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Living for Purpose

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As we heard last Sunday, we at Grace are firmly convinced that we remain on this earth for the purpose of sharing and showing the good news of Jesus Christ. Though all of us know this, there are a few among us who have spurned the pursuit of worldly success in order to sacrificially give themselves away for the sake of this gospel. 

What an extraordinarily humbling experience to have some of these passionate missionaries living and serving among us! 

This week our pastors are “giving up” this space so that we can hear from Tony and Yoke Meng Chan. Tony and Yoke Meng have been faithfully serving with Wycliffe Singapore for more than 15 years (find out more about Wycliffe Bible Translators here). I also would personally like to invite you to read the update that they have prepared, to help you better understand 1) the scope of their ministry, 2)  the way they have been serving during this difficult Covid season and 3) their plans for the future. 

As they continue to pursue faithfulness in this ministry, I also want to encourage you to consider writing them a note to strengthen and encourage them in this important work. You can contact them through their ministry email address: tony_chan@wycliffe.net 

Bless you for loving our missionaries well!

tony-yoke-meng

Dear Brothers and Sisters at GBC, 

At the recent Wycliffe Singapore Members Conference in March, Yoke Meng and I were privileged to receive Long Service Awards in recognition for our 15 years of service with the mission agency. In 2006, we joined Wycliffe as full-time missionaries after Tony retired from teaching Computer Engineering at the Nanyang Technological University.

The mission of Wycliffe is to serve the Bible Translation Movement around the world. As of 2020 there are 7,360 known languages in the world, but only 3,415 languages have some Scripture. From another perspective, 255 million people speak languages that have no Scripture at all. Wycliffe together with SIL, United Bible Societies and other partners are working to eliminate this Bible poverty. 

Our assignment in 2006 with the Asia Pacific Area of Wycliffe Global Alliance was to bring together a team of senior missionaries with experience serving in East Asia to implement a strategy of mobilising the local church to reach minority groups with the Scriptures in their heart language and provide training in cross-cultural adaptation and languages for their missionaries. The East Asia Network (EAN) shared the vision of the Bible made accessible through translation, training and facilitated the collaboration of local networks of churches with mission agencies. A training centre for nationals from East Asia was also established in Chiang Mai, Thailand. In 2011, another Singaporean, with the advantage of residing on the field, took over the leadership of EAN. 

We were then assigned to manage the project funding and reporting for the Area. This included EAN and projects in Indonesia which we took over from SIL when they had to withdraw from that country. Other activities included giving training in project management, visiting and supporting the members in the field and facilitating the migration of the corporate email systems to Google. A collaboration bringing together partners in Bible translation in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands was initiated. There are hundreds of languages spoken in the Pacific. The language groups are small and separated by days of water travel. 

For the last five years, Tony is the Director of Administration Services and is assisted by Yoke Meng. In the Asia Pacific Area, there are 31 Wycliffe Alliance Organisations working on Bible translation and literacy projects. The Leadership Team serve these organisations in various ways:

  • Coordination – leading by influence and initiatives
  • Communications – conferences, media, digital technology
  • Community – identity, co-operation, care, sharing
  • Collaboration – joint projects, shared resources and people
  • Changes – response to dynamic environments, conceptualise futures, preparation and training

What have we been doing this past year? The Covid-19 pandemic certainly has curtailed a significant portion of our usual activities. As the result of travel restrictions, we had to cancel an Asia-area conference and re-worked another one into a series of webinar/zoom sessions. Physical visits to our Alliance members were out of the question. Many workers had to leave their field because of the pandemic as well as increasing repressions on missionaries. We had to respond to the changing environment and technology became an indispensable enabler. Here are some of the programmes and processes we have been able to initiate and facilitate.

  • Checking of translations. There is a backlog of translations waiting to be checked by consultants. A project in the Solomon Islands which had a portion of the work facilitated by a manager in Brisbane, was checked by a consultant in Taiwan who was at the same time being mentored by a senior consultant in Singapore. Only the translators had to travel from their island village to Honiara, the capital for Internet access.
  • Virtual gatherings for fellowship and training. Translation consultants usually work in isolation from other consultants. Gatherings were organised for them to meet, chat and share. Separately, training seminars were conducted via Zoom.
  • A training course – Language Translation in the Missions of God for consultants and trainers was conducted with the aim of translating and contextualising the curriculum into Chinese, Malay, Indonesian and Tagalog.
  • Administratively, Zoom meetings enabled our dispersed Area team to meet regularly, strengthening mutual care and encouragement. Frequent opportunities for meetings and discussion actually led to quicker decisions and implementation of projects.
  • We experimented with a synchronised Zoom event jointly with Alliance Organisations in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines. One Saturday evening each organised a gathering locally in a way that suits their context and health restrictions. The purpose was to inform and mobilise churches and supporters for the ministry of Bible translation. We invited Francis Chan to speak on Bible Poverty, screened videos of translation projects in the regions and presented information on progress of on-going projects and their needs. Then we used the breakout function to form country-based groups where they can use their local languages. Some organisations were completely individual based as the participants were scattered throughout the country (Malaysia, Philippines) others had hybrid gatherings of groups and individuals, (e.g. Thailand had meetings in 3 cities using churches and restaurants and Singapore met in homes and included dinners). The event enabled us to reach many churches throughout the region and demonstrated that we can effectively partner in events across nations.

It has been a challenging time for missions with many nations closing the door to mission work. The Covid-19 pandemic has led to the exit of many missionaries from the field and practically suspended all travel. But it has also been an exciting time and a wonderful opportunity to serve together with people, who, though coming from our very diverse Asia Pacific region, have a united commitment to make the Bible accessible to people and language groups who do not have the Scriptures in their heart language. 

Since 2021, we have stepped down from the GBC Missions Programme. We continue to give thanks to God for allowing and enabling us to continue to serve Him in the Bible translation movement. For future updates, please email us at tony_chan@wycliffe.net or WhatsApp at 97553820 (Tony), 97301670 (Yoke Meng). We’d be glad to continue sharing this ministry with you. 

Blessings,

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