Wycliffe Associates deals with planes, Bibles, and twins

By September 12, 2011

Papua (WAS/MNN)
— "Missions
in the last half of the 20th century have succeeded," says president and CEO of Wycliffe Associates,
Bruce Smith.

The
declaration isn't a surprise, considering what they've been seeing around the
world as more and more obscure languages are having Scripture translations
completed. He notes that "in these kinds of frontier areas,
Christianity has been embraced. They've responded to the Gospel, and they've seen
the power at work in their own communities. That appetite is only increasing."

With the
celebration of progress made in the Great Commission, there are also growing
pains. Wycliffe Associates has felt
those, too. As the ministry reported earlier this
year, "We need to transition from a gasoline-based aircraft fleet to one that uses jet fuel. The
airplanes are larger, they're higher horsepower, and they take up more space, so we've been working on expanding the aviation support facility in
Papua."

Papua, which
occupies the western half of the island of New Guinea north of Australia, is home
to a diverse indigenous population, with hundreds of separate communities
speaking their own languages and observing their own traditions.

In building a bigger facility for the
new fleet, there's a question of why aviation is needed at all. For one thing, Smith says, "The people
that are doing Bible translations–missionaries that are working in the remote
locations–are completely dependent upon aviation support in order to have
access to those villages and communities that they're serving."

The biggest
factor is time. The isolation is so significant that until recently, some
groups were unaware of the existence of neighboring groups only a few miles
away. "They can't
build roads that can survive the weather there and the terrain. Just trekking
across the terrain takes weeks and months to make small progress, whereas in an
airplane, it can be converted into minutes of travel."  

Smith
explains that lost time is a poor use of resources. What's the urgency? "Indonesia still has about 500
languages without one verse of Scripture. It's a very high priority,
strategically, for Bible translation in the coming years. Papua province has about 20% of that —
about 100 languages just in that province."

Among the
challenges of conquering the terrain is the local traditions that run
counter to biblical teachings. For
example, in some areas remote tribes believe that evil spirits cause the birth
of twins, and often the smaller child is killed or thrown away. Such
beliefs are not limited to Papua.

Smith, who is
also a former missionary pilot, recalls, "Years ago, I met [a] pair of newborn
twins in a remote village in south Suriname who for the first time in the
history of the village were allowed to live."

Recently in
Papua, one woman took an extraordinary step to save the life of a twin girl who
was about to be put to death. The petite, four-foot-tall housekeeper named
Yeremina rushed to the side of the infant and saved her, going against her own
culture and community. She is now raising the little girl as her own, ignoring
family and friends who warned her that she could not afford a child.

When a missionary
asked why she did what she did, Yeremina replied, "This is what a Christian
does."

"That may not
sound strange to you and me," says Smith. "Of course, saving the life of a baby
is what a Christian does. But in a secluded mountain valley deep in Papua where
villagers still worship evil spirits, that is pretty incredible. Thanks to
God's Word, people like Yeremina are not only accepting Jesus Christ, but
following Him. They are learning what it takes to be Christlike."

A
life saved because of the Gospel: that's what Wycliffe Associates is
about. Their current needs are connected
to seeing this mission furthered, which brings us back to the need for expanded
facilities. Smith explains, "We're
fortunate to have a partner that has put up almost $50,000 in matching funds. Our current focus is to be able to match that so that we can finish the
progress we have been working on for a couple of years now."

Wycliffe
Associates involves people in accelerating the work of Bible translation
through their time, talents, and treasure. Because millions of people around
the world are still waiting to read the Scriptures in the language of their
heart, Wycliffe Associates is working as quickly as they can to translate every
verse of the Bible into every tongue to change every heart.

The organization
partners with nationals, mother tongue translators, staff, volunteers, and
supporters to direct and fund these efforts, as well as provide logistics,
networking, and technical support.

Through a growing
global network, Wycliffe Associates is striving to overcome local limitations
of time and resources to achieve the goal of beginning the translation of God's
Word in every remaining language that needs it by 2025. Click here for more information.

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