Posts Tagged ‘Bible translation’

Uncle Cam – William Cameron Townsend (1896-1982)

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017 by Camilla

Today is the anniversary of the death of William Cameron Townsend (affectionately known as Uncle Cam), founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators.

When Uncle Cam was just 21 he felt called to take the Bible to the peoples of South America, and set off with plenty of Spanish Bibles. But when he got there, he discovered something that shaped the rest of his life’s work: often the people he met didn’t speak Spanish. They asked Cam something that really made him think – why didn’t God speak their language? Was he only the God of English and Spanish speakers?

Cam thought everyone should be able to read God’s word in their own language. So within a few years, he and his wife were living with the Cakchiquel people of Guatemala, studying their complex language, developing a writing system for it and helping them to translate the Bible so they could understand it.

He became ill, and had to return to the US, but that didn’t stop him. In 1934, he ran the first Wycliffe Summer School. Within 10 years, this had become two partner organisations: the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) and Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Cam served for over sixty years(!) in Latin America, working in many countries. He knew everyone, including more than 40 heads of state. He received an honorary doctorate, was decorated by five Latin American governments and was declared Benefactor of the Linguistically Isolated Populations of America by the Inter-American Indian Congress.

What people most often commented on, though, was his humility: when the president of Mexico visited an Aztec village, a local man said of Townsend, ‘He treats us just like he does the President. If President Cárdenas comes, he leaves his dinner to talk with him. If one of us comes, he leaves his dinner to talk with us, too.’

Kenneth Pike, a renowned linguist, once said of Uncle Cam that, ‘Not since the third century has there been a man like Cameron Townsend who attempted so much, and saw so many dreams realised in his lifetime.

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Colour TV is a human right

Monday, April 17th, 2017 by Camilla

As a child, TV was very important to me. I didn’t really see the point of black and white TVs like they’d had in the old days, and I figured colour TV was practically a human right.

These days I feel more strongly about universal access to the Bible, and we know reading the Bible in a second language can be almost like watching your favourite TV show in black and white – it’s not quite how it was meant to be experienced. Like many people groups around the world, until a few years ago, the Choco of Panama didn’t have the Bible in their own language.

The Choco people’s Bible translation story is one that starts in the age of black-and-white entertainment and carries on into the age of Blu-ray. In 1960, Bible translator Dick Scott left his home in the US and made the journey to Panama, aged just 24. He would spend a total of 13 years living among the Choco people, and they wouldn’t have a complete Bible in their language, called Emberá, until 2013.

The Choco people lived in a remote rainforest, with no running water and no roads. Despite their isolation from the rest of the world, they were very open to Dick and his two colleagues.

Dick spent time with a mother-tongue speaker learning the unwritten Emberá language, and developing a writing system for it on his typewriter, before going on to translate the New Testament, starting with Mark. Over the years to come until 2013, he would travel back and forth between his home in the US and the Choco people, all the while working to complete the Choco Bible, as well as finding time to serve as a leader in an Oregon church.

With the Bible finally available in their language, the Choco people can experience the Bible as it’s meant to be experienced, in full colour.

This blog post is adapted from a story originally posted on Oregon Live’s website. Read the original article.

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Inspired to carry on translating even in prison

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017 by Martin Horton

On a cluster of islands in eastern Indonesia, schoolteacher Manu* translates the Bible into his mother tongue, Kuluhi*.

The Bible does not yet exist in any of the 17 languages of these islands. Most people do not have a good understanding of Christianity because teaching and services have been held in a language they do not understand well, rather than in their own languages.

It is in this context that Manu and other translators are working. He and his team have had more than their fair share of challenges, including the death of a team member. More recently, Manu himself was sent to prison for a year because of a boat accident during a school trip he was leading.

Although unbearable at first, he now testifies to God’s faithfulness to him during this time.

‘The book I always had to hand was the Bible, as well as a booklet in my own language with the story of Joseph. Motivated by how Joseph ministered to his fellow prisoners, I prayed that I would be able to do the same. I invited all the prisoners to worship together every Saturday. This invitation was well received, and my fellow prisoners even asked me to share God’s word.’

Manu was even able to carry on translating Scripture into his language during his time in prison.

God’s word changes even the most difficult circumstances. Manu and others who are working to bring God’s word to those on these islands need our prayers as they continue the task God has given them.

Pray now:

  • Praise God for the comfort and guidance God’s word gave Manu in prison. Ask God to touch the lives of many other people in similar ways, as they read his word.
  • For good progress with translation and for the translators to know God’s help in overcoming challenges that  slow down translation.
  • For protection against spiritual opposition that can prevent work from going ahead, good relationships and unity between team members.

If you would also like to support this work financially, give securely online now.

Why not commit to praying for this project regularly? Sign up and be sure to specify that you want to pray for the Kuluhi project.

Why not subscribe to our free magazine Words for Life. It’s packed full of interesting articles and it contains a prayer diary with daily pray requests to help you pray specifically for Bible translation around the globe.

