Josh and Jenni, originally from Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland of B.C., met at Bible college in northern Alberta. They were married in 2009. Jenni completed a master’s degree in English literature at Simon Fraser University in 2011, and Josh a master’s of Linguistics at Trinity Western University in 2012. After graduating they became members of Wycliffe, pursuing their vision to serve God by making His Word available to the minority languages of the world. At present they have three sons, Fletcher (2013), Theodore (2017), and Rordan (2020).
In 2014 the Smolders’ accepted an assignment in Ethiopia to help with linguistic research in that country’s western region. Josh served as a researcher for three years in partnership with a local university, working with three different language groups. His research resulted in the publication of a phonological analysis (the very first step of language development), the creation of two preliminary alphabets, and the publication of a first grade reading primer. In 2018, he was given the opportunity to transition to the role of translation adviser for one of those language communities: the Po (a.k.a. Opuuo, T’apo), a small group living in the Gambella region of Ethiopia and in South Sudan. Now, in partnership with the Anglican Church in Ethiopia, Josh and Jenni are based in the city of Gambella to help guide a team of three Po translators to bring the Word of God into their own language. At the same time, Josh is helping out with linguistics and translation training at the SIL head office in Addis, Wycliffe’s key partner organization, within Ethiopia and internationally.
The work that Josh and Jenni are involved in is the frontline of Bible translation. Supporting local language communities with linguistic research, language development, translation advising, and training helps build local capacity and ensures that the Bible translation movement will take root at the local level.