George Bradley Wood '82 has taught internationally and worked as a Bible translator.
My freshman year (in 1978), I intended to be a mathematics major. I took four quarters worth of math classes and three European History classes as a general requirement (we were on quarters in those days). Calculus wasn’t easy for me, and I spent all my time studying for it, and very little time studying history. At the end of my freshman year I had a C+ average in the mathematics classes, and an A average in history. I thought maybe the Lord was trying to tell me something and switched majors. Sophomore year I met with Dr. Kay, my advisor, and he asked me what I intended to do with a history major. I’d never really thought about it, and said the first thing that popped into my head – work in a museum. He just shook his head in disbelief. He told me that realistically I had three options: teaching, preaching, or law. He said I could get a teaching degree during my four years at Wheaton, but if I was going to go into preaching or law I would need to go to seminary or law school, and that would be several more years of studying. I was getting tired of studying by then, so I decided to pursue teaching, and I really enjoyed it.
After graduating from Wheaton, I tried to get a teaching job in the Pacific Northwest, where I was from. Not many schools were hiring teachers in 1982, and I didn’t have any courses in Pacific Northwest history, so I wasn’t able to find a job that first year. I decided to attend Eastern Washington University for a year to get certified to teach in the Pacific Northwest (so much for avoiding more studies). I also found out I only needed a couple of more classes to become certified to teach mathematics and Spanish, so I did that, too. The next year I was hired to teach mathematics and Spanish at a high school on an Indian reservation in Montana. I loved teaching, and I also coached football and wrestling, but life on a reservation wasn’t easy. After two years I looked elsewhere, and ended up teaching at an MK school in Colombia, South America for six years. During my furlough I taught in Indonesia for a year. By that time, the world was changing. Communism was collapsing in Europe, and I ended up marrying a girl who had grown up in Czechoslovakia and spoke Russian. We moved to Russia in 1994 and worked there until 2009, involved in translating the Bible into minority languages.
During this time in Russia, I was involved in making a dictionary of the Altai language, a language related to Turkish, and spoken in Siberia. I realized that a greater knowledge of linguistics would be helpful, so we attended graduate school at Indiana University, where I received a Master’s degree in Central Eurasian Studies. About half of my classes in graduate school had to do with the history of Central Asia and historical linguistics, so there was a strong tie to my history major at Wheaton. In 2009, I found out about an opening at an international school in Azerbaijan, and I was hired to teach mathematics there. By that time I had to start thinking seriously about my own daughters’ education, so I’ve been teaching there ever since.
When I look back on it, I am fascinated by how the Lord leads a person. We can make our plans, but as Isaiah 55:8,9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” I could never have planned such a journey. I became a history major so that I could teach mathematics. Teaching mathematics led to Bible translation, and that led back to teaching mathematics. The important thing to remember is Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
My advice to an undergraduate would be to keep your eyes on the Lord. If you are walking with Him, He will lead you to the place He has prepared for you. In my experience, it’s been a far more interesting and rewarding journey than anything I could have planned. I believe now that there probably are more options for a history major than what Dr. Kay shared with me, such as the Foreign Service.