The small meeting hall was starting to burst at its seams as Reuben Kabwe inspired the translators, staff, and colleagues gathering in Lusaka for the yearly training conference for Southern Africa. As one of its native sons, The Word for the World’s CDO always draws a crowd in Zambia. This particular morning, Reuben was talking about transformation and leadership to new and returning translators representing twenty Bible-less people groups. Over half a million people living in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Botswana, and Mozambique will receive the Word of God in their own languages–for the first time–on account of the brothers and sisters gathered here, hanging on Reuben’s every word.
“No! Transformation does not come from the people you trust–transformation comes through the people who trust you.” -Reuben Kabwe.
Hmm, that is not what we expected to hear. Reuben expands the statement into a challenge–a moment of reflection to think about our own journeys. These few precious minutes–used to contrast the advice we seek from others against sacrifices made in fulfilling our potential–had a lasting impact on my purpose and perspective in working for an organization that strives for transformation and empowerment in its vision and mission.
So many questions came from this train of thought. Who has trusted me with something? In what ways have I been trustworthy? In what ways not? What have I changed about myself or my situation in response to being entrusted with something?
Add a spiritual dimension, and it gets more intense. We spend so much time focusing on directing, building, aligning, and praying about our faith (the trust we put in God) we often don’t think about the question: does God trust me?1
Reuben hit on something important: trust enables and accelerates transformation. I was not alone in taking Reuben’s words to heart. In the following years, I saw men and women–Bible translators by trade–respond in extraordinary ways to the trust put into them by their communities. A Luyana translator started a literacy program for children and young adults in his community. The Nkangala team started an outreach and care program for the elderly and infirm in their surrounding villages; they also created a booklet using pre-published Gospel translations to begin spreading the written word before the NT was complete. The Soli and Ila teams have pushed into translating the Old Testament and incorporating their work into radio programs, wedding and funeral materials, songbooks, and educational material. The Zambian office has worked tirelessly to connect Bible-less communities with local and international partners–always on the lookout for new ways to engage communities with God’s Word through community service, printed materials, discipleship, and celebration. I have seen our partners sacrifice time, money, and prayer to engage the Kingdom of God through Bible translation.
Transformation expert Greg Satell has argued that transformation comes when organizations build trust at all levels, “because leaders can’t implement change, they can only inspire and empower it.”2 Recent studies in transformational leadership have shown that building trust with leaders and amongst team members critically increases a team’s success in producing quality results and finding satisfaction in their work.3
Reuben captured the heart of what we strive for in The Word for the World–we are about trust and transformation through Bible translation. Join us in building trust. Trust with God. Trust with each other–the international family of God. Trust with and within Bible-less communities. This is an open invitation to pursue the people and purpose God has entrusted to us.
Notes & references:
2. Satell, “Before You Set Out to Transform Your Organization You First Need to Build Trust” (Inc.Africa, ), accessed at https://incafrica.com/greg-satell/before-you-set-out-to-transform-your-organization-you-first-need-to-build-trust.html
3. Follow the research, starting with: Chou, Lin, Chang, et al., “Transformational Leadership and Team Performance: The Mediating Roles of Cognitive Trust and Collective Efficacy” (SAGE Open, 2013), accessed at https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2158244013497027