Launches of New Testaments and Scripture portions highlight the acceleration happening in Bible translation right now

Image of a Yalë man reading the Scriptures in his language A Yalë man delights in reading the Scriptures in his language

These are exciting times in Bible translation!

Rapid progress and acceleration is taking place in every aspect of Bible translation work – as highlighted by recent New Testament launches in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Special days of joy and celebration

Three New Testaments and one set of Scripture portions in four languages in just over a month! For the Kaluli, Meramera, Nalik and Yalë peoples of PNG, their launch events were days of joy and celebration, of dancing and feasting. Above all, they were able to get their hands on the most precious word of God in their own language.

Each launch marked the culmination of decades of work and effort by local translation teams. None more so than the Kaluli New Testament…

Image of three Kaluli women listening to the audio version of the Kaluli New Testament Kaluli women listen to the audio version of their New Testament

Community-led effort

It’s a story of immense dedication and commitment, of a community who wanted God’s word in their language so much that they just started translating it themselves.

The Kaluli people live on the slopes of a volcanic crater in the highlands, in a very remote corner of the rainforest. It’s a five-day walk to the nearest road. Very much ‘the ends of the earth’ – and a community that works together in all things.

‘There was a community church established by the 1980s, but they didn’t have the Bible in their language and very much wanted it,’ says Sylvia Grosh, who works as the translation adviser for the Kaluli project. ‘So they appointed two translators who got to work with a notebook and a pencil. Eventually, those two sent a letter to ask for help in doing their Bible translation.’ That help arrived in 1991 when Sylvia and her husband Andy joined the project, and the team expanded.

Image of a Kaluli woman reading her newly launched New Testament A Kaluli woman reads her New Testament

Now, 41 years after the initial translation work started, the Kaluli people have their New Testament. From the start it has been a community-led effort, with the local church giving its full support. Amazingly, the two original translators, and the many other Kaluli people who have been appointed by the church to join the translation team, are all still part of the team today!

The ongoing commitment of the Kaluli church, the faithful service of the team, and the close-knit bonds of the community have all contributed to the excitement the Kaluli people feel about having the Scriptures in their language.

‘My heart is so happy’

Image of two Nalik women holding their New Testaments at the launch event The Nalik New Testament was launched with singing, dancing, speeches, and a community meal on 26 April

The launch event on 17 February was a day of great celebration.

Segea Sogobaiye, one of the translation team, says: ‘My heart is so happy. I’m happy. My heart cries, and my physical eyes cry too, because I am so happy.’

On the day, printed copies and solar-powered audio players were available to purchase. When it came to distributing the Scriptures, the crowd pressed forward and it was difficult to see whose hand was holding which money because of people’s eagerness to get their Scriptures.

As Wano Hemide, another member of the translation team, joyfully exclaimed: ‘The Kaluli Bible dedication is a really big thing. God marked this day and date as a special day for us Kaluli people. I’m very happy to see it. To see it and receive it. Because the Word of Life is there in the Bible.’

Image of a Meramera family with their newly launched New Testament The Meramera people launched their New Testament in their own language on 7 April

Much still to do

These are indeed ‘special days’– for these four communities, and also in the world of Bible translation.

But despite the acceleration that is happening in the work of Bible translation, there is still much work to do. For example, PNG has the largest number of languages in the world (840), and many of those still do not have any translated Scripture.

And worldwide, 1 in 5 people still do not have the Bible in their own language.

However, if the acceleration continues, we are living in a generation when almost everyone will be able to access the Scriptures in their own language.

You can be a part of this exciting progress, by praying, giving and/or joining.

Find out more via the links below.

Story by: Jeremy Weightman

Date: 02/07/2024

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