Influencer Marlon Winedt: philosopher and theologian

Interview December 2022.

Bringing people together to dialogue

Could you share with us some information about your family life?
I was born and raised in Curaçao, I am married for 32 years now and we have two boys and one girl. The oldest is 25 years old and the youngest is 18 years old. I grew up with my grandmother in Steenrijk mostly. I am the youngest child of a family of 4 children and just after I was born my mother became a psychiatric patient. My mother just passed away in August of this year and from since I was born until she passed away she had lived in Capriles kliniek. Growing up and knowing where my mother was and why she was there, was a big burden for me and it has been difficult. I felt ashamed, rejected, anxious about also becoming a psychiatric patient.

My grandmother, the mother of my father raised me.  After going through 2 or 3 different other houses I ended up at my grandmother when I was 6 years old. I grew up with a good relationship with my father, but it was my grandmother together with some aunts, who provided a stable environment for me and my ­siblings, two other sisters, and one older brother. One of these aunts was a schoolteacher that always pushed us to study hard to move forward. I grew up being loved and guided by all, filling us up with dignity. I am deeply grateful for that.­­

“I grew up feeling sad about the mental health of my mother…”

– Marlon Winedt

Could you share something about your educational background and your experience?
After finishing High School at Radulphus College, I went to the USA for my studies and graduated with a Bachelor in Arts, Theology, and Philosophy (magna cum laude). Later on, I went on to Holland and graduated with a Master’s (Drs. Cum Laude) in Philosophy at the University of Tilburg. I got a Ph.D. in the translation of the Bible and Theology at the University of Amsterdam and also got a post-graduate degree in Linguistics and another post-graduate degree in the translation of the language of the Bible.

I grew up feeling sad about the mental health of my mother, during most of the years when I grew up until at the age of 14 years, as I was going to the Church, I found Jesus Christ and I became a disciple of him. From that moment on, I had this relationship with Jesus Christ.

I got very involved in the charismatic church movement, I became a leader and started to preach at the young age of 15 years at the parish of Steenrijk where I served in church with Father Rudi Josepha and Sister Carmen Coco. Later on the group she led would  become an independent church under the guidance of Pastor Ansel Aiken who also influenced me greatly and was the person who years afterwards would tell me about the job position as a translator at the Bible Society of the Netherlands Antilles (at present Bible Society of the Dutch Caribbean, popularly known as “Kas di Beibel”).  

My interest in Theology made me decide to go to the USA and study Theology. From that time onward the focus has been on combining the  spiritual with academic development.  After 3 years I came back to Curaçao (due to an accelerated course of study)  I became an assistant in the pastoral work in Curaçao at Resurrection and Life Church and after one year I went to Holland for further studies.

In Holland, I was active in the Pentecostal Full Gospel church in Tilburg as  church leader. I was involved in ICHTUS, a university student organization. This group provided a platform for students to share their Christian experiences and interactions on how having Faith in God and Christianity can go hand in hand with science. After I graduated and got my Master’s degree in Tilburg, I returned to Curaçao after getting married Alexandra Leesmans and I got involved with a “Kas di Beibel” project, translation of the Bible in Papiamentu. I translated the first drafts of the New Testament and helped revised parts of the OT. What happened was that I was on vacation in Curaçao in 1988 and heard of the translation project through Pastor Ansel Aiken. So instead of pursing my Ph.D studies in Amsterdam I applied to become one of the translators and I was hired in 1989. At the end of the translation project was done, I applied and got a scholarship from the United Bible Societies (an interconfessional international organization) to work on my PhD-thesis. This was combined with postgraduate studies in Bible translation and after the PhD in Linguistics. Nowadays, I am working and traveling around the world as a translation consultant  based in the Caribbean basin. My direct work with projects is focussed on Curaçao, Aruba and Bonaire, Surinam, Guyana, French-Guyana, Jamaica, Venezuela, among other countries, while  teaching and advising translation consultants around the Americas and on a global level. I work as a biblical scholar for the United Bible Societies is a salary position, while the work as a pastor is on a  Pro-Deo basis in order to serve my church and community.

What it takes to bring God’s word into a new language – Interview with Eternity in 2019

I work a lot with Indigenous peoples that still have their native languages and our job as translation consultants is to train them, mentor and accompany them in their work as translators. We provide them with information on the background of the Bible texts and the biblical languages, while offering training in translation methods and principles. We also  advise them and the Bibles Societies around the world on audiovisual, as well as printed Scripture engagement materials. There are over 7300 languages in the world and only 3300 have Bibles in their languages. Some have only the New Testament or just a portion. So there is a great need for the translation of the Bible in their mother tongues.  

