Ending Bible poverty by facilitating the translation of God's Word among minority language communities worldwide.

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Derryl and Karen Friesen

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Derryl and Karen Friesen's Blog


Karen is sleeping behind the couch. I am in the store room.


NOTE: Be sure to check out "your" Summer@CanIL Family Album at the bottom of this blog!

"Where is home . . .?" 

Mmm . . . a simple question for some. But anyone asking Karen and me this question will nearly always be met with a long pause as we attempt to construct in our minds where that illusive place actually is.  

Rootless. Transient. Wandering vagabonds bouncing about a global pin-ball machine. These are somewhat appropriate images as we grapple with this amazing life God has given us.

Where is our home? Who is our family?

Let’s see. As of a week ago, home was a one bedroom dormitory apartment at the Canada Institute of Linguistics (CanIL) in Langley, British Columbia. Our ‘kids’ who called us mom and dad were 50+ young linguist students from Canada, USA, Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea, Holland, Bangladesh, Nicaragua, Russia, Indonesia, India and more. When Karen’s sister and niece came for a one-week visit, they slept in our creatively reconfigured “double” bunk bed while Karen slept on a single mattress thrown behind the couch. With that much estrogen in one space, I moved out to a storeroom in the next building.

Serving as dorm ‘parents’ to 50+ brilliant linguistics students at CanIL

This past week as Summer@CanIL concluded, ‘home’ became an air mattress slumber party with our three-year-old granddaughter a 12-hour drive away in Alberta, then crashing on a basement carpet floor while repainting an older house our daughter and husband have just bought in yet another city.        

I suppose technically Canada is our ‘home’ country but both Kenya and Thailand have since become ‘heart’ countries. We hold a Canadian passport but our citizenship is in heaven. We technically ‘own’ a house in Carstairs, small town Alberta but six other people sleep in our beds there. Our only valid post office box resides in that town, but any paper phone bills we receive are sent to an office address in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We pay monthly rent for a tiny single room in that foreign city but we don’t actually live there. It’s merely a store room sourced to store our stuff in Thailand since the bank repossessed the house we used to rent. Stacked to the ceiling in that room is our office and bedroom furniture, freestanding kitchen cabinets, gardening tools and bicycles.

This past Christmas we had a ‘home’ in Chiang Mai . . . now everything we own there is shoved into storage!

We do have a home ‘office’ back here in Canada as well, but the printer, computer monitors and office supplies usually live in the back seat of our little old VW Golf hatchback. Together with a couple bags of clothing, toiletries and bikes mounted up on top, they patiently await our occasional trips back to Canada. We simply reconnect the battery, fire up the little 2.4L turbo diesel and unload the contents of the car wherever we set up ‘home’ for those few weeks or months.

Mountain journey with our mobile ‘home’ office through the Rockies to CanIL

Surprisingly, it works quite well. But some continual challenges we face are knowing what we have stored on what side of the world, finding important items buried in the bottom of bags we forgot we even packed, remembering what side of the road to drive on, saying constant goodbyes to those we love on opposite sides of the ocean and trying to remember what language to speak where!

In many ways we can identify with Jesus' transient life of travel and ministry . . . but in one way we feel better off than Jesus. We always carry our pillows wherever we go! Jesus once told those who wanted to follow him, "Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." 

Our first ‘home’ in Africa – and on the move ever since!

Nearly 30 years ago when Karen and I first joined Wycliffe and the global Bible translation movement, we left Canada fully aware we were embarking on a life ‘out of the ordinary’. When we first arrived in Africa with our little three-year-old daughter and five-year-old son, we determined we would always invest fully in home and family wherever God would plant our feet. What we could never have imagined was the vast and rich variety of what ‘home’ and ‘family’ would become. Rootlessness aside, we thank God for the deep and enriching network of relationships and family God has blessed us with the world over.

