When Gideon was rallying his army to fight against the armies of Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east, he felt woefully inadequate with his 32,000 troops. After all, the opposing forces “had settled in the valley like a swarm of locusts. Their camels were like grains of sand on the seashore—too many to count.”—Judges 7:12. This was going to require every resource Gideon had. But God had a lesson for him and, by extension, for us today through this inspired account of the battle. As it turns out, God didn’t want Israel to be confident in their own skills and strength, so he had Gideon furlough 22,000 of them who were timid or afraid. With the remaining 10,000, there was a unique water drinking test that only 300 of them passed—those who drank from cupped hands rather than lapping from the stream. Whole sermons have been preached on the merits of the former method so the enemy doesn’t take you by surprise, but I (Doug) don’t think that was the takeaway lesson. Instead, the less the Israelite army became, the more their focal point would be on God and what he would do. The victory was God’s and God’s alone.
Just like Gideon, I worried that I didn't have the means to engage effectively in the battle. With so many countries that need training in the tools for Bible translation, and a limited budget and staff, there was no way for my team to stay on top of all of the needs. The strategy that had been working best was to lead workshops at important global centers, equipping local trainers. This past February, my team made plans for six workshops in Kenya, India, Germany, Peru, Papua New Guinea, and the Central African Republic. Then COVID-19 hit. Figuratively speaking, our 22,000 troops were sent home. The workshop in Kenya just finished before the lockdown, but every one of the remaining five workshops was canceled! Now what?
Essentially, this feels like putting down the sword and shield and picking up a ram’s horn, clay jar, and torch (Judges 7:16). God’s got this battle, but it isn't in our comfort zone! To our great joy, however, we are already starting to see God at work in the following ways:
- Training people online is much cheaper than traveling, just not quite as effective.
- Because it is harder to teach and work online, we are both forced to improve our skills and the effectiveness of our presentations.
- We have the capacity to train 100 people at a time online.
- We are reaching more areas of the world—people from 23 countries were present at the most recent training session.
- Many schools and organizations are doing free online training that we can learn from.
- The lockdown provided the impetus for Doug’s team to start creating an online language technology course to develop consultants.
These new methods still feel like clay pots and torches, but the battle is the Lord's.
Be encouraged in this time of uncertainty! God has a plan to build his Kingdom. This new and uncertain landscape may serve to enhance his purposes rather than to detract from them.
We are spending a lot more time in our home office, and peace and stability have been enjoyable. Our son Roger moved in this month, joining Kevin and our granddaughter--making this house quite an active place. We are so grateful to God that we have a home base we can offer to our children in their time of need. Our eldest, Henry, his wife Kaitlyn, and son Isaac have moved closer to us in Kalamazoo where Henry has started his residency as a medical doctor. We're proud of his accomplishment!
Praying God's blessing on you as you also discover the clay pot and torch God has prepared for you in these challenging times.
Partners in the Gospel, (Phil 1:5)
Doug & P.J. Higby
Prayer & Praise
- Praise God for the opportunity to discover new ways of learning and training during the pandemic.
- Praise God for Henry's graduation from med school, and pray for his family as he starts his emergency medicine residency in Kalamazoo.
- Pray for wisdom for Doug and his team as they attempt to develop an online consultant training course that could go on despite travel lockdowns and reach more people.
- Pray for wisdom as to how and when to start planning workshops again for the rest of this year and the next.
- Pray for P.J. as she is experimenting with a more automated way of producing print and electronic books used by missionary staff and students. A number of experiments are being run now to find the best options.
- By check
- Payable to: "Wycliffe Bible Translators"
with the memo: "Doug & Priscilla Higby"
Mail to: Wycliffe Bible Translators, P.O. Box 628200, Orlando FL 32862-8200
- Payable to: "Wycliffe Bible Translators"
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Doug & Priscilla Higby are missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Both are serving SIL International: Doug is the International Coordinator for Language Technology Use, and Priscilla is supervising academic publications.
934 Alger St SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49507
Phone: (616) 808-8129, 808-1126
These cell numbers now work in 170 countries thanks to Google Fi!