Papau New Guinea (MNN) — There are few places that require innovative missions like Papau New Guinea. From harsh, volcanic terrain to widespread people groups, the country presents plenty of challenges to the spread of the Gospel.
“The challenges physically are huge; the challenges spiritually, the challenges culturally are huge. So there’s just a lot of work to be done there,” says Bruce Smith of Wycliffe Associates.
Yet one of the biggest challenges is the language barriers; all 800 of them.
“About 500 of those 800 languages are still needing God’s Word to start translation, so just a huge task ahead from the vantage point of Bible translation,” explains Smith.
What the country is not lacking is passion from local believers. They want to get involved directly and work as much as possible to reach their neighbors with the message of Christ’s love.
“The vision of the local community is to engage in Bible translation directly themselves without waiting on foreign missionaries to show up and do the work for them.”
“Their sense of urgency is often quite different than our own. They’re the ones who are watching their neighbors and their countrymen live without hope and die without hope, and they’re saying, ‘This is unacceptable,’” Smith says.
Usually, Bible translation relies on scholars and linguists from overseas, missionaries who have to learn the language before they can even begin translation. The only problem with this process is it takes a long time, and God’s Word can’t get to the people who are most desperate for it on time.
That’s where Mobilized Assistance Supporting Translations comes in, or MAST.
“It’s basically a workshop where the local church is invited to bring as many bilingual speakers of their language as they can get together and participate in a process where they translate Scripture in parallel, and work together to check the quality of that translation work.”
From software to training, Wycliffe Associates tries to provide every necessary resource to help people get the Scriptures in their own language. So far, the effects are dramatic. It’s faster, more efficient, and a lot cheaper than traditional translation methods, even as it retains the accuracy and truth of the Bible.
“We see the hurdle for entry and participation dropping dramatically. When you compare this to the cost of supporting a missionary for decades in an overseas environment, the cost is becoming really much more economical. It’s putting Scripture within reach much sooner than it has in the past.”
News of the new program is traveling around the world, meaning churches internationally can participate in the new method.
“This new process of MAST that’s emerging around the world, it’s really spreading quite virally among the church so that globally this last month we’ve seen 225 languages begin Bible translation for the first time.”
No matter how the Gospel is spread or translated, Smith encourages us that prayer is the most potent tool we can use.
“Pray that as God is working in the communities, in the churches, in the leadership, within the missions community, that together all of us continue to strive towards the goal of getting His Word to the nations, and doing it in a way that honors and glorifies Him so that His name is exalted and glorified among the nations.”