Please, even if you don’t read my post below, take two minutes and watch this video!
Wycliffe Bible Translators and the work they do to help people in every linguistic group to be able to get access to (and ultimately read) God’s Word in their own language is something near and dear to my heart.
I’ve always loved languages and they have come easily to me. If my health had been better all along, I probably would be living overseas doing translation work – it’s something I’m that passionate about.
Fifteen years ago I spent the summer living with a family who was doing translation work. I taught their kids so the parents could devote more time working learning the language in order to begin the translation process. This amazing couple was using their sixth language to learn their seventh. At the time I was there, there were under half a dozen people who spoke both the target language and the “mutual” sixth language, Swahili.
All these years later, this couple, along with their language helpers, have finished translating a number of books of the Bible, and others are working on increasing the literacy level among the people where they live. Many, though, are listening to the Bible portions in audio form since so few are able to read.
As the language is a Khoisan language, meaning one that includes “clicks” (think, The God’s Must be Crazy, or listen about 1 minute in to this video for an example) Not only does that make it harder for an outsider to learn the language, it also necessitates coming up with additional symbols or letters to notate each of the clicks in the language, nuances that are incredibly hard to pick up, especially later in life.
Just as with the beautiful people I had the privilege of living among that summer, more than 1/3 of the people in the world don’t have access to the Bible in a language they understand. That equates to over 340,000,000 people who essentially see the Bible as ‘blank’ (as depicted in the video above).
OneVerse and the Seed Company, in partnership with Wycliffe Bible Translators, have joined together to try to speed up the translation process, allowing people to ‘sponsor’ the translation of one verse. They’ve calculated that it costs an average of $26/verse – from the language learning, translation, revision, publication, to literacy processes.
Every year during our missions emphasis week at the church I worked at, we made sure that the kids in our church were able to connect in a tangible way with something God was doing somewhere in another part of the world.
Last year we decided to take part in the Blank Bible Challenge and chose to try to help the translation work for the Boma people in Southeast Asia to become fully funded. We challenged every one of our kids to raise enough money to sponsor one verse during the month we focused on this project, and it was so exciting to see the kids really “get” what it would be like to not be able to read the Bible themselves.
The Boma translation project is now fully funded and they expect the translation work and publication to be done by 2015 – just two short years away! When it’s done, not only will the nearly quarter million Boma people have the Bible in their language, over two million others who speak closely related languages will have their translation projects expedited because the languages are so similar.
The story below is one example of the way being able to read the Bible in their own language is a blessing to others:
Freddy brought his wife from another region of the country to Boma City for medical treatment. While she is in the hospital, Freddy stays with his niece, Olce.
One day Freddy was looking for something to read, and found the Boma Gospel of Luke on Olce’s bookshelf. Now, he keeps the book with him, wherever he goes.
“He reads it every morning before breakfast,” Olce said. “And he reads it to his wife [in the hospital], too … He doesn’t just read a verse or two — he reads chapter after chapter. He reads the miracles of Jesus healing people,” she said. “When he can’t sleep, he sits and reads until morning.”
Freddy is so happy he found the Gospel in his language on his niece’s shelf.
“This is what I really love,” he said, “because I can clearly understand God’s Word!” Freddy has also shown the book to other people at the hospital and encouraged them to get their own copies.
Freddy’s enthusiasm has inspired the Boma translators. Now they’re eager to get additional copies printed so that people in remote regions, like the one where Freddy lives, can have copies.
If you’re looking for a great project to involve your kids in, or something different from the typical child sponsorship program, or have a heart for hiding God’s Word in your own heart and want to help others do the same, the Blank Bible Challenge is a great way to make a tremendous difference.
Whether you pick one of the language choices and sponsor one verse, or work with a group to try to help push a translation project over the edge like we set as our goal for with the Boma people, there is something so neat about thinking your $26 may be the very reason someone on the other side of the world is able to read your favorite verse for the first time in their own language!