*Names changed for security reasons

‘Is this really from the Bible??’

Monday, February 27th, 2017 by Camilla

Luna* grew up in a Southeast Asian country in a community that farmed rice and animals, hunted for their favourite source of wild meat and gathered whatever they needed from the forest that hedged their village on the cool mountain slopes.

One day a week, she would follow her parents and other families to a larger wooden hut at one end of their village. There they would sing some songs from memory and then someone whom everyone called ‘Pastor’ would rise, open a book and begin reading from it. She could not understand what Pastor was saying when she was a child. As she grew older, she was able to understand some words and phrases, but not all. It was not the language that she spoke at home or with her village community.

Luna also learnt from her parents who would regularly place some delicious portions of chicken meat at the trunk of certain trees beside their home and farmland. Her mother whispered to her that there were “unseen beings” that protected them from harm and must not be angered. She remembered when she fell very sick once and drifted in and out of consciousness from the high fever. Her mother had carried her to a big house in the centre of the village. The master of that house put on strange headgear and began prancing around her as she lay on the floor. Whatever he did frightened her, but her mother held her down. Eventually, she was given something very bitter to drink, which somehow made her well.

One day, two girls she knew from the next village visited. They had fun chatting and catching up with each others’ news. Then the girls shared a story from the Bible in the local language.

Is this story really from the Bible??’ Luna asked, wide-eyed. The other two nodded. ‘This is so much easier to understand than the sermons in our church!’ she exclaimed. That day, Luna understood a lesson on God’s grace and on being obedient to God in a way she had never been able to before.

In Luna’s community, there are many people who are Christian in name but are still following folk religious practices because of their lack of understanding of God’s word in their own language. An oral Bible story project is underway to develop Bible stories in their language community for a better understanding of God’s word.

*name changed for security reasons

This story is adapted from an article originally published in Wycliffe Singapore’s magazine – More than Words, June 2015.

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NRSI: Going after even greater impact

Thursday, 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.

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Lifted out of depression by good news

Monday, January 16th, 2017 by Camilla

John and Anita have given their lives to teaching others about Jesus and together, they’ve lead many in Shaikarawe, Botswana to faith.

Both describe the stark contrast between their lives now and the lives they lived outside of knowing God years ago. Although Anita attended church from a young age, she wasn’t always a believer.

out-of-depressionJohn also heard the Bible early on in life but struggled to believe until much later. It wasn’t until after he had married Anita that his life changed forever. John is partially deaf in both ears, and he has to work hard to make sure he catches people’s conversations. This disability has made it difficult for him to find work. He says that about four years ago, he fell into a deep depression about his life. He would spend all day at his house, barely moving.

Anita was already a believer by this time and had just received a Bible from a local missionary. Worried about John, she brought a Setswana translated Bible to him one day and left it by his side while he was sleeping.

John says, ‘When I got the Bible, it was like my mind stopped working. I read the Bible for three days, just reading, reading.’

The hunger to know more and more continued to grow in John. Soon, he was carrying this Bible with him everywhere and telling everyone he met about the good news inside. Anita and John are now very involved in their local church, and John is studying to learn to read the San dialect of Khwedam, his heart language, just so he can understand the word of God better. He is passionate about making sure the San people have the opportunity to read the Scriptures in words that will make the most sense and be the most relevant in their lives.

‘I must know what the Bible means in my own language.’

With purpose and focus, Anita and John will continue to live in order to lead others to their creator and saviour.

And as John likes to say, ‘The Bible is with me and in me, from the heavens to the ground.’

Interested in supporting the work of Bible translation? Find out more on how you can go, give or pray.

For more pictures and the full original story, check out our partner The Seed Company’s website.

Touching the innermost strings of the soul

Monday, January 2nd, 2017 by Camilla

We’re always excited to hear stories about people encountering Jesus through Scriptures in their mother tongue, and this is one of our recent favourites, from Eurasia:

‘When I first got acquainted with the Bible, it was in the national language of course. I had already been used to reading the Bible in this language by the time the New Testament was presented to me in my mother tongue.

moscow-kazan-321-2‘As I started reading the gospels in the language that was my own since early childhood, I felt that Jesus himself was addressing me personally. After this experience I wanted to say to all Bible translators, “What you do is extremely significant, you are providing an opportunity for God himself to address people in their mother tongue!”

‘As for me, Tatar is my mother tongue, and my situation could have been expected, but here is an even more striking example:

‘I was sharing the gospel with my friend, who does not know the Tatar language well enough to speak it in his daily life, though he is Tatar ethnically. He normally speaks Russian. I read aloud the parable of the prodigal son from the gospel of Luke in the national language. He listened with interest, but did not seem deeply touched by what he heard. Then I took out the New Testament and started reading the same passage in our language. As soon as I reached the place where the forgiving father addresses his eldest son with our word for “son”, tears gushed from his eyes and he wept for a long time. This single Tatar word touched some of the innermost strings of his soul.’

