“Can I live in Africa? Is this what I should to do for the rest of my life?” These questions prompted me to apply for Pioneer Bible Translators’ summer internship program. The purpose of my internship was to allow me to experience firsthand the realities of life on the mission field and get a sense of how I could be involved in providing God’s Word to Bibleless peoples. As an intern, I spent the summer traveling around the country, staying with different missionaries. I saw life in a big city and a tiny village. I lived with teams who are just starting out and others who were fifteen year veterans. I met people who do literacy evangelism, Bible translation, community development, support work and more. I gained a new appreciation for the hardships of living in a village. I struggled through language learning, wrestling with the emotions that come with being unable to communicate. I met people of different religions and got to discuss their beliefs. I saw communities in desperate need of the transforming power of the Gospel. I met believers who are living for Jesus in their culture. The countless statistics I had heard about Bibleless people took on names and faces as I met them personally. And on the field, classroom learning about missions took on a whole new level of reality.
While the major focus for an intern is experiential learning, they are not limited to observation and experience alone. They also have the privilege of helping the missionaries who are mentoring them for a summer. This takes different forms depending on the location and current needs. This summer, in East Africa, interns drew illustrations for the New Testaments that are being prepped for publication. In West Africa, interns created literacy primer booklets, providing a people group with the means to learn how to read the Scriptures that are available in their language. In South Asia, interns developed a plan for ethnomusicology among a local people, encouraging them to worship the Savior in their local language and style. In Papua New Guinea, interns worked with teams of nationals in language workshops, producing literacy materials for multiple language groups simultaneously. Other interns helped type handwritten drafts of Scriptures and write Bible story books. These projects benefit both the missionaries and the local people—not to mention the interns.
God often uses the internship program, with the opportunities to observe and participate in mission life, to confirm His calling in the life of a student. Kyle came on an internship to West Africa because of his interest in sports’ outreach. While there, he learned about the need for literacy work. “I’m a teacher,” he said. “I could do that.” He and his wife Katie are now teaching literacy among people he first met as an intern. Aimee came on an internship to determine if God was calling her to missions. God used the summer to show her how she could serve Him overseas. She and her husband are now serving in a new Pioneer Bible Translators project. Chris started his internship with plans to become a Bible translator. After spending the summer doing linguistics and helping with support work as well, he recognized the desperate need for support personnel. He also realized that God has gifted him to serve others by working with his hands. He is making plans to return as support staff. When I came to West Africa as an intern back in 2008, I was nervous about how I would handle life here. Could I survive the heat and the strange food and the bugs? I came away with the conviction, “I can live in Africa. This is how I want to invest the rest of my life.” That summer experience proved to be invaluable, preparing me for living here long term. For me, the summer internship program was an opportunity to confirm my calling to Bible translation and discover how I could live that out.