Stepping out in faith: First steps

By Max Sahl  | Wycliffe Today Autumn 2024 Edition

This year, Wycliffe Bible Translators Australia celebrates 70 years of working with God to transform lives through Bible translation, literacy, community development and Scripture engagement. Hundreds of men and women throughout the years have been trained to support Bible translation projects in Australia and throughout the world. They have all served in unique ways. 

Wycliffe Australia has sent out people of vastly different backgrounds, from teachers and technicians, animators and accountants, to doctors and dog trainers. They have understood the need for people to access the Scriptures in the languages they understand best.

Despite their differences, these people all had something in common – their journeys all began with taking the first step. Taking that ‘first step’ can seem overwhelming but we don’t have to take it alone. Along with the prayers and support of other believers, short-term exposure trips can be a great way to experience God at work through everyday Christians who have already taken that first step of faith. 

The stories in this edition of Wycliffe Today showcase the experiences of people who have joined short-term trips to Bible translation projects in Australia, Kenya, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste. We hope you are encouraged by their stories and pray that God will give you the wisdom and courage to take the next step in your own adventure with him, wherever and whatever that may be. 


Launch to Timor-Leste: Embracing people, culture and language

By John Tan  |  Wycliffe Today Autumn 2024 Edition

John and Remy Tan are Wycliffe Australia members based at the National Centre in Melbourne. They recently took a short-term assignment, spending six weeks in Timor-Leste to assist in the Australia Timor-Leste Group (ATG) office in Dili. John explains how SIL Australia’s Launch language learning and cultural awareness course prepared them for their short-term assignment. 

We found our ‘workation’ in Timor-Leste was a refreshing time with the Lord. I helped record and edit the books of Ruth and Mark in the local Mambae language. Remy led an in-house staff training session on record keeping and management. 

When you spend time with people from a different country and language, it helps to immerse yourself in their culture, and SILA’s Launch course was great preparation. At the end of our short-term mission assignment in Timor-Leste, our hosts reported that we connected positively with their team. They enjoyed our friendliness and willingness to learn their language, eat their food and sing their songs. I thought SILA’s summer Launch course prepared us well for this assignment. The four modules of the course laid the foundation for our positive service in Timor-Leste:

Language Learning

Most Timorese people know many languages, but they are more comfortable using their national language of Tetum Dili. While they practised English, we practised Tetum Dili by getting used to sounds over lunchtime conversations and attending church services. We added to our vocabulary by using ‘power-tool phrases’ like ‘how do you say … ?’ then reviewed everything by reading Scripture and a dictionary.

Language Awareness

As time went on, we learned to construct our own sentences, as we learned how to arrange noun and verb phrases and other words in the right order.


My assignment in Dili was to record two books of the Bible in the Mambae language. The phonetics training helped me listen for voiced and voiceless consonants, aspiration and plosives. This helped me know what to look for in the audio wave diagrams as I was editing.

Cultural Anthropology

I found it interesting to learn about the Timorese people: their worldview, mythology, geography and history. They also invited us to weddings and welcomed us into their lives. We felt embraced by the people and will treasure the time we spent in Timor-Leste.

Inquiries are now open for Launch 2025 enrolments.  Visit for more information.

Steps to serving: A taste of Bible translation in Papua New Guinea

By Helen Sahl and Ewa McMaster  |  Wycliffe Today Autumn 2024 Edition

A smiling Helen Sahl (Wycliffe Australia) sitting in the pilot’s seat of an SIL Aircraft at Aiyura Airport

Papua New Guinea is recognised as one of the most linguistically diverse countries in the world, with over 800 languages still being spoken in a country with a population of fewer than 10 million people. The language needs in the region are vast. Ukarumpa is an international SIL community that was created to serve as a hub for Bible translation throughout Papua New Guinea. It was chosen as the location for a short-term exposure trip to give Aussies a taste of the work Wycliffe Australia supports and discover the range of roles needed for Bible translation and language development to happen.

As soon as we began talking about the possibility of running a trip to PNG, we made prayer a priority. This needed to be God’s trip and we were going to follow him. As Moses said to God in Exodus 33:15, if he wasn’t leading us then we didn’t want to go. We saw answers to our prayers as a team of 12 came together, person by person, from Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria from all ages and all backgrounds. We saw God’s hand in everything from the team dynamic, to the program, the travel arrangements and meeting people all along the way. 

The impact on the participants was overwhelmingly positive. They had opportunities throughout the trip to visit many departments in Ukarumpa, including a training centre, medical ministry and to make village visits. This opened their eyes to the needs for more people to help with finance, information technology, teaching, maintenance, building, management, mentoring, linguistics, literacy, Scripture engagement and much more. They were challenged to consider how they could be involved in helping Bible translation happen in PNG. 

Hearing the hearts of our Papua New Guinean brothers and sisters was so special. We visited homes, villages, gardens and walked places together. Our team were great listeners and learners. A bonus was seeing the team reach out to others who were staying at the Ukarumpa guesthouse, including a film crew and visiting linguists. Many of the Ukarumpa residents interacted with the group, inviting us to their homes and spending time with us over meals in the evenings. We thank God for the privilege of leading this team and pray that many more will consider how they could serve others in the Bible translation task. Several of the group are seriously looking at how they might be able to serve at Ukarumpa, or follow a path into Bible translation and language development.  

