Photo Credit: Rodney Ballard
A pre-flight check was in order for this Cessna 206 airplane, which—soon after— delivered 672 New Testaments to a people group in remote Cameroon.
Photo Credit: Rodney Ballard
A pre-flight check was in order for this Cessna 206 airplane, which—soon after— delivered 672 New Testaments to a people group in remote Cameroon.
by Bob Creson
Guido is a ten-year-old Matsés boy from the Peruvian rainforest who is visiting the big city of Lima for the first time. After a long and arduous trip—three days in a small boat, seven days in a larger riverboat, and an hour and a half by plane—he is standing before a roomful of Wycliffe USA Board members and executive leaders that includes my wife, Dallas, and me.
Dressed in crisp new blue jeans and shiny white tennis shoes, he takes the mic and begins to recite from memory, and without hesitation, passages from Matthew and Luke in his mother tongue. This is his language; these are God’s words for him, and he is confident in sharing them. Verse after verse after verse, he goes on and on. The group listening is awestruck! When asked where he learned to do this, he says he learned it from his parents and his grandfather, who are all believers. Guido is a third generation Christian, and these words from the Bible transformed his family and his community.
The foundation for this transformation was laid in 1969 when translators Harriet Fields and Hattie Kneeland first made contact with the Matsés. Described as “fierce,” they lived deep in the Amazon rainforest. Guido’s grandfather was watching from the edge of the forest the night Harriet encountered the two Matsés who stepped into the clearing to meet her. He watched as they hesitantly walked toward Harriet, bridging the huge gap between their worlds.
Harriet and Hattie moved into the Matsés community and, amongst other things, were the incarnational representation of the words they started translating. Lives began to change. Guido’s grandfather became a health promoter. Others left raiding, killing, and kidnapping to become Bible translators, teachers, dentists, and pastors.
When the Book of Ephesians was printed, Scripture Use promoters Glenn and Linda Smith, along with their children, were living in the community. Glenn remembered some Buck knives used for hunting that had been sent to the village by mistake. They’d been lying at the bottom of a barrel for two years, and Glenn believes God gave him an idea. He told the people, “I’ll give a hunting knife to anyone who memorizes the whole book of Ephesians.”
Bible memorization quickly became a passion for the Matsés—with or without prizes. Children recited chapters to their parents at bedtime. Wives recited to their husbands, and husbands to wives. Guido’s other grandfather (his mother’s father) memorized fourteen New Testament books, including Romans. People quickly discovered that getting close to God’s Word affected their lives. Glenn says, “It changed all of us.”
As Guido so powerfully demonstrated, the Matsés are still memorizing Scripture, and some have literally worn out their Bibles. That evening in Lima, Guido’s father showed us his tattered Bible. “I need a new one,” he said, “but there aren’t any more.” Matsés translators are eager to continue working long-distance with Hattie to finish revising the New Testament so that it can be printed soon along with the Old Testament portions that are completed. Please pray for them as they deal with the challenges of long-distance collaboration.
This story of the impact of Scripture on the Matsés is just one of many we heard in Lima. Since 1946 the vision of Cameron Townsend—every man, woman and child has the right to hear the Scriptures in a language and form they relate to best—has left its mark on the previously unreached peoples of Peru. Working in partnership with mother-tongue speakers all over the country, cross-cultural workers from Wycliffe USA continue promoting this vision and are now working alongside Peruvians who are leading Peruvian organizations doing Scripture translation and engagement projects.
Most of us have not worked in Peru, but we, too, are the inheritors of this great vision. It’s an injustice for people not to have access to this living and eternal Word. Thank you for your part, wherever you are and whatever your assignment, and your contribution to the greatest acceleration of the pace of Bible translation ever witnessed by the Church.
By Richard Gretsky
Maw stood in front of me, holding his Bible. As my Wycliffe colleagues and I were chatting with Liberty University students about Bible translation, Maw was clearly waiting to speak with one of us, but I could tell something was different about him. As one of my colleagues started talking with him, I put an ear to their conversation. I overheard that, unlike everyone else we had chatted with the last couple days, he was actually not a student at the university. He’d traveled to Liberty’s Lynchburg, Virginia, campus from a neighboring state, and when he saw Wycliffe’s booth, he pulled out his Bible and headed over purposefully.
Maw is originally from a country in Southeast Asia that has been quite closed to outsiders for many years. But despite that barrier, when Maw was a year old, a Bible translation project quietly began in his family’s minority language to help the Christians among them get access to God’s Word in their own language.
