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Archive for September, 2013

In honor of Bible Translation Day, we’re debuting a brand new video!

Learn how the Bible transforms people’s lives when it’s written in a language they can clearly understand, and discover how many language groups are still waiting for their own translation.

Let us know what you think in the comments!

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By Melissa Chesnut
Did you know there’s a day set apart worldwide to honor the work of Bible translation? Well there is, and we’re excited to tell you about it!

In 1966, Wycliffe founder Cameron Townsend first shared an idea with Oklahoma Senator Fred Harris, his friend of several years.

“September 30 is St. Jerome’s Day,” Cam said. “He’s the first translator of the whole Bible. I thought maybe we could get the House and Senate to pass a resolution calling for the president to proclaim September 30 as Bible Translation Day.”

Harris liked the idea and agreed to propose the resolution in the Senate. Soon Cam received word that the resolution passed!

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On September 30, 1966, a ceremony was held to proclaim that day as Bible Translation Day. Since the Apache New Testament had only recently been completed, Cam decided they should present that translation as part of the ceremony. Senator Harris presided, and Cam arranged for Britton Goode, the Apache who had helped the translators, to present the Scriptures to him and Congressman Ben Reifel. A Sioux Indian from South Dakota, Reifel had witnessed firsthand the impact that owning the Bible in her heart language had on his mother, who spoke only broken English and used the Sioux Bible to teach her children about God.

Several people gave speeches that day, including both Senator Harris and Congressman Reifel. Cam’s speech was, as always, one that left the group in attendance encouraged and inspired.

“We are making history. By God’s grace and with His help, we are taking part in a tremendous enterprise,” said Cam, as he began his speech. “The enterprise is Bible translation; the goal is hearts changed by God and disciples equipped to lead others to Christ. But before any translation can be done, before any change comes in a heart, we must overcome physical and language barriers.

“The language barrier is difficult to overcome. But it must be done. The Holy Spirit, speaking through John says, ‘After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb’ (Revelation 7:9, NIV). We believe God has called us to help make this verse come true. …

“This is not an impossible task. If it were, God would not have given it to us. But it is difficult. It takes hard work, dedication, perseverance, and commitment. Teachers at Wycliffe’s schools have helped thousands of students learn translation and literacy principles, but we lack people who are willing to go. Many don’t realize how Bible translation is still needed around the world.”bible Translation Day2

In the years since Cam first started Wycliffe, 518 language groups have received the entire Bible and 1,275 have the New Testament in the language they understand best. Additionally, over 1,500 Bible translation projects are currently in process.

Today, Wycliffe continues to carry on the tradition of celebrating Bible Translation Day. With unwavering focus towards the unfinished task at hand, Wycliffe seeks to pursue the goal that Cam so eloquently laid out in his speech—that of bringing the translated Word of God into every language that still needs it.

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Oops! Scheduling Error

Looks like something got lost in translation….

You may have recently been notified about an upcoming blog post that isn’t able to be viewed yet. We experienced some WordPress scheduling issues, and we apologize for any confusion! You can look forward to that post being published on Monday, September 30.

Thanks for your patience!

 

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By Melissa Chesnut

Each year, National Hispanic Heritage month (September 15–October 15) honors the histories and cultures of Hispanic nations and remembers the anniversaries of the independence of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Chile. This four-part “Throwback Thursday” series will focus on different aspects of Wycliffe’s work among Hispanic countries and language communities.

Read the previous posts in this series here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

“The greatest missionary is the Bible in the mother tongue,” Wycliffe founder Cam Townsend once said. “It never needs a furlough, is never considered a foreigner, and makes all other missionaries unnecessary.”

When people experience the Bible in their heart language, the truth of Scripture is brought to light. What might have once been confusing is suddenly understandable. Often this leads to amazing testimonies as lives are changed by the power of the Gospel!

But first the Scriptures have to be translated into the heart language.

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When Cam started translating the Bible for the Cakchiquel Indians of Guatemala, he thought that there might be around one thousand languages that needed access to God’s Word in their own language. But as time went on, he learned that there were many more needs than he had thought. In fact, estimates indicated there were over 1,300 languages needing translation in Papua New Guinea alone! To Cam, the task seemed huge, but he knew that through God’s help, each of them could be reached.

Wycliffe’s work began in Mexico and spread throughout the Americas, reaching countries such as Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, and more. It reached to other continents too, as doors opened to begin work in the Philippines, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea and other islands of the South Pacific, Europe, and Africa.

One of the reasons the work spread so quickly was Cam’s technique of partnering with the local education system and working to improve it by advocating language and literacy work in the mother tongue. With the belief that mother tongue education was crucial to understanding the Scriptures, Cam found favor in countries where missionaries were typically not welcome.

The goal of Wycliffe and its primary strategic partner, SIL, was—and still is—to improve peoples’ lives through education, and ultimately, to provide the Bible in the language they understand best.

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At his 75th birthday party, Cam reminded his friends and family of his vision.

“Out there are two thousand tribes who still don’t have the Bible!” Cam said. “I believe God is going to help us reach them all. Don’t you?”

Today Cam’s legacy is being carried on by those who share his vision—that one day every man, woman, and child would be able to read the Bible in the language that they understand best. And it all began with a young man who started pursuing his dream of reaching the marginalized Indians of Latin America with God’s Word in the language they understood best.