“At the age of 14, I found Jesus Christ and I became a disciple of him…
When I was 15 years old, by the grace of God, I started preaching before I even was a pastor. It became part of me…”

– Marlon Winedt

We know you to be a pastor. You are known to be a very inspiring preacher. Can you expand a little on how this came about, how did you know it was a calling?
My work is based on three pillars.

  1. As I mentioned before, when I was 14 years old, I found Jesus Christ after years of not feeling well, I converted, know it was my calling, and became a disciple of Jesus Christ. When I was 15 years old, by the grace of God, I started preaching before I even was a pastor. It became part of my life, part of who I am, what I believe in, and what I live for.
  2. Secondly, it can be described best by referring to the name of a radio program that I presented at Radio New Song and it is called: “Magasina di konosementu, kere ku kabes” (Warehouse of Knowledge: Believe with your Head) , this means that a combination  of knowledge and faith has  always been important for me.
  3. Thirdly, mention should be made of my love for Curaçao and the Caribbean basin. Our unique mixed identity and culture is key. I come from this region and I am one of those, representing the Theology of the South. We now live in an era where we can put our unique imprint on Christianity. God is also using us from Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean to disseminate the Theology of Christianity. By making this connection, we can help our people also experience the Spirit of God, to help them transform their lives. Just like what happened to me when I was 14 years old. I want to explain the Christian Faith to non-believers. This Caribbean identity, thus the fact that I am a “Yu di Kòrsou”, is important. For example, with God’s help I could publish a book which combine poetry, stories with reflections on faith, country and life. I try to link our faith with everyday events, politics, and the man and woman on the street. I look at the historical context of the Bible, what was the original information, and try to connect this with our day-to-day issues and explain how the Bible can be linked to our everyday lives.

What is your BIG WHY or driving motivation to be who you are right now?
My starting situation when I was born and the situation of my mother, has put me and my siblings in a disadvantageous situation. But we beat the odds by God’s grace. We were dealt a bad hand, to use a poker card analogy,  I thank God that because of the upbringing I and my siblings received we could move forward. This upbringing stimulated us to study or work, and not to give up. It became our driving force. I was brought up with the mindset that every human being is created in the image of God and every human being needs God; all human beings have dignity. This has saved me and my siblings, and this has become my big motivation. That is to help others to succeed, to advance and to know that  God loves every human being.  

What are your plans for the coming years and when do you consider that you have been successful in your personal and business/professional life, let us say 5 years from now? 
I want to achieve more, I want to be able to educate more people on the relationship between the Bible and their everyday life. People can learn to argue and think philosophically on how to improve their lives as they learn to dialogue and express themselves.

Also, that by 2033 a substantial amount of the remaining languages have translated the Bible into their native language.  

That we will also experience an intellectual and artistic explosion that will elevate our people and I want to be part of this by writing more books in Papiamentu, Spanish, and English as some sort of legacy for future generations.

How important is the need to release trauma that our people might still be affected by?
When you allow God to heal you, as you are the sum of your traumas, your past can become the foundation for your future. You can rid yourself of these traumas. You will not forget the past, but you can use the past, as you allow God into your life, to transform the trauma into a new better future, that can be used to help others also, instead of carrying your past as this heavy millstone around your neck.  People need a relationship with Jesus Christ to accomplish these things.  

What are the challenges that you are dealing with? And how are you dealing with these different challenges you confront?
One challenge that I find we all face is the respect we need to have for people that have a different opinion on important issues.  Another way of putting it is: how do we stay in dialogue with people who have different opinion, lifestyle and worldview? I see the importance of listening and dialogue in my work as a translation  consultant with indigenous, first nations, people.  In the Americas region we see that Spanish is not their first language and they have their own mother tongue. They live with both languages and many might not have a good mastery of Spanish or English (In Guyana) but it is important to listen to them and to learn from them. This is key in my work as translation advisors with minority communities. Another example as a pastor is: How to stay in dialogue with the younger generations in this age of digital information, fast pace of change; the number of new ideas is so overwhelming but we still have to stay in dialogue with the upcoming generation. It remains a challenge.

Do you use your inner voice to evaluate when dilemmas show up? How does that work for you?
One my  sons would laugh at this question; he is a spoken word artist and a poet. He and I like to talk things out  in an audible voice to ourselves.  If you can articulate what you want to write, what you write becomes easier.

But besides “talking to ourselves” as human beings, it is important to heed the spiritual inner voice, here I am referring to talking  and listening to God for direction.  Yes, silence is also important, like in my office, when I  walk in nature, and during moments of prayer.  There are many varied ways to seek silence.