The Australian team with workers from the Bible Translation Association of Papua New Guinea.

Feedback from participants:

We have made friends for life on this trip. I wouldn’t have changed anything. I loved the way you gave us time to process what we were seeing and learning, to chat, to share with each other, to debrief each evening. I loved getting to know everyone on the team so much!


Since my trip to PNG, I have come to the realisation that it is so important to ‘do life’ with people. I felt stirred to offer comfort to people around me not just in words but in action – that’s where the kindness of God has the capacity to touch a human soul. I ask God that this stirring within me will continue so I can put it into action.


Planting seeds of hope in the local garden.

I secretly thought, ‘Why am I doing this? Oh well, I’m committed now, I’ll just go through with it. When I come back I will probably say, “Well that was inconvenient … and costly … and nothing will come of it”.’ I was so wrong. Right from the outset, I realised that God had put me into a very special team of people, diverse in age and background, skills and personality, but all with a generous passion for God and the people his heart yearns for. What a valuable investment of two weeks! I am pretty sure something wonderful will come of it.


For more information about upcoming short-term trips, visit or contact

Christ transforming culture: A safari adventure in Kenya

By Deb Fox  |  Wycliffe Today Autumn 2024 Edition

In September 2023, Wycliffe Australia sent a team of nine people from Australia to Kenya to facilitate seven training events. The first three events were in far northern Kenya and mostly delivered in the Borana language. One major event was a Contextualisation Workshop, where Borana pastors and lay people studied their culture and worldviews in light of Scripture. Those involved in the workshop learned a new Bible story each day then went to local schools, where the stories were eagerly accepted by the children. At the same time, a different group of Boranas were learning The Matthew Drama script to help bring the words in the Bible to life. Over 900 Borana speakers (most not from a Christian background) attended the performances. 

Team leader, Keith Benn, explains that the purpose of the trip was to provide training and support for African pastors and those involved in Bible translation, while also encouraging Aussies to consider how they can support the global church in Scripture engagement and Bible storytelling. As Keith says, ‘An important goal for every church is making God’s Word relevant for their people’.


Philemon was one of the Kenyan pastors who expressed gratitude for attending the workshops:

In our contextualisation class today, I learnt about the different rituals and the different festivals we do. I realised that, as Scripture depicts, Christ transforms culture – all culture. There is no culture that does not need transformation. Scripture says that God can transform them in a better way to ensure that God is the anchor of everything.


One of the Australian team members, Robert Love, was encouraged by the insights the Kenyan leaders shared during the workshops:

We’ve had a particularly fruitful and interesting time looking at traditional Mbeere beliefs and what the Bible says about them. In particular, we’ve been looking at how the Mbeere people believe that they go to sacrifice and make prayers to Gai (God) at special trees in order to get things that they want. Then we turn to the Bible, looking at some verses that help to throw some light on that particular belief. One passage in particular that has been helpful is Acts 17:24–25, ‘The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.

Images: Evan Mercer

MAD: An eye-opening adventure

By Deb Fox  |  Wycliffe Today Autumn 2024  

Wycliffe Australia runs MAD (Ministry, Adventure and Discovery) short-term trips that provide an opportunity to visit Indigenous Australian communities where Bible translation, Scripture engagement and gospel work is taking place. David and Lyn Wake, along with Lyn and the late Chester Street, have been bringing teams in a bus from Melbourne to a number of locations throughout Northern and Central Australia since the MAD trips began in 1998. They are always amazed by what God does to bring the teams together and reflect his heart for Indigenous communities to understand his Word in the languages they understand best.

This MAD trip was much like what I had heard from others who had done the trip before me. The first outcome for me was getting an in-depth understanding of the heart for reaching the Aboriginal communities with the good news of Jesus Christ. Secondly, the depth of relationship with fellow MADites, sharing with each other our journey of faith. I would certainly recommend this trip to others.


Many times I was out of my comfort zone. It was eye-opening entering the first Aboriginal community in the sort of environment that ordinarily I would not have entered. Team leader, David Wake, made contact with the local pastor and was sitting with him. I decided to reach out and join the gathering. What I discovered was a pastor with a real heart for his people and their welfare. I discovered the challenges of getting appropriate health care in such an isolated community. We were able to pray for the people of the community and share our spiritual journeys. It was a wonderful experience that I am glad that I had the opportunity to be a part of. I would have totally missed what God had in store for me if I had not been able to go.


A highlight for me was to visit parts of Australia where less than 0.001% of the population has ever been, such as Canteen Creek. I loved connecting with the people there. We live in pristine houses with manicured gardens, yet we don’t know who our neighbours are or what our heritage is beyond a few generations. In stark contrast, Aboriginal communities are all about relationships. It was great to experience how Bible translation is helping people understand who God is and allowing his Spirit to effect change in hearts. The trip changed my perspective from a cerebral discussion about communities far away to a heart-warming experience and a deeper empathy for my fellow Australians.


The 2024 MAD trip is designed for Chinese speakers to learn more about Bible translation taking place in Indigenous Australian communities. It is planned for 23 September – 5 October 2024. For more information, visit For enquiries about 2025 MAD trips, please contact

Photos: David Wake and Stewart Henderson

Thanks for your patience...

Waiting is hard, isn't it. But imagine waiting 2000 years for Scripture in your language! Thanks for your patience. And thanks for your generous support which will help bring the long wait to an end...