The Bible, in the heart language, transforms lives. Lives can only be changed however, if the translated Scripture is read or listened to, interacted with, understood and applied.
It’s easy to think that once the translation into a particular language is finished we do not need to continue praying. Yet this could be the most crucial time to pray because it is from here that the Scriptures can impact and transform lives. This focus has been picked up in Nigeria:
‘Earlier this year, at a Bible dedication in Nigeria, Justin Mbam Ogodo, a member of the Abakaliki Literacy and Translation Trust, welcomed a crowd of people who had come to celebrate the complete Bible in the Izii, Ikwo and Ezaa languages. “Today is a special day,” he began. “It is a day that proclaims the faithfulness of God.” Justin talked about the history of the translation projects and the challenges they faced. He thanked many people who were involved. And finally, he looked out at the crowd and said,
“Above all, we encourage you to ensure that these books are not for cobwebs, but for the use of the Holy Spirit as two-edged swords into the hearts of Izii, Ikwo and Ezaa people.”‘*
Wycliffe and our partners are involved in many activities to support engagement with the Scriptures as they are translated. From Sunday school teacher training to song-writing, Trauma Healing workshops to the JESUS Film we are working to provide God’s word in a form that is accessible and understandable to all, as well as all the helps that are needed to ensure that Bible translation truly results in transformed lives.
Will you keep on praying for the impact of the Scriptures on the lives of those who have not yet heard? To inspire you we’ve produced a new Frontline Prayer module ‘Encountering God’s Word‘. It’s available now and free to download. Using videos and a PowerPoint to share information about Scripture Engagement, it provides about an hour’s worth of material to inspire prayer for people groups around the world as they receive God’s word in their heart language and engage with it. It’s easy to use and suitable for groups of any size.
Pandas. Elephants. Monarch butterflies. We’ve all heard of endangered species (especially the cute ones), and know there’s value in preserving them. What about endangered languages? Have you heard of the Mlomp language of Senegal? How about the Tamazight language of Algeria? Or my personal favourite, the Cocama-Cocamilla language of Brazil?
There are over 2000 languages on UNESCO’s list of endangered languages. That’s over a quarter of all the languages in the world – but some linguists estimate that as many as half the world’s 6,901 languages may be at risk.
Numbers are helpful for giving us an overview. But the truth is, it’s not about the numbers. It’s not even about the languages. It’s about the people who speak them. You can listen to some speakers of endangered languages for yourself in the following video. Listen out for the click language at 1:15!
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SIL, one of Wycliffe’s partner organisations, recognises the value of individual languages and believes that each language is a unique expression of culture and worldview. SIL is dedicated to coming alongside language communities as they strive to preserve their languages and identities. For more on endangered languages, check out SIL’s endangered languages page. For more on some of the people behind the numbers, have a look at Wade Davis’s TED Talk where he uses some amazing photos to illustrate what the loss of a language really means.
The Kimyal people of Indonesia celebrated the completion of the New Testament in their language in 2010. This ceremony represents the culmination of many years’ work and is rightfully considered an important event; the completion of a New Testament is one of the main goals of Wycliffe’s participation in God’s mission for his glory.
‘In the past, only part of God’s Word was translated into our language. And part of it was not. So when other people came to our church and taught us, if we had that portion in our language, we would read it and understand. But when they taught from a Scripture we didn’t have translated, our hearts would be heavy. But now we’re going to have it from Matthew to Revelation. Our hearts are no longer heavy, they are light!’ Semea, pastor
Wycliffe Global Alliance* has seen the completion of 531 full Bibles and a further 1329 New Testaments, and each people group celebrates the arrival of a single book, New Testament or full Bible in their own way, usually drawing on aspects of their rich culture. The Kimyal people group knows how to celebrate! They welcome the complete New Testament with tears of joy, traditional music and dancing, cheering and giving thanks to God.
‘Today we have received our reward for that which we have worked. Psalm 126 says, “Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting.” Today I’m reaping the fruit of the burden that I carried over this work. And I am rejoicing and all the people with me!’ Welega, Bible translator
See the video from the celebration:
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Praise God for the completion and joyful reception of this New Testament!
Pray for hearts and lives to be transformed. Pray that the New Testament would impact individuals, families, churches and communities in the way that only God’s word can.
Pray for the continuing translation of the Old Testament in the Kimyal language; that God would provide all the necessary finances and staffing, for his protection over equipment, staff and family, and for perseverance in the face of opposition.
Need more inspiration? Check out our Prayer Pack, which is full of great ideas to help you pray for Bible translation.
*Wycliffe Global Alliance is a community of more than 100 diverse organisations and networks serving together in Bible translation movements around the world.
