Origin of Teachers In Service

Thom Votaw

“Thom, there is no team!”

“I heard an incredible challenge, from an unknown person, that would affect in a small way the taking of the Word of God to the four corners of the earth.”

I looked around to see who Bob was talking to, only to realize it was me.

It all started in April, 1997. I had traveled to Huntington Beach, California to see old college friends, Brian and Kathy Moyer, missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators.  During a discussion about schools and our children the topic came up about professional development with schools for children of missionaries (MKs, or missionary kids).  I mentioned that while I was on the faculty of New Mexico State University, professional development was something that I had done with secular schools.  I commented that some day I would like to do some professional development with MK schools. My friends suggested I talk with Dorcas Winfrey, a Wycliffe member knowledgeable about this sort of thing.

And so, on September 30, 1997, I returned to Wycliffe’s Huntington Beach office for an appointment with Dorcas. I knocked on her office door, was invited in, and met her.

There was a third person in the room who introduced himself as Bob Pittman, some kind of director of Wycliffe Bible Translators’ schools around the world.  I had not expected anyone except Dorcas and I had planned on discussing with her the possibility of my doing some professional development with elementary teachers in science teaching methods in MK schools.

I asked Bob what brought him to Huntington Beach. He replied, “You.”

His answer went over my head and I simply commented, “I came to see Dorcas to explore the possibility of joining the team of professional developers when they go to MK schools.  I would work in elementary science.”

Bob said, “Thom, there is no team.”

My mind flashed with the idea that there just had to be a team of professional developers. I mean, there are hundreds of MK teachers out there and thousands of children of missionaries.  There just had to be a team of professional developers.  I repeated my desire to be part of the team and to work with teachers in science education.

Bob repeated that there was no team to work with.  He added, “Dorcas informed me that you and she were going to meet and I have come fifteen hundred miles from Dallas to Huntington Beach to encourage you to develop such a team.”

Taken aback and somewhat confused, I looked at Bob and said that I had merely come to meet with Dorcas to discuss the possibility of joining a team.  Bob reiterated that there was no team but that Wycliffe would like such a team and that while he did not have any money for development of a team, he would pray for me and encourage me to join Wycliffe Bible Translators and to develop a team.

I was sure by then that Bob thought I was a bit dense since he had to say what he did so many times.

We talked and prayed for two hours.  Bob explained that some missionaries leave the field because of concerns for the education of their children and that professional development of MK teachers would address, in part, their concerns and therefore could possibly address in some small way the taking of the Word of God to the four corners of the earth.

Bob and I went our separate ways.  I was in a state of shock, still confused, befuddled, and humbled: “Bob had come all the way from Dallas to invite me, a total stranger to him and Dorcas, a person who had never been on the mission field, had never taught an MK or even in a Christian school, to develop a team to work with MK schools in professional development that would affect in some small way parents’ concerns for the education of their children.

“Excuse me,” I said to myself, “I don’t have the qualifications or experience. This is way beyond what I expected to happen with my meeting with Dorcas. Why me of all people?  I am just a simple Quaker, servant of our Lord.  I mean really, this is such a plum of a job there just had to be a waiting list of people to develop a team that would conduct professional development with MK teachers.”

Then it dawned on me:  “So this is what all the preparation over the years has been for: The experiences, the travel, the different jobs, the encounters, graduate school, the opportunities to be creative, and on and on now all that makes sense.”

For several years I had had the feeling that there was something more out there. Even though I was an assistant professor and working my way up the career ladder at NMSU, I kept feeling that there was something else out there in the unknown, something I could not put my finger on, something, somewhere, some time, someone pulling.

Now I knew:  I had been involved in on-the-job training for fifty-five years. God had controlled circumstances and manipulated events in my life over and over again and on September 30, 1997 He communicated His desire of what He wanted me to do by way of His messenger Bob.

Oh, I never did join Wycliffe Bible Translators.  But that is another story.  And, we rarely are involved in professional development any more.  Rather, we are primarily involved with pursuing MK teachers for teaching MKs.  But that is another story.

Learn more about becoming a teacher of children of missionaries.

Translate »