Wycliffe Bible Translators, which is celebrating 75 years of bringing the life-changing message of the Gospel to the world, has attested to how hearing Jesus’ Words in one’s own language changes people’s perspective and the way they react to tragedy.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Wycliffe’s President Bob Creson, recounted one particular instance in which Christians who had been attacked chose forgiveness over revenge, because of God’s Word.
“Just one week before the Gospel of Luke was to be dedicated in their language, the people of Bambalang, Cameroon, suffered greatly when 300 homes were burned down by a neighboring village,” Creson told CP.
“In the midst of the devastation, many were angry and wanted to seek revenge. But the words of Jesus in the Chrambo language about loving enemies has brought comfort, healing and forgiveness to the people of Bambalang.”
Local Pastor Pius Mbahlegue elaborated on one of the central messages the community embraced: “Hating your enemy back cannot solve the problem. But loving your enemy will disarm your enemy and make him powerless.”
Wycliffe, which is having a Scripture Celebration event on March 9 to mark its 75 year anniversary of translating the Bible into people’s native tongues, said that today more than 550 languages have the complete Bible, with another 2,400 having either the New Testament or different books in their own language.
Still, close to 1,800 other languages are waiting for Bible translation work to begin, though new technology methods are making the process much faster than in previous decades.
“One of the biggest changes has been in the speed with which translations can be completed,” Creson said.
“It used to take 25 years to translate the New Testament, but it now takes on average seven years, thanks to software that aids in the process and broader ownership and participation from those in local communities.”
One development has been the ParaTExt software, which identifies every instance of a particular phrase automatically, without having to search all of Scripture by hand.
This has helped translators, such as John and Bonnie Nystrom who have been working in Papua New Guinea since 1990, to not only ensure the accuracy of translation, but to also create a cluster project of 10 language groups all working together.
“Having that community makes it easier for native speakers to take ownership of the work,” Creson said, and shared John Nystrom’s own words from a Wycliffe blog last year:
“[B]ecause they work in a big group, and because the technology can help them take advantage of each other’s work, they are able to produce higher-quality translation much sooner than they otherwise would.”
Creson added, “there’s nothing like the joy of reading or hearing God’s Word in the language that speaks to your heart.”
“I’ve had the privilege of attending many ceremonies around the world where a group of people are receiving the first version of Scripture in what we call their ‘heart language,’ the language they know and understand best, and it’s one of my favorite parts of my job,” he continued.
“Reading God’s Word in your own language demonstrates in a very real and direct way His love for you.”
New technology innovations are a vital part of this effort, Creson said.
“It’s still vital to have members of the community engaged in the process at every step to ensure accuracy and clarity, but technology has helped speed up the process tremendously,” he explained.
“Software has made it easier for related language groups to collaborate on translation projects, for example, which increases speed and builds community along the way. Computer programs also aide in checking for accuracy.”
The group’s 75 year anniversary landing page traces its history back all the way to 1917, when William Cameron Townsend, known as “Cam,” who later established Wycliffe Bible Translators USA, went to Guatemala to sell Spanish Bibles, but found that most of the people there did not understand the Spanish language.
“Deep down, Cam thought everyone should be able to read God’s Word in the language of their heart,” the article states.
In 1999, Wycliffe set out on the ambitious goal of putting in place a translation program in progress for every language that still needs a Bible by the year 2025, with the mission known as Vision 2025.
The organization reflected that the goal has motivated and inspired many people and groups around the world to join it in its Bible translation movement, and said that it relies on God’s guidance to “accomplish the impossible.”
With Vision 2025 now eight years away, Creson admitted the objective has always been an “aggressive goal,” but one that is possible to become a reality.
“Vision 2025 was an aggressive goal when we set it, and we knew at the time it would require us to rely on God’s provision, not just our own efforts,” he said.
“It’s still an aggressive goal, but reachable, and when we achieve it we’ll look back and know there’s no way we met it without divine intervention.”