Once or twice a week through much of the year, you will find Amy Wolverton at the “Gymtastiks” club in Moose Jaw, Sask. She’s there helping local kids experience gymnastics, from rolling on mats to walking on the beam.
As a certified gymnastics coach, Amy mentors youngsters in one of her childhood passions.
“I grew up doing gymnastics from age four to 15,” she says. “In elementary school, I’d go to school, then to gymnastics almost every day, and I loved it right up to the time I quit.”
Twenty minutes down the highway at her hometown of Caronport, Amy also coaches the track and field club at the local high school, which is connected to the community’s centrepiece, Briercrest Bible College and Seminary.
Because of her love of track and field throughout grade school, Amy decided to volunteer to guide the Caronport teenagers in the sport.
“It’s something I really enjoy,” she says. “I can build relationships, and I can help the kids improve and see them grow, and support them in their sport.”
Coaching is obviously in the blood of this 33-year-old wife and mother of two small children.
So, it seems only natural that Amy serves as co-ordinator of Wycliffe Canada’s internship program. Once again, she is helping others—in this case, students getting on-the-job exposure—to experience what she has.
Off to Tanzania
Born in Brooks, Alta., Amy spent most of her life in Caronport, attending school there right through to Bible college and seminary. She gravitated to English as a Second Language (ESL) teaching courses, and spent some time in Thailand, before graduating with a BA in Global Studies from Briercrest. As she interacted with visiting missions representatives, Amy was touched by the need for Bible translation. She decided to do an internship in Scripture use through Wycliffe U.K. The then 28-year-old set off for Tanzania in January 2008.
Amy joined a Wycliffe couple from Switzerland who had their hands full with Bible translation. They had been immersed for 15 years in Sandawe, a difficult, tonal language using 15 different clicks and characterized by a highly challenging grammar.
“When I got there, they had translated the books of Jonah and Ruth,” she explains. “They wanted somebody to distribute it, teach it, do Bible studies, go to markets in the area. I would have an mp3 player playing the Scriptures and songs, and people would buy calendars in their language with the alphabet on the back.”
Amy learned as much Sandawe as she could, though she often had to default to Swahili, the main trade language in Tanzania, which she studied for four months at a language school when she first arrived in the country. The active young woman enjoyed her 18 months on the field, including the travel and social interaction.
“I like riding my bike, I like walking, and I like exercise. The different villages I would go around to would be an hour away, but I could walk and greet people along the way.”
Amy saw staff working behind the scenes in areas such as finance and accounting which support the effort of Bible translators, literacy workers and staff promoting use of translated Scripture.
“It gave me a whole new perspective,” she says. “Then when I got out to the village setting, I realized what it takes to translate the Bible—how much work and time, double and triple checking.”
Amy knew the long translation effort was worth it when she played audio portions of the translated book of Jonah to a group of Sandawe village women. Though the women had the Swahili Bible, it was listening to God’s Word in their heart language and following along with printed Scriptures that struck home.
“At the end of it, I remember this one lady said, ‘Oh, that’s what the book’s all about.’ In the end, their faces lit up.
“When I’d go to the market and play their songs or Scripture, they just felt a great pride in it and they would say, ‘This is our language. We can understand it.’ ”
When Amy returned to Canada in late 2010, she began dating Justin, a long-time friend in Caronport. They were married the next summer.
Justin had made a commitment to continue playing basketball and studying at Briercrest. During the couple’s engagement, Wycliffe Canada approached Amy to spearhead a new internship program. She didn’t hesitate to work with young people wanting to get a taste of cross-cultural ministry like she had.
“I had just experienced it,” she says. “I’m fresh out of college, seminary—[I am at the] same stage as them. I can understand.”
Most post-secondary institutions, including Bible schools and seminaries, require students to do an experience and exposure-building internship as part of their studies, says Amy. Wycliffe Canada is partnering with more and more schools to provide such opportunities.
About half of Wycliffe interns are post-secondary students who have taken classes in their area of interest but want an internship to see if they should continue those studies. “Some are out of high school and want to try an internship and then do their schooling,” she adds. “Others have done some schooling and then want to specialize in an area.”
Whatever their circumstances, Amy says young people today—unlike their parents—are faced with many more possibilities for careers. They often need to try things before committing to anything long term, which makes Wycliffe’s internship program so relevant.
“They get a good experience and . . . I think it helps them get some direction, either ‘Yes, this is for me’ or ‘No, it isn’t for me.’ ”
Internships are a win-win situation, both for the intern and the Wycliffe personnel they assist, explains Amy. “Most are replying, ‘Yes, send me another one.’”
So far, 36 young people have been on Wycliffe internships since the program began in 2010. Of that number, five have joined Wycliffe, three are serving in full-time Christian work, and a handful of others are currently studying for service with Wycliffe.
Seeing Growth in Others
Working remotely from Caronport, Amy interacts with interns from the application process right through to their post-field debriefing, via email, Skype or in person.
She gives potential interns one-on-one attention to match them with relevant ministry opportunities somewhere in Wycliffe’s worldwide ministry, ranging from two months to one year. These internships have so far included linguistics, Bible translation, literacy, Bible storytelling, ethno-arts, Scripture use, teaching missionary kids, administration, video production and information technology.
“There’s a huge variety,” she says of the possibilities. “People shouldn’t get the idea that because we say we’re ‘Wycliffe Bible Translators’ that there are only opportunities in language work.”
Amy says most interns have never travelled before, other than on family vacations, or they have not travelled alone.
“I’m helping them with visas, and plane tickets and travel tips. All my past travel experience I can pass on to them, and then [my experience] cross-culturally too.”
These days, Amy is busy with a two-year-old son and an infant daughter, and is taking a six-month maternity leave, before returning in her fulfilling role as internship co-ordinator.
“I just like seeing growth and building those relationships, answering questions and being available and helping.”
Whether it’s in the gym, outside on a track, or at her desk guiding interns, Amy keeps on coaching young people as they test and pursue passions and gifts God has given them.