by Brandi Nuse-Villegas
Dinuba native Jason Naylor is setting off on a new adventure in missions.However, his adventure may be different than what many people imagine missions to be, reflecting a growing field that is embracing a multitude of talents and new skill to accomplish its goals.
Jason Naylor is a graduate of Cal Poly (and Immanuel Schools) who has been working in software development for ten years. For years he had been drawn to missions and particularly to Wycliffe Bible Translators. The mission organization reflected a great passion of his: the Word of God and access to the Word by all people.
Wycliffe itself is fueled by a passion to make the Bible available to the 340 million people who still do not have any Bible scripture in their own language. “That’s like the entire population of the United States and England,” Jason said.
To make the Bible available in all languages means finishing the process of translation currently being done in 1,500 languages, and starting work on the remaining 2,100 plus languages where no translation has been started. Wycliffe’s work also includes literacy development in the community, so that all people can read the Scriptures once they are printed in their language.
“The goal is to have a society be literate and have the written Word there,” continued Jason. “God’s Word has a power to change lives that goes beyond what any evangelist or preacher conveys. I know that scripture has changed my life, and I want every person in the world to have that opportunity.”
Having Scripture and the ability to read scripture is crucial for the growth and relationship with God that missionaries seek for the people they serve, and is effective even when the missionaries are no longer there to teach. “That’s what keeps the Christian community on track,” Jason said.
When he looked into Wycliffe, Jason found that there was also a place for his skills and talents as a software developer. Among the missionaries, Wycliffe has software programming teams working on software that will help speed up translation work. When a missionary is translating Bible text and types in two different words in the new language for the same word in the original text, the software will ask if they intended the word choice.
“For instance, if the translator typed in a certain word for ‘Abraham’ in one verse and used a different word for Abraham in another verse, it would ask ‘Did you miss this?’” shared Jason. This could save missionaries from having to go back and spend valuable time reworking areas where errors were made. “Wycliffe is thinking of the best way to keep the missionaries (in translation) on the field. Look at the Air Force. What percentage of those in the Air Force are the pilots? Not even ten percent. We are like the mechanics. You need a lot of support to do everything possible for them to do their work. If they are doing all these other things, they will have little time to do the work.”
In February of 2010, Jason visited Wycliffe’s International Linguistics Center in Dallas, Texas to see how he could fit in and where his talents may be used. He found his place in the language software development group. “That excited me the most. They were ready for me. They had my resume and told me, ‘Everything you have on the resume we have a need for. Everything you are interested in, we have. So it was perfect.’”
Afterward, Jason moved through the process of membership and completed a two-week training period in Orlando, Florida in July. If he reaches his financial support goals, he will start working with them full-time in February of this year. Unlike the translators, the software developers do not work in the countries where the languages are being translated. Jason will live and work in Dallas.
Jason stated that to some, his move into missions doesn’t make sense. He has had a successful job with a software company that was purchased by Boeing in November. This change means a new world of opportunities for the company and its employees. However, he said that this new development only affirmed his decision. “I was reassured because [when I learned about this], I didn’t have any hesitation, or second thoughts about my choice to join Wycliffe. Only a peace that God was with me as I walked from certainty into adventure. I know I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”
This adventure includes the challenges of raising financial support. He currently has about 31% of his goal. “It’s been steady, not fast. But it’s been good.”
Jason said he appreciates those who have pledged support, even those who don’t know him personally. He plans to resign his current job in February, even if he does not meet his goal by then, but cannot start his work with Wycliffe until he has the support. Due to the structure of the work, simultaneously working part-time as a missionary and in the industry was not an option.
“It’s a difficult lifestyle,” Jason acknowledged, and joked, “I decided not to continue in the family’s [organic tree fruit farm] because so much of it is outside of my control. And now I’m a missionary. God certainly has a sense of humor. This helps me appreciate that.”
Even before his move to Dallas, Jason recognizes that he is already functioning as a missionary. “There are many people who would not be involved [in supporting the mission work of Wycliffe] if I didn’t tell them and get them involved.” Jason has spoken at numerous church and small group meetings during his support raising. “There are some who have no connection to mission work at all. I am opening their eyes to missions. It’s the best thing I can do.”
Among the messages he shares is the importance of translation work in EVERY language. Many of the people who do not have Scripture in their primary language do speak a second language that does have a Bible translation, usually the country or region’s official language. For example, there are hundreds of indigenous languages in Mexico, but many people also learn and speak Spanish. Wycliffe founder Cameron Townsend and its missionaries recognized that this wasn’t good enough and they could not be content that people had the Word in their second language.
“The people understand words that they need for daily life, such as trade, so there are many words they don’t know,” said Jason. “If you know even 90% of the words in a Bible verse, you will likely not know all the words that give the meaning of the verse.”
The people who have received the Scriptures in their own language explain it best: “Trying to read the Word in the second language is like trying to eat a banana with the peel still on. Now it is so much easier, with nothing getting in the way.”
A tribal member in Papua New Guinea commented, “Hearing the Bible in the second language is like listening to birds in the tree. I can hear them, but don’t know what they are saying. Having the Bible in my language is like looking in a clear stream and, oh look, there are fish in there!”
According to Townsend, the greatest missionary is the Bible in the mother tongue. It needs no furlough and is never considered a foreigner.
Jason’s brother, Matthew, is also in missions locally. He has been serving and now living in the community of New London, southeast of Kingsburg. They are the sons of Mike and Nori Naylor of Dinuba and members of a family that has included many in pastoral ministry.
Those interested in supporting Jason, such as through finances and prayer may do so at his missionary page on Wycliffe.org. His missionary profile is also posted at this link. Jason also has a blog on his journey in missions. He may also be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wycliffe was founded in 1942 by William Cameron Townsend. A missionary to the Cakchiquel Indians of Guatemala, Townsend caught the vision for translation when Cakchiquel-speaking men expressed their concern that the Bible was not available to them in the language they understood clearly. As a result, Townsend resolved that every man, woman and child should be able to read God’s Word in their own language. Since its inception, Wycliffe has played a part in completing more than 700 Scripture translations. They are also instrumental in developing written languages for many people groups.
Through their work, Wycliffe paves the way for many other ministries and organizations like UNICEF and the Jesus Film, which has a dramatized narration of the gospel of Luke with vocals dubbed in the native language. You can learn more about their work on their website.