Posts Tagged ‘InterVarsity’

[I’ve written in the past about our InterVarsity trip to Comitancillo, Guatemala in 1995. What a treat to pick up the latest issue of Wycliffe Canada’s Word Alive magazine and find a very personal connection in the cover story. We dug the foundations for this Bible Institute in 1995!]

The now-completed Bible Institute in Comitancillo

Andy and Karen Vaters had a problem on their hands — a big, basic, bewildering kind of problem.

In 1997, the Wycliffe Canada couple had uprooted from Newfoundland and travelled to the town of Comitancillo (Ko mee ton CEE yo), in the northwestern highlands of Guatemala, South America. They were invited there to help with construction and start-up of a Bible institute that would teach pastors and church leaders among the 70,000-plus Central Mam [Mawm] people.

Wycliffe colleague Wes Collins and a team of Mam translators had completed the Mam New Testament, and Wes was looking to serve in linguistics elsewhere. It was naturally a time to begin equipping the Mam to use God’s Word in ministry, so he helped recruit the Vaters to assist with the institute, in partnership with another mission organization.

After 12 years attending and serving in a Gander, Nfld., church following their later-in-life conversions, the Vaters were restless. Seeking a way to do something even more spiritually meaningful in the world, they came to Guatemala. They were excited and keen to spend a few years helping to establish training for the Mam so the Mayan group could effectively wield the life-changing, two-edged sword—Scriptures in their mother tongue.

But as construction of the Bible institute was drawing to a successful close, a fundamental obstacle became disturbingly evident: only a handful of Mam church leaders were able to read or write well enough to attend the training.

“After Wes left, we worked on the [construction] completion of the institute and continued to spread the word about the training program, hoping to fill a classroom,” recalls Karen. “We managed to enrol [only] nine students.”

Naturally discouraged, the couple from “The Rock” could have hit rock bottom right then, but they didn’t. Instead, the nononsense Maritimers trusted God and asked, What now?

Read the rest of the article here.


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One of Wycliffe USA’s board members has been rising in influence at InterVarsity. Tom Lin was named Vice President for Missions and Director of Urbana. Within the last month, he was also named North America Director for the Lausanne Movement.

Tom made arrangements for an interview with me for an article on InterVarsity.org. It was fun to trace some of my leadership principles and practices to my years at InterVarsity at Georgia Tech, where I first became serious about my faith. Check out the story here. Some of you might recognize yourselves in this story.

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One of the things I was most looking forward to was seeing Wes and Nancy Collins. Back in 1995, a group of 14 of us from InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Georgia Tech went to see a Wycliffe translation project up in the mountains of western Guatemala. Linguist translator Wes Collins was just wrapping up his project among the Comitancillo Mam people.

I remember Wes as a frustrated entrepreneur; as he translated, he also solved problems in the town with microenterprise solutions. For years, he noticed that most of the men left Comitancillo for half the year. Because there wasn’t business to sustain them around the town, they were forced to go down to the valley for months in order to make money to provide for their families. The impact on families and the fledgling church was enormous. So Wes helped one of the elders of the church set up a leathermaking business. He also started a canning business for another church member.

Comitancillo Bible Institute

Comitancillo Bible Institute

During our week in Guatemala, we helped the Comitancillo Mam realize their vision for an institute for training pastors, lay leaders and missionaries. The church had a passion to reach related people groups in the area, and one way to do that was through a Bible school. Our group of engineering students helped dig the foundations and twist rebar for a week in the blazing sun.

Wes Collins, director of CILTA

Wes Collins, backpack slung over his shoulder, looks the part of a Peruvian academic

Wes is now director and a professor at Curso Internacional de Lingüística, Traducción y Alfabetización. Everyone knows it as CILTA. My first day in Lima, I caught a taxi with two colleagues and met him at Casa CILTA, the house and support office for the year-long comprehensive linguistic course. For the most part, they train Latins to become Bible translators. However, a couple of years ago, they did an entire year with indigenous people who wanted to either return to their own people to continue translation work or to go to other people groups. These are people who have been on the other side, remembering life before God spoke their language.

One of the concerns Wes deals with on a regular basis is the Latins who want to be trained for Bible translation who can’t come up with the money for the course and living expenses. It’s a real challenge, and the tendency is to give them a bit of time but then jump in to rescue them with “western” funding. But what are you teaching them when you do that? After all, if they’re interested in being translators after they graduate the course, they will have to raise their full support at that time, when “Papa Wycliffe” won’t be able to continue to rescue them. There are complex issues in empowering, supporting and building capacity.

Wes and Nancy took us on a walk through the city, followed by a fairly tame bus ride (having heard the stories and seen the pictures of overloaded buses in Peru, I was expecting worse) to a restaurant for lunch. I tried ceviche (marinated raw fish), papa a la huancaina (potatoes) and conchitas a la chalaca (scallops) at an Italian restaurant. Yes, you read that right.

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