Martin Luther (1483 – 1546)

February 18th, 2017 by Alfred

On February 18th we commemorate the death of priest, theologian, and Bible translator Martin Luther (b. November 10, 1483 – d. February 18, 1546).

Luther is most famous for nailing his 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenberg – 500 years ago this year – which many people cite as the primary starting point of the Reformation.

Yet Luther’s later work translating the Bible was also fundamental to the Reformation.

Luther loved the Bible but knew that, at the time, the Bible was not accessible to everyone. So he concluded that a new translation, in the common language of the German people was necessary.

His focus as he worked on the translation was to enable the ‘tailors and shoemakers, yea, even women and ignorant persons’ to be able to read God’s word for themselves. Indeed, he was so committed to the ordinariness of the language in the translation, he would take trips into local towns and villages to listen to the way people spoke.

Luther’s translation marked a shift in the church’s approach to the Bible, as Philip Schaff notes:

“The Bible ceased to be a foreign book in a foreign tongue, and became far more clear and dear to the common people. Hereafter the Reformation depended no longer on the works of the Reformers, but on the book of God, which everybody could read for himself as his daily guide in spiritual life.”

It spurred on Bible translation in Europe, especially in French, Dutch and English.

Yet now over 1.5 billion people – more than the entire world population when Luther was alive – still do not have the Bible in the language they speak and understand best. Wycliffe Bible Translators is working so that all peoples around the world can engage with the Bible in the language they most understand.

Find out how you can be part of Bible translation.

What are you doing for Lent?

February 16th, 2017 by Jo Johnson

Lent is just around the corner; it starts on 1st March. This period of 40 days is a season of reflection and preparation before the celebrations of Easter. However, the purpose of fasting is not just to give something up, but to grow in intimacy with God.

We love the opportunity that Lent gives us to draw closer to God, but while it may be easy to decide what to give up it’s not always easy to know how to focus on our relationship with him. It’s often a great opportunity to intercede and stand with brothers and sisters around the world against Bible poverty and persecution.

Here are some great resources and ideas to give you a focus for this season:

  • Why don’t you fast this Lent for those who are hungry for God’s word in their language? Translation projects often face a great deal of opposition in the final months before the translation is finished. You could download The Finish Line, a 30-day prayer guide by our partners Wycliffe USA, outlining translation projects that are close to completion. Let it guide you through praying for those people groups who are close to having the word of God in their language.
  • We believe that the Bible is the best way for people to come to know and understand who God is. This includes you! Use God’s word to help you draw closer to him. Bible.com has a range of devotionals for Lent; allow God to grow a love for his word in your heart.
  • As you fast, why not stand in the gap for those of our brothers and sisters who are living in the most challenging contexts. Open Doors have recently published the World Watch List for 2017 showing the 50 countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian; you could pray for one or two of those countries each day through Lent.

Whatever you choose, try to set a little time aside each day to meet with God and allow him to change your heart.

Looking for more ways to pray for Bible translation? Sign up for our magazine Words for Life which includes a prayer point for each day, or have Bible translation prayer points emailed to you each day.

What kind of love?

February 14th, 2017 by Ruth

In order to get the big picture of God’s Story in the Bible across, the little details – even down to a single letter – need to be carefully considered. But how much difference could one letter actually make?

Translator Lee Bramlett and his wife, Tammi, had learned that verbs in Hdi consistently end in one of three vowels. For almost every verb, they could find forms ending in i, a, and u. But when it came to the word for love, they could only find i and a. Why no u?

Lee asked the Hdi translation committee, which included the most influential leaders in the community, “Could you dvi your wife?”

“Yes,” they said. That would mean that the wife had been loved but the love was gone.

“Could you dva your wife?” Lee asked.

“Yes,” they said. That kind of love depended on the wife’s actions. She would be loved as long as she remained faithful and cared for her husband well.

“Could you dvu your wife?”  Lee asked. Everyone laughed.

“Of course not!” they said. “If you said that, you would have to keep loving your wife no matter what she did, even if she never got you water, never made you meals. Even if she committed adultery, you would be compelled to just keep on loving her. No, we would never say dvu. It just doesn’t exist.”

Lee sat quietly for a while, thinking about John 3:16, and then he asked, “Could God dvu people?”

