Kits provide the key to Bible translation momentum

By September 19, 2012

International (WAS/MNN) — Recent trouble throughout Nigeria has proven to be disruptive for Christians.

Although they haven't shied away from gathering together, security has gotten much more noticeable. Recent attacks on churches–claimed by the country's militant Islamist group Boko Haram–forced curfews and other government response.

At other times, the effect of civil unrest means leaving the area is safer. What kind of impact does this have on complex projects like Bible translation? In the past, these kinds of events disrupted translation work severely. Scattered teams, unreliable power, and destroyed stations often represented years of setback.

However, that's not necessarily the case anymore. Wycliffe Associates involves people in the acceleration of Bible translation. More recently, they've been providing Bible translation acceleration kits to translation teams in places like Nigeria.

Wycliffe Associates President and CEO Bruce Smith explains that it's about risk management for their teams. "They don't have to travel as much because of being able to communicate across longer distances, they can collaborate with team members. For the last two years, especially we've been focusing our technical support on information technology for teams that are working in isolated places that help them communicate, and help them collaborate with other team mates."

The new technology provides faster, safer, and more efficient translation efforts by connecting Bible translation consultants with national on-site translators who live in remote locations without electricity. Smith explains, "The foundational piece to the Bible translation acceleration kit is the solar panel. It'll power a generator that will charge a battery from which the translation accelerator kit netbook and satellite internet modem can be powered. It's a self-contained unit, it can really work anywhere in the world."

Each kit shaves off decades in translation time due to the communication and collaboration efforts it makes possible. When you take into consideration the impact that translating similar languages together has had, the effect is dramatic. "What has historically taken between 20 and 30 years to do, in terms of translating the New Testament, because of cluster strategies and working simultaneously with related language groups, that time frame has frequently dropped down to 8-10 years."

By the end of the year, they hope to have installed a total of 215 BTAKs. Next year, the organization plans to install 250 BTAK units. Smith excitedly notes, "It's possible that we could see New Testament translations being completed in 4-5 years instead of 8-10 years."

Remember how we started this story in Nigeria? 42 translation teams got their kits which enabled Bible translators to safely continue their work despite civil unrest, church bombings, and attacks. "That's an environment that's very difficult for people to travel in," says Smith. "It's very difficult for them to work publicly, so this kind of technology allows them to continue to progress, without putting themselves at risk and still have access to the resources and partners that they need in order to do their work."

When the technology was introduced to translators for the Jenjo language group in Nigeria recently, one team completed the Gospel of Luke in half the time. In addition to speeding up the translation process, the technology also enables translators to more easily communicate with linguists at universities and participate in short-response conversations via e-mail with their churches, families, and support base back home.

Each kit contains a solar panel, a netbook, battery charger, and a satellite modem. The price tag: $4,000. Smith says, "That's the kind of amount that many people can say ‘this I something I want to prioritize in my stewardship. This is a goal that we can reach as a family, or as a small group of people from a church.'"

In fact, that's exactly what he's hoping people do. "We've got about 250 already targeted for the coming years, and we'd like to work our way quickly through those as quickly as we can. At this point, we've got a specific target of raising $175,000 to install the next 40 to 50 kits around the world in the coming months."

The funds per kit not only distribute these high-tech tools in other strategic regions, but also provide the training for national translators on how to use the tools effectively.

In case you were wondering whether the kits were used primarily in strife-torn regions, the following is an excerpt from a note Wycliffe Associates recently received from a Bible translator in Cameroon. The note arrived after a team completed the installation of Bible Translation Acceleration Kits (BTAKs) for translators of three language groups in the area.

"We come before you with humility to express to you our great appreciation for the precious gifts you have offered to us. We do not know how to express our gratitude. We just assure you that by the grace of our Lord, to make good use of these precious gifts. With this equipment, we believe that our work will be eased and a noticeable progress will be its result.

"All the Mofu-Gudur people are grateful for this donation. Anyone we meet charges us to forward their gratitude to you. Our appreciation goes to all those who sacrificed a lot to make the Word of God available in Mofu. May the Lord bless you up to the hundredfold!
"We do not know the addresses of all those who contributed towards the availability of this equipment. But if you find that this message is worth circulating, please do send it for us and God bless you! Once more we thank you."

-Ladde Kawalidama Clement, for the Mofu-Gudur Bible translation team

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