Archive for September, 2013

By Elizabeth Wilson, short-term trip coordinator for Wycliffe USA

This week I have the privilege of representing Wycliffe at Liberty University’s semi-annual Global Focus Week. As I walk through DeMoss Hall, I’m drawn to the vivid pictures of people from other countries, pieces of bright ethnic fabric, and statistics of how many people haven’t yet heard the Gospel.

libertyIt reminds me of a similar experience I had as a college freshman several years ago at the Urbana student missions conference.

There, I heard that more than two thousand* people groups did not have access to God’s Word in their language, and I began to ask God how I could be involved in His mission around the world. I wanted to go overseas as soon as possible, but my elementary education degree required four more years of school.

I thought about a quote from Jim Elliot, a missionary who was killed in South America in the mid-50s. “Wherever you are, be all there,” he had said.

God hadn’t told me “go” just yet. He had placed me in college to be “there” in college.elizabeth2

I joined an Indian graduate student association group at my school so that I could be around people who were different from me. To my surprise, I made close Indian friends who taught me their language and culture and helped prepare me to interact with a variety of religious backgrounds once I arrived in India, down the road.

I also volunteered at my church’s ESL (English as a Second Language) program during the school year, and I interned with a missions group in Southall, London, during summer breaks. All the while, God was confirming my desire to work with people in India.

When I heard about someone who was translating Bible stories for oral and nomadic people groups in North India, I eventually got connected to Wycliffe Bible Translators, where I have been serving for the last ten years.

I started out in South Asia, translating stories from Scripture for a people group tucked away in the Himalayan Mountains (see the video below). It was a dream come true to watch God’s Word reach people who had never had it in their language. After three years there, I started speaking at colleges, and then served as a story-translator consultant for different regions.

Today I coordinate short-term trips (called “Discovery trips”) so that others can get a glimpse of God’s Work through Bible translation around the world. I continue to ask for God’s help to be “all there” no matter where I live, or what I do.

Looking back, I believe that my college years were the primer for my life’s engine to take off. The energy and passion I had were not wasted, and those experiences have had significant impact on who I have become and what I am doing now.


My advice to college students considering a life of following God, whether or not that includes overseas work, is to invest deeply in exploring avenues and adventures around you. From short-term trips, to summer internships, to local church outreach, to praying for Bibleless people groups—get involved. Do it now. And while you’re at it, give it your all.

“You will never regret your choice (to serve God). It is wonderful to be free to pour out all, every drop of one’s life; and that is what you have done and are doing. No, you will never regret it, never.” —Amy Carmichael (missionary to India)

*Today the number has dropped below two thousand! Learn more here.

Telling Stories in South Asia
Spend a day with Elizabeth as she helps South Asian Christians translate Bible stories into their own languages in this video:

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For the first time, Moise Yonta joyfully read aloud the Ngiemboon Scriptures on his smartphone. (Watch here.) Then he jumped up and delightedly shook hands with a colleague. “Wonderful! Wonderful!” he exclaimed.

It was indeed wonderful! Moise, who works with the Cameroon Association for Bible Translation and Literacy (CABTAL), was the coordinator for the Ngiemboon translation project. Since the New Testament was dedicated in 2007, he’s used both the printed and audio versions, but gaining access to the digital version took his experience to a whole new level!

“I was so happy that I couldn’t hide it!” he said. “Immediately I applied the lesson we learned by selecting a verse and sending it to my dear wife, and she was happy to receive it.”

MoiseNow when Moise travels, he carries Scripture with him on his phone. He loves helping others access God’s Word the same way, both digitally from YouVersion and audibly from Faith Comes By Hearing. At the request of his pastor and church elders, he is preparing a training course on how to use cell phones for evangelization.

When I’ve traveled in Africa, I’ve often found better service there than I get in my own home in Orlando, Florida. In fact, Moise is one of more than 650 million cell phone subscribers in Africa, where cell phone service is far more available than landlines. I have no doubt that God is behind the development of digital technology, and while cell phones are used worldwide for communications, financial transactions, healthcare, and much more, I believe that God also intended this technology to support the distribution of His Word.

The Every Tribe Every Nation (ETEN) alliance has helped facilitate increased access to digital Scripture. Mart Green (founder of Mardel Christian and Education Supply and Every Tribe Entertainment) started ETEN by bringing together a group of philanthropic investors/donors and three Bible agencies—the American Bible Society (representing the United Bible Societies), Biblica, