For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. (Romans 12:4–6)
Hannah, Project Coordinator
We have often featured stories on missionaries undergoing training or already in the field involved in translation, literacy, community development and other frontline roles. However, did you know that the work of Wycliffe also requires administrative and supporting roles both on the field and in the national offices? While a good number of these roles are filled by missionaries, many of whom are also members of Wycliffe, some are filled by volunteers with the appropriate skills.
The Wycliffe Singapore (WS) office is one such national office within the Wycliffe Global Alliance. Locally based Wycliffe members serve in a variety of ways ranging from administration, to human resource, to leadership roles.
In this multi-part series, we get up close with some members who have been working faithfully behind the scenes. In this first part, Hannah and Felicia*, Project Coordinators, share about their roles in coordinating the multiple projects that Wycliffe Singapore supports.
What is the role of a Project Coordinator?
Hannah and Felicia: In a nutshell, we raise prayer and financial support for projects in the field by writing proposals and updates of projects, presenting project information to current and potential supporters, and monitoring budgets and disbursement of funds.
What types of projects are there, and why does WS support these projects?
Hannah: Most projects involve Bible translation along with other activities such as scripture engagement, community development, literacy and multilingual education. Bible translation projects usually start with the New Testament (NT), which can take about 10 years. The project may also include some Old Testament (OT) books like Genesis and Exodus and some of the prophets which give background and context to the Christian faith, or may be of greater relevance to the culture of the target people group.
Scripture engagement is also very important. Since the process of translation is a long-drawn-out one, there is no need to wait for the whole NT or OT to be completely translated before distribution. Once a single book is done, it can be released for use along with other resources like the Jesus film, Sunday school materials, songs and Bible study materials in the native language.
Some projects begin by translating only selected Bible passages or crafting stories based on Bible passages. These tend to be easier to introduce to a people group because they are more like storytelling. It is also a good way to test the interest of the community as well as whet their appetite for Christ, before turning it into a full-fledged Bible translation project.
Besides Bible translation, many projects also include some form of community development which seeks to empower communities through improving adult literacy, or helping them earn some income. Multilingual education projects also teach children to read and write in their own language before moving on to do so in their national language. These projects have proven to be highly effective in reducing the school dropout rate of children from minority groups who do not speak the national language as their first language.
How does WS find projects to fund, and what are the criteria for choosing projects to support?
Felicia: Usually, when projects need support or funding, the missionaries there will seek support from various Wycliffe entities, including us.
The criteria we take into consideration when choosing whether to support a project include factors like the status of the language—whether it is still being spoken widely or on the brink of extinction, the population of the people group, community involvement and how well the project is managed. We tend to give preference to projects that are under entities that we have relationships with, or projects where our own members are involved.
What kind of support does WS provide and how does this benefit different projects?
Hannah: Mostly, we provide financial and prayer support. Sometimes, we send people to do short-term work as well. Occasionally, we may try to obtain and send over equipment such as laptops and cameras if the project needs them.
What are some challenges faced when coordinating support for the various projects?
Felicia: It can be quite difficult to attract churches in Singapore to provide support if they feel that the projects are too expensive, too close to home (not exotic enough), or too far away (too exotic). Some of them can be more oriented towards what the church wants to do rather than what the projects actually need.
Hannah: Some project managers don’t provide us with sufficient material, reports or photos to promote the project. Additionally, due the sensitive nature of many locations, we usually cannot use real names or share openly about projects. It can be difficult to raise support when we are not able to give potential donors enough information.
Can you share some encouraging stories with us?
Hannah: There is one particular project which has a very supportive church as well as a very responsive project manager. This project manager engages with the supporting church regularly so that the church is able to understand first-hand and provide for the financial and prayer needs of the project. Over time, she has become so close to the church that she has now become a member of the church.
Felicia: I’ve encountered a similar case where the entire church got very involved in the project that they were supporting. They made many trips to visit the project, and even the children in the church brought along their piggy bank savings to contribute to the project.
How and what would you advise an individual or church who is considering supporting a project financially?
Felicia: The church or individual should think about what kind of project they are looking to support. Due to the long-drawn-out process of translation, we ask for a minimum commitment period of at least three years so that the project is given sufficient time to find its footing. If they decide not to continue after that period, we will try to find other supporters or, failing that, cease funding the project.
Hannah: When choosing a project to support, it is good to remember that even if a particular unreached people group is small, they still matter because they need to have access to God’s Word in their language.
What are some general things that prayer supporters can pray for?
Hannah: Pray for the translation work in each project – that the translation teams will have the wisdom to use the right words to render the key terms, and in so doing, come up with translations that are natural, accurate, and clear for the people receiving the Word.
Pray that the translated material will be effectively distributed and land in the hands of people who need to know God. The ultimate aim is that their lives will be transformed by encountering God through the scriptures.
Finally, pray for the people who have yet to come to know God, and for new believers. Very often, people from unreached people groups also face pressure and opposition from their society and family if they choose to follow God.
*Not her real name