Photo: Natasha Schmale

The Who Behind Our Whys

From the editor.

Despite being tired, sleep eluded Word Alive photographer Natasha Schmale one night about a year ago. Light breezes, the croaks of frogs and the chirps of bats wafted in through open windows in the guest room of the Wapishana Translation Centre in southwest Guyana, South America. Natasha lay there blinking. Only the inky blackness was visible on the moonless night. 

It was the final evening that Natasha and writer Alexis Harrison were spending in the Rupununi savannah. They had been travelling the week before to several Wapishana villages, meeting, interviewing and taking photos of Wycliffe and Wapishana translators, local pastors and literacy workers. 

“It was exciting to see the Wapishana people eager about God’s Word in their own language,” recalls Natasha, “and to hear them singing and worshipping in their own language. 

“But there was also an element of sadness: two translators had lost their lives here.” 

As explained in this issue of Word Alive, Richard and Charlene Hicks (a Canadian/American dual citizen and American, respectively) were killed by would-be thieves near the interior town of Lethem less than a decade ago. 

“They say that hindsight is 20/20, and I would agree that generally things appear clearer looking back,” says Natasha. “But that night as I lay in the guest room of the Wapishana Translation Centre—which had been the home of the Hickses before they were murdered in 2005—things were still unclear for me.

Why did the murders happen? Why did the Hickses have to die this way?

“Natasha found herself longing to know answers to some obvious “whys.” Why did the murders happen? Why did the Hickses have to die that way? 

Throughout the week of travelling, interviews and photo-taking, she had seen little glimpses of God’s sovereignty and goodness prevailing in the Bible translation project. But pieces were still missing for her.

 Natasha realized that she was missing those pieces because not even God’s people can truly comprehend His ways. 

“Yet like a small child who asks for answers she is not old enough to understand, I still ask why. And like a small child,” concludes Natasha, “I must trust that though I don’t fully understand, I have a sovereign Father who will prevail over darkness.” 

As our writer/photographer teams travel to various parts of the world to bring you the stories in this magazine, we ask lots of questions. So it is exasperating when occasionally there simply are no concrete and certain answers to our queries: Why did it take so long before Bible translation started for this group? Why are there so many obstacles to getting the job finished? Why did the key local translator suddenly die from disease? Why isn’t the language group overjoyed at receiving God’s Word at the moment? 

Like Natasha in Guyana, we too can stare at our dark “whys” and see nothing in response but the blackness of uncertainty. In the end, as Natasha did, it is best to peer past Why to the ultimate Who. We must focus on our Father—the One who will ultimately prevail over all things, the “whys” included.



Like what you’re reading? Then don’t miss an issue. Subscribe to be notified when the next issue is published.

Next Story


Inducted into the Hall of Faith

Murdered while serving Guyana’s Wapishana Amerindians, Wycliffe’s Richard and Charlene Hicks left a lasting impression on the language project and the people.