There was complete silence for three or four minutes; then tears started to trickle down the weathered faces of these elderly men. Finally they responded.

“Do you know what this would mean?” they asked. “This would mean that God kept loving us over and over, millennia after millennia, while all that time we rejected his great love. He is compelled to love us, even though we have sinned more than any people.”

One simple vowel, and the meaning was changed from “I love you based on what you do and who you are,” to “I love you based on who I am. I love you because of me and not because of you.”

Without the Bible in the language that people can understand, God’s message of love isn’t getting through. More than 160 million people speak languages that could communicate God’s love clearly to them, but they still don’t know it because there isn’t a single verse of Scripture translated into their language. It’s time to #endbiblepoverty. wycliffe.org.uk

Story originally from Bob Creson, wycliffe.net.
Photo courtesy Lee Bramlett and Wycliffe USA.

The fight to keep empowering the Deaf

February 9th, 2017 by Jo Johnson

In many parts of the world the Deaf are truly marginalised. Most Deaf children are born to hearing parents, and in many countries, paying for the type of specialist education a Deaf child needs isn’t generally considered a priority.

Even when their parents are willing to pay for their education, teaching in sign language isn’t necessarily available. Schools for the Deaf play a crucial role in empowering the Deaf, but there are not always enough places for everyone who needs one.

Because of this we are saddened to hear that one such school in Kenya, the Kibarani School for the Deaf, is possibly facing closure because a major financial supporter has withdrawn its funding. Staff from our partner DOOR International, together with Kenya’s national Deaf association, teach God’s word to nearly 200 Deaf students in the school and train teachers on a regular basis.

Kenyan schools are required to provide religious instruction, which presents a challenge to teachers who often either are not sufficiently proficient in sign language or don’t have a religious background and so don’t know how to teach Bible stories to the children. This gives DOOR a wonderful opportunity to not only teach the students about God’s word but also about God’s plan for their lives, at the same time as training the staff.

Please pray with us that:

  • God will provide ongoing sustainable funding for the Kibarani School for the Deaf, so that it can stay open and continue to empower Deaf children.
  • Praise God that the teachers remain dedicated to their jobs, even though they are not currently being paid.
  • Deaf students, who are learning the gospel through DOOR, understand how valuable they are in the eyes of God and would come to have a personal relationship with him.

Find out more and read the full article on Mission Network News.

Find out more about the work of DOOR International.

Pray for other marginalised people groups by subscribing to our magazine Words for Life which is packed full of interesting articles and gives a daily prayer request as well.

Rendering God’s word clearly in the beautiful language of Kinga

February 6th, 2017 by Camilla

‘Lord, we ask you now for wisdom to render your word clearly into the beautiful language of Kinga.’

In the Mbeya cluster project’s offices in southwest Tanzania, Bible translation consultant Samuel Mubbala opened the day’s work with that prayer in his soft mellow voice. At the table also were Kinga pastors and translators Saul Lwilla and Zakayo Swallo. A draft of Hebrews 10 in Kinga shone brightly, projected on the wall. Their laptop computers were open, ready to edit the text.

To make a translation of God’s word ready for people’s hearts, it must be carefully checked. Samuel has been checking the work of other Bible translators since finishing a translation in his own Ugandan mother tongue several years ago. Today his job would be easy. Lwilla and Swallo are nearing the end of the Kinga New Testament project and their work has become very good.

Today’s work on Hebrews 10 began by simply reading. Samuel read aloud slowly in English. Saul followed him, reading the Kinga draft. Both spoke with feeling, clearly savouring the great truths of covenant and sacrifice. After each section was read, they discussed notes from Samuel’s study of the draft. Should the Kinga word for ox be used for bull? Should we say ‘the first covenant’ or ‘the old covenant’? In some African languages, God’s glory can be confused with shining. Does Kinga have this problem?

But the problems and notes were few. Yes, the work was very good. Good enough to impact these three men even in the midst of their checking. While reviewing covenant theology, Samuel suddenly became very personal.

‘When we come to Christ, something is…’ Samuel hesitated, obviously searching his own heart. ‘Something is “installed” in us,’ he continued. ‘We receive a new person and a new life. That is why [God] said, “I’ll make a new covenant. I’ll write the laws in your heart.” And we call that [being] born again.’

