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Justin & Tammy Hettinga

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Wycliffe and SIL: What's the difference?

2018-05-02

Justin and I are members of both Wycliffe Bible Translators and SIL*. Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada is our sending organization, but Justin’s current assignment is with SIL and I have a split assignment with both organizations. Most of you are familiar with Wycliffe Bible Translators, but are probably less familiar with SIL. We often struggle to explain what we do without first explaining these two organizations.

Did you know that William Cameron Townsend, founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators, founded SIL (formerly known as the Summer Institute of Linguistics) BEFORE Wycliffe Bible Translators? The growth of SIL led to the founding of Wycliffe Bible Translators in the United States in 1942 as a sending agency to resource the work that SIL was doing in the field.

Christianity Today wrote a really great article on the making of Wycliffe Bible Translators and SIL International, called Kenneth Pike and the Making of Wycliffe Bible Translators and SIL International. We encourage you to read it. It will help make sense of how and why these two organizations formed and why they continue to work so closely together.

Below are a few introductory and concluding excerpts from this article to whet your appetite.

Wycliffe Bible Translators has become renowned as the world’s leading Bible translation organization, and William Cameron Townsend is well known for his role as its founder. Yet this is only half of the story. Townsend also founded the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) which has played an important part in Wycliffe’s success. SIL—known today as SIL International—is a scientific as well as a faith-based organization. The story behind SIL’s rise and of Kenneth L. Pike, the key character in that rise, is one of the most interesting episodes of the modern missionary movement.

[...]

From its founding in 1934, SIL has grown from a small summer linguistics training program with two students to a diverse international staff of nearly 5,000. SIL has trained over 20,000 students in various aspects of linguistics, literacy, and other cross-cultural work through a network of training programs that now involves 26 institutions in 18 countries. Today SIL works alongside speakers of more than 1,600 languages in 100 countries, and more than two million people have learned to read and write as a direct result of SIL’s literacy efforts. SIL’s Language and Culture Archives houses over 60,000 works of various kinds, including scholarly publications, Bible translations, and vernacular literacy materials in addition to SIL’s flagship publication, the Ethnologue—an online database of the world’s more than 7,000 living languages.

SIL continues to play a key role in the global Bible translation movement. Not only does SIL directly facilitate Bible translation on a large scale, it also contributes through foundational research into the world’s languages and cultures, as well as through applied work in developing alphabets, dictionaries, local literatures, and programs of literacy instruction. Additionally, it serves the whole movement through foundational services—like consulting and software development—which support all these tasks.

When Townsend founded SIL to be a research organization, he saw it as an important strategy for getting beyond the gaps in knowledge that were hindering ministry. With an ever-changing world that does not cease to present new challenges, this strategy is just as relevant today as it was then.

We were privileged to be part of SIL’s work in Peru for ten years (2000-2010) as adult literacy specialists among the Quechua people, and by helping several indigenous organizations develop sustainable literacy and Bible translation programs.

And since 2016, Justin has been serving SIL as the Americas Area Director, which involves giving leadership to all of SIL’s work in North, Central, South America, and the Caribbean. And I have been his administrative assistant, as well as part-time receptionist for Wycliffe Canada. We love our roles because we are passionate about the vision of SIL and Wycliffe: to see that all people on earth have access to the Word of God in their mother tongue, enabling them to know God and converse with Him in a language that best speaks to their hearts. Yet, this leadership role is no small task, and we covet your ongoing prayers.

Here are some ways your can specifically pray:

  • Pray that Justin will be a leader who listens well to those he leads, and to the partners and communities whom we serve. Pray that he will have wisdom and discernment as he faces decisions. Pray that he will routinely spend time in prayer and in the Word and be ultimately led by the Holy Spirit.
  • Pray for God to provide for two important positions: someone to oversee our personnel development and training, and someone to lead internal communication and community building. With around 400 SIL staff under Justin’s supervision, spread out in many countries, speaking multiple languages, he needs help with community building and communication.
  • Pray for the many travels and meetings coming up within the next month. In May Justin will be in Tucson, Arizona; San Salvador, El Salvador (I will be accompanying him); and Oaxaca, Mexico.

On the home front:

Caleb (age 20, pictured on the left) completed his first year of university (Bachelor of Science: Biology program, with a focus in Kinesiology) and is happy to have a break from studies for a few months. He enjoyed living in residence at Ambrose University, but now plans to stay at home for the summer and subsequent school year. Our nephew, who also completed his first year of university, is also living with us for part of the summer. Jesse (age 18, pictured on the right) is currently traveling Europe for six weeks (yes, the world traveler!) and will return May 8. He recently found out that he is accepted into the Bachelor of Arts - Criminal Justice program at Mount Royal University, so his traveling days are soon coming to an end (for now). We’re thankful that they all have great summer jobs to keep saving for those university fees. All that to say, we’ve gone from being part-time empty nesters to having a very full and active house!

Thank you for standing behind us with your prayers, financial support, and encouragement. Please let us know how we can pray for you as well.

Justin & Tammy Hettinga

*SIL, Wycliffe's closest partner, serves language communities worldwide, building their capacity for sustainable language development by means of research, translation, training and material development.

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As missionaries working with Wycliffe/SIL, we trust God to supply our financial needs through churches and individuals who wish to partner with us. If you would like to make a one-time contribution to our ministry, click on the Donate Now Online button in the left column. Under Donation Information, click on the drop-down arrow next to Direct my giving to:, select Wycliffe missionary, and write "for the work of Justin and Tammy Hettinga" in the Details/comments box below.

For recurring donations, on that same donation page, scroll down to Pre-authorized Payments. Download the form, fill it out, and follow the instructions.

For either option, you can also call 1-800-463-1143 (9am-4pm Mountain time) and ask for the Receipts Department.

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