We went on a trip to Sudan with our own son Zachrie and returned with two others in our hearts

Jimmy and Thomas are two African ‘sons’ God gave us by surprise. We met them both as ‘lost boys’ of Sudan – orphans and victims of the decades-long brutal genocide in Sudan. Jimmy recently wrote to all our biological children and grandchildren:

Mr. Zachrie and all of Derryl Friesen's sons, daughters and grandchildren. I type this to say a word of thanks to Almighty Father in Heaven for having had brought Dad-Derryl Friesen to my rescue since we met 9 years ago in July 2008, Juba, South Sudan, Africa. The love, care, support, prayers and etc that were offered to me especially in my schooling, have recreated me the way God wanted me to be. I can't explain all, and got little or no words to express my gratitude to you and your Parents. Their love really crossed Friesen's boundary to the outside world. That's why I'm able to hold a Diploma in Information technology from Uganda.

Mama Karen, I bless your name. You . . . give hope to the hopeless; you carry those who fall to (be able to) walk again in Light. You pulled my hand up-to this far and showed me the way. I am not scared, but will still request for your Prayers to keep me strong as I continue the journey. THANK YOU.

My best friend Mr. Derryl, it's not about the school fees, courage and advice. It's about the pure LOVE and FAITH that God gave you. And you are able and willing to demonstrate it according to God's Will. 
I promise to go the right way, whatever the challenges will be, I'll pray and the blessings you gave me won't end with me. I'll deliver. All of you are, and will be in my heart.

This note penetrates our souls, realizing how deep and rich and interconnected our global family of Christ really is. When Jimmy writes this letter to us, we realize it is not only written to us and our immediate family. It is also written to YOU, to all those who have sent us . . . to YOU our extended family of God . . . to YOU our faithful supporters who have relentlessly stood with us through thick and thin, through every trial and victory over 30 years of rootless moving about this world of great need.

Opel and Nat, two of our Thai ‘kids’ who call us Mummy and Daddy ‘farang’

Opel and Nat, are a very special to us. They are a first-generation Christian Thai couple who have invited us into their journey and calling of God to serve in the global Bible translation movement. No one in their families believe in Christ and their old Buddhist world was full of fear, curses and demonic bondage. Last year as we began mentoring them and loving on them, they began affectionately calling us Mummy and Daddy ‘farang’. Just before we returned to Canada a few months ago, Opel and Nat publicly declared at a dinner and thanked Karen and I for being the first ever people in their lives to tell them we are proud of them. Proud? You bet we are! They are doing what only one in 36,000 Christians anywhere in the world are doing . . . giving their lives to engage the unreached and Bibleless peoples of the world. Opel is training at Payap University to become one of Thailand’s first ever cross-cultural Bible translators. Nat is specializing in Ethno-Arts and literacy for disadvantaged minority groups in Southeast Asia. Of course we are proud of them! They are our kids! And as with Jimmy in Sudan, when Opel and Nat thank us with hugs and showers of love, they are pouring out their gratitude to YOU you as well. YOU are a huge part of Opel and Nat’s life and ministry.


Never underestimate the ministry of a mother’s hug!

Way back in grade four, Karen felt a strong call of God to become a missionary and one day serve as a dorm parent for missionary kids. After 40 years Karen is living out that calling around the world. This past summer God once again called Karen to be dorm mom to dozens of CanIL linguistics students from all over the world. To our joyful amazement, these ‘kids’ also call us mom and dad and come to us for hugs, advice, stories . . . and like any grown college kid . . . for money and food too! Once again in our transient rootlessness we have discovered precious new ‘family’ and ‘home’, and an ever expanding understanding of our extended family in Christ. Our influence of Godly parenthood has grown from three natural children and their spouses to family relationships all around the globe. The normal gestation period for each of our three kids was about nine months. This past summer, this gestation period for dozens of new kids was just shy of 90 days!

Following is fun ‘family album’ featuring this most recent summer phenomena of ‘family’. Faces captured in these photos will soon be seen all across the world translating the Word of God for Bibleless peoples of the world. Together with thousands of others, these awesome ‘kids’ will be spreading the Good News to the nations that Jesus' family is still not big enough! There is always room for more! For those of you who love us, pray for us and continue to send us out into this crazy life we have found with Wycliffe, this is YOUR summer family album as well!