Romans 10:17 says, ‘So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.’ (NLT) The literal truth of this Bible verse is perhaps best reflected in the world’s oral cultures.
In most of the Western world, almost everything, from much of our everyday communication to our learning and storytelling is written in some form or another. In fact the very idea of important information being primarily oral rather than written would sound a bit foreign to most of us. However, what works for us doesn’t work for everyone. For people who grow up and live in oral societies, hearing always trumps reading. The impact of the spoken word is greater, even when there is an understanding of the written form of the language.
Here is a great video of a Papua New Guinean national translator, who had worked with the Scripture text for a long time, as he passionately describes hearing Scripture in his mother tongue. The Bible affected his life, however, when hearing God’s word in his own language, the impact was even greater.
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Find out how you can support the work of Bible translation: be involved.
For most of us, praying for the world is challenging. Seeing a specific country in the news and knowing something about its history or current struggles can make it easier. However, there are many countries around the world with poverty and struggles where the majority of the population do not know Jesus and we know so little that it’s hard to pray.
God loves the world, each individual country and each individual person in each country. He longs for everyone to hear the good news and experience his love and forgiveness.
Tajikistan is a country we rarely hear about on the news but it faces significant challenges. It’s independent now but independence has brought with it economic troubles which in turn impact families, and life can seem hopeless to many.
This video gives us a glimpse of life in Tajikistan and inspires us to pray (make sure to watch until the end for specific prayer needs). Please join us in asking God to reach this nation with his love.
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The JESUS Film is a fantastic way of communicating the gospel in an easily accessible way. The film is made available in languages all over the world using translations of Scripture based on the Gospel of Luke, and it is often the first time that communities ever hear this story in their own language. So far, the film has been dubbed into over 1,300 languages!
A clear voice and good reading skills are what’s needed to voice a part and the Bamu translation team in PNG found this in a man called Baga, but he was not a believer. Scripture has the remarkable ability to transform people’s lives, as Baga found out. Through his involvement in voicing a part of the gospel, God’s Spirit spoke to his heart. Phil and Chris Carr, translation advisors to the Bamu language programme in Papua New Guinea, share this story.
‘When recording The JESUS Film, one of the voice roles which usually nobody wants is that of Satan. However, Bamu translation team leader Adau Kaniwa, who organised all the speakers, found a man willing to take this role. Baga had good reading skills, and a deep clear voice, but was not a believer. Yet when he came to record his lines, something happened to him. He only had three lines (from the temptation scene in Luke 4), and soon got through them. Then Andy Weaver the recordist played the video back to him with his lines dovetailed with Jesus’s replies. When Baga saw and heard this, a strong impression came over him that he was not a good man. He left the recording scene with this very strong impression still working in him. As a result, he ‘turned himself’ (repented), put his life into Jesus’s hands, and is now, with his wife, attending the nearest Bible school! During the video recording, when I heard him reading well, and with such a good clear voice, I thought “He’d be really good as one of the readers for the Bamu audio Scriptures. What a pity he isn’t a believer!” And now he is! God is kind.’
The first copies of the finished JESUS Film in the Bamu language will be flown out to the Bamu area later this month.
How do you pray for your friends involved in cross-cultural work? How much do you know about their day-to-day life? Do you picture friends in cross-cultural ministry floating from one victory to another, constantly feeling the favour of the Lord upon them like the sun on their back?
Following on from Monday’s reality check about what everyday life is like for many cross-cultural workers, we want to talk about how we can be effective pray-ers for friends working overseas. Because believe it or not, cross-cultural work is not an endless string of success stories punctuated by encounters with exotic animals, new foods and funny cross-cultural misunderstandings. Cross-cultural workers often try to put the best possible spin on things and may be giving you the impression that everyday life is a bit easier than it really is.
How can I pray?
Be specific. Use the specific prayer requests in newsletters, and if they’re not specific enough or recent enough, ask for more details or an update.
Use Scripture. Another option is to use Scripture to pray effectively for friends in cross-cultural ministry. A great resource to help you get started is the article God Bless Justin in our prayer pack Focused prayer: Kingdom results.
Persist. If you don’t see answers to prayer straight away, keep praying!
Pray with others. Finding it hard to remember to pray? Set aside time to pray with others for friends working overseas, or agree with others on a time when you will all pray on your own.
For more about what might be going on behind the Facebook photos, see Monday’s post.
The latest edition of the Wycliffe magazine, Words for Life, is now out! This edition features plenty of exciting news from the world of Bible translation, including this great story, Until all the Deaf have seen, which shines a spotlight on Bible translation for the Deaf community.