The majority people group of that country, however, was averse to Maw’s people. Not only were they considered inferior, but they were also forbidden to write in their native language, and most of his people didn’t even learn how to read and write because of this.
When Maw was six years old, his family fled into the jungle. The oppression had become too great, and soldiers had already killed some families in his people group and were threatening others. It was then that they escaped to a neighboring country, where they took up residence in a refugee camp.
There they lived for thirteen years—afraid to leave for fear they’d be deported to their home country, and killed once there. So they waited patiently for asylum somewhere—for a new country to call their own, where they could be themselves.
Finally, the United States granted that asylum, and thousands moved across the Pacific to America, settling in states all over the country.
Through being displaced, living in refugee camps, and moving across the world, many of Maw’s people who hadn’t already trusted in God began to believe that in the midst of their pain, He was there and He’d bring them out of it.
And then, something unexpected happened. Two years after arriving in America, Maw and his people, who were scattered throughout the United States, received a blessing long-desired but improbably delivered. Wycliffe caught up with the groups and distributed the completed translation of the New Testament in their native language, which had been started approximately twenty years before, when Maw was still a baby.
THE BIBLE, GREATER THAN ALL OTHER TREASURES
As I stood there talking to Maw, I couldn’t help but notice how he held his Bible. He clutched it purposefully. It didn’t seem like he was simply toting it, or that it was an accessory. His grasp showed it to be of utmost importance to him.
Why? I’m not exactly sure. I could guess that it was because he has one, and he’s known what it’s like to live without one. Or maybe it was because if something happened to it, he couldn’t go home and grab another one of a dozen more off the shelf.
But whatever the reason, it is undeniable that Maw truly understands the worth of that book.
I can’t now help but think to myself, “How do I hold my Bible? How do we all?”
Certainly, I believe in the truth of the words found in this book that others have spent (and risked) their lives to translate so others could have the gift of reading it. But to be honest, I likely don’t value the Bible as I should, and I venture that most U.S. Christians don’t. If we really believed this book was the Word of God to men, wouldn’t its grip on our life be as strong as Maw’s on his copy of the Bible in his language?
One thing I do know is that of all Maw’s travels throughout the world, the one that is most telling is the one he made when he walked over to say thank you to people he didn’t know. He came simply to show his appreciation for an organization that took the time to provide his people with access to God’s Word in his very own language.
Suddenly, his trip to say thank you didn’t seem so brief. It clearly wasn’t about the steps he took to get there, but about the vast distance traveled from not having God’s Word, to being able to understand it fluently.
Note: Today the translation team continues to diligently work on the Old Testament in Maw’s first language, looking forward to the day when all of God’s Word will be available.
This story is an excerpt from The Finish Line monthly downloads. The Finish Line is a guide to praying for translation projects within three years of completion.
No Age Limit—Togo
Damban was in her fifties and the mother of six children before she was finally able to read or write in her mother tongue. “When I began, people made fun of me,” she shared. “Every morning, when I took my bag to go to class, the people asked me where I was going. I answered that I was going to the literacy class. To discourage me, they said that I was too old to learn. But me, I knew what I was after: I wanted to be able to read the New Testament translated into my language, Moba. Three months later, I had learned how to read and write! When it was our neighborhood’s turn to lead the church mass, the leader of our community asked me to read the passages for the day. So I read them, to the great astonishment of everyone! It was at that moment that those who had made fun of me before came and congratulated me and asked if I could help them also to learn to read and write. I told them that they too could sign up to take the class. Now I advise everyone who does not know how to either read or write in their mother tongue to follow my example: because there is no age limit for learning, if one really wants to!”
Want to read more stories like Damban’s or learn how to pray for people waiting for a Bible in their heart language? Sign up to receive The Finish Line monthly downloads today!
Dave and Cindy Lux began the first translation project with the Noni people group in Cameroon, and in 2011 their team completed the Noni New Testament. The Luxes used what is often called the “traditional” approach to translation—one team living in one village, learning the language, and leading the project while working closely with local colleagues.
Now the Luxes and three of the original Noni translation and literacy workers are using the completed New Testament as the starting point to produce Scripture in six related languages. This group of similar languages is called the Misaje cluster. The impact of the effort poured into the Noni translation is being multiplied, and the six new translations will be completed accurately, clearly, and naturally in a fraction of the time it took to produce the original Noni translation.
Innovations like cluster projects have helped teams deliver the Scriptures to more people faster than ever. For the first time there are more translation programs in progress than there are translation needs. The day the Luxes received an e-mail about the decreasing number of translation needs, Dave witnessed the first sharing of new Scripture in the six Misaje languages.
