‘One of the key ways God expresses his love for us is communication. He talks to us. Primarily, it’s through his word.’ – Danny Foster
Bible translation isn’t just about getting a new book published. Bible translation shows God’s love in a way that a community has never seen before: it shows God’s love as their language is written down and gains respect in their locale; it shows God’s love as children and adults learn to read and write in their own languages; it shows God’s love as people learn that they can pray in the language they speak to their husband or wife in.
Translating the Bible shows God to communities in a unique way, as this video from Wycliffe Canada explains:
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‘Taking the word of God to people in their heart language is like God coming down and sitting beside them and fellowshiping with them.’ – Dana Barrett
Many people don’t know that there is a need for Bible translation at all. If you think that your family, small group or church might not know about the need, why not use this video to explain what a difference it can make? You can also find other videos you can use on our website.
Our partners down under – Wycliffe Australia – have just released their latest magazine Wycliffe Today. Head over to their website to flick through and see some of the projects they are supporting for the 60th anniversary, read about Lynnette Oates, a Wycliffe pioneer, and get a glimpse into the impact of literacy in the Solomon Islands.
Particularly moving in this edition is the artwork reflecting on the need for Jesus’ forgiveness in Australia, a society still in need of restoration. It’s a message we can all take to heart at Easter, as we look to the cross:
Ripple Effect of Forgiveness by Rachel Kendini, Mavis Jumbiri and Safina Stewart (www.artbysafina.com.au). Published in Wycliffe Australia’s Wycliffe Today magazine.
“Virtually every society impacted by Bible Translation needs forgiveness for past wrongs inflicted on them by other cultures. Justice is needed. Repentance is needed. Forgiveness is needed. As Bible translators our joy is in knowing that as people gain access to God’s revealed Word in their own Heart Language they will find it easier to understand and experience the liberating reality of forgiveness available through Jesus’ sacrificial death on Calvary’s cross.
“This Easter, will you join with us at Wycliffe in reaffirming our commitment to keep on doing all it takes to bring Jesus’ message of forgiveness and reconciliation to language groups still without the Scriptures.”
The Prayer Course is a great resource for churches and small groups to help you pray. I’m sure that most of us have felt the need of that at some time or another.
Our church has joined with two other local churches and is running this six-week course (produced by 27-7 Prayer and Alpha International) through Lent. I am personally learning so much and I am so excited those around me are discovering more about prayer too. Group discussion times have been so helpful as I’ve got other people’s perspectives and input on how they grow in and through prayer. I’ve been encouraged to see how God has answered prayers we’ve prayed together.
Photo by Marc Ewell
Petition is just asking God for things. As this is what most of us do most of the time when we pray, one of the questions we’ve asked is how can we do it better? Here are a few of the answers we came up with:
Be specific – it’s hard to know whether God has answered something vague like ‘please bless Fred’.
Pray incrementally – if the end result seems too big or unattainable then pray for the next step in the process. For example, asking God to give a certain people group the New Testament may seem too huge a request, so instead perhaps you could pray for the specific needs of the team in an upcoming consultant check or community test of a certain book.
Ask God to give you a promise or a verse to pray for a specific situation and use that promise or verse whenever you pray.
It is so easy to get bogged down in our prayers and feel like we are not making a significant difference. I’ve found that by praying specifically, incrementally and using Scripture, my passion and motivation for prayer has been revitalised. As I’ve seen answers to prayer it encourages me to pray more. I hope that these tools will help you too.
Jo Johnson has worked with Wycliffe for 16 years and currently serves as the Prayer Coordinator. She is married to Stewart and has 3 children. She is a member of the Community Church which meets in Wooburn Green, South Bucks.
It’s not unusual for Bibles or New Testaments that Wycliffe has a hand in to be launched alongside an audio version. The entire text gets recorded onto a digital player, CD or DVD so that people who prefer to listen can listen, and so that illiteracy won’t be a barrier to God’s word.
The teams pick clear speakers of the language and work with them to make sure the way they read the words matches the meanings. The publishers of the NIV did a similar process recently, with David Suchet as their clear speaker and actor. In the video below, he speaks about why this was a project of a lifetime for him:
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It doesn’t say, “Read the word of the Lord.” It says, “Hear the word of the Lord.” And it’s my prayer that everybody hearing my reading will find the same thing: that it will be fresh, and they will think, as I think when I’m reading it, “Gosh, this is fantastic!”
‘I believe that in each generation God has called enough men and women to evangelise all the yet unreached tribes of the earth. It is not God who does not call. It is man who will not respond!’ Isobel Kuhn, missionary with the China Inland Mission
If Kuhn is right,* then spending some time considering mission work – and whether it’s right for you – is something every Christian should do. If you are in the process of exploring, here are a few places to have a look:
If you have a strong idea about moving into Christian ministry, whether overseas or in the UK, the questionnaires and guidelines on the Christian Vocations website might help to encourage or challenge your thinking.
Chris and Marina are working in Senegal with the Manjak community. Their work is incredibly important for Bible translation, as this video from Wycliffe USA shows, but they aren’t Bible translators – that work is done by Manjak people. So what do Chris and Marina contribute?
