Technology keeps translators safe, working and going home early

By April 4, 2011

International (MNN) — The mission field can undoubtedly be a dangerous place. Bible translators have experienced that firsthand lately.

Recently, the death of a Wycliffe Bible Translators member in a bombing attack and the disappearance of a missionary with The Seed Company have caused some uneasiness.

Bruce Smith with Wycliffe Associates says Bible translation is getting into more dangerous territory. The remaining places with people groups who still need a translation of the Word live, for the most part, in remote areas of the world with a great deal of instability. Most Bible translation-related fatalities are more the result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time than direct assaults, Smith says.

Smith recently returned from a trip to install 25 Translation Acceleration Kits in Nigeria. He says the modems reduce travel time. "[It] enables teams to collaborate across towns, across countries, and across the world, literally, by connecting to the internet. That reduces the need for people to be out in insecure situations."

Essentially, less travel time means less opportunity for danger.

When danger is occurring in a country, the modems allow translators to keep moving forward with their work. As countries in the Middle East and Africa continue to erupt into chaos, translators can have access to the internet even when the rest of the country does not. Government-sanctioned internet shutdowns cannot affect them.

"The satellite modems that we're using in many of these locations connect to a satellite constellation that those governments don't control," explains Smith. "Those satellites are up there all day every day, and if you have an antenna that can transmit to and from those satellites, there's really no way for the government to stop that from happening."

As if the safety benefits and efficiency standards weren't enough, the modems are actually allowing Bible translation to happen quicker.

"Just with the teams that we connected [to a modem], we estimate that each team will save somewhere around two years on average, in terms of their total Bible translation time. So two weeks ago when we connected these 25 teams in Nigeria, we just saved 50 years of translation time," says Smith, "and at a very low cost."

The modems are extremely efficient, easy to install, and easy to use. But they're also a fairly low expense. It only costs about $3,000 to $3,500 for each kit. About 50 have been installed so far, but another 300 are needed in the near future. Smith says the total amount to be installed will depend on what other new developments are made in technology to remote areas of the world.

Harnessing technology has allowed Bible translation to move years ahead. If you would like to be a part of it, click here.

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