For David Thormoset, the freak weather pattern that buried Calgary in more than 25 cm of snow this past September was another reminder that he’s a long way from Africa.
Besides adjusting to climatic differences between Calgary and Cameroon, where he and his wife Henny served for the past 17 years, he’s also adjusting to an entirely new job.
As director of field partner relations, David now oversees Wycliffe Canada’s relationships with its numerous global partners who are involved in Bible translation and other language-related ministries funded by Canadian donors. That means the veteran linguist and translation adviser will no longer be directly involved in training minority language groups to translate Scripture.
But he’s okay with that, because he and Henny are still involved in furthering Bible translation—and in Calgary, they’ll be near two of their three adult children and their families.
While the desire to “be there” for their kids has always been important to the Thormosets, it became an even greater priority after the tragic death of their son Andreas in 2001.
Hearing and Heeding
David and Henny were in Cameroon when they learned that 19-year-old Andreas had taken his own life while living with relatives in Calgary (see Word Alive Spring 2004). Since then, they have done their best to provide emotional and practical support for their daughter Sonya, and their twin sons Nathan and Stefan.
Sonya has since married and moved to Switzerland, while Nathan and Stefan have both married and settled in Calgary. But when the twins told Henny in December 2012 that they wanted her and their dad to return to Canada—long term—David and Henny took their request very seriously.
“In Africa, it was easy to assume that the kids were fine,” says David. “Of course we missed them like crazy and it was really hard to not see our two granddaughters, but our thinking was,
‘This is what God has called us to do.’ ”
Their sons’ request forced them to reconsider their plan to keep working in Cameroon. David says he and Henny realized that if they stayed, their children and grandchildren would have to make sacrifices.
“Even though there was no crisis with our sons or their families . . . there was a felt-need that they were being deprived of something.”
As David and Henny prayed about the idea of leaving Cameroon, they felt a growing confidence and peace that a return to Canada was part of God’s plan.
“We had to really re-think, re-analyze what that could look like if we were to serve from Canada,” says David. “But we realized that we would still get to serve Bible translation.
“We haven’t pulled away from the task that we feel so passionate about.”
After the Thormosets moved to Calgary in January 2014, David began his work in the Calgary office by orienting himself to Wycliffe Canada’s overseas projects. Initially assigned to be a liaison between the home office and Bible translation projects in Africa, he has since taken on the additional responsibility of directing all field partner relations. In that role, he oversees a team of field partner liaisons, most of whom serve part time in that capacity while juggling other roles and responsibilities in the organization.
Both roles will require him to regularly visit language projects overseas and interact with the leaders of local organizations that Wycliffe partners with in Bible translation. Together, they will review the project’s progress, financial records and resource needs, while exploring ways to serve and build capacity in the partner agencies so they can expand the scope of their work.
“It’s relationship-building,” adds David. “It’s one thing to get on Skype or send an email, but it’s another for our field partners to be able to put a face to a name, and know, ‘Oh yeah, this is the guy we talk to whenever there’s a need.’ ”
Furthermore, David says he and other project liaisons will do their best to help Wycliffe’s field partners fill personnel gaps, by recruiting needed staff.
“So we’re looking basically to work hand-in-hand with people in our recruitment department, and to help place interns and volunteers. The idea is that we always have our finger on the pulse of the projects our partners are doing, to see how we can come alongside and help them.”
This past September, David travelled to Africa to assess a Wycliffe Canada-sponsored language project in Tanzania and another in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Eventually, his work will take him to other countries to visit with partners in Wycliffe Canada’s “focus regions” that also include Cameroon, Peru, Bougainville (in Papua New Guinea), Thailand, and even here in Canada, as well as a few partners in “restricted access” regions within Asia.
In recent years, Wycliffe Canada has taken steps to sharpen its geographic focus in terms of recruitment, prayer and project funding. Furthermore, David and his colleagues hope to encourage the formation of “Kingdom Friendships” between Wycliffe’s overseas partner organizations and churches in Canada (see Word Alive Summer 2014).
With about 500 staff scattered around the globe, Wycliffe Canada’s role in the worldwide Bible translation movement is a modest one. But with more than 1,800 languages still in need of Scripture translation, the need for effective global partnerships is crucial to finish Bible translation in this generation. Wycliffe’s leaders are hopeful that by directing people and resources to strategic regions, and encouraging healthy, growing Kingdom Friendships, Wycliffe Canada can make an even greater impact on language communities.
Fostering Kingdom Friendships between overseas language groups and Canadian churches is part of Henny’s job as director of Church Connections—which means she and David frequently find themselves working together to engage local churches in the work of Bible translation.
While they both enjoy such opportunities, David says they’ve both struggled in adapting to their new roles and surroundings.
At times, he adds, they’ve both felt “in over their heads.”
“I think both of us are longing to feel settled a bit; to get our roots down, get some routine. Because a tremendous amount of our time has been spent on trying to . . . get a sense of what we want to accomplish. . . .”
Additionally, David has missed working with Cameroonian and expat colleagues.
“We don’t get to rub shoulders anymore with the awesome people we had the privilege of working with over the past 17 years.
“And there’s something that’s always been appealing about . . . speaking different languages. I really enjoy that.”
However, the Thormosets are thankful for the opportunity to establish new roots and routines in Calgary, close to their two sons and their wives, and twin granddaughters.
The loving words spoken in their kids’ homes are music to their ears, and a source of joy and strength as David and Henny continue to further Bible translation around the world.
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