Come celebrate with us Summer@CanIL . . . hard work, endless studies, sleepless nights, tears in the hallways, joyful victories, treks to snowy mountains, crashing mountain bikes, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for future CanIL students, deep investment into minority people groups, big family meals and friendships that will change the course of history for hundreds of thousands of others.


Summer@CanIL Family Album

Thank you for joining us in this amazing journey of faith!


First days of CanIL involve huge physical effort - moving dozens of bins of bedding, dishes, supplies and kitchen equipment from storage to set up dorm rooms and the community kitchen. When all is ready 50+ students are welcomed and registered. Team building activities connect new students and procedures are set up for community living.  


Community living at its best with four awesome cooking teams, fantastic ethnic dinners for a whopping $3.00 per night and the joy of cooking and cleaning together!


Studies start fast and furious with a full university semester accelerated to just under nine weeks. Some crazy students rock the 12-credit ‘core pack’ – four of the toughest prerequisite courses for the Masters of Linguistics program . . . 4-6 hours of class daily with another 8-10 hours each day for projects, papers and research. I continued working towards my ‘Scripture Engagement’ certificate so signed up to take ‘Language and Society” (Sociolinguistics) with 33 other students. It was a tough go along with dorm-hosting and continuing my Thailand responsibilities but SO worth it to be engaged in class with the students.    


Play time! Karen and I happily led the weekly training rides to make friends with and help prepare students to ride in the annual 100km Heart Language Ride to raise scholarship funds for future CanIL students.


One of the most rewarding aspects of this Summer@CanIL was helping three ‘Scripture Engagement’ class teams connect via Skype with projects we are closely involved with in the Thailand region. Two years ago I did a similar Scripture planning project for the “K” people of SE Asia and they are still using the two-year plan we developed. We pray these three plans for the Bisu, the Lahu Shi and the “R” people will impact thousands of lives in the next few years! 



Every Friday night many of our ‘kids’ wanted story time! For two or three hours each weekend Karen and I shared endless tales about our ‘accidental’ engagement, raising kids in Africa, hope and joy in the midst of affliction, Buddhism in Thailand, harsh realities of doing language survey and translation in SE Asia and much more! On the last night we gathered everyone in a circle and prayed God’s richest blessings over them as they move out to serve the Lord around the world.


Community life is front and foremost in every aspect of Summer@ CanIL. Many of these students will go on to serve together in various parts of the world, many as married couples! Intentional community building includes weekly sports – Ultimate Frisbee and Volleyball – and weekend camping trips with challenging treks to stunning lakes mountain tops!


Recruiting is one of the main reasons we spend these summers at CanIL. This year, we intentionally initiated Friday night story times and took every opportunity to share in various chapels and meet one-on-one with those indicating a call to missions. We praise God a group of about eight soon-to-be graduates started a SE Asia focus group with plans to come visit us in Thailand next year to meet the leadership there and explore long-term service opportunities.


After three summers at CanIL I finally found students who share my passion for mountain biking and we carved out two amazing opportunities to hit the world famous temperate rainforest trails of BC!


Mentoring and prayer have become more and more important to Karen and I as we get older. We praise God for the young men who joined our Men’s Discipleship Huddle and for the special prayer cells that formed specifically on behalf of the people groups for whom Scripture Engagement plans being developed.


One super highlight of the summer was the CanIL 2017 Heart Language Ride. This year we joined together with the annual Valley Gran Fondo cycling event in the area. 32 CanIL riders joined over 1500 cycling enthusiasts cycling 50, 100 or 160 kilometers. From this platform, our CanIL team helped raise over $210,000 for bursaries and scholarships for incoming CanIL students this year!


Our great joy was completing the full 100 km on our tandem together with joyful Jubilee who, at the beginning of the summer could barely ride 25 km and had to push her bike up every big hill. But not on this day! Jubilee is a super gifted musician and young linguist who has become like a daughter to us. We look forward to seeing where our paths will cross in the years to come.    

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