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Family and Linguistics: A Learning Journey

by Jason & June

Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. (Psalm 36:5)

Anticipation and Trepidation

“Mummy, when will we be leaving for Canada? Will it be tomorrow?” our five-year-old son asked when we saw Jason off at the airport last June. “Not yet, you’ll have to sleep another 60 times or go to church another eight Sundays, and then we’ll be on the plane and join Papa there.” His eight-year-old sister did understand how long this was. The children couldn’t wait to begin the great adventure ahead.

For us parents, however, anticipation alternated with varying levels of trepidation. We knew some of what lay ahead: Jason had finished a two-year course at a local seminary and was embarking on an MA in Linguistics at the Canada Institute of Linguistics (CanIL). June had resigned from her job, we had student visas, our support-gathering progressed, and flight tickets were booked…. First signs of God’s provision!

Yet, many things were not entirely clear. Jason had to take a prerequisite course in linguistics while finding an affordable car, a suitable flat, basic furniture, and a school for the children — all within eight weeks. June had to single-handedly pack up ten years’ worth of home and family life, tie up loose ends at home and work, look after the kids, as well as prepare them for the upheaval ahead.

The bigger picture also elicited mixed feelings. Uprooting the family was a big decision — what if the studies didn’t go well, or the kids couldn’t cope … what if we had to come back? Our home in Singapore was to be someone else’s place. We found ourselves having to reframe our understanding of “home” and intentionally convey to our kids that home is where we are as a family, wherever God leads us.

All too soon, June and the children were bidding farewell to family and friends at the airport. Photos were taken, hugs given, tears held back. The kids played hide-and-seek with their friends as if it were just another play date — only that this was to be the last one for a long time to come….

So much snow!
Thank You, Lord!

Alone in Canada, Jason juggled coursework with preparations for the family’s arrival. The first big challenge was finding a flat in an unfavourable rental market. Jason and his classmates prayed for one another in their daily phonetics class. One day, a classmate from Hong Kong fed this concern to his network of Chinese friends. News came that a Chinese lady was seeking a trustworthy tenant for her basement flat. One hour later, the rental agreement was signed. What an answer to our prayers, and what a relief!

Unlike Singapore, schools in Canada are assigned by precinct. Our flat is a five-minute walk from a popular school, but we had missed the deadline for a place. Yet, as it turned out, there were a few vacancies and our children were virtually the last students to be admitted. Another big thanks item on the prayer list!

Indeed, we learned that there is only so much we can prepare for. We have become much more aware of our dependence on God’s provision for everything we need—and when He answers our prayers, we are humbled by His goodness. God is good and He is sovereign!

Embracing a New Season, a New Home

We arrived in the middle of summer, the perfect season to transit from sunny Singapore. The children loved being able to play outside without sweating profusely! They learned how to cycle (on the road), and could walk in the forest, see farms and cattle, stables and horses.

In many other ways, we saw how God paved the way for us. Which child would not want blackberries in the garden, friends next door whose parents sold ice cream and cotton candy in the summer, less than six hours of school every day with two recess breaks, and no exams at all? Things are literally great: “Wow, these mountains are higher than Bukit Timah Hill!” (Son). We attend a welcoming, international church and a cell group that even has a member from the country where we intend to serve.

It is not all smooth sailing, though. We are increasingly becoming aware that not everybody in the family has fully arrived, and fully embraced the new home. While one child fits in smoothly, the other struggles with making friends and finding acceptance. It is a challenge for everybody involved. We are learning that culture shock also happens when almost everything goes well. Our heavenly Father knows that and we trust that He will help all of us to settle in fully.

Linguistics Study
Studying Against Injustice

We are reminded daily that we are here to prepare for Bible translation: the courses are interesting, the assignments challenging. While Jason studies full-time, June attends some relevant classes and also connects with parents from the children’s school. It is great to be able to share with others about the need for God’s Word in people’s heart language. Some friends are puzzled about our mid-career switch. As the father of one of our kids’ friends told Jason, “From being a materials engineer, you are now becoming a ‘soul engineer’.”

Recently, during a message at CanIL, we realised that not having the Bible in one’s heart language is not merely a need requiring compassion — it is an injustice. An injustice because people are deprived of God’s Word in their heart language. And so, while plowing through morphosyntax, phonology, tone analysis, semantics/pragmatics, intercultural training, etc., we recognise the privilege of preparing to play our part in God’s plan to speak to people’s hearts.


June & Jason are currently in Canada where Jason is pursuing an MA in Linguistics at the Canada Institute of Linguistics (CanIL) in preparation for Bible Translation in Southeast Asia. They have a daughter (9) and a son (6) who are having their first taste of cross-cultural living.


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