Ethiopia (MNN) — Technology has had an incredible impact on Bible translation. Technology has allowed missionaries to be flown into impossible-to-reach areas of the world and to supply Bible translators while in the field. Oral learners have been able to "read" the Gospel through audio cassette tapes and now mp3 players. And, computers have sped up the Bible translation process all over the world.
Recently, Mission Aviation Fellowship learned about the fruit of earlier years of service in Ethiopia, as they heard about an oral learning people group receiving the Bible in their own language for the first time.
Mission Aviation Fellowship's Denny Hoekstra has seen the work up close and in person. In 1964, his father, Harvey Hoekstra, took his family to a village in Ethiopia to share the Gospel with the Majang tribe. It took 10 days to get there by horseback, Denny told MNN.
He says air drops from MAF were vital to their work. "Sometimes [there were] as many as three or four drops a day — dropping food and other materials. Tools were dropped out of the airplane where they could help build a small airstrip. So without MAF, they wouldn't have existed there."
Hoekstra says, "The Majang people were a strong oral culture. They had nothing in writing. They had never heard the Gospel before. They hadn't even seen a white person before."
While there, the Hoekstras were able to translate Scripture and record a dozen 12-minute tapes that told the story of Jesus. "Cassette players started to move out into the jungle with the Gospel message on them. And as people heard this, they believed."
In 1976, the Hoekstras were forced to leave Ethiopia, leaving the cassette tapes to continue permeating the Majang. Over time, the cassette players and tapes were destroyed. But with new digital technology, the family created the Talking Bible "which is a self-contained listening device created to look like a Bible. And, the four Gospels have been recorded on there for the very first time in the Majang language."
Last month, the Talking Bible was dedicated. Denny Hoekstra says, "My 90-year-old father, two of my brothers, my sister, myself and two of my nephews were there. So, there were three generations of Hoekstras at this dedication. When we touched down with the airplane, there were four or five thousand people there, Majang, to meet my father coming off the airplane."
According to Hoekstra, the initial cassette ministry had a huge impact. "In 1976, when my parents left, due to government restrictions, there were 200 believers. When we went for the dedication last month there were 23,000 believers among the Majang and 48 churches established."
MAF no longer serves Ethiopia. Today, through a fleet of 58 aircraft, MAF provides service to more than 600 Christian and nonprofit agencies throughout Africa, Asia, Eurasia, and Latin America. As a result, thousands of isolated people have access to the Gospel and vital services such as healthcare, education, church leadership development and crisis relief. Hoekstra says, "The reason we're there is so that people will have access to both the Gospel and resources that advance God's Kingdom."
If you'd like to help MAF do this, go to http://www.MAF.org.
For more information on the Talking Bible, go to http://www.talkingbibles.org.