Facilitating a comm workshop in Costa Rica


One month after getting back to my full-time regular work, I’m on the road again.  I’ve been in San Jose, Costa Rica helping the Wycliffe Americas Area Communications Director to facilitate a training workshop for staff working in communications for some of the Wycliffe Global Alliance organizations in the Americas.

Wycliffe has more than 40 organizations in the Americas.  Most are Latin American organizations who are participating in Bible translation through funding, recruiting staff, facilitating prayer, or by facilitating Bible translation projects in their own countries.

The workshop participants represented six organizations and came from six countries: Costa Rica, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Guatemala and El Salvador.

10700429_10152639115715275_6265432834071688741_oPhoto by Leo Vartanian

We had a great week together talking about communications strategy, social media, and finding existing and gathering new resources to use to do local publicity of Bible translation ministry.  I’ve been involved in workshops like this in Africa, but it was my first time participating in one in Latin America.

10688318_10152639112630275_1274666943555894274_oPhoto by Leo Vartanian

It was a good opportunity to remember some of that Spanish I learned in high school.  I remembered a lot more than I thought I would.  However, while I was usually able to order my own food at restaurants, I would otherwise have not have gotten by without the help of an interpreter all week.  We made it work.  I had a great time with the group.  It’s good to be getting back to my regular work.


09 2014

Getting settled in Germany

Life is once again beginning to return to normal.  We are finally getting settled in Germany.  Here’s a few pictures to show you a little of our new life here.

IMG_7057Photo by Bud Speck

We’re now set up in an apartment for a year.


We have our own car again for the first time in a year and a half thanks to many special gifts that helped us be able to purchase it.


And, we’ve each resettled into office space and have started our regular work with Wycliffe, again.

IMG_7029Photo by Bud Speck

My to-do list is long.


But, I’ve been making progress, slowly, getting through the most critical items.  It’s difficult to be away from your regular work for a year, but we’re both thankful for life returning to normal.

Tags: ,


09 2014

Living outside the world of English

IMG_7064Hallo!  Ich bin Heather.  Ich komme aus den USA, und ich wohne in Deutschland. Ich bin verheiratet ohne Kinder.  (Hello! I am Heather.  I come from the USA, and I live in Germany.  I am married with no children.)

I spent July going to an intensive German course in order to acquire some basic German vocabulary.  The first couple of days we practiced introducing ourselves.  Without having studied German before, it felt really overwhelming!  I stumbled my way through, but during the following weeks, I found myself slowly improving.

Now that the course is done I’m not ready to have conversations in German, but I can at least say and understand basic things which is so much better than nothing at all.

In the meantime, Jeff has been focusing on getting everything having to do with our car in order, and he’s working on setting up our local banking.  In between, he’s been doing some German learning on CDs.

This is the first time we’re living in a country where English is not a national language.  In Kenya and South Africa, English was one of the national languages, so it was easy to get by without knowing one of the local languages. In Africa around 15+ countries have English as either a national language or a widely-used business language. (* Note: In these countries, English is typically not widely spoken outside of major cities, but it is often used in official documents, on road signs, in TV and radio programming, and on food labels.) 


English usage in Europe

But, in Europe, things are a bit different.  Not only is English not a national language in Germany, it’s only a national language in 3 European countries (the UK, Ireland and Malta).  While it is spoken widely across the continent, often it’s not in common usage on signs or official paperwork.

Here in Germany everything is in German – every government document, all of our banking paperwork, food labels, road signs – everything! Many German people know some English, which is really helpful for us, but there is little need for English usage IMG_7067outside of touristy areas.

I’ve been able to practice my German vocabulary often when we go shopping or when we visit government offices.  I’m still not able to understand very much, but I’m glad to have some basics.