How are you trying also to keep up with your knowledge and skills levels?
I read a lot; I am a member of different academic guilds and associations and participate in academic forums on Theology and Philosophy, I listen to podcasts and watch YouTube videos, while listening  to sermons of other preachers. But I am also a good listener of the man on the street, ordinary people. I like to know what they think, and I can watch talk shows. I come from a humble common folk background and will never forget that. If you want to engage with people, you need to know what they think and feel about you. Seeking to understand first. This is not necessarily a strength of our generation or contemporary times. It is important to  listen and analyze first, before one speaks out.

“We need to stay connected and in dialogue with each other…”

– Marlon Winedt

What are your strengths?

  • I love to keep on trying and persevering. No matter how difficult the road ahead might seem. I love to ask questions to keep on learning and keep on growing.
  • I think I  like to connect with people from all walks of life. And then uplift them or vice versa let them uplift me.
  • I like to bring people together to dialogue with each other. Although we might not agree with each other, we need to stay connected and in dialogue with each other. This is something I like and want to get better at.

Do you have hobbies or interests that you are also passionate about?
Reading, of course, furthermore watching theater, acting and reading poetry, writing and watching movies.

If you as Marlon would meet a stranger on the bus (let say in New York or Bogota Columbia) and they would ask you to introduce yourself, what would you answer?
My relationship with GOD is key, my identity as a  “Yu di Kòrsou” and a Caribbean  man, with a deep love for our language is also key. Then I might, it  depends, share my academic credentials and share what kind of work I am doing now.

How would you describe Marlon in one sentence?
An imperfect human being that keeps on trying and most of the time is doing his utmost.

Who are the persons that have inspired you the most in your career?
Jesus Christ was and is the most important person for me and then my now deceased grandmother. Of course , there are many other people, in church, work  and in my academic life who have helped me and spoken into my life. Too much to mention.

What is a trait that is still a work in progress?
– Patience with people.
– Drawing boundaries by saying “no”.
– Stop multi-tasking too much.

What was a defining moment in your life?

  • When I allowed Jesus Christ into my life when I was 14 years old.
  • When I got married.
  • When my  children were born and I became a father of three beautiful children.  

Where do you want to be 10 years from now with your career?
I would still be producing materials, written and audio, talking about the relationship between people and the Christian faith. That our identity as Caribbean citizens and its unique role and contribution to the world is heard. Being God’s spokesman to the people of all that God wants me to share.   

What would you want your Loved Ones, family, friends, and others to say about you let’s say 20 years from now?
Marlon did his best and did his utmost from an authentic loving heart, that is out of love for God and out of love for people. Ultimately, it is God who judges us all. I told my wife to write on my tombstone: 
<<He has tried his utmost>>
<<He did what he could, by the grace of God>>

What makes you stay optimistic about the future of Curaçao as we are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, recession, and in the middle of growing environmental challenges because of the global warming consequences?
Boeli van Leeuwen in his book “Geniale Anarchie”, said that since the time the Spaniards came to the island for the first time, they thought this island was doomed. But we always survived over the centuries. My past and the circumstances I was born in were not ideal, but I survived and came out even stronger by God’s grace and that has  inspired me to be optimistic.

I believe in the ability of Curaçao to overcome challenges. I believe in the resilience of the underdogs.

I believe in our Caribbean identity and that we can offer something to the rest of the world. Many different historical circumstances like slavery has affected our self-image. But we are in the process of liberating ourselves from these heavy millstones around our necks and transform them into the foundations of  a new building.  God has a purpose with these islands, we have something to offer to the world.

One of the 250 Influencers of Curaçao

Dr. Marlon Winedt, is a dedicated, hardworking, curious, very composed, knowledgeable theologian, author, preacher, “Yu di Kòrsou” that is very conscious and proud of his Caribbean identity. As a translation consultant, he is part of the goal to by 2033 have the Holy Bible translated in all (indigenous) languages. His curiosity and his drive to grow have made him beat the odds after being dealt a bad hand at the beginning of his life. Marlon was fortunate enough to be brought up by his grandmother and aunts, developing his multiple talents and resilience to overcome his odds as an underdog and become a successful scholar with a Bachelor in Arts, Theology, and Philosophy (magna cum laude), a Master’s (Drs. Cum Laude) in Philosophy at the University of Tilburg, a Ph.D. in the translation of the Bible and Theology at the University of Amsterdam, a post-graduate degree in Linguistics and another post-graduate degree in the translation of the language of the Bible.

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