‘When Christians think of those around the world who are the hardest to reach, they often think of people living in Islamic regions or in remote areas. While those groups of people are more challenging to reach with the gospel, there is another group of people who are often overlooked…the estimated 50 million Deaf* people in the world today!
In many parts of the world, the Deaf are not only an overlooked minority group, but actually an oppressed one. Many cultures consider it shameful when parents give birth to a Deaf child. Deaf children are often hidden away and not given access to education and other resources that hearing children benefit from. In addition, Deaf people are scattered throughout regions and countries, rather than being found in localised groups.
No matter what country you consider, the Deaf are always less reached than their hearing counterparts. They are the only people group who generally do not learn their ‘mother tongue’ from their parents. Most Deaf children are born to hearing parents who very often never learn to communicate effectively with them.’
What kind of pictures do your friends involved in cross-cultural ministry post on Facebook? What kind of things do you hear from them?
Christians in cross-cultural work can feel that supporters, friends and sending churches expect them to be ‘conquering heroes’. This means it’s easy for cross-cultural workers to focus on the good stuff when communicating with their supporting team. Generally, it’s not a lie but rather an attempt to stay positive, and to avoid giving anyone the impression that they might be ‘failing’.
In reality, cross-cultural workers face a variety of challenges, starting before plane tickets are even booked. Raising the financial support required to take an unsalaried position with a mission organisation can be tough, especially as here in the UK it’s not very appropriate to talk about money.
Challenges once overseas include old stereotypical favourites like language learning, culture shock, bugs and getting used to new foods. There are many less well known ones too such as disagreements with other missionaries, marital problems or singleness made worse by the pressures of being in another culture, not enjoying the job your supporters are enabling you to do, or the discrepancy between the super-Christian some people think you are and your own perception of how little you’ve actually ‘achieved’. Read a refreshingly honest account of the reality of everyday life of one family in cross-cultural ministry here.
What can I do?
Ask. If a friend working overseas writes in a newsletter that they are ‘struggling’, support them by showing concern and asking for more details so you can pray more effectively. If you haven’t had an update or newsletter recently, ask how things are going.
Share. Communication with friends working cross-culturally should be a two-way street. If they ask what’s going on with you, it’s because they want to know.
Be understanding. Let your friends in cross-cultural ministry know that it’s OK if it’s not going well. They’re doing something amazing for the Kingdom and opposition is completely normal. Let them know you understand that it’s hard.
Encourage. A phone or Skype call can be hugely encouraging when things are hard. Also, most cross-cultural workers are very excited to receive anything in the mail. Popular gifts include chocolate, clothes and DVDs – and no one turns their nose up at a card just expressing that you are thinking of them! Ask if it’s safe to send things through the post, what they would like to receive, and, more importantly, how packages going into their country should be labelled.
Stand by for a post this Friday about how you can stand in the gap for your friends in cross-cultural ministry.
I recently read an article written by my colleague Alisha Carr who mobilises prayer for Bible translation in Nigeria. She laid down a challenge: to recognise that if we partner with God and the work he is doing through prayer, the course of history can be changed. I hope that you will be as inspired as I am.
‘Jesus’ prayer partnership with our Father changed the course of history. Jesus saw it as his job description to fulfill the will of his Father, who sent him. From him, we learn the lifestyle of obedient submission to our Father’s will, and also to welcome his will through our prayers. All of our horizontal partnership efforts in the Kingdom are built primarily upon this vertical partnership with God.
As we accept the invitation to join God in prayer partnership and see the world through his eyes, we begin to see how overwhelming the task is.
I hear his call going out over Nigeria, ‘…”The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields” ‘ (Matt. 9:37-38, NLT). With hundreds of languages in Nigeria waiting to receive even one verse of Scripture, there is an urgent cry for more workers.
The Spirit of God is waiting to birth fresh joy, life, hope and purpose through all parts of the Bible translation and language development process. From initial surveys and assessments to establishing an alphabet and writing system, to making dictionaries and primers, translating God’s word into written, audio, song and dramatic form to engage communities with practical training and tools to learn how to apply God’s word to all aspects of their lives.
This is all so that more people would come to know Jesus and worship Jesus in fulfillment of God’s will that none would perish and all would come to repentance, to the glory and honour of the Father. Through your prayers the Spirit of God is breathing fresh life over Nigerian language communities!
Joining God in prayerful partnership is always an honour and blessing. It is a partnership that can change the course of history.
May God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’
Alisha has applied these truths to Nigeria, a country with enormous needs for Bible translation. However, the principles are the same for every country where people are waiting for the Bible in their heart language.