Nigeria (MNN) — Churches in Nigeria have been under direct attack lately as several bombers have targeted church buildings. But on Friday morning, Bible translation was also threatened when a team of translators was robbed.
A team of IT professionals from Wycliffe Associates was in Nigeria to help with a workshop that mentors Nigerians on how to do Bible translation. En route to a city in northern Nigeria, the team was confronted.
"They were stopped by armed robbers. Everyone was forced to lie on the ground," says David Reeves with Wycliffe Associates. Reeves says money was taken, but he hasn't heard if their equipment was also commandeered.
Reeves could only speculate on whether the robbery was at all related to the string of church attacks over the last month or so in Nigeria. Regardless, he says, tensions against believers are high.
"This is not uncommon in Nigeria or in other parts of Africa to have these sort of events–remote roads, isolated locations and all–although the current environment is one where more of that is happening because of the unrest and the insecurity that's going on in the country," explains Reeves.
The team is safe, but the incident emphasizes the urgency behind the work Wycliffe Associates is doing.
Typically, Wycliffe Associates sends IT teams to Nigeria to deliver Bible Translation Acceleration Kits (TAKs). The full kit includes a satellite terminal, a solar panel, batteries, converters, and a laptop. Those items can change depending on the needs of the particular translation team, but those basic items make translation work exponentially faster.
Reeves says the technology offers huge change to translators. "I know of places where they're even doing Bible translation on yellow notepads," says Reeves. "We're trying to get in to help them have tools like computers and connectivity to be able to move faster than that."
With increasing instability in Nigeria, it's not only vital that translators get their work done as quickly as possible, but that they are also able to move if needed. Computers, internet, and other devices help them to consult faster and to take their work with them should they need to flee the area or even the country.
Just a month after Reeves helped one translation team install their TAK, "500 people had been killed, 21 churches had been burned, and they were sending me e-mails asking me for prayer for their team. They still continued to do Bible translation, sending materials to their consultant, and still moving forward."
Reeves says the courage and perseverance is already there in the translators. The necessary technology is just needed to allow them to keep working through severe persecution.
Wycliffe Associates has placed 45 TAKs in Nigeria so far. It's excellent progress, but there are a total of 80 Bible translation projects going in Nigeria, and many more starting up. The urgent need has thrust Wycliffe Associates to new goals in Nigeria.
"We need to help them scale from about 80 projects to nearly 300 projects. The sooner we do that the better; there's a sense of urgency in light of the conflict and uncertainty of where all this is going," says Reeves. "I'm looking at probably another 100 in the next year that we'll try to do. As soon as we can, we'll try to do all the remaining ones."
It's dangerous and difficult work, but crucial in order for the Gospel to win over the oppression of terrorism in Nigeria. Each TAK costs $3,500. If you can help with even a portion of that, click here. If you have IT expertise and would like to volunteer with these projects in Nigeria, click here.