'We've been working in Bible translation and literacy for 60 years'

Jessie’s story | God’s arms around me

“A month after I was born, my mother died of pneumonia. Being the youngest of six, my father found it somewhat challenging to care for the younger ones, particularly the baby. Some weeks later, a neighbour offered to care for me temporarily, and then offered to care for me permanently. I became the youngest of their four – fully loved and cared for!

In Feb 1950, when I was 12 years old, I was sitting on the front seat of the school bus, looking out, as we drove up the crest of a hill. I noticed an accident – a group of vehicles gathered around a motor bike on the road. The bus slowed down as we passed the site, and I thought to myself, “That’s Alan’s bike – my older brother.”

I was very close to Alan. At noon, my father came to the school and broke the news. Alan had died of head injuries. I remember all the emotion afterwards. We were all grieving… lots of crying, lots of tears. It was deep grief. But somehow at the same time, there was comfort. My (foster) mother was a Christian and she had a verse on the lounge room wall from Deuteronomy 33:27, “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”

That’s how I felt. Amid the unending grief, I had a palpable sense of God’s arms around me, as though he was crying with me, at the senseless loss.

Not long after that, the student minister assigned to our country church started to visit us. One day, he said he’d been thinking about our family. He said that our family must truly know the strength of God’s love for us, because we knew the deep trauma of having our son and brother torn from our heart and family. And yet, we also knew that God freely gave up his only Son, for us, to forgive us and restore us to God. “More than anyone else I know,” he said, “you must truly understand the love of God.”

I can’t remember what my father said in reply, but I do recall the conversation as though it were yesterday. It touched my heart in a powerful way. God freely gave up his Son Jesus for us! It set me wanting to know more and more of this loving God. It was transformative!

“Amid the unending grief, I had a palpable sense of God’s arms around me, as though he was crying with me.”

After that, I went to teacher’s college in Wagga Wagga, and I joined the Christian group. The following year, I had another experience of deep joy in the Lord, and I knelt by my bed, and I prayed. I longed to go wherever God would lead me in the world. It would be such a great privilege to be involved in God’s mission for the world!

Some years later, in 1962, I met Warren at a Missions meeting. He was also praying to God to be available for overseas missions. Warren had a background in engineering and mathematics. He knew he wasn’t an evangelist or church planter, but he had the skills needed for analysing and developing unwritten languages.

Warren decided he would go and train in Bible translation. He asked me to go with him. I said I would pray about it. Then he said, “I was really asking you to marry me!”

We married, and in the 60 years since then, we’ve been working in Bible translation (in languages without a written script) and in literacy work in South Asia – first in Nepal, then India, Pakistan and Singapore. We’re still going! We’ve had so much joy at seeing translations completed and people receiving the word of God and coming to faith. In 2020, we went back to Nepal for the dedication of a new Bible in the central west area, 50 years after we began it!

Of course, it’s often been hard work (mountains to climb, mud huts to live in, uncertain water supplies, illnesses), but it’s also been full of joy. We’ve always been fully loved and cared for! And my life verse is from John 10:10, “But I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” That’s been true for me!”

Jessie’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, compiled by Naomi Reed. Click here for more Faith Stories.


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