Bible translators keep working despite pandemic challenges

By May 21, 2020

International (MNN) — Pandemic restrictions are changing operations for nearly every business under the sun. Read our full coronavirus coverage here.

Bain & Company, a global business consulting firm, is tracking the changes taking place across industries. On Tuesday, it issued this grim assessment:

Fiscal and monetary policymakers across the world have taken unprecedented steps to stabilize the global financial system and avert economic catastrophe, yet fiscal policy still appears insufficient, in both size and scope, to avoid mass business closures.

Wycliffe USA’s Andy Keener says COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns affect Bible translation, too. Teams are still translating God’s Word, he clarifies, but how they do it is changing. It’s easy to transition work online in places with reliable access to WiFi, “But…not [everyone has] internet at home, so it can be a challenge,” Keener says.

(Photo courtesy of Wycliffe USA).

Support Bible translators and help them overcome challenges here.

How Wycliffe USA supports Bible translators

Keener is part of a “task force” Wycliffe USA organized to support and communicate with its teams and partners globally. “We have people serving in countries all over the world, with different organizations in each place… each of them has their own challenges and their own local situation,” Keener says.

No matter which situation it encounters, Keener says Wycliffe USA’s task force focuses on two things.

“We’re taking special care to make sure that people are in a good position to first, be safe, second, continue to serve the community that’s around them.”

Severe restrictions in some countries cause trouble for Bible translators. “[Some are] in lockdowns that don’t have the freedom to necessarily get out, so some of them are struggling,” Keener explains. “We do what we can to help in those circumstances.”

Another significant challenge teams face involves elderly community members, he adds. In nations with curfews and restricted public activity times, “it’s harder for them; getting around and doing [tasks]… maybe they have a child or grandchild who regularly helps them and now is unable to make their way there,” Keener describes as an example.

Deaf translators get creative

A Deaf translator records a Bible passage.
(Photo, caption courtesy of DOOR International)

In some cases, Bible translators are pausing their work to meet community needs. More about that here.

“Some of the sign language Bible translation teams – those are Deaf people doing Bible translation on video in national sign languages – they’ve stepped back for just a brief period of time and they’re recording videos that can be sent out, explaining to Deaf people how to follow all the national guidelines,” Keener says.

Local teams told Keener about situations where Deaf communities could not access COVID-19 information because it was only available in spoken or written form. As a result, Deaf individuals would unintentionally violate curfew or other public restrictions.

“The police, in many places, weren’t particularly understanding of why someone was out; they would just grab them and throw them in jail. It was only later that they figured out [the person was] Deaf.”

Use the prompts listed alongside this article to pray for Wycliffe USA’s work and Bible translation efforts worldwide. Pray into the pandemic using this resource from our sister ministry, Prayercast.

Most importantly, pray for faith to overcome the spirit of fear.

“Fear can be an ever-present thing,” Keener says. “Many people are dealing with a fear of the illness. In some places, there’s fear of civil unrest when things don’t go well; there can be violence in some places.”



Header image courtesy of Wycliffe USA via Facebook.

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