The latest edition of MF delves into the remarkable advances being made by Wycliffe Bible Translators around the world today. It highlights Wycliffe’s rich and long-standing history and updates current inroads being made in Bible translation. Modern-day technology has enabled translators to not only speed up the translation process but to also improve the quality of the end product by including a wide range of people in the translation process. This issue includes articles about the use of apps, the development of new fonts and even a visual Bible being used for the Deaf that are all making God’s Word easily accessible in new ways. Enjoy personal stories of the ways God has moved in the hearts of individuals through their involvement with Wycliffe. Be inspired by the ways that Wycliffe is breaking down language barriers through effective translation and as a result how the Good News of Jesus is moving rapidly into the hearts of many across the globe. See all the articles
This video demonstrates the remaining mission task across the globe by showing which people in the world have no chance of learning about Jesus from someone within their own people group. Plan to see the upcoming November-December issue of Mission Frontiers for more details.
How much do you love the Word of God? Would you be willing to lay down your life in order to not lose the ability to read it? For most of us in the English-speaking world, we take the Word of God for granted. We have always had access to Bibles in numerous translations. But it has not always been this way and the Scriptures are still not available for roughly 1,500 language groups that need a New Testament translation to begin. The price that many have had to pay for the freedom to read the Bible in their own mother tongue has often been very high.
Between His resurrection and ascension into heaven, Jesus charged His apostles and followers with the Great Commission: to make disciples of all nations. At the time, the apostles could not have known just how wide-ranging that mission was (and is). Even the more well-traveled among them could not have grasped the size of the world and how its population would grow. God often sets goals for us that are bigger than we could perceive, let alone achieve, on our own or in the span of our lifetime. The Great Commission is one such goal. Through the perseverance of Christians all over the world, we are approaching a milestone: the availability of the Good News about Christ in a language people relate to best, and in a form they can use.
Ask someone what they imagine when they think of Bible translation, and they might describe a linguist sitting alone at a simple desk in a remote village, poring over a Bible word by word and writing or typing it into a local language. The work appears slow, painstaking and exacting. While no less challenging or precise, today the work can look radically different. Where Bible translations once took 25 or 30 years to complete, advancements like customized software, computer tables, apps and other tech have made it possible to get the Bible into people’s hands faster, more easily and in more ways than ever before in history.
Such was the reaction of an American pastor upon hearing that font development was the ministry focus of Annie Olsen, a type designer for SIL International. It’s not an uncommon reaction, either, at least among people who speak English (written with just 26 unaccented letters of the Latin script) as their native language. A fully developed digital font—a set of letters and symbols, plus underlying instructions—enables a computer or other device to print a script properly on a page or display it on a screen.
As the gospel continues to spread to every corner of the earth, one of the ongoing needs in the mission field is to reach oral cultures. Unlike much of the Western world, books and documents are not the sources of knowledge and truth for communities rooted in oral communication—instead, new knowledge and truth is kept and communicated in these cultures through people telling stories. For oral communities to hear God speak to them in their own language, they need access to the Bible in a format they will embrace. A written translation of the Bible likely won’t have the same impact in a culture that is lived and shared orally. Rather, when they hear the Word of God in their own language in the communication form that they know best, they can hear the voice of God speaking to their hearts.
On my first visit to the Muslim people group with whom I work, a mullah, or an Islamic religious leader, suddenly grabbed me and pulled me around the side of a house. He clenched both of my arms and put his long beard and serious face only a few inches from my nose. He spoke in a low voice, “I need you to get me a Bible in a language that I understand.” Here I am in the 21st century, and standing before me is an educated, well-traveled, multilingual religious leader who remains without access to the Word of God. I wish that I could say his case is an anomaly, but unfortunately it is all too common. Hundreds of millions of Muslims are going from the cradle to the grave without ever even seeing a single portion of the Bible.
Bible translation has been around for centuries, with missionaries venturing out into people groups near and far to make God’s Word accessible to people in a language and form they can clearly understand. As we steadily count down the number of languages left without Scripture, a people group seems to have gone overlooked by many, even though they live among all societies in every city, state and country around the world: the Deaf. Deaf Bible Society is an organization with a mission to provide God’s Word in every sign language.
My wife and I have served for 23 years with Wycliﬀe Bible Translators, an organization dedicated to making Scripture accessible to every language group that needs it. You can imagine over the course of all those years the number of prayers we have prayed and the number of ways we have seen the Lord answer those prayers. Here are a couple examples from early on.
Janet Vaughan shares Bible translation with anyone who will listen, including her Sunday school class and her trainer at the gym. She says, “Everyone I tell is interested, but it’s just a story to them. Being a part of the work of Bible translation reinvigorates your own faith, and it makes you so happy for those receiving God’s Word for the first time.” Although Janet may sound like a linguist or a Wycliﬀe Bible Translators missionary, she’s actually a passionate financial partner of Wycliﬀe Bible Translators USA.
How hard would you work to have the Bible in your own language? Even if you didn’t know how to start? Or if, after getting some help, the work ceased for ten years because of war? Or if the community who spoke your language ended up scattered across three diﬀerent countries, and mixed in with speakers of many other languages?
For the last 30 years, there has been a growing awareness and involvement in eﬀorts to reach the world’s unreached people. Yet the population of those who have no access to the gospel has grown – from 1.8 billion with no access in the mid-1980s to 2.2 billion today.
Visiting the U.S.A. after living many years abroad can be a shock to the system. Walking into a grocery store to buy a few things, I am assaulted by the prices. “What? It can’t possibly cost that much for this. I usually buy these items for a fraction of the cost! Are these apples worth that to me? Do I want to pay this price for them?” Adjusting to my home culture’s prices is a challenge. It takes time, usually a few weeks. Purchasing groceries is necessary so I find ways to do what is needed. It’s good to check the price tag carefully before I make a purchase, though. It’s also good to understand the cost of starting a Disciple Making Movement (DMM). Starting a DMM is an exciting venture, but it isn’t cheap. It’s definitely not a “freebie.” The investment we must make in tears, prayer, loss and personal pruning is great.
Two very important Biblical factors propel the expansion of Church-Planting Movements (CPMs). The first enables a breakthrough into new arenas. The second enables expansion within that arena. Every movement is a continual balance of these two. Both principles were taught by Jesus to His disciples (Matt. 10, Luke 10) about how to reach a new place. That first principle involves finding Persons of Peace or, as some have referred to them, Fourth-Soil People, that bear fruit 30, 60 or 100 times. Person of Peace searches have become the default strategy from most CPM strategists. Persons of Peace are the God-prepared doorways into new communities. Their hearts have been prepared for 1) the missionary, 2) the message, and 3) the mission to reach their household or circle of influence (Gk. oikos.)
We live in a world driven by material possessions and comfort, fueled by marketing and laser guided by data. They know what we like—literally! This has radically changed how we perceive the world. What people want (not just need) is fueled by media. A major force creating this shift began just after silent films— though now it is so pervasive that the movie industry is only one, still influential force in this direction. One historic example is how many people decided to try smoking because they saw it in films and it looked cool.