SE Asia (MNN/Wycliffe Associates) — During the 12th century, Islam spread aggressively into Asia through military conquest. Its influence continues to this day.
Yet, the seed of the Gospel had taken root. Bruce Smith, president and CEO of Wycliffe Associates, says, “I just got back to the office today from being in Southeast Asia with a group that is part of a body of Christians that has been in place for almost 200 years but never has had one verse of Scripture until last week.”
Local believers were trained in the MAST (Mobilized Assistance Supporting Translation) strategy, and during the time of Smith’s visit, they put everything on hold to translate the Bible. It was past time. “They have, for too many generations, watched their communities, their neighbors, live and die without hope, without the truth of God’s Word. They are unwilling for another generation to pass without it.”
Local believers gathered for training. They were split up into several groups that were assigned a book of the New Testament to work on. “During a workshop of two weeks, a group of their translators translated 17 books of the New Testament and checked them for accuracy.”
Inspired, their plan is to finish the rest of the New Testament in their language by April. They hope to have the entire Bible translated in their language by the end of this year.
They’re not alone. The idea behind MAST makes it feasible to accelerate the pace of Bible translation exponentially. In an understatement of understatements, Smith says, “It’s kind of spreading virally.”
What that means is, “This past year, we’ve had about 300 language teams that have requested and received training in MAST, which is accelerating their Bible translation process. We actually have about 200 more languages on the calendar already for this year.”
In response to questions of accuracy, Smith explains, “They care about the accuracy of Scripture as much as we do. The way that the accuracy is checked is the same way that it has always been checked. You go to the native language speakers, you find out how they understand the passage, what they’ve learned from it and check whether it’s consistent with the original passages.” These local believers share a language with 1.7 million speakers, of which less than 1% are Christians.
They’re blazing the trail for the generations to come. However, blazing a trail has its own challenges. It is now a region where conversion to Christianity is punishable by death. Yet, Wycliffe Associates plans to launch 10 new Bible translation projects in the next 30 days. Smith says the believers he met are undeterred. “The security issues are real. They are part of a persecuted minority of Christians within their arena. But, they understand those risks, and they accept those risks.”
Violence has forced Bible translators to evacuate their homes. Other translators have had to suspend their translation work due to the persecution. Smith explains this is also why they have strategies like MAST and the BTAK (Bible Translation Acceleration Kit). The equipment makes the translator mobile, while the rapidity of the translation itself “enables Bible translation to move forward more quickly, to not only start sooner, but also conclude sooner so that the process itself is not vulnerable for long periods of time.”
As the number of requests for training grows, Wycliffe Associates is currently raising $400,000 to launch 80 translation projects in volatile areas of the world. The organization plans to launch the first 10 of these 80 projects within the next 30 days. “These Christians are crying out for translator training,” says Smith. “Their people long for God’s Word in the language of their heart. The MAST strategy will mean a whole new day for them.”
Necessity is truly the mother of invention. In the midst of extremism, Sharia law and heavy oppression, Wycliffe Associates has provided the method and the means for Bible translation, but they need support from you. “In a time of change, there’s a lot of uncertainty, a lot of judgements and decisions that have to be made, and we want these to be guided by God’s Wisdom.”