International (MNN) — In 2015, we were supposed to have flying cars and robot housemaids. While those inventions are still not practical, technology and advanced training have brought one ancient scholarly endeavor from the age of quill and pen, into that of solar-powered laptops and economy of time and effort.
Wycliffe Associates has worked to translate the Bible into different tongues for almost 40 years, and the job demands are tough. Translators have to know the exact meanings of individual words and also the way the meaning of those words may be altered when used within a sentence or paragraph. They have to understand the culture of first-century Jerusalem as well as the 21st century country or region where they are working. Besides the scholarly issues of translation, the Wycliffe associates have to concern themselves with the day-to-day issues of life and work in a foreign country.
“We’ve seen growing opposition,” says Bruce Smith, President and CEO of Wycliffe Associates. “Because of the challenging places where Bible translation is still needed in the world, we often find ourselves in places where bad things are happening.”
In such circumstances, translators’ ability to work quickly and move from place to place can mean they stay safe and are able to finish their work.
There are 235 Wycliffe language groups who now use Mobilized Assistance Supporting Translation (MAST). In the past, a New Testament translation could be done in as little as six years, but could take up to 30. In 2014, during a MAST workshop in South Asia, 13 translators completed a draft of half of the New Testament in two weeks. Wanting to instill accuracy in all their translations, Wycliffe invited scholars to read the MAST-produced translation and grade its accuracy. Smith says the translation experts confirmed the accuracy of the Scripture completed at the workshop.
Using the system, Smith believes a 26-member team could produce a New Testament translation in less than a year.
Less time on any one project means less opportunities for a team to be disrupted in their pursuit.
For translators who are in unsafe areas, Wycliffe aids them with Bible Translation Acceleration Kits (BTAKs). Each kit contains a small netbook computer, a satellite communication terminal, a solar battery charger and battery, and a secondary power supply. Introduced in 2014, the kits have been sent to teams in Brazil, Cameroon, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, and Tanzania.
The BTAKs can fit in a backpack, meaning a translator’s work can be taken quickly from a residence or office, when an alarm is given–an important detail when working in a country saturated with Muslim extremists such as Boko Haram, ISIS, or al-Qaeda, or violent Hindus such as those who attacked a group of worshipers celebrating Advent in Hyderabad, India.
Smith sees advances in translation making God’s Word more accessible to people who don’t currently have a Bible in their own language.
“We’re just seeing incredible initiative and energy from local churches and Christians who have said they are going to do the work that is necessary to get God’s Word into their languages. Because of the MAST strategy,” Smith says. “The time frame from the start of a translation to the finish is dramatically being decreased these days. We are seeing really encouraging progress.”
The work in 2015 means more than 200 new Bible translations are in the works for people who have never had the Gospel in their own language. While technology and innovation have helped with the work, prayer is the most vital part of their work.
“We need the people, we need the financing, but we really are praying for God’s wisdom in this process,” says Smith. “There are so many threats, but there are also so many opportunities. We pray for God’s guidance and His providence throughout this process so His Word can reach every corner of the world.”