Lwilla and Swallo smiled and laughed, knowingly.

For two more days, these three African brothers continued smiling and laughing and thinking together very carefully through the remainder of Kinga Hebrews. Still, the text was not yet ready. Reviewers in the Kinga community must also agree. And as the Kinga New Testament approaches completion, the entire manuscript must be reviewed and typeset.

It will soon be planting season on the Kinga mountainsides. Good seed will receive summer rain and grow. The same will soon be true of God’s seed; his word ‘in the beautiful language of Kinga.’

This blog post is adapted from a story which originally appeared on Wycliffe Global Alliance’s website. Read the original story here.

Discover more stories from the Mbeya-Iringa cluster project!

The power of a good story

February 2nd, 2017 by Martin Horton

There are many ways that God’s word can reach people around the world. His word can be read on the printed page. It can be shared on a mobile phone via blue tooth or an SD card. It can be heard and seen through the JESUS Film which has been watched by millions but there is one form that existed long before these others. A form that has been used to share myths, facts and legends since humankind learned to use the gift of human language and that form is orality.

There are currently an estimated 5.7 billion oral learners all over the globe, and they learn mainly or entirely through oral not written means. This can be via songs, drama, proverbs, media or stories. And it is though the telling of stories that some members of Wycliffe Thailand are sharing the good news of Jesus.

The team are working on a set of Biblical stories that will help Thai non-believers from an animist/Buddhist background to understand more about the Christian faith. Many of those with an animist background believe that all natural things have a soul, such as rocks, rivers and even the moon and stars. So, the team begin with the story of creation, continuing with selected stories from the Old Testament that lead up to Jesus Christ and then they end with a story from the book of Revelation.

Please stand alongside this team in Wycliffe Thailand by praying:

  • Praise God for all that he is doing through this storying team. Some of the things that are happening especially widening opportunities to talk and share about orality & storying are definitely not their doing.
  • that the team will continue to be obedient to God’s will and his ways; that they would be sensitive to what God is doing and learn to follow him down the path he is leading.
  • for faithfulness to finish the storying work they’ve started, specifically finishing up the Central Thai & Northern Thai story-sets.
  • for Thai-speaking believers to rediscover the power of telling Bible stories and that their confidence will grow with each story that they tell.
  • that many are impacted by the stories and will understand the life changing message of Jesus for the first time

Read Scripture stories for Chukchi reindeer herders for another example of how God is transforming lives through the power of story telling

If you’d like to pray for Bible translation regularly then subscribe to our free magazine Words for Life which includes interesting articles as well as daily prayer needs.

Words for Life is hot off the press!

January 28th, 2017 by Camilla

Our first magazine of 2017 is out! Check it out and discover:

  • the inspirational story of how one woman came to be involved in what God is doing through Wycliffe and where her journey is at now,
  • Wycliffe events coming up over the next few months specially designed to answer questions and offer a taste of Wycliffe,
  • and have a look back at historical Wycliffe logos before we unveil our new one later this year. How many do you recognise?

Of course, you’ll also find our prayer diary for the next four months, with one prayer item per day to help you keep praying intelligently for Bible translation projects around the world.

Read it now!

Sign up for a hard copy! We love the online version of our magazine, but there’s nothing quite like a printed copy you can keep on the coffee table, have tucked inside your Bible or take with you to church to show to a friend. Sign up to receive a free copy through your door three times a year.

Sing a new song with gongs!

January 26th, 2017 by Camilla

The name of our organisation is Wycliffe Bible Translators. Bible translation is a huge part of what we do – but it’s not all we do.

Recently in a country in Asia*, Wycliffe Bible Translators held EthnoArts and Storying workshops, designed to equip people to tell accurate Bible stories in their own language and culturally authentic storytelling style. The idea is to encourage local Christians to share the content and message of the stories with songs, music and other art forms that are rooted in their own culture.

