(Photo courtesy Wycliffe Associates)
Indonesia (MNN) -- Here's a little "geo" quiz for you: what country is made up of thousands of islands and boasts over 250 languages?
Wycliffe Associates President and CEO Bruce Smith says this is also why they've made the country a high priority for Bible translation work. "Many of them are not literate in their first language, let alone in a second or third language, so a lot of the communication of Scripture and the Gospel has to be in oral forms."
Wycliffe Associates is an international organization that involves people in the acceleration of Bible translation. They're providing tools to help by way of building a translation center in West Timor. Already about halfway through a 5-year building project, they're raising funds to complete it. "The teams in that area are working on 23 languages, and they've already identified 80 additional languages in this region alone that are still without one verse of Scripture."
Smith says the urgency is building, too. While Portuguese and Tetun are the official languages of Timor, they are not the functional languages for people groups in many areas of the country. Smith explains that entire generations have grown up speaking local languages. "Really, the whole testimony of Indonesia for the past 50 years is the responsiveness of people when they hear the Gospel in a language and a form that they understand."
Smith goes on to say that the diversity of the region means there are a lot of challenges. That clarifies their mission. "There is a real mixture of religious organizations and denominations that are active there. So, making sure that Christians have the resources that they need and especially having Scripture in a language that they understand is a part of assuring that they have what they need to survive the challenges that are there and to grow in their faith."
"It is heartbreaking to think these isolated people might believe God doesn't care enough to speak directly to them," says Smith.
"What if you heard the Gospel in a language you only partly understood? Think about what it would be like to live without your favorite Scripture verse," says Smith.
According to Rev. Gabriel Brea, a national Bible translator in West Timor, the people are asking why they don't have Bibles in their own language. He adds that without Scripture in their own language, "people don't really understand it. It doesn't penetrate their hearts."
Wycliffe Associates provided construction materials and volunteers to complete two building phases of a translation center in West Timor. The first phase of this five-year project was the renovation of an office building to create administration space. "The second part was to create some additional classroom space for the teams that come and go. Those two phases are already complete.
The third phase is to add some dormitory and guest space so that as these students come and go from other parts of this area of southeast Indonesia, they have a place to stay while they're there." Right now, donations toward Wycliffe Associates' translation efforts in Timor and the surrounding islands of Indonesia will be matched by anonymous donors.
Missionaries there are currently working with 23 languages groups and are also recording and videotaping recently translated Scriptures in a sound studio built by Wycliffe Associates.
Wycliffe Associates involves people in accelerating the work of Bible translation through their time, talents, and treasure. Because millions of people around the world are still waiting to read the Scriptures in the language of their heart, Wycliffe Associates is working as quickly as they can to translate every verse of the Bible into every tongue to change every heart.
The organization partners with nationals, mother tongue translators, staff, volunteers, and supporters to direct and fund these efforts, as well as provide logistics, networking, and technical support. Through a growing global network, Wycliffe Associates is striving to overcome local limitations of time and resources to achieve the goal of beginning the translation of God's Word in every remaining language that needs it by 2025.