Wheaton magazine

Volume 20 // Issue 2
Wheaton magazine // Spring 2017
illustration by Frances MacLeod

From Wheaton to the World

IT IS NOW EASIER TO READ THE BIBLE in the world’s most populous Muslim nation. Not because Indonesia’s laws have changed, but because a new contextual translation, recently completed by an interdenominational team managed by Wheaton alumna Krisy Kuhns Maxey ’86, makes God’s Word accessible to most of the archipelago’s 260 million people. Krisy reports over 150,000 copies of this Bible have been printed, and some have found their way into conservative religious boarding schools where they are being used by Islamic teachers and students because the new language and terms no longer present barriers to them. 

“The Qur’an actually urges adherents to read the Torah (Taurat), Psalms (Zabur), and Gospels (Injil), but they don’t recognize those texts because of all the ‘Christianese’ in existing Indonesian translations,” says Krisy, who, with her husband, Eric ’86, M.A. ’88, serves with the Alliance. “We sought to run a middle road between the majority population who would want the Bible to sound like their holy book, and the Christians who are accustomed to the terminology of the church. When we met resistance from both sides, we knew we were on the right road.” 

The Maxeys are among the many Wheaton alumni harnessing the power of languages for Christ and his kingdom. They had one advantage: Krisy and Eric were both born and raised in Indonesia. But for students in need of training, the College’s Modern and Classical Languages Department provides. 

SPANISH MAJOR DR. JUDITH BLUMHOFER ’03 works as a pediatrician at a missions hospital in rural Honduras, where she recently helped an eight-year-old dying of cancer “prepare to meet his Savior.” “It is one of the hardest yet most rewarding things I have ever done,” she says. “When I look back on it, I am always struck by the certainty that he is now in heaven—whole.” 


is now a user-experience architect, helping agencies make corporate websites and apps more intuitive and less confusing for consumers. Her most recent project was a sex education site for the Chicago Department of Public Health. “Even though ancient Languages seem completely irrelevant to what I do, I consider my years learning Greek and Latin to have laid a solid foundation for my career,” she says. “In essence, I spent years parsing and organizing information—which is what I do for a living now.” 

GERMAN MAJOR JOEL DILLON ’04 previously worked at a Henri Nouwen-affiliated L’Arche community for adults with intellectual disabilities in rural Germany. He currently serves as CEO of Jill’s House, an organization outside Washington, D.C., that provides respite care for families of children with profound intellectual disabilities. “God is so much bigger and more wonderful than any one country, language, or culture,” he says. “Studying Luther, Goethe, Schiller, Böll, Hesse, and others helped me grasp a bit more of God’s greatness.” 

FRENCH AND POLITICAL SCIENCE MAJOR HELEN CLARK OVERMYER ’87 intended to get a career as a government or business translator, but ended up taking classes in five more languages (Spanish, German, Italian, Russian, and Slovak) and living in France and Italy en route to becoming a missionary with Trans World Radio. She served with her family in the Caribbean island of Bonaire and Slovakia until 2005. “My foreign language degree has been the backbone for an adventurous and multi-faceted life.” 

ANCIENT LANGUAGES MAJOR JACOB RODRIGUEZ ’09, M.A. ’11 puts his degree to use in Ethiopia, where he has spent five years teaching theology to Ethiopian pastors. “Learning biblical Greek and Hebrew gave me the tools to understand God's Word at a deeper level, and to teach it in several contexts across the world,” he says. “It was definitely worth the hours of parsing every verb and participle!” 

WHEATON'S MODERN AND CLASSICAL LANGUAGES DEPARTMENT, one of Wheaton’s largest with 17 full-time faculty, was formerly known as the Foreign Languages Department. It was renamed last year to be “more accurate,” says Dean of Humanities and Theological Studies Dr. Jill Peláez Baumgaertner. “The label ‘foreign’ is less and less applicable as our culture becomes more diverse and as other modern languages become more prevalent in English-speaking environments,” she says. 

The department desires students to develop linguistic and cultural proficiency in classical (Greek, Latin, and Hebrew) and/or modern (Spanish, French, German, and Mandarin Chinese) languages. Most importantly, the department seeks to develop a Christian worldview in all students in order to “serve the church and society by fostering clear communication and cultural understanding.” 

The latest addition to the department is Mandarin, which will soon be offered as a major. In the future, Department Chair Dr. Grant Henley would like to see additional world languages become part of the curriculum, beginning with Arabic. He would also like to see a non-English-based study abroad requirement become a significant academic component in many of the College’s majors. The department currently offers study abroad opportunities in Mexico, Central America, Spain, France, Germany, and China. 

“The essence of a liberal arts education is to interact with all of God’s world from a Christian perspective,” he says. “It is by studying languages other than their own that students begin to understand, appreciate, and learn from diverse cultures so as to be worthy ambassadors of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Learn more about Wheaton's Modern and Classical Languages Department on their website.