As an elementary school teacher in California, Gretchen gradually realized that she had unused language gifts and that she didn’t belong in her teachers’ community anymore, where a focus on salaries over students reigned. After a trip to Guatemala and a Wycliffe workshop, Gretchen began to think, “Maybe God wants me to leave this wealthy area and go into something that has eternal value.” Befriending one of the workshop speakers, she soon learned more about cross-cultural service.

Two summers later, Gretchen started taking SIL linguistics classes. They were very intense, but Gretchen loved the teachers and the other students and began viewing linguistic problems as puzzles, which she enjoyed doing. Afterwards, she joined Wycliffe, and completed the Certificate of Applied Linguistics in 1982 (“Texas SIL” back then).

Gretchen prayed, “Lord wherever it is . . . You know I don’t like to be alone; I’d like to have a good friend to work with.” So, God led her to Nancy Haynes, who complemented her personality and abilities well; together, they served the Yemba people in Cameroon. Gretchen collaborated with locals to create a primer and a post primer for Yemba literacy, and she and Nancy trained locals in Bible translation and literacy work. Also, Gretchen and two Yemba men transcribed local folktales, added illustrations, and taught local teachers how to use these books for literacy.

Traditionally, the Yemba practice ancestor worship, seeking advice from seers regarding the sacrifices deemed necessary for their life problems. One day, a member of Gretchen’s translation team overheard a Yemba man say, “I used to be a seer and get a lot of money, but I can’t anymore, because people in the church are hearing the Bible in their own language and are understanding it too well!” Praise God for His life-transforming Word!

Training to be a translation consultant, Gretchen has returned to Dallas International to finish her M.A. in Applied Linguistics. Cultural Anthropology and Introduction to Orality and Storying have been especially helpful to her. Gretchen’s thesis explores a Yemba oral art form, burial ceremony lamentations, and the possibilities for incorporating scripture into them instead of messages of hopelessness.

Let’s pray for God’s peace between the Yemba translation team and a local sister organization. Also, please pray for God’s wisdom over Gretchen as she writes her thesis and for his use of the Yemba New Testament, dedicated in 2017, to bring transformation!