International (MNN) — The Great Commission is on track to be fulfilled in our lifetime, making God’s Word available to each and every people group in the world. Working towards this end is Faith Comes By Hearing (FCBH), and their Senior Vice President Morgan Jackson has an exciting update.
“We just completed the recording of a drama New Testament in a thousand languages — which really means 83 percent of the world’s population now has the Bible in text, they have the New Testament in audio, and they have The JESUS Film, and that’s just a huge deal.”
It’s been a milestone 25 years in the making. But really, it all started with seeing the need. Back in 1991, Faith Comes By Hearing began hearing nationals from Ghana to Guatemala say they needed Bibles, but their people couldn’t read. Therein began the work.
A slow start
“We immediately learned we’re working with oral communities, so you can’t just do a straight recording. It needs to be drama, because for oral people if it’s not a story or a drama or has music then for them it’s not important because it has to have memory cues. Of course, the New Testament has everything, it’s a story, it’s a narrative with revelation and drama,” says Jackson.
“We created a 180-voice recording which we get using 25 narrators. We had music and effects, and we started recording other languages.” Jackson goes on, chuckling, “First five years we recorded five languages! Eh…we weren’t doing really well. And I began to think, ‘Lord, I think you chose the wrong ministry.’”
Jackson heard other experts advising maybe it wasn’t necessary to get Bible translations in all 850 Latin American languages. Perhaps it would be easier to just do the top 50 or 100 languages and then everybody else would just go with the dominant Spanish translation.
In every single language?
While still considering the necessity of doing audio Bible translations in every single language, Faith Comes By Hearing was working with a Bolivian community that spoke Quechua.
In the Quechua community, FCBH planned to start a listening program and give an audio Bible called the Proclaimer to the community. The listening program has the local church or school gather weekly to listen to the audio Scriptures and discuss. After three visits ensuring its use, FCBH lets them keep the Proclaimer.
Jackson went to Bolivia to start this listening group, and he hoped to discover if just Spanish was good enough for the Quechua people.
There, he had an enlightening conversation with the pastor, who told Jackson that he preaches in Spanish on Sundays because the Scriptures they have are in Spanish. But it’s wasn’t good enough.
“[The pastor] promptly told me, ‘Nobody in my church speaks Spanish. So I preach the same thing six or seven Sundays in a row, and they don’t know it.’”
So what happened when the Quechua Scriptures came? Jackson shares, “He started weeping, telling me how people would weep and cry when they heard the Scriptures because it was in their own language. They thought God only spoke Spanish.
“When I asked him what stories caused them to weep, he said, ‘The story of the woman with the issue of blood.’… What I discovered was people actually enter the story and when they enter the story, they join the woman and they felt like that woman — rejected, unable to touch God, unable to be with Him. And when that woman touched [Jesus], they touched [Jesus], and somehow Jesus’ presence touched them.”
Jackson was moved. “That was it. From that moment, I then knew we had to actually record the Bible in every single language, because people have to hear it in their own language.”
The Great Commission by around 2030
Faith Comes By Hearing’s milestone of 1,000 completed audio Scripture recordings is part of a greater initiative to have Scripture in every language.
“There’s a whole translation movement. There’s a group called Every Tribe Every Nation, a group of business leaders who pulled all the translation community together and everybody’s aimed at starting a new translation in every language of the world by the year 2025, which means somewhere around 2030, we could have a translation in every Scripture language of the world.”
Jackson explains, “In the Great Commission, Jesus said we’re supposed to make disciples of all nations. The word ‘nation’ there is ‘ethnos’, which means ‘language, tribe, people’.
“So there’s 7,100 languages in the world that we have to provide Scripture. It’s impossible to disciple a people without the Word of God. So we’re in the first time in the history of the world where translators will get the job done.”
Why Audio Bibles?
Audio recordings of the Bible are playing a very key role, especially in these last several translations.
“The problem is that in many of these people groups, the last 3,000 language groups to be reached, the people are all illiterate and oral and any education will be in the major language, not theirs. So when you’re done with the Bible, it’s still like putting a Bible on the moon because it’s inaccessible to them. Their poverty and illiteracy keep it from them. So when we can record it, it means the Bible becomes theirs.”
Faith Comes By Hearing is now maintaining a much faster pace of translation while maintaining excellent quality of their work. Jackson says this has exciting implications.
“What it means is the next thousand languages we expect to be able to complete within about six years. That thousand languages will get us to where almost 95 percent of the world will have a text and an audio in their language and be able to hear the Word of God.
“The Great Commission in our lifetime can and will be fulfilled. Every single person can and will hear Scripture in their own native language.”
Pressing on in the mission
Currently, FCBH has 350 languages ready to go for recording. They just need the funding. Jackson says it takes $35,000 to record a language, about $1,200 to record a book of the Bible, and roughly $135 to record a chapter. Click here to sponsor audio recordings of God’s Word!
Meanwhile, there are a few other things you can do to get involved in the Great Commission with these audio Bibles.
First, you can download the Bible.is app and start sharing God’s Word in multiple languages with others you meet.
Second, Jackson offers this opportunity: “If you’re going to go on a trip overseas, you should give Faith Comes By Hearing a call. We’ll usually provide one Proclaimer, which is the solar panel hand-cranked device, that you can take and when you go over there, you leave that behind at the orphanage, or the clinic, or the church, and you allow a whole village to hear Scripture.”
You can get additional Proclaimers after the first one for $75 each. You can also get microSD chips for cell phones that contain the New Testament to give out as gifts.