Jessie Wright lives and works in Papua New Guinea (PNG) training and mentoring local Papua New Guineans to translate the Bible into one of the more than 800 languages that exist in PNG. More than 300 of these languages have never heard a single word of the Scriptures in their own language. In addition, many of these languages do not have alphabets or any sort of written form. So before translation can begin, alphabets need to be created and literacy training needs to take place. Jessie works with these language groups, helping them create alphabets for their own languages and then training and mentoring them through the process of translating the Bible into their own language. Jessie says, “I love to see the look on people’s faces when they read their very own language for the first time, especially when those words are the words of eternal life.”
What led me to serve as a linguist in Bible translation.
My parents were planning on serving in overseas missions through mission aviation, however God ended up directing them a different way. But they never lost their heart for missions, and so my mom use to read missionary stories to my brothers and me on our way to and from church. I always thought I would love to do be a missionary someday but didn’t think I had the gifting for it as I was shy, awkward around people, and terrified of them, to boot. But when we read several Wycliffe books about missionaries who translated the Bible, I thought, maybe that was something I could do.
But nothing came of that until much later when I was in my mid-twenties. By then I had graduated from college with an accounting degree and had been working as an auditor for 4 years. At this point in my life I had finished school, gotten a degree, had my own apartment, and had a great job with good benefits. Except for a boyfriend/husband, I had obtained everything we are told we are supposed to be striving for in life, and yet I felt completely unfulfilled and empty. So I decided to take a good hard look at my life and my goals in order to figure out the reason for my unfulfilled feelings. I soon began to realize that everything I was striving for in life was because the church had told me that those were things I should be striving for. In particular, the church had told me that as a Christian woman, I was supposed to be a wife and mother. While both of those things are excellent pursuits, since graduating and getting a job there was nothing at all happening in that department. As a result, I realized that I had been subconsciously putting my life on hold for the past 4 years thinking that my life as a true Christian woman could not really start until I was in a relationship. But since that was not happening, I was left feeling purposeless and empty, wondering what was the point of my life.
As I kept digging into the cause of my emptiness, I also realized that although I had thought I was striving for what God wanted me to do with my life, in reality I was actually just doing what the church had told me God wanted for my life. And it struck me that I had never actually asked God Himself what He wanted me to do with my life. And so I decided to stop allowing the church to be a go-between, between God and myself and ask God directly what he wanted for me.
However, I ran into a slight obstacle. If I was going to ask God what He wanted me to do with my life, I needed to be ready to follow whatever it was He had for me. This thought scared the pants off me! What if He asked me to do something I really truly hated, or something I couldn’t do, something I was too afraid to do, or something I didn’t have the gifting or ability to do? “But is this really the kind of God that I serve?” I asked myself, “One that sits up in heaven and ask us to do the impossible and then laughs at us when we can’t do it?” What kind of sadistic view of God did I have? Or did I serve a God who deeply loved me beyond any love I could ever imagine? He was a God who would never ask me to do something I could not do without then providing me a means to do it through Him–not just a means to do it, but a means to thrive in it and to succeed completely at it. And what if He did ask me to go through some hard times? If He really was a God that loved me as deeply as the Bible said, then wouldn’t He only be asking me to go through those hard times for my own benefit so that I could be more and more like the amazing woman God designed me to be? And would He not use those times to draw me amazingly and unimaginably close to Him so that through those experiences I could come alongside others and be able to show them God’s incomprehensible love through me? Could I ask for anything more than to be used by God in such an amazing way?
And so I decided to go ahead and take God at His Word and surrender to Him all my hopes, goals, and dreams, knowing that in doing so, I would need to be willing to give up those dreams and hopes if that is what He would ask of me. But also realizing that surrendering would not necessarily mean that He would ask me to give up those dreams since so often it is God himself that plants those dreams in us in the first place. But what it did mean was that I needed to be willing to turn over control of those dreams to Him. And wasn’t that better than having the weight of the responsibility of those dreams on my shoulders anyway? How freeing it was to instead put the responsibility of leadership on Him, who knows so much better what truly will give me peace, joy, happiness, and fulfillment, better than I could ever know myself.
So with these thoughts in my mind I gave control of my life goals to God, knowing that whatever He asked of me, be it small or great, easy or hard, at least I would be fulfilled and at peace, knowing I would be in His will, fulfilling the perfect plan that He had for my life since He first imagined me into creation, His beloved child.
And so began my journey into missions. Once I had turn over all control to God, He began guiding me towards overseas missions and into Bible translation with Wycliffe, fulfilling the seed He had planted in my heart so long ago as a child listening to my mother read those missionary stories.