08 2014

Welcome to the tripoint


 Willkommen im Dreiländereck/Bienvenue au trois frontières 

After meetings and some time near to some of our colleagues further north in Germany, we’ve finally made it to the place where we’ll be living.  We’re now far in the southwest of Germany just 20-30 minutes from the borders of France and Switzerland.  We’re so close to these borders that, yesterday, we visited a friend of ours in Switzerland, and, today, we visited a church in France.

This tripoint border with Germany, Switzerland and France (the three countries’ corner) is one of the many tripoints in Europe, but this is the only one in a major city.  It is a point not only where country borders meet, but also where peoples, cultures and languages all collide.  Within this region, several languages are spoken.  The standard versions of French, Swiss German and German (High German) are used officially in each respective country. These are the languages you’ll find, for example, on the street signs and official documents.


But, local dialects (languages) like Alemmanic, and perhaps even a little Alsatian or some regional French dialects, are common languages local people in this region speak to each other.  By this region, I mean, generally, the area within about a 65-80 Km (40-50 mile) radius from the tripoint.

640px-Continental_West_Germanic_languagesYes, there are many German dialects (languages) – not just one. And we’re not just talking local accents or a few local words.  These different dialects across the country are actually not all mutually intelligible! Linguists who distinguish languages primarily by mutual intelligibility, would probably classify many of these different German dialects as separate and distinct languages.  The same would apply to the French dialects as well.

This is our new home – the Dreiländereck!


06 2014

The diaspora – God’s people in His appointed place


Can you guess where this is?

Here’s a clue… it isn’t a photo I took in Africa.

* * *

The Old Testament records the fall of the Kingdom of Judah in 586 BC to the Babylonians.  Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar forced the Jewish people to live in exile, leaving their homeland.  They became a displaced and scattered people known as the first Jewish diaspora.

Today, the term diaspora has come to refer to more than just the scattered Jewish community, but to any community that lives outside their homeland. The displacement sometimes happens by choice – perhaps because of employment, family or the desire to try something new. Other times difficulties in some people’s home areas force them to find refuge in other countries.  No matter the reason, diaspora communities can often represent opportunities for God to work because ultimately, He is the one who moves people where He wants them to be.

* * *

OK, back to that photo…

It’s a photo from one of the five church services held every Sunday at New Life Fellowship in…

…Dusseldorf, Germany.


This is a true international community representing more than 40 nations with services in five different languages!  It is a place where God has brought different diaspora communities together.  Some come from communities where they developed strong Christian faith.


Others come from countries where Christian faith may not have been permitted, and this community offers them their first chance to hear about Jesus.  Together, God has positioned them to  be a beacon of hope to a city in Germany.

The founding pastor of New Life has recognized this, and recently said in reference to German missionaries,  „Ihr habt der Welt geistlich viel gegeben. Jetzt kommt die Welt hierher“ (“You have given the world a lot spiritually. Now the world comes here “).  He said they he sees their church community playing a part in awakening the faith of the country of the Reformation, and encourages people in the church to pray daily for German people they know.

Because people from diaspora communities are already away from home and living cross-culturally, missions can be a natural connecting point.  And New Life also encourage church members to remember their home communities.  They support workers and projects in some of the countries where church members are from.  Through their involvement in global missions they also bring hope to communities all over the world.


I visited New Life with a Wycliffe colleague from a West African country and one from Germany.


Both were presenting Wycliffe Germany and sharing about Bible translation ministry during some of the services.  I was along just to experience what this church they had told me about was like.


We attended the English service, the French service and the German/English service.  We only missed the Spanish and Farsi services.

The French service had a large group of Congolese, so the song in this video (sung in Lingala – a trade language in Congo) was one that I could tell that the group enjoyed singing even more than the French songs!


During the main service all of us had a chance to share, including me.  Many people inquired about how they could become involved in some way in Bible translation ministry.  Wycliffe Germany is hoping to develop relationships with more diaspora churches like this one in Germany.  The unique experience of diaspora communities give them a special part to play in God’s global mission.

Tags: ,


06 2014