Nomads for Jesus

By Rachel Greco

“Wait, not yet,” God told Beth Ervin when she prayed in college about teaching missionary kids overseas.

So she taught in Christian schools in Ohio for about 10 years. On a trip to Quito, Ecuador, to visit a school for missionary kids, her desire to teach missionary children intensified. “I began praying that God would show me clearly if this is what he wanted me to do. And if now was the right time.”

Beth’s roommate at the time asked her, “What would it take for you to leave your school?” She wondered if Beth would ever teach somewhere that paid more. Little did she know what God had in mind!

Money didn’t concern Beth, but she loved her fellow teachers like family. So she responded, “It would probably take my school closing for me to leave.”

A few months later, the principal unexpectedly called the teachers for a meeting and announced that the school would be closing at the end of the school year.

During the rest of the meeting, Beth heard nothing else, because she kept replaying that conversation with her roommate a few months earlier. She heard God tell her, “Now’s your chance to teach at a missionary school.”

Later that week, Beth called a friend from church who was serving with Wycliffe Bible Translators. When Beth told her about her school closing, the friend said, “Now’s your chance to go teach overseas.” She explained that Wycliffe sends teachers as well as translators.  

Beth filled out a questionnaire from Wycliffe on their website. While still at her computer, the phone rang. It was a Wycliffe recruiter.

Soon after, Beth received a DVD from a school for missionary kids in Cameroon. On the DVD, a mom and translator there in Cameroon, pleaded for teachers to come. She said, “Had we known that coming here would mean homeschooling our kids instead of focusing on translating the Bible, we would not have come.” 

“That cut to my heart,” Beth remembers. “I can’t translate the Bible, but I can teach the kids of those who can. That will help keep the Bible translation process going.” A year later, Beth was on her way to teach at the school in Cameroon so the parents and others could continue in their ministries.

During a summer at home from Cameroon, Beth spent time with her longtime friend Steve Ervin, and they married nine months later.

Steve had begun traveling as a nomad early as a pastor’s son. He had attended three different high schools and become accustomed to a transitory life.

After about 15 years as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in Ohio, Steve ran across some information that Wycliffe was looking for CPAs to do voluntary internal audits at different places around the world. He perused their list for a country he’d never heard of and didn’t know anything about. It turned out to be Senegal, West Africa.

Steve doing an audit for the national Bible translation organization in Democratic Republic of Congo

During a vacation, Steve had headed off to Senegal for two-week internal audit. God used this trip to hook Steve for missions. He realized that he could work tax season in the U.S. as a CPA, then volunteer with missions the rest of the year. So he contacted the Wycliffe/SIL folks he worked with in Senegal. They sent him off to Chad, and then to various other African countries.

After Steve and Beth married, they worked out a creative way to coordinate a teacher’s schedule with a tax season schedule. They filled in for teachers and finance people during the first semester of each school year, then returned to the States in time for Steve to work tax season.

Beth’s class in Papua New Guinea

God took the nomadic couple to Cameroon, Thailand, Mexico, back to Cameroon, and finally to Papua New Guinea (PNG). Within seven years, the Ervins served in four different countries. For Beth, each time meant a different curriculum, different grades, and for both of them, different cultures. By the time the couple reached PNG, they needed a break from all the transitions. They were ready for a stateside assignment.

When they returned to the States, they browsed the JAARS website. They had heard about JAARS during their various mission assignment and had flown on JAARS-supported planes in Cameroon and PNG. As they looked at the options on the website, the couple wondered, “Is there something completely different than finance and teaching?”

They spotted Missions at the Airport, events where JAARS offers airplane and/or helicopter rides—primarily in the eastern U.S—and share how JAARS supports Bible translation. They realized they would have a great opportunity to share their experiences to encourage people to get involved with JAARS and missions.   

Now the Ervins’ nomadic lifestyle continues! During part of the year, they recruit teachers for Wycliffe. Then from June-October they spend time in North Carolina and the eastern U.S. participating in Missions at the Airport events. “We love getting out and talking to people about Bible translation and JAARS, and how they can help,” Steve says. “We use examples from all the different countries we’ve been to and different jobs we’ve had to hopefully encourage them to get involved.”

There are many ways God can use you in Bible translation! Check out this page for a few ideas.