We hope you’re as inspired by this story as we are, and share our desire for everyone to have the opportunity to experience God’s word in this way. Pray for speakers of Bashkir, a language related to Tatar, using our prayer goody bag Finishing in God’s time.

Does God speak my language?

Monday, December 12th, 2016 by Camilla

In a small rural church nestled in the mountains of West Timor*, seven families worshiped together. In their homes and with each other outside of church, they primarily spoke their own language, called Tetun. But in church services, following the only model they knew, they used Indonesian**. Their Bibles were also in Indonesian. Because they didn’t speak Indonesian very well, there was a lot they didn’t understand.

Then came exciting news: God speaks Tetun! Tetun translators, working under the direction of the Evangelical Protestant Church of Timor (GMIT) and guided by Wycliffe advisor Dr Barbara Grimes, had translated and published the New Testament plus Genesis in their language.

With Scriptures that made sense to them, they could finally relate to God in their own language! They decided to begin worshipping in Tetun three Sundays a month, leaving one service a month in Indonesian, the language they shared with other GMIT congregations. In their home groups, they studied the Tetun Scriptures.

Equipped to dig deeper into God’s word than they ever could before, the church began to grow. Within a few weeks, seventeen(!) new families had joined the church, and more copies of the Scriptures were needed. Nearly two years later, that congregation is thriving and still using the Tetun Scriptures.

Many other Tetun congregations in the GMIT also shifted some of their worship services to their own language. Often this was three Sundays each month in Tetun (their language of discipleship), followed by one Sunday in Indonesian (their language of fellowship). Rather than spinning their wheels trying to make programs in Indonesian successful, congregations were now seeing real growth and transformation as they engaged with Tetun Scriptures.

Interest in the Tetun Scriptures also spread across denominational boundaries. A Catholic priest became one of the best distributors of the Scriptures! He sold book after book after book, repeatedly asking for more boxes, selling those, and asking for more. Both priests and pastors in the region have said that introducing the Tetun language and Scriptures into their worship services has brought meaningful change and spiritual growth they hadn’t seen before.

*West Timor is a political region that comprises the western half of Timor Island, north of Australia. It is part of Indonesia.

**Indonesian is the national language of Indonesia.

This story is adapted from a blog post that originally featured on Bob Creson’s (President/CEO of Wycliffe Bible Translators USA) blog. Read the original story here.

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From gang to God

Monday, November 28th, 2016 by Camilla

When Diego nears the coast today, the smell of salt air takes him back more than 20 years to a time when he was 14 and striking out on his own to find work on the banana plantations.

When he arrived at his destination, the hardworking teen quickly landed a job. Just as quickly, he also landed new friends…in a local gang.

from-gang-to-godHe’d not planned to live a life of violence, crime and alcoholism. But after a time, he didn’t want to hear about any alternative.

‘My mind was just too rebellious,’ Diego says. ‘Many people talked to me about believing in Jesus. I had been in jail in Guatemala in 1994 and even before.’

Finally his lifestyle led to a crisis. Diego became ill. ‘So I looked for some other ways to heal my life,’ Diego says. ‘I never found any. I suffered for a long time. Then I remembered about God. I looked for him to see if he really existed.’

Diego fasted and prayed for three days.

‘Wednesday, Thursday, Friday — I prayed for two hours a day,’ he says. ‘I talked to God and asked him to forgive me. I was in much vice. I was lost and I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have any escape. So I said, ‘Lord, if you really exist, heal me, because I can’t take it anymore. Otherwise I will kill myself. I don’t want to suffer anymore.’

On the third day, God answered Diego who gave his life to Christ that day. ‘I automatically quit drinking,’ he says.

That was eight years ago.

As Diego transitioned from gang member to believer, he began attending Spanish language church services. But his heart language isn’t Spanish. It’s the Mayan language K’iche’. As his search to know more about Jesus continued, Diego met lead translator Felipe, and discovered that Scripture was being translated into his language.

Diego eagerly listened as the translators worked on passages. He leaned in closely as they discussed the meaning of each word, each thought, each promise. Diego was captivated by God’s word. Before long, he became part of the translation team.

This post originally appeared on our partner The Seed Company’s website.

Interested in supporting the work of Bible translation? Find out more on how you can go, give or pray.

The latest Words for Life is hot off the press!

Saturday, November 26th, 2016 by Camilla

Words for Life Winter 2016 is ready to encourage and inspire you! Experience the work of Wycliffe Bible Translators through great stories and fantastic pictures from far-flung locations.

While thousands of freshly-printed copies of the latest edition of Words for Life are making their way to people across the UK, you can download the latest news right now with a click of your mouse.hr-159-woman-with-bible-urat-png

In this edition, we’ll be:

  • looking back over the year and celebrating new New Testaments and full Bibles for people groups around the world
  • saying goodbye to several long-time members, and
  • welcoming four new members!

This edition comes with a prayer diary as usual, but this time only for the next two months. But you won’t run out of fuel for prayer: stand by for a brand-new edition of Words for Life at the end of January!

Ready to dive in? Download Words for Life Winter 2016 here.