Chris Hawkinson and Marc Kohler are friends and business partners. They go to church together, and their wives and children are friends as well.
But on the deepest level, both agree that their relationship has been forged by their equally shared vision for—and commitment to—the Bibleless.
In the lobby of their small printing company in Houston, they’ve hung a huge world map showing all the places where they’ve made a difference. In an industry that has been less than profitable for many, Marc and Chris believe God is blessing their capacity for giving, in part, through the work of their dedicated staff.
Chris says they take employees to look at the map, and they tell them, “‘Because of the job that you do, these kids in Haiti are getting an education. Because of your hard work, these kids in Uganda are getting clean water.’ It’s a big visual representation—a witness—because most of the people we work with are not believers.”
But Chris and Marc do not shy away from talking openly about their faith. They pray every Tuesday for their 90 employees, and they tell them about how Bible translation in “a really, really tough part of the world” is indirectly impacted by their efforts in the office. They are referring to the Congo.
A Huge Leap of Faith
Marc’s wife, Leigh, has been involved in the anti-trafficking movement in Houston for the last five years, so it came as no surprise when the Lord led their family to support a Bible translation project in this country known to be the rape capital of the world.
“How do you heal if you don’t have his truth? I haven’t been through anything like these women, but I’ve had enough pain and wounds to know that God’s Word has been my saving grace.”
At a 2017 gathering of investors committed to Bible translation, Leigh and Mark were standing on a map of Africa during a prayer session. They met an older couple who had been missionaries for 30 years in the Congo and knew exactly what Seed Company projects were starting up in that very dark place.
When Marc and Leigh returned to Houston, they shared the need with Chris and Kristen, who also had a link with the Congo through a ministry to Congolese refugees.
“The Lord has really opened my eyes to not only the work to be done but the treasure we have,” Kristen says.
So the Hawkinsons and Kohlers took a huge leap of faith. The three-year commitment for a translation of Luke and the “JESUS” film was $180,000. Together, the two couples got the word out by hosting parties and dinners. Chris and Marc shared inspirational video clips of their vision trip to the Congo. The missions pastor of their church got on board, and so did many others. Friends and fellow believers funded roughly half the project, but Chris and Marc wanted to take their commitment a step further.
‘A Total God Thing’
“We certainly want to give, but more importantly, we want to give of ourselves,” Chris says. “Whatever project I’m involved in, I have to meet the people. That’s just how I’m wired. And Marc’s wired the same way.”
Chris and Marc have been to the Congo two summers in a row. On the first trip in 2018, they visited homes in several villages to send a message: We love you, God loves you, and the Bible is coming in your language. They visited a prison and two refugee camps. They met the translation team. And they met a Ugandan man who moved his family to the Congo to start a marriage discipleship ministry. Now, Seed Company is partnering with this ministry as well.
“There’s a Bible translation element, and now a discipleship element,” Chris says. “It was ‘boots on the ground’ for Seed Company in an area where no prior contacts or connections existed. It was a total God thing, partnering a local ministry with a more global one.”
‘Nobody Ever Comes Back’
By the time Marc and Chris made their second trip last summer, they were going back to encourage old friends and demonstrate their commitment. On the first trip, the people said to them, “Please come back. Nobody ever comes back.” The fact that they returned, with family, blessed them deeply.
That second trip included Marc, Chris, Chris’s son Hayden, and Garrett, a friend from Houston who responded to his friends’ fundraising efforts and was equally eager to serve alongside them. Together, they had the opportunity to partner with their Ugandan friend’s discipleship ministry and host a three-day event in a very difficult-to-reach province.
They taught God’s Word to 50 pastors and their wives, plus 100 college-aged students and young professionals. Some pastors walked more than 20 miles to hear them teach, with the help of a translator, for eight hours a day. Together, they sought the Lord, praying over the topics they were asked to teach about. Even Hayden, only 14 at the time, did some teaching.
At the end of the three days, 70 of the 100 youth made a profession of faith. The pastors hung on every word. Chris challenged them to “pastor themselves” by reading the Word daily.
“It was just the most physically and spiritually demanding trip, with the most spiritual warfare. On other mission trips, you might pray over somebody or repaint a fence,” Chris explains. “But the Congolese are so hungry for God’s Word that they just sit there in silence and say, ‘Please share with us,’ everywhere you go. At the end of the trip, we all got very ill. But when I asked my son, ‘Would you do it again?,’ he answered, ‘In a heartbeat.’ As hard as it was, we can’t wait to go back.”
As the Luholu River Cluster project reaches its current goals, Marc and Chris are planning another trip for the summer of 2020.
They hope to visit several Hunde villages, showing the newly translated “JESUS” film and encouraging team members as they begin planning the next project—the translation of more books of the New Testament. Based on their previous experiences with the Hunde, Marc and Chris are not surprised by the passion with which their new friends are pursuing more heart language Scripture. When people taste transformation, they want the full counsel of God.