This week, Heaven to the Yeah grace ambassador, Jordan Gray, had the opportunity to engage in an inspiring and moving talk that is well worth the listen with the Director of Discipleship at Wycliffe Associates, Sam Todd, as he provided insight into his mission with Wycliffe Associates and the impact faith has played not only on his life, but also on the lives of those with whom he works. Growing up as a Pastor’s kid, Todd was always in and around churches and has seen how many different churches operate and how the congregation responded to each church operation. With these experiences, Todd saw that “a lot of churches function as really bad businesses, and those business practices can erode churches.” Todd commented on the number of people leaving churches and how that number continues to grow, not because of God, but because of the business of the church. With this, Todd saw that we need to communicate better with others and plan to not turn people away, but rather to invite them in. So, Todd aimed to bring that feeling of Church as a safe and inviting space back, showing his heart to have always been drawn toward ministry and ministry leadership. “I had the opportunity to intern with Wycliffe Associates and got to work and see what it meant to reach people and meet them where they’re at in their language and culture while helping others serve the local church so they could come to know God more fully.” As Todd continues to work with Wycliffe Associates, he continually comes beside people to help them reach their goals with the church as they transition with each translation of the scripture and come to know the Word. With each day of work, Todd never fails to see the impact his faith journey has on his career.
“Faith has always been a part of who we were, and I feel so blessed to have had the journey I had. I didn’t have so much of a revelatory experience in finding God, but it was more so a lot of personal growth in understanding and living out who Jesus is.” The foundation in his faith gave Todd the framework he continues to live in and work through. “The concepts of goodness—what’s fair, what’s right—were instilled in me from the time I was born. Being able to be in healthy church environments and have that example is a lot of what I do today.” Within this framework, it was internalized that we are the hands and feet of Jesus and are here to do his work. This is what Todd keeps at the forefront of his work within his more administrative role in the company. “Our purpose is not to lead and find; it is to see where God is going, to see how we can be God’s voice in everyday experiences and follow that.” Through his faith journey and its impact on his career, Todd’s role bridged between missionary work and into his role as Director. “My role is to help the leadership team and be relationally involved while building materials and resources to create a philosophical framework.” Todd’s role in Wycliffe Associates is to work with a team who essentially break the world up into smaller pieces, allowing them to see the cultural differences and learn how to better reach and meet the people in these regions where they are at. Todd and his team at Wycliffe Associates know that there is no set framework in the world and each situation will have its own unique instances, but Todd works with each team in each new instance to build a framework and see how and why they do things. “As we come to each instance, we connect with the local teams and take the framework to then derive local application pieces that is consistent with the philosophy; [essentially,] I help to work with teams and see if the plan matches the philosophy.” By working with these teams and expanding their philosophy all over the world, Todd sees the impact of his work as new translations of the Bible hit new language regions.
“As people get that new Bible that has been translated for them, there are a lot of different experiences happening. One is the most pragmatic in the sense of ‘I am going to understand God better.’ It is such a neat experience to see as we all get to different places and find a time when we know our hearts are now truly in it.” As each person in a different language begins to receive their own Bible translations, they start to obtain a different understanding of the Bible and be better able to internalize the characteristics of God better and try to be who God was in their own ways. “There is that aspect of joy and excitement. For some, this [the Bible] is the first book published in their language. It gives people validation, joy, and honor to read something in their own language which tells them they are worth it; worth the time and energy that comes with publishing a book in their language.” Through the joy and validation that comes with new Bible translation, also comes change within communities, persons, hearts, minds, and churches as they interpret the Bible in their own language. Through such work, Todd naturally found himself evolving to work through and for something bigger than himself. “God is always bigger than whatever I do, and what God is doing in and around me is not dependent on me.” God is writing His story and we all have a unique role to play in it. For Todd, his role was found within his orientation toward mission work and holding on to that ‘bigger than me’ mentality. He came to see that God is always moving His story forward and we are all involved in different parts of the story. “We are not the end all, be all, but we can be part of it. By understanding we all have shortcomings and strengths, and by being part of a team, we are participating in something—being part of something—bigger than ourselves. This is something I have always appreciated and believed in.” No matter what happens, the world keeps spinning, regardless of what we do, so we might as well keep looking up with our eyes on the prize and live for something greater than ourselves; live for the Grace of God.
“Even from creation we have been given Grace. God has placed his blueprint on our hearts and on our lives. Thinking we are self-made is a broken concept for we are nothing without God—without the Creator.” Our abilities and our strengths are not things we did ourselves, nor are they deserved, but they are opportunities we have been given into which we can grow. “Our lives are Grace-filled, and it is God wanting to invite us to be a part of what He is doing. We owe everything to God…that framework is not ours, but we have the opportunity to give it: to give in the same way God has given to us.” In doing so, we can keep our eyes on the prize and live with Heaven in view. “Heaven to the Yeah is this idea of having our eyes on the prize and being able to integrate that into our daily experience and be aware of what is going on around us.” Living with Heaven in view is being Kingdom oriented while knowing that it is already here, but not yet.
Before Todd’s time speaking with Gray came to an end, he left the readers, listeners, and viewers with final thoughts and encouraging words. “One thing that is really challenging, yet encouraging, is the reality of difficulty and suffering. In understanding that the current pain is temporary shows that we live in the reality of a fallen and broken world; however, God is in control and with us always. [Keep that in mind] and have that hope and joy in Jesus.” The Heaven to the Yeah team thanks Todd for his time and open testimony as he allowed the Holy Spirit to speak from his heart. We pray for happiness and health for him and his family.