Early in 1990, when Kala Thompson saw her husband Bud’s growing interest in the work of Bible translation, she grew increasingly nervous. After all, Bud’s hair salon in Sussex, N.B., had grown to 10 employees. Kala was also working as an RN.
The Thompsons’ lifestyle in the town 70 km northeast of Saint John was comfortable and predictable.
Furthermore, with Bud just a few years away from his 50th birthday, Kala wasn’t sure she wanted to make any major changes. But it was clear to Kala that something in Bud had begun to change after they both visited a Bible translation project in Guatemala.
“After we came home,” says Kala, “Bud talked more and more about Wycliffe and about his growing dissatisfaction with being in secular business.”
“So many people around me were saying ‘I, me, we, we’re buying, we’re getting,’” adds Bud. “The greed kind of got to me, after seeing all the poverty down there.”
When Bud eventually floated the idea of returning to Guatemala to serve as volunteers with Wycliffe, Kala agreed to go on one condition—that they would not use the vacation money they’d saved up to visit Spain and Morocco. As a compromise, Bud offered to sell his van instead to finance their volunteer service.
The idea left Kala feeling somewhat relieved.
“I thought, that’s OK; the money won’t last that long.”
About a week later, Kala was dumbfounded when Bud informed her he had sold an apartment building they owned so they could stay longer in Guatemala. And not long after that, her quiet, softspoken husband dropped another bombshell: he had sold the hair salon.
“I couldn’t believe he would do these things without talking to me about it,” says Kala, noting they had always made big decisions like that together. “But he just really believed that God was calling us to be involved in Bible translation full time.”
Just four months after their visit to Guatemala, the couple attended an orientation course in Kelowna, B.C., for people interested in joining Wycliffe’s staff. If they had any doubts at that point that God was calling them to be “sold out” for missions, their doubts were quickly dispelled when Bud answered an unexpected phone call from a man who wanted to buy their house in Sussex.
This was odd—considering their house wasn’t listed on the real estate market and the man had only seen the exterior.
After quickly conferring with Kala, Bud suggested an amount and the inquirer—who planned to move to Sussex and needed a large house for his family—agreed on the price over the phone.
Taste and See
With their four children grown and following their own pursuits, Bud and Kala moved to Guatemala City in October, 1990, just seven months after their first visit to the Central American country. For the next six-and-a-half years, they served more than 20 language projects through a variety of support roles that included maintenance, information technology, staff care and hospitality.
Kala also used her artistic talent to illustrate reading primers and Scripture books.
In 1996, when Wycliffe’s operations in Guatemala began to downsize because Bible translation there was nearing completion, the Thompsons returned to New Brunswick and bought a “fixer-upper” house to renovate and call home. Wycliffe Canada leaders then asked them if they would serve as Wycliffe representatives at Christian conferences, churches, and schools in the Atlantic region.
“We said, ‘OK, it’s not really our thing, but we’ll do it for two years,’” says Kala.
Belatedly, they began raising financial support from interested friends, family members, and churches. Nineteen years later, they’re still spreading the word about remaining needs in Bible translation—and still using a valuable strategy they discovered early on to help people “get” what Wycliffe is all about.
“It’s hard to get people interested in Bible translation if they don’t see the work for themselves,” says Bud. “So, I decided at the beginning that we would do that—take people on a short-term mission trip so they could see the work.”
One of the first young people to participate was Jessica Sinclair (see story, "The Passion Facilitator"), a bright, outgoing 15-year-old whom the Thompsons first met at a church in Moncton. In 1997, Jessica joined Bud’s first “vision trip” to a country he knew well: Guatemala.
Since then, Bud and Kala have led numerous overseas trips, to Guatemala as well as a few countries in Africa. Most are vision trips, but some—like a January 2014 trip to Cameroon—may involve physical labour and/or medical outreach, too.
The Cameroon trip benefited a Bible translation and literacy project for a cluster of related languages in the Ndop plain of Cameroon, one of several “focus regions” recently adopted by Wycliffe Canada. To raise awareness about needs there as well as other regions around the globe, the Thompsons regularly meet with pastors and other church leaders in Atlantic Canada.
“For the past couple of years,” says Kala, “we have focused on introducing area churches to the concepts of ‘Kingdom Friendships,’ where churches partner with language groups, people groups and projects.”
The Thompsons have many opportunities to do so, thanks to strong ties to the Convention of Atlantic Baptist Churches (CABC).
The denomination includes more than 450 churches.
Through relationships formed with CABC church leaders and others over the past 35 years, Bud and Kala receive many invitations to represent Wycliffe Canada at mission-related services or conferences.
Furthermore, Kala is a licensed lay pastor with the Baptist group. As a result, she has been able to expand their network through her speaking ministry at women’s retreats.
Besides their church network, Bud and Kala also enjoy meeting students from area schools like Kingswood University (formerly Bethany Bible College) and inviting them to their home whenever possible.
“Every day is different,” Kala says about their ministry. While the Thompsons love their role in Wycliffe, they know the time will soon come to hand it over to others.
“We don’t have the same energy. . . .” says Bud. “But we feel the same passion,” adds Kala. “We are 70-ish and we are not going to live to see every Bible translation that needs to be done finished. But, the people we recruit now, and the people we get involved who are young, they can . . . live to see every language group that needs it have a New Testament.”
Some observers might think it’s time for the Thompsons to start taking it easy. But for Bud, the idea of spending his remaining days on a golf course is out of the question.
“I couldn’t be out golfing every day,” he jokes, “because we blew all our money.”