Villagers are seen participating in a funeral service. (Photo provided)
Villagers are seen participating in a funeral service. (Photo provided)
“And he said to them, ‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the gospel to all creation.” – The Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 15, Verse 15

Growing up, Sarah Bauson’s family supported a number of missionaries and she heard first hand their accounts of spreading the Christian message throughout various and distant parts of the globe.

“They would share their stories and pictures and it captured my attention at an early age,” Bauson recalled. “I also took the ‘great commission’ literally so when people asked me as a child, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’ I always told them I wanted to me a missionary.”

During a family trip to Zambia during Bauson’s college years, her interest in the missionary life was reignited and she began researching organizations to find the right fit.

“I knew that Wycliffe Bible translators had a good name, and I love languages so it made a lot of sense to start there,” she said. “I was looking for something short term, but long enough to find out if I had what it takes to be a missionary.”

Bauson signed up for a program within Wycliffe called One Story, which is an oral Bible translation program.

“Of the almost 7,000 languages known to be in use today, only slightly more than 1,300 have access to the New Testament and some portions of scripture in their language,” Bauson noted. “Just over 500 languages have the complete translated bible.”

Wycliffe estimates there are more than 1.2 billion people worldwide have no access to the Bible in their language, and there are currently over 2,000 languages that have no Scripture translation efforts underway.

Through Wycliffe and similar organizations, more than 2,300 languages within 131 countries have active translation and linguistic development efforts happening now. 

One Story sends volunteer missionaries into these remote places to learn the language and bring Biblical stories into the oral traditions of the cultures.

“With One Story, we try to make the stories as natural as possible,” Bauson explained. “We make sure it is Biblically accurate, connected to specific Bible verses, and then, relevant to the specific culture.”

Bauson studied French in high school and German in college, as well as Greek and Biblical Hebrew.

“I wanted to increase my knowledge of the Bible, and expand my language base,” she said.

Those language skills were important during her first missionary experience with Wycliffe, in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa.

“When you learn what we call their ‘heart language’ it is a way of showing them that you genuinely care,” Bauson said. “Portuguese-Creole is the trade language that everyone speaks, but there were 27 other languages used, and just taking the time to learn a greeting had enormous impact. They would smile and be very excited, and it just opened doors.”

Bauson said she learned the trade language and parts of the many dialects by taking a multi-faceted approach.

“Sometime is was sitting around listening to the people, other times reading some parts of the bible in their language or using a dictionary, but mostly just immersion,” Bauson said.

According to Bauson, most of the people One Story reaches out to are very receptive to learning the Biblical stories. They do, however, often have difficulty separating from their own long-held beliefs.

“After I’d been there awhile, I decided to move to a small village and live with a Guinean family to work on my language skills and learn more about their culture from the inside,” Bauson said. “I went around with the pastor of the village and once I knew what to look for I saw signs of spirit worship, saw all these idols, places where they would offer sacrifices – that was definitely an eye-opener.”

A particularly memorable example for Bauson was a funeral she was permitted to attend in the village.

“The body was wrapped in tons and tons of clothes so it resembled a giant puppet. They had drums beating to help transport the spirit to the new world,” Bauson recounted. “After the funeral, villagers told me that the man died because he was too powerful. They said he had turned himself into a car and was driving and his rival turned himself into a train and blocked his path, and the man ran into him and died.

“That type of belief and level of superstition is widespread down there, and leads to a general sense of hopelessness among many of the people,” she added. “It just showed me first-hand how much these people needed God’s Word and the hope of salvation.”

Now returned from West Africa, Bauson will take on a leadership role with Wycliffe, training others to work in the field as she did in Guinea-Bissau.

Bauson will be based in the United States, but will travel to wherever she is needed to train others working in the field on the One Story project.

“It might be an introduction workshop explaining the process, a workshop on how to learn a new language and culture, and I’ll also be finding ways to incorporate the arts into this process,” Bauson said. “I was a music performance major so helping to add music, drama, and arts into Bible storytelling is something I hope to do.”

Another major part of Bauson’s new responsibilities is partnership development to maintain funding for her missionary work.

“Since we are a faith-based organization, we depend upon individuals, churches, and other organizations for support,” she said. “In order to be released on my assignments, I am required to raise my monthly budget, so financial and prayer supports are vital to continue my work.”

Bauson enjoys speaking to various groups and organizations about her work with Wycliffe and is grateful for any opportunity to do so.

“It allows me to share the amazing and important work being done through the One Story project, and raises awareness among those who might consider supporting me in my missionary efforts,” she said. 

“I truly believe everyone deserves to have God’s Word in their ‘heart language’ – the language they truly understand.”

To offer financial support for Sarah, or for more information on her work with Wycliffe and the One Story project, contact her at (765) 438-4008 or by visiting www.wycliffe.org/partner/SarahBauson.