Asia (MNN) — What would you do for a copy of the New Testament?
In countries where open evangelism of the Gospel is illegal or dangerous, anti-Christian sentiments make scripture inaccessible for most believers. That’s why these countries are known as “creative-access nations”; the Body of Christ has to be creative in the way they reach local believers.
Bruce Smith of Wycliffe Associates is familiar with the kind of creative solutions these locations require.
In countries like these, “Proselytism would certainly be opposed and regulated, so the local people have their own ways of living out their faith, being a testimony, and sharing their faith in ways that are acceptable within their circles, even though they might be frowned upon or opposed by the government structures.”
Collaboration Project in Asia
But Smith is also familiar with how much easier it is to find creative solutions when local believers collaborate with outside groups. Such is the case in one Asian country* where Christians are a minority religious group who face government-structured persecution.
“10 groups basically are in the neighborhood and they’ve heard and seen the advancement of Bible translation in their surrounding neighboring language group, and so they’ve approached us out of this arena,” Smith says.
“This is not a place where we sort of stuck a pin in a map and said, ‘We’re going to go in there no matter what the issues are,’ this is the place where they’re coming out to us and saying, ‘If it’s able to go forward with our neighbors that can certainly go forward with us.’”
Their current partners in this country are members of a house church network complete with church leadership and structure. There are even elders in the network.
“They’re not only connected locally and regionally but internationally as well,” Smith says. “They didn’t become Christians in a vacuum, so they have a history of connection to evangelical Christians and mission work from other parts of the world.”
How to Creatively Access Creative-Access Countries
So what does it look like to find solutions to intense persecution and regulation? One of the biggest obstacles believers have to overcome is the intense scrutiny placed on them.
“These are people who are not necessarily prominent in the business community or things like that, they’re pretty humble people, but because they are Christians they are being monitored, Smith says. “The way that we’re able to work with these people is they’re able to travel legally, so they’re able to travel to surrounding countries.”
Translators leave their country, receive training from Wycliffe Associates groups, and return home without stirring up any fuss.
“They go back without being exposed by contact with foreigners without us creating a lot of visibility in their arena, or in fact, no visibility, because we don’t go into their arena,” Smith says. “They’re able to go back to their communities and, through their family networks and through their church networks, build the team that’s necessary to move the Bible translation forward.”
For these Christians, Wycliffe Associates represents an opportunity for access to the Gospel. For many, it will be the first time they can read scripture in their own languages.
“They’ve just come to the conclusion that this is the time in history and this… is the most positive opportunity for them to have scripture in their language,” Smith says. “They haven’t haven’t had that opportunity in the past, so they’re anxious to move forward regardless of the risks.”
Playing Our Part
Many Christians in the United States and other parts of the world haven’t experienced the kind of thirst for the Gospel that these believers have, but we can still help them achieve their goal. Right now, requests for translation assistance are flooding Wycliffe Associates, and they need all the help and resources they can get if they want to make an impact.
“The immediate need that we’ve had is financial support, so that enables us to fund the training workshops and the technology that is needed in order to get them off and running,” Smith says.
You can also be praying for Wycliffe Associates projects, including their ongoing training in Asia.
“We’ve actually got the training workshop on the calendar, we have a location, and we’re going to be converging here in the next — we’ll say in the next couple of months,” Smith says.
“The more people they bring, the more progress they’re going to make in translation during the workshop as well as bringing that expertise back to their communities so that they can train others and add to the translation team.”
Their current mission? Finish translations of the New Testament within the next 12 years.
“There is a level of urgency and level of commitment and sacrifice that local Christians are willing to make in order to get scripture because they see that that’s their only hope for eternity going forward and they see the impact that it can have for their communities,” Smith says.
“These are things that they can pray about, that they can be aware of, even in the face of opposition and persecution that we hear about within Christian media. The reality is that the local people understand that to be normal and and they’re not fearful because of it. They’re moving forward by faith despite those oppositions, and that’s something that we can have a part in helping them to make that progress and having God’s Word in their own language.”
*Country’s name hidden for security
Header photo courtesy of Wycliffe Associates