He recounted by e-mail, “The Misaje translators yesterday afternoon divided up their newly printed books of the parables of Luke for distribution. It struck me as a historic moment. It was quite unknown by the world, and equally uncared for by the world, but from God’s perspective it was precious to see these men taking steps for the first time for the six language groups to have the printed Scriptures.”
Included in the parables that have been translated for the Misaje communities are the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin. In both of these, Jesus illustrates the extent to which He will go for one person. Thank you to all who have made financial contributions to our Worldwide Projects Fund. Your donations are making the Good News accessible for six more communities in their mother tongue.
Pastor Paul was born into a pagan family, and used to serve Satan. But when he came to know Jesus as his Savior, he was brought out of the darkness and into the light. Now Paul is seeing this transformation happen for other families in his village.
Posted in Bible translation, Features, Missionary Spotlight, tagged Bible translation, Get Global, language, missionary, missions, Papua New Guinea, PNG, Scripture, trip on February 17, 2014 | 2 Comments »
By Katie Kuykendall
Luggage and passport in-hand, TC Barrs was ready to step off the plane in Papua New Guinea. It was his first time traveling outside the United States, and he had chosen the GET Global trip opportunity that would get him the farthest away from home—nine thousand miles, to be exact.
Several months prior to TC’s trip, he and Daniel met at a college missions conference. Daniel is a student from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and he belongs to a Bibleless people group. He’s never seen Scripture written in his own language.
Meeting someone who doesn’t have the Bible completely rocked TC’s perspective on his role with Wycliffe.
“He [TC] told me how … meeting me made it more real for him—the work he is doing for Wycliffe,” Daniel said. “I think he has this sense of urgency, and a more tangible motivation for doing what he’s doing. I was happy to know that the Lord used me to impact his life in that way.”
Less than a year later, TC was hopping off the plane in Papua New Guinea ready to once again come face to face with people who’ve yet to experience God’s Word in their language.
“I really wanted to see what a part of the world looks like that isn’t westernized,” TC said. But he really wasn’t prepared for everything he would experience.
“The biggest shocker for me was this grass house that looked like it was on fire. I was thinking, ‘This house is going to burn down, and no one’s doing anything to stop it!’ But they have fires inside their houses all the time. They were probably just cooking,” he said with a laugh.
As TC adapted to village life, he began to fall in love with it.
“I’ve never felt so loved by anyone besides my family as I did by people [I met]. No matter who they are, they’ll give you whatever you need.” One night a man even welcomed the Wycliffe team into his home and gave up his bed so TC and a few other guys could sleep there.
During their time in the village, TC and his teammates showed the “JESUS” film, a video about AIDS awareness, and promoted Scripture use in their language, Agarabi. It’s an experience he says everyone should have.
“Bible translation is always going to be dear to my heart,” he said. His next step is to figure out what that means for him long-term. “What else can I do to help? Where has God called me? Where do I fit in missions?”
What about you? Have you considered how you fit into God’s worldwide plan for missions? Click here for more information about how you can get involved through a GET Global trip with Wycliffe.
*Daniel later became The Bibleless Intern at Wycliffe. You can read his story here.
Posted in Bible translation, HIV & AIDS, tagged Africa, Bible, Bible translation, Bwisi, language, mother tongue, Scripture, Translation, Uganda, Wycliffe Bible Translators on February 10, 2014 | Leave a Comment »
“Blessed are those who read the whole Bible in their language; they will accomplish many things in their daily lives,” a Bwisi pastor from Uganda said after attending a workshop to train pastors how to use Scripture. As more Scripture is available in his language, more opportunities to use Scripture in the Bwisi language will also be available, thanks to dedicated financial partners!
Recent gifts to our Scripture engagement campaign provided funding for Scripture use workshops, Sunday school teacher workshops, Bible study lessons, basic Bible training, and literacy classes. These Scripture engagement tools help people in Uganda use and apply translated Scripture in their daily lives.
At one of the workshops, a pastor commented, “I appreciate the work done in translating the Bible into Bwisi. This book will help the community understand the Bible more easily.”
After a Bwisi Bible training workshop, a pastor reported, “I was able to understand what would happen to Jesus, the one who announced it (Isaiah), and how it was fulfilled. This has confirmed my faith in Jesus—that we who believe in Him, believe in the true Savior.”
Another pastor testified, “I have been a pastor for over nine years and I have never attended any theological training. I believe that even if I do not go to theological college, the Spirit of the Lord will show me what to preach, as has been emphasized in this workshop. This workshop has helped me gain a good understanding of the issues regarding salvation.”
