USA (MNN/WAS) — Wycliffe Associates’ goal is a Bible in every language by 2025. Brent Ropp, who serves as their Vice President of Operations, says “It IS a thing.”
He goes on to explain that with the acceleration of cluster languages, translation in parallel and the advance of the missions movement, in general, local language groups can take ownership of their own Bible translation.
“The growth of the Church among bible-less language groups has come to the place now, where they are technically able to do this work themselves. Our role is to simply provide training, tools and resources for them so that they can do Bible translation on their own.”
Church Growth: Bible Plea
This is happening in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Nigeria. Previously, these bible-less people groups were in areas where the church was very young or non-existent, he notes.
Today, “Most of these language groups now have pastors and church leaders with many years of experience, and in a lot of cases, theological higher-level education as well. They are the best source of testing and assuring accuracy of the Scriptures.”
“When they hear that the entire New Testament can now be translated in just months, they’re astonished, and they plead for a chance,” said Bruce Smith, President and CEO of Wycliffe Associates. That’s led to a flood of requests, says Ropp, which keeps them on track to meet their goal in six years.
“The 619 that we’ve identified so far, these are all language communities that have come to us and asked us for help. They’ve been identified. We have then vetted them.” Given the recent push toward identifying and adopting Unreached People Groups, how do they know they’re not duplicating their efforts?
“The vast majority of these language groups have never had a Bible translation project,” he says. “We have had, on occasion, discovered that, many years ago (in many cases, decades ago), a Bible translation project was started, but for whatever reason, was never finished.”
By what process has the Bible translation effort accelerated? In 2014, Wycliffe Associates piloted a new, collaborative Bible translation method known as Mobilized Assistance Supporting Translation, or MAST, which has teams working in parallel, working on several books at once, rather than sequential, or one at a time.
Since the first MAST workshop in South Asia, more than 1,250 Bible translation projects have started using MAST. Along with the training that mother-tongue translators receive in a MAST workshop, Wycliffe Associates also provides Print-On-Demand equipment as well as computer tablets loaded with translation software. In addition to helping translators work efficiently and safeguard their work, the tablets also help ensure the safety of translators who need to work discreetly.
The acceleration also brought costs down into more manageable numbers, says Ropp. “In the past, back when translations took decades to do, the cost of a New Testament was well over two million dollars, per language. Now we’re seeing thousands of language communities coming, and we’re looking at an average cost for each one of these projects of $19,500.”
What Can You Do?
Fundraising is a part of the process, but so is prayer. “The spiritual warfare that goes on during the time a Bible translation workshop or training event has been taking place, has just been unbelievable. We’re facing challenges, literally, at every turn that we come to, with regard to this project.”
“For generations, Bible translation was a difficult and slow process, shackled by what ‘couldn’t’ be done, where we ‘couldn’t’ go,” Smith says, concluding with this thought, “Today, by God’s grace, we’re leaving ‘can’t’ behind. In places we could never work in before due to violence and persecution, God has opened doors.”
Headline photo courtesy Wycliffe Associates/Bruce Smith.