Dot & Colin Suggett are Bethany-supported missionaries who work with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Their work with the Turka people of Burkina Faso has come to an end as of April 1, 2019 and they have begun their new roles within Wycliffe. Colin will be joining *SIL’s Language Technology group as their lead tester for Bloom ― a software product designed to boost literature production among minority language groups across the globe. Dot will be splitting her time: first as exegetical assistant to the South Asia group, and second, as personal coach for new Wycliffe missionaries, helping them succeed in communicating effectively with their supporting constituency.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. -2 Cor. 1:3-4
Comforter or coach?
The Greek noun parakaleo, which occurs three times in verse 4 alone, has elements of both.
Many of us think of a coach in the context of sports—someone who pushes us to the limits of endurance to build strength and stamina. When Colin and I ran cross country in high school, our coaches used to have us run up and down the huge sand piles in Port Weller. We always ended up with sore muscles and sand in our shoes. That doesn’t seem very comforting, does it?
On the other hand, when speaking of comfort, the noun, we think of those pleasures that make life pleasant and enjoyable. A warm cup of cocoa or a cool lemonade, depending on the season and continent. Comfort might be something we receive— “words of comfort”—the easing of feelings of grief or distress. The definition of parakaleo includes all that: exhortation, comfort, and instruction.
There is a school of coaching in which I, (Dot), am being trained which admirably bridges the coaching-comforting paradigm. I will not be training people, but I might point them to training materials. I will not be directing them, but I trust that, as we meet, we will find the Holy Spirit’s direction and guidance. It may be that in this role I will be more like a “member care” person than a “personal trainer”.
The passage from 2 Corinthians is a great reminder that our own trials and suffering are excellent prerequisites for extending comfort and encouragement to others. This Scripture assures me that God has comforted me in my trials so that I can comfort others. In fact, because of what I have endured, I am able to comfort. (I guess that makes me comfort-able!)
I have had opportunities to share our story several times over the last 7 months, and I have been astonished at how people connect with the hard stories…the ones that don’t yet have a happy ending, that aren’t resolved and wrapped up with a pretty bow.
Because, face it, most people aren’t living lives that look like that. Most of us, it seems, have at least one area of our lives that is “complicated” and which causes some degree of pain or discomfort. God has brought Colin and me comfort in the complicated and painful parts of our lives and has used our story to bring encouragement to others.
As I mentioned in my last letter, one of part-time positions will enable me to come alongside and help both the translation consultant and the language teams in a remote-access country. That’s a type of parakaleo that builds on my experience in Bible translation and exegesis. In my “coaching” role I will rely on another skill-set as I help some Wycliffe Canada members get “unstuck” in their personal and support-raising goals, so that they can carry on their ministries more effectively.
I am on a learning curve for both of my new positions now, and I value your prayers as I gain the necessary experience. But please do rejoice with Colin and me as we see God transform our hurt into service that will bring Him honour and equip His servants around the world.