Now allow me to bring you on the next leg of the journey. What I am sharing with you is specifically related to hearing God’s voice and the nature of His leading. I am just simply going through our story selecting the portions which relate to God’s guidance of us over the years and the times of “hearing His voice” in whatever form that took. A couple of you asked why I shared the Matamata experience related to the opposition of the Four and the matters relating to the series of sermons on the vessels. Simply because it relates to “hearing God’s voice”. There are times when we believe we have heard God’s voice for us personally and then we encounter the nay-sayers. All of us who accomplish anything for God will face the nay-sayers. Be prepared for it. To move forward we have to steel ourselves against the opposition and hang on closely to the One whose voice we feel we have heard encouraging us to step out in faith on what we believe to be the course God has set before us.
I have brought you with me to the point where I picked up the role of Director for Wycliffe Bible Translators (NZ) with all of the questions related to the Sulawesi years still clinging to me. Why did You lead us so clearly to the Rongkong LORD when we didn’t stay there? I felt that all that clear guidance was to reassure us were to commit to the Rongkong / Tae’ project but of course the door closed on us. I felt I was to be faithful to the call to be a Bible Translator and stick with the task, not to be swayed from the goal by all the requests for me to take leadership roles in the wider context. “No, I was called to be a Bible Translator.” But then the wheels fell off and we found ourselves back home again.
Sherry Chapman (see Nugget: Hearing God’s Voice 2) helped me to gain a different perspective on that when she encouraged me to realise that God had led us specifically to the Rongkong but there was no indication in the Spirit that that leading would have us remain with the Rongkong until a New Testament was produced. Rather the LORD had a wider goal for us to accomplish. Oh, so the leading to the Rongkong was not for us to stay with them necessarily but to what lay beyond that. There are many times when God leads us to something, but it is not His plan for us to stay there. It is simply a stopping place along the way. It was like that for the Israelites in the wilderness, all the stops along the way from Taberah onwards were not the end point. They were always destined for something beyond that – namely for the place where He would endow them with Glory. I finally realised that after reading the input from Sherry Chapman and the way God used the time in the Director’s role for WBTNZ in very specific ways. Often the idea that we have in mind as a result of the LORD’s leading, falls so far short compared with the ultimate plan He has in mind for each of us.
I began to see how God had used our time in Sulawesi as a precursor for my role as Wycliffe Director. So much of what I had experienced in Sulawesi, especially the tough stuff, was used of God later in the lives of our colleagues in Wycliffe with me as their director. Having gone through the hard times in Sulawesi made me a different person. The breaking process is part of God’s ultimate purpose of forging the image of His Son in us. Without that breaking I would not be the person I am. It made me a much more responsive, sensitive Director, who understood the difficulties our people face in hard places and one less likely to trot out the Christian or Mission platitudes.
Not only that but it made me want to consider deeply the needs of Wycliffe NZ and adjust them to the realities of life out there on the cutting edge; to bring the two ends closer together. I believe God started to put His finger on things that needed to change. Making Wycliffe as an organisation more relevant to the cause of Mission and the need of churches at home and looking after our members better. From which we developed a three-fold mandate.
- Advancing the cause of Bible Translation worldwide
- Resourcing the Church
- Caring for our members
Having seen the realities out there on the field I developed a series of resources in the form of seminars:
- The Effective Senders Seminar
- The Effective Prayers Seminar
- God’s Awesome Book
- Digging For Hidden Treasure
The God’s Awesome Book seminar came about after attending a series of Wycliffe / SIL leadership meetings looking at the match between the two ends of the organisation. The vision of helping language communities around the world in language and community development along with Scripture in Use had struck a barrier in sending countries where the high regard for Scripture Use had met the declining trust in the Bible as the source of Truth. Over and over in the meetings I attended I heard the same story how recruitment and funds were declining because traditional supporters were wavering in their trust of God’s Word. Sitting on a plane coming back from a meeting in Europe I was thinking about this continued refrain I was hearing. I thought, “Well we in Wycliffe ought to do something to address the core issue – Trust in God’s Word.” I sensed God say to me, “You do it Ian.” I then thought of the key areas that needed addressing.
- Historical Validity
- Textual Accuracy
- Those Boring Genealogies
- Prophecy – History Written in Advance
- Codes in Scripture (Initially at surface level)
- Amazing Facts
- Numerics (Including Bible Translation needs)
I began to pull all the content together sitting on the plane and had made my lists of what I would include. Over the next year God brought it all together in amazing ways: books given to me on an impulse, leads suggested, ideas coming to mind. The response of people as I trialled it was amazing. Firstly with our cell group and then through the encouragement of my pastor David McBride to the point of the first presentation on a Saturday at my home church. People assured me everyone needed to hear this material. On the Monday I had a call from Brian Winslade asking me about what I had shared at my church on the weekend. Three from his church had been there and had been raving about what they heard and suggested he get me to come and present the material at their church. From that point on I was running to keep up. I was convinced that what I had heard from God was indeed what He wanted me to be doing. Oh there were brick bats involved. It was not all plain sailing, but it was clear to me that was what I needed to do. So for the next four years I travelled all over NZ and into Australia and other places sharing the God’s Awesome Book seminar along with others I’d trained.
Then came the winds of change. I could have thought I would be doing this for the rest of my life but God had other plans. Tania and I were in Melbourne for Asia Pacific meetings for Wycliffe / SIL. I was also scheduled to present God’s Awesome Book at a church in the city on the weekend. While I presented GAB at the church Saturday and Sunday, Tania went off to have some time with her sister on the Mornington Peninsula. In the church service on the Sunday the pastor got up to give the Church notices and God somehow singled out Tania sitting in church. He had not met her before but suddenly said straight to Tania, “You are coming to the end of a season. God is bringing a new season. It may look like a demotion. There will be hurt. But you and your husband will affect nations, kings and presidents and have great influence.”
Tania told me all about the strange word given to her at her sister’s church when we were back together again at the end of the weekend. We thought, oh that’s interesting. If it is a bonefide word from God then we will wait and see what happens. We can’t make it happen. But it has been our experience in the past that God often told us ahead of time what was going to happen, through a prophetic word. So let’s wait and see what happens. We didn’t realise it would happen so quickly. On the Wednesday at the Asia Pacific meetings as we were going into the meeting room two guys were waiting by the door. One was the international Director for Wycliffe Organisations and the other was the Wycliffe Director for Asia Pacific. They said “Ian and Tania could you just come with us to the side room. There is something we want to talk to you about.” In the side room the first mentioned man said, “Wycliffe International is looking for someone to help a Wycliffe Affiliated organisation in Asia to grow in their role related to Sending Organisation operations, recruitment, church relations, training etc. We want a person who has:
- Field Experience
- Home Based Sending Organisation experience
- Experience as a Networker
- A Proven Track Record in Church Relations
- Can speak the local language needed
We want you to help the fledgling organisation get on their feet in all of those areas and we think you are the best guy for the job.” As we talked about it as a couple later, Tania said, “That’s what the pastor was referring to on Sunday morning. That’s you to a tee. That’s the next role that God has for us.” Oh my goodness LORD, you certainly didn’t waste any time building up to this next move.
You just never know where following God is going to lead you. My mind went back to the words of Weston Finlay’s prophetic word to me in Nugget Hearing God’s Voice 4. “In Wellington you will see the next step really clearly and you will see all things in perspective.” From what David Cummings had laid out for me at the Move Out Conference I thought I had it all worked out and our way ahead was clearly defined for the next 20 plus years. I didn’t realise, even with the clarity given, I had seen only enough to get around the first few bends in the road. God had so much more for us; more than we could imagine.