One worker involved with the workshops reported: ‘In one location all of the language groups involved have historically used gongs for their indigenous music. In a previous training, several groups lamented that the Christians among them had given up using gongs when they became believers, and now they no longer owned any gongs. They recognized the value and power of using these traditional instruments and musical style to worship God. At the most recent workshop two groups reported that they had acquired some gongs and were composing new worship music to glorify God. One man told of playing the new songs on the gongs and four families (about 15 people) responding by deciding to follow Jesus! A man from another group told of making a recording of their new songs on the gongs and introducing this to a neighboring community. They were having trouble with people stealing the discs from each other because the music was so popular! Part of a new song: Lord, show mercy to my villagers because so many have not come to know Jesus. The coming day of Jesus Christ is so soon; He promised to come back.’

Back in the UK, we’re so encouraged by this, and we hope you are too!

  • Praise God for these translated Bible stories, new songs, and new believers!
  • Please pray that God will help these new believers to become strong in their faith over the coming weeks, months and years.
  • Pray for further workshops over the next year – for good attendance, participation and new, culturally authentic music that glorifies God.

Read more about why we have a passion for Bible translation, and how we help to bring God’s word to people groups around the world.

*details withheld for security reasons

First Steps on tour during February and March

January 24th, 2017 by Alfred

First Steps, Wycliffe’s informative and inspiring introduction to the world of Bible translation, is coming to Cambridge, Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff and Nottingham this February and March!

Are any of these questions on your mind?:

What is Wycliffe’s work all about?

Why is it important for people to have access to Scripture in their heart language?

How could I be involved in what God is doing through Wycliffe?

Is it just for people who speak lots of languages?

If so, why not come along to one of our events! You’ll learn about how God is using people with a wide range of skills throughout the world to fulfil his mission and about how people’s lives are being changed by having access to Scripture. This inspiring event is going to deepen your passion for mission and desire to be involved with what God is doing worldwide – through prayer, supporting others, or by going!

We’d love to see you at one of our upcoming First Steps events:

Cambridge – Friday 3 February, Christ Church, 6:30 – 9:30pm

Edinburgh – Friday 10 February, Kings Church, 6:30 – 9:30pm

Belfast – Saturday 25 February, Ballyhenry Church, 10:00am – 4:30pm

Cardiff – Saturday 11 March, Highfields Church, 6:30 – 9:30pm

Nottingham – Saturday 18 March, Cornerstone Church, 6.30-9.30pm

Register online here for free!

NRSI: Going after even greater impact

January 19th, 2017 by Camilla

We want to encourage you to stand with the NRSI in prayer as they regroup, reassess and enter a new phase.

The Non-Roman Script Initiative (NRSI, a department of our primary partner SIL International), which works to provide computing resources for minority language groups around the world, has now been going for 20 years and they feel now may be the time for them to reassess their role and priorities. We’d like to stand with them in prayer as they hold their annual team meetings in Germany this February.

Stories of the impact of translated Scripture, like the one you’re about to read, inspire the team to press on with their highly technical work. Scheherazade font, developed by NRSI, was used to print the New Testament using Arabic script in a specific language in a secret location. The book is beautifully presented and is immediately respected because of the script, and those who see it want to read it.

Many clerics have read it in secret and become believers – some forfeiting their lives by doing so. Without really trying too hard, the entire initial print run has been distributed to people of this language group all over the area. The results have been astounding.

People who have never read anything in their own language before pick this up and just start reading. Many of those who can read this script are sincere truth seekers and when they read the message, they are almost immediately willing to commit their lives to it.

They spend long hours reading the New Testament cover to cover. They read it so much that some of their New Testaments look tattered and well used even though they are fairly new. A large reprint of these Scriptures is being printed now and is planned for distribution among this increasingly closed off nomadic population. This is so encouraging, as NRSI staff rarely see the direct impact of their work and when they do, it can be years after they have finished their part.

Pray for the NRSI team and their work! Pray that:

  • The impact they have already seen would only be the beginning, and that God would use this New Testament to turn many more hearts to him.
  • The seeds of all their work would be fruitful, and have greater, wider and deeper impact than the team has asked for or imagined.
  • God would guide and inspire their meetings together in Germany, and lead them forward in the way that brings most glory to his name.

Read more about designing fonts and how this important work fits into the big picture of Bible translation.

Do you want more prayer points about Bible translation? Sign up to receive our magazine Words for Life which is packed full of interesting articles as well as our prayer diary giving daily prayer needs.