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By Angela Nelson

As Román and Venancio boarded the bus to travel outside of their home state for the very first time, they wondered what was in store for them. After all, they were leaving their families in the midst of a very busy agricultural harvest schedule, not to mention their responsibilities with church and their rural community.

It wasn’t the most appealing proposition, but their translation work on the Huichol Bible was important to them. So they were willing to take a three-day bus ride and spend several weeks away from home to attend the Tabernacle and Temples of the Old Testament workshop in Mitla, Oaxaca, Mexico.

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Translators Hilario, Venancio, and Román

When they arrived at the linguistics and translation training center, Román and Venancio were joined by two instructors and twelve mother tongue translators from six other language groups. For the first time, they met men and women just like them—Bible translators for their own people.

The workshop focused on the Old Testament chapters describing the tabernacle and the temples of Solomon and Ezekiel (in Exodus, 1 Kings, 2 Chronicles, and Ezekiel). Each day Román and Venancio took turns telling the group how they had translated the various passages. In addition, they each had to prepare and present a devotional that focused on the symbolism of an element of the tabernacle and temple. Venancio gave his devotional on the symbolism of the horns of the altar. And Román told about the meaning of the veil, with its guarding cherubim that separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place. He used New Testament Scriptures to show how it represents that Christ has opened access to God for us. All these experiences helped the men practice explaining and applying Scripture, something they would use at their home church and weekly Bible studies when they returned to their people.

Román explaining Ezekiel’s temple

Román explaining Ezekiel’s temple

Before they left for home, Venancio also experienced God’s provision through a tough situation. While returning from a weekend market on a local bus, his wallet was stolen. It contained two weeks’ worth of salary and his identification card.

When Chucho, Venancio’s roommate at the workshop, learned what had happened, he asked the others to come to the auditorium with an offering for Venancio at 5 p.m. He placed an empty milk carton on the front table. Sure enough, at 5 p.m., the other translators filed in and dropped their offering into the milk carton.

Chucho presented the offering to Venancio the next morning. The translators had given sacrificially—far more than he had lost! On the last day of the workshop Venancio shyly spoke his thanks. Haltingly and emotionally he told the group that when he discovered that his wallet was missing, he felt that “he had lost his life,” but their love and concern had given it back to him.

Venancio and Román returned to their village full of stories and new knowledge, ready and dedicated to continuing their precious work!

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Earlier this year, Ivan and Jesse Dishman attended Wycliffe’s new missionary training and told the story of how they decided to serve God in Papua New Guinea. We enjoyed hearing it so much that we wanted to share it:

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By Melissa Chesnut

Each year, National Hispanic Heritage month (September 15–October 15) honors the histories and cultures of Hispanic nations and remembers the anniversaries of the independence of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Chile. This four-part “Throwback Thursday” series will focus on different aspects of Wycliffe’s work among Hispanic countries and language communities.

Read Part 1: A Man with a Vision or Part 2: One Person at a Time

Starting a mission organization with the goal of translating the Bible worldwide is a daunting task. During the early years, Wycliffe founder Cam Townsend encountered many people who weren’t confident that the mission would succeed. The odds stacked against it just seemed too high!

But God is much bigger than any of these odds, and in the face of every obstacle, He has proved faithful.

When foreign missionaries weren’t allowed in to Mexico in the 1930s, God opened an unexpected door. Although Cam and others were not allowed to enter the country officially as Bible translators, the government did recognize a need for assistance in studying the rural education system. To Cam, the solution was obvious. “We will enter Mexico as linguists rather than as missionaries,” he decided.

Cam shakes hands with men he knew as boys when he lived and worked in Mexico.

Cam shakes hands with men he knew as boys when he lived and worked in Mexico.

Although it wasn’t their official job in Mexico, Cam’s colleagues were still able to help with Bible translation. But when Cam got a request from an official to send translators to the Lacandons, a tribe of only two hundred people, he was faced with a dilemma. He knew that tribes with large populations needed the Scripture, but did tribes of two hundred merit the lifework of an educated linguist?

As Cam pondered the question, he was reminded of Jesus’ parable about the shepherd who sought the one lost sheep. Yes, he decided, even the small tribes needed the Bible in a language they could understand. But where would he get the volunteers?

At that time, there were forty-four workers under Cam’s leadership. He decided to ask, “Will each of you be responsible before the Lord for one new recruit for Bible translation? … I’m sure He would give us six extra for good measure.” Sure enough, by the end of that year, Cam had fifty new volunteers for Bible translation—plus one more for good measure!

When finances were limited, God sent other believers who gifted the money to Cam and the work of Bible translation. From simple needs like the monthly $5 to rent a vacant farmhouse for the beginning of Camp Wycliffe to $10,000 to build a clinic and dwelling places in Peru, God always came through.

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L.L. and Edna Legters pose with friend and Wycliffe founder, Cam Townsend.

The journey was never easy. Gaining access to countries where missionaries weren’t allowed was difficult and trying. Finding volunteers who were willing to dedicate their lives to linguistics and translation sometimes seemed overwhelming and impossible. Supplying funds for the projects in various countries seemed unfeasible. But each time, God opened another door.

Though the odds stacked against them seemed high, God is more powerful than any obstacle. As L.L. Legters, one of Cam’s friends and a fellow pioneer of Bible translation, would sing:

Faith, mighty faith the promise sees,
And looks to God alone.
Laughs at impossibilities
And shouts, “It shall be done!”

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