This has been a special week, a historic week, here at the Wycliffe Discovery Center in Orlando, Florida. I flew in to host a pivotal meeting for the Strategy Working Group of the Lausanne Movement. Back in 1996, long before iPads and iClouds, Paul Eshleman was invited to serve as board chairman. This week, as Steve Douglass and Doug Birdsall stood with him, Paul laid his hands on my shoulders while praying blessings over the future of the Strategy Working Group. As Paul relinquished his duties to me, I couldn’t help but to be humbled by the great journey ahead.
Our meetings were intense. We worked. We planned. We strategized. I have a bulging notepad to decipher during my flight home. My journey will be short compared to those that traveled from Hong Kong, India, Korea, Lebanon, Nigeria and the U.K. For all of our diversity, we shared such a sense of connectedness.
Before releasing the group, I decided to lead them outside and onto the patio behind the Wycliffe conference rooms. There, we posed for a picture in front of the Wycliffe lake. I felt a quickening of the Holy Spirit to share a story with them.
If you have never heard of John Wycliffe, I encourage you to learn about this great man of God. He was hated by the Church for creating the first English translation of the Bible. Not only did his enemies seek to burn his writings — after his death, they issued a decree to dig up his bones in order to burn them as well. His ashes were thrown into the River Swift that ran by Lutterworth. As the last remnants of his physical body disappeared, one of his followers, known as the Lollards, wrote that John Wycliffe would flow down that river and end up touching the ends of the Earth.
With the same sentiment, English poet, William Wordsworth penned this poem:ONCE more the Church is seized with sudden fear,
And at her call is Wicliffe disinhumed:
Yea, his dry bones to ashes are consumed
And flung into the brook that travels near;
Forthwith, that ancient Voice which Streams can hear
Thus speaks (that Voice which walks upon the wind,
Though seldom heard by busy human kind)
“As thou these ashes, little Brook! wilt bear
“Into the Avon, Avon to the tide
“Of Severn, Severn to the narrow seas,
“Into main Ocean they, this deed accursed
“An emblem yields to friends and enemies
“How the bold Teacher’s Doctrine, sanctified
“By truth, shall spread, throughout the world dispersed.”
When Wycliffe Bible Translators acquired this property, the State of Florida required us to dig a large hole in order to collect rainwater runoff. Since we had to dig an enormous hole, we decided we might as well dig a lake. Imagine our surprise when the lake miraculously filled up in just hours. Unknown to us, we had tapped into an underground river that connects the Wycliffe property with the Atlantic Ocean that Wycliffe’s ashes flowed into 400 years ago. I get chills when I tell that story.
Generations later, and thousands of miles from the origin of the first English Bible, I couldn’t help but wonder “Where do we go from here?” I have often whispered a prayer in front of that special lake asking “What’s next God?” This week, I have been given an answer.
We live in a world that is hungry for connection. Our words reflect our culture. We are linking and “friending” around the globe. It’s the hip and fashionable lifestyle; yet God has been linking and friending His people for generations. In this generation, in this historical time for global evangelization … God is connecting His global Church like never before. The tides have turned.
I am so grateful for the men and women that He brought to our meetings this week. I am in awe of the diversity represented in our small group. Whisper a prayer with me for them as the Lord leads us into a brand new chapter of the Great Commission.
“For as the waters fill the sea, the earth will be filled with an awareness of the glory of the Lord” (Habakkuk 2:14, NLT).