At a Sunday school teachers training, one teacher remarked, “I realize that I have not been teaching my Sunday school children, but confusing them. Today I have learned the best ways to teach them.”
Another workshop focused on applying Scripture principles to issues related to HIV/AIDS. One participant said, “Talking about HIV in village churches is still seen as an abomination, but this workshop has reminded us of our obligation, calling up on all church leaders to talk openly about HIV/AIDS.”
One woman commented, “I thank the Lord who enabled me to attend this workshop. My husband died of AIDS, and I found out that I had HIV. Since then, I lost my trust in God. This workshop has helped in restoring my hope in Christ; I have learned that with a repentant heart, we can all be forgiven.”
Your donations make a difference! Click here to learn more about opportunities to help fund projects like these.
Posted in Bible translation, tagged Asia, Bible, Bible translation, child, language, missionary, missions, Nepal, Scripture, Translation, Translator, Wycliffe, Wycliffe Bible, Wycliffe Bible Translators, Wycliffe Bible Translators USA, Wycliffe USA on February 6, 2014 | 2 Comments »
By Melissa Chesnut
Born to Wycliffe missionaries John and Carol*, Steve spent much of his childhood in a Kadiya* village of Nepal, located 120 miles from the end of the bus road. Often the family had to hike that 120 miles to reach their remote home, a trek that would take six to seven days!
Growing up, Steve would often sit around the fire with the villagers, listening to them read portions of the Bible in their language for the very first time.
“They would start crying,” Steve shared. “They would say things like, ‘We didn’t know our language could say such beautiful things.’ That just always impressed me. I grew up thinking, this is what my life has to be about.”
Flash forward to 1992, when Steve joined Wycliffe and headed back to Nepal to start translating among the southern Kadiya dialect, a new project that was related to the one his parents served in. “I can’t remember a time I wasn’t headed towards translation,” he shared.
But God had other ideas in mind. Steve’s dreams of translation were cut short when the two men he was to work with were accused of being insurgents and later executed. As the insurgency raged in the area of the southern Kadiyas, access to the village area was all but impossible, and as a result, even the initial steps of translation were never achieved. His world rocked by this unexpected turn of events, Steve was assigned to another language project nearby. But the insurgency soon spread to that area too, and again Steve was set adrift.
Historically, becoming a Christian was illegal in Nepal, and could result in a year of imprisonment. Sharing about Christ could result in up to eight years in prison. As a result, the Church suffered tremendously for many years. And although persecution is no longer a problem for the Church, Christianity is still a sensitive issue across the country.
Reflecting on those years of displacement, hardship, and transition, Steve believes that God was using the time to grow and shape him. He had clung to the idea that he would follow the footsteps of his parents, living in the village and translating among the people. But God was helping him to see that the translation movement needed to be owned and led by the Nepali church, with foreign missionaries serving in a support role.
Steve has since filled a number of leadership roles that have allowed him to assess the way translation is done. Currently serving as a project coordinator, he and his team look at the remaining translation needs in Nepal and evaluate ways that these translations can be effectively and efficiently completed, and what partnerships can be established to help this process along.
Isaiah 55:8–9 has proven true in Steve’s life, which says, “’My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the Lord. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts’” (NLT). God’s plans are sovereign and good—always.
Since 2010, Steve has been working remotely from Washington state and is planning on returning to Nepal in 2016. His wife, Susan*, recently joined Wycliffe and is preparing to teach English in Nepal after learning Nepali first. Steve, who is fluent in Nepali, will be able to help teach her prior to their 2016 departure.
UPDATE: We initially referred to this missionary with the pseudonym “Steve Miller.” We then realized this could be misleading, as there is an actual Wycliffe missionary named Steve Miller who is not involved in this story whatsoever. We’ve since removed the last name to avoid misleading any future readers. We apologize for any confusion, and we want to assure you that all names mentioned are pseudonyms and are not the actual names involved. Thank you for reading!
During the Christmas season, people often create lists of things they hope to receive for Christmas, and lists of resolutions they hope to achieve in the coming year.
Here at Wycliffe, we have similar lists for 2014. But instead of calling them “wishes” and “resolutions,” we think of them as prayers and goals. Sometimes these items seem big and overwhelming, but God is the God of the impossible, and nothing is too daunting for Him!
In 2014, Wycliffe would like to:
What’s on your “prayer list” for 2014? What goals are you setting for yourself? How are you boldly stepping out in faith and asking God to provide?
*To see the full Scripture & Language Statistics report for 2013, click here.