International (WAS/MNN) – Last month, we shared the story of how the upheaval in the Central African Republic took a personal turn for Wycliffe Bible Translators.
Elisée Zama, a member of the Bible translation team in Bangui, was shot and killed while trying to get his family to safety. He was working with ACATBA, a biblical literacy organization that partners with Wycliffe Bible Translators. “Within a two-month period, ACATBA is experiencing the loss of a second translator,” writes their director.
The upheaval and loss of personnel bring to light another issue. With the release of the latest Open Doors World Watch List, a ranking of the top 50 nations known for the persecution of Christians, it seems that the majority of the nations listed are considered failed states.
Failed states = chaos, lack of government, infrastructure, and more. Wycliffe Associates president and CEO Bruce Smith says something had to be done to keep Bible translation moving forward. “We’ve talked about Vision 2025. Our vision, along with our partners, is to see every language that needs translation, to have that started by the year 2025. As we get closer and closer, more and more of these languages are in antagonistic arenas.
“God has led us to the most difficult, most dangerous place in the world for Bible translation,” he continued. “For the safety of believers there, I cannot name the specific countries. It is a new frontier for the Gospel, and the persecuted believers of this region need us.”
The first step was to figure out how to keep projects moving forward even if translators are displaced from their homes. “Teams of translators that are working together store and save their information in common places. In the event that any of them are out of reach for any period of time, or (heaven forbid) lose their lives due to circumstances surrounding them, the translation data is not lost and others can pick up where they’ve left off.”
In order to keep the translation data, things had to be kept portable. “In many cases, the situation is very fluid. What that means is, they unplug it from the wall, pack it up in a backpack, and start hiking down the trail with it.”
Wycliffe Associates began providing translators with Bible Translation Acceleration Kits.
The elements of the kit had to provide both communications and data storage in rugged conditions. Smith explains, “In our Bible Translation Acceleration Kits (BTAK), we have solar panels that are sewn onto cloth. You unplug them from the battery controller that you use to charge, and you can roll them up and put them in a backpack. Electricity is essential for running the computer, for running the internet terminal for communications and things like that. So, if they don’t have that, then they are at a stop.”
Each kit consists of a small, portable netbook computer, satellite communication terminal, solar panel, battery, and power supply. This technology makes it possible for Bible translators in remote locations to communicate through satellite connections with translation consultants at distant locations in real time, enabling valuable collaboration with other translators and reducing or eliminating the need for dangerous travel.
The added benefit: speed. By eliminating disruption, Smith says, “Some of these teams are reporting that the pace of translation has doubled. So, instead of taking 15 years to do translation, these translations may be finished in seven years. When you look at it in that light, $4000 is a very inexpensive investment.”
There are currently 52 language projects in this region that Wycliffe Associates intends to support with new technologies and resources. They also plan to support training for Christians there in Bible translation, evangelism, discipleship, and church planting. The organization is trying to raise $165,000 this year to fund those efforts.
“God is opening hearts in such miraculous ways among people who have been previously closed to the gospel,” says Smith. “We simply can’t afford not to respond.“