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A Continuing Heritage

2017-10-25

When Cameron Townsend and others founded Camp Wycliffe in 1934 in Arkansas, they probably had no idea they were starting something that would grow into an en­tire net­work of Bible trans­la­tion or­ga­ni­za­tions, the Wycliffe Global Alliance. Train­ing camps, how­ever, are still run­ning in sev­eral coun­tries, including Thailand. Today, each Camp Wycliffe has a dif­fer­ent fo­cus and dif­fer­ent fea­tures, de­pend­ing on the con­text. Yet all are help­ing gen­er­a­tions of Chris­t­ian young peo­ple to learn about Bible trans­la­tion, and to get in­volved in the mis­sion of God — just as the first Camp Wycliffe set out to do.

Camp Wycliffe in Thailand

Wycliffe Thailand has been host­ing Camp Wycliffe an­nu­ally for young peo­ple since 2006. Re­cently, they started to pro­mote the camp be­yond Thai­land, and young peo­ple from other places such as Sin­ga­pore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong have at­tended also.

The participants of Camp Wycliffe 2017 stayed in this simple yet beautiful village in Northern Thailand to experience life in a different setting.

 

Sin­ga­porean Daniel Je­su­da­son, an ex­pe­ri­enced Bible trans­la­tor, prob­a­bly knows this camp run by Wycliffe Thai­land bet­ter than any­one else. He has been the main in­struc­tor for the camp since the first batch of stu­dents at­tended more than 10 years ago.

Daniel tells about how the camp got started. Chum­saeng Re­ong, the for­mer di­rec­tor of Wycliffe Thai­land, was the one who pi­o­neered it.

“His main rea­son was to in­spire Thai col­lege grad­u­ates, col­lege stu­dents and Bible school stu­dents, and to help them get a vi­sion for mis­sion, start­ing with rec­og­niz­ing the needs within Thai­land it­self,” Daniel recalls.

Chum­saeng's idea was to take par­tic­i­pants to some rural vil­lages so they could ex­pe­ri­ence what it is like to live with lim­ited re­sources. He also wanted the stu­dents to be taught by some­one who ac­tu­ally had lived and served as a mis­sion­ary, and pro­foundly un­der­stood God’s mis­sion. As a mem­ber of Wycliffe Singapore, Daniel had been serv­ing in Papua New Guinea for some years al­ready at that time. He was just what Chum­saeng was look­ing for.

Campers prepare to leave on a winding three-hour journey to a Pwo Karen village.

To Walk with Them

Camp Wycliffe in Thai­land has three com­po­nents — teach­ing, re­flect­ing, and serv­ing. First, par­tic­i­pants learn about cul­ture, lan­guage, Bible trans­la­tion, and lit­er­acy — the main sub­jects re­lated to Wycliffe min­istry. Then they are given time to study the book of Jonah, lis­ten to God’s Word, share their jour­neys, and re­flect on their vo­ca­tions. They also have op­por­tu­ni­ties to serve through com­mu­nity pro­jects, such as work­ing with vil­lagers to build houses, teach­ing chil­dren's Bible classes, and singing and per­form­ing skits in wor­ship. The whole idea be­hind this ex­pe­ri­ence is “to walk with them” as they seek God’s call­ing in each of their lives.

 

Over the years, Daniel has seen clearly the im­pact of the camp in both de­vel­op­ing mis­sion aware­ness and mo­bi­liz­ing. The com­bi­na­tion of prac­ti­cal ses­sions with ac­tual en­gage­ment in the vil­lage is es­pe­cially ef­fec­tive, be­cause in just five days the par­tic­i­pants are able to ap­ply what they have learnt in a real sit­u­a­tion. He rem­i­nisces that in one pre­vi­ous year, the whole group vis­ited a vil­lage. Af­ter the campers had seen the real needs of the peo­ple in their own coun­try, most of them cried be­cause they were so shocked and touched.

As the director of Wycliffe Thailand, Tharawat Suebthayat also engages in community service as part of the Camp Wycliffe program.

He also knows of at least five pre­vi­ous par­tic­i­pants who have joined Wycliffe or other mis­sions. Tharawat Suebthayat, di­rec­tor of Wycliffe Thai­land notes that at least one camper each year has de­cided to be­come a cross-cul­tural worker, while the rest be­came in­ter­ested in serv­ing with mis­sion or­ga­ni­za­tions in their own coun­tries, or de­ter­mined to serve bet­ter in their own churches. There were also par­tic­i­pants who came back to serve as staff in the next camp, or worked as in­terns at the home of­fice of Wycliffe Thailand.

Never Look Down on Yourself

Ruby Kong of Hong Kong is one of the 30 par­tic­i­pants of Thai­land’s Camp Wycliffe in 2017. She en­joyed the camp very much and shared one of her in­sights. “Daniel is right when he re­minds me by ask­ing, ‘What are you good at? Is it play­ing bas­ket­ball with them? Sports? What­ever it is, just start from there.’ So of­ten I see my­self as not qual­i­fied. I am not able to... trans­late the Bible. Yet the more I know Wycliffe, the more I re­al­ize that Bible trans­la­tion is not only about [do­ing] trans­la­tion. There are many other roles I can take up.”

Cer­tainly, Ruby still has to search for God’s guid­ance for her fu­ture, such as if she joined Bible trans­la­tion min­istry, what role she could take to serve Him. “All in all, never look down on your­self be­cause the strengths in you may be ex­actly what the teams need,” she concludes.

Ruby (right), a participant of Camp Wycliffe 2017, nails down a wooden board on the floor of a house with another camper. (Photo: Phil. D)

Mod­dang from Bangkok also joined the camp in 2017.

“The camp has helped me to un­der­stand the work of Bible trans­la­tion and Wycliffe. Among the many kinds of mis­sions, Wycliffe fo­cuses on trans­lat­ing the Bible into peo­ple’s own lan­guages. In or­der to com­mu­ni­cate well with peo­ple, I agree we need to use their own lan­guages. This un­der­stand­ing makes me want to get in­volved in lit­er­acy, so that they can read the Bible and know the Good news,” she shares.

Moddang (far left with a guitar), a participant of Camp Wycliffe 2017, sings songs with the children in a Pwo Karen village.

Change along the way

Daniel has been wit­ness­ing gen­er­a­tions of young peo­ple tak­ing part in the camp and has ob­served some of the ma­jor changes. “Ear­lier peo­ple saw mis­sions more as a ca­reer op­tion. They took a lot of time to make the de­ci­sion be­cause they felt it meant chang­ing their ca­reer. As times goes on, I find that can­di­dates are now com­ing and look­ing for just short-term pro­jects they may start with. Yet they are more will­ing to go out and get in­volved in a pro­ject.... It is not re­ally a bad thing for peo­ple who do short-term ser­vice, to get ex­po­sure and then make a bet­ter decision.”

Yet he ad­mits frankly that this trend is hard for staff on the field be­cause they do not know how to train these new peo­ple. “If you do not train them, they will not get the ben­e­fit of train­ing in or­der to be ef­fec­tive; [yet if you train them,] it takes too much staff time if they are only project-based.”

A Heart for Reaching Youth

Daniel keeps go­ing back to Thai­land for this same min­istry every year. What is mo­ti­vat­ing him to keep do­ing so?

"I love work­ing with youth... [My wife and I have been work­ing] with young peo­ple for many years since we be­came Chris­tians. It’s hard for me to say no to youth work.... It is im­por­tant for me to be able to share my ex­pe­ri­ences with them,” he says.

Daniel also points out that Wycliffe Thai­land is right to tar­get Camp Wycliffe at reach­ing the next gen­er­a­tion, as it helps to be­gin nur­tur­ing their vi­sion for mis­sions ear­lier in life. Daniel is the key staff per­son for the camp, yet he says it is ac­tu­ally an ef­fort of team­work by Wycliffe Thai­land. Al­though the team is new every year, they man­age the camp well, and the feed­back from par­tic­i­pants is pos­i­tive. The team keeps im­prov­ing the pro­gram and Daniel loves serv­ing with them. Nev­er­the­less, as a for­eigner, it is his hope that Thai work­ers would come back from the field to lead the camp, to take up the task of train­ing the next generation.

Camp Wycliffe takes par­tic­i­pants out of their daily lives, and puts them into a real mis­sion en­vi­ron­ment in which they can see and touch, in­ter­act with oth­ers, re­flect in quiet time, and lis­ten to God’s Word. This can ei­ther be a process of sow­ing seeds, or one of har­vest­ing. No mat­ter what, it hap­pens in His time.

Story by Ling Lam of Wycliffe Global Alliance. Pho­tos by Ling Lam un­less oth­er­wise noted

More:

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