Chris and Marina are literacy specialists, working with Wycliffe’s linguistic partners SIL International. Watch the video to see how their work helps a little Scripture go a long way:
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‘It wasn’t as if I wanted to translate the Bible into Manjak. It was that I needed to translate the Bible into Manjak. God’s word is something of greatness, and it’s for all the Manjak people. If the word of God was translated and nobody was able to read, that would make me very, very sad.’ Pierre Nassadiou, Manjak Bible translator
Working with local communities to develop literacy programmes allows many people to access God’s word for themselves for the first time. It also opens up doors to education, health information and legal rights in communities that have been denied these in the past.
Translation – and especially translating something as important as the Bible – is never straightforward, but you might be surprised by the words that have been challenging the Bena team in Tanzania. Researching how words are used in context is essential as Elizabeth, their translation advisor, illustrates…
Give me justice
One challenging section was the persistent widow story. The Bena have no word for ‘justice’. There was a loan word from the national language Swahili (‘ihaki’) in the text, which the Bena replaced as they know the reviewers won’t accept loan words. We tweaked this verse with the words in bold and came up with
which roughly translates as ‘…but because this widow is really bothering me, now I will help her get as she deserves, so that she won’t bother me again!’ (Luke 18:5) This was the best we could do with ‘justice’.
The Bena word for Sabbath is ‘Nyuwabaaha’ which means a day of rest but could refer to any day of the week, not necessarily Saturday.
There are currently two dialectal variations of the verb ‘to heal’ in the text – ‘kuhooswa’ and ‘kunaniya’ – but one word throughout which everyone understands would be the best.
Pray for the Bena team: the consultant will be checking the last section of Luke very soon.
Getting words like this right is incredibly important if a translation is going to communicate clearly and accurately, and be well used. If examples like this get you eager to support translation, find out more about how you could be involved.
In January we asked you to pray for Wycliffe Bible Translators UK during our transition to new leadership, as our current director, Eddie Arthur, finishes his term and someone new steps into the role.
A recent message from team who are searching updated us on how the process of identifying the new director is going:
‘Although we met with a number of good applicants we felt that we had not yet seen the right candidate to lead Wycliffe forward… We will now re-advertise the position and looking for fresh applications. The closing date for applications is Monday 28th April at 5:00pm.’
The search team have stressed the importance of prayer through this process. Wycliffe needs God’s person for the job. Please stand with us in prayer.
Here are some specific requests:
Praise God that the search group have known his leading so far.
Pray for everyone prayerfully considering applying for the job, that they would have a clear sense of God’s guidance.
Pray that the right person, with the right skills, vision and passion would apply. That person could either be from within Wycliffe or from outside the organisation.
Ask God to help the search group as they lead the selection process. They need wisdom, guidance and God’s grace.
Please also pray for the rest of Wycliffe’s UK team. It’s challenging to know things are changing but to not know how or who will be leading things forward.
It used to be that only the eloquent or those with very good memories dropped quotes into conversation. With Twitter and Facebook, sharing a profound phrase or two has now become far more widespread. But sometimes a hundred characters and a name misses something important.
The quotes below about using your life for God are ones that have stuck with us, not just for the words but for the speaker…
‘A little while and we are in eternity; before we find ourselves there, let us do much for Christ.’ Ann Judson
Ann Judson‘s (1789 – 1826) missionary career included helping translate the Gospel of Matthew into a Burmese language and living in a hut outside a prison for 17 months when her husband was imprisoned. In the first nine years of their work in Myanmar, they saw only 18 people turn to Jesus.
‘To stay here and disobey God — I can’t afford to take the consequence. I would rather go and obey God than to stay here and know that I disobeyed.’ Amanda Berry Smith
Amanda Smith (1837 – 1915, right) was born a slave, taught herself to read and shared the gospel through preaching and song, in the USA, UK, India and for eight years in Africa.
‘If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for him.’ C.T. Studd
C.T. Studd (1860 – 1931) was an accomplished and famous cricketer. He gave the majority of his inherited fortune away and chose to be a missionary, first to China, to India and then to modern-day Democratic Republic of the Congo. When he married and told his wife what remained of his inheritance, she asked him to give away what was left.
Did you know that more than 70 different types of software have been designed to equip Bible translation? When people think of technology and mission, they tend to jump to aeroplanes and satellite phones, but there’s a lot more to it than that.
If you can think of an IT role that an organisation in the UK needs doing, mission overseas needs it too, and many more like non-Roman script or mobile technology specialists. You can find out a lot more about roles like this at checkitout.org.
Maybe you’ve never thought about using your technology skills in mission. Neither had Tim:
Tim Sissel was on the move, typically driving 600–1000 miles each week servicing IBM equipment in Nebraska and Colorado. This gave him plenty of time to listen to the radio, pray, or just think. One day a question came to his mind: “Tim, do you want to do missions work when you retire in 13 years?” His immediate response was, “Yes, Lord.” Two other questions came in rapid succession: “What if the Lord were to return in 13 years?” and “What if the Lord were to take me home in 13 years?”
Tim pondered these for a few moments, then responded, “Yes, Lord. I’m willing to do missions work now.” He spent the rest of his driving time that day praying his wife Carol would feel the same way. That evening when he told her what had happened, her immediate response was, “Yes!” Tim and Carol now provide computer support to Bible translation teams in Mexico.
Find out more about IT roles in the ministry of Bible translation at checkitout.org. The events they list are based in the US, but if you want to explore more about roles like this while staying in the UK, get in touch.