united in serving Jesus.

The human resources are slotting into place

Timothy: I was introduced to the Paumawal people and for me it was very much a dream come true to be able to gather linguistic data and begin to analyse it as a beginning of developing the language. There is a working alphabet that a colleague has developed. So I’ve been meeting them, visiting their churches. I’ve preached a couple of times and I’ve tried to facilitate some discussion about their hopes and goals around translation and literacy.

We know the difference that prayer support makes

It’s been precious to draw alongside them, to see their lives and to encourage them. We are working with a Korean colleague and he has in mind to work on the Bible translation. So with that and our linguistics and literacy work the human resources are slotting into place. But we’re still at the start of that journey.

Anna: God has carried us this far. We’ve really experienced the blessings of God and I’m certain that is because of the prayer covering that we’ve had from our churches. That prayer support is perhaps even more vital than the financial support. I know we need a certain amount of finance to be able to go at all, but I would rather go with less financial support and more prayer support, because we know the difference that makes.

Pray for Timothy, Anna and their family:
  • Pray for our family, that we would continue to be strong and close together in love. Pray for our children, for their school education and their growth and development in Christ. Pray that the Holy Spirit would enable us to know him more in our hearts.
  • Pray for continued strong and trusting relationships with project team members and other partners at all levels from the local village right up to national government.
  • Pray that God would protect us all spiritually, physically and emotionally. Pray that he would help us walk in righteousness and grow in strength.

Story by: Alfred Thompson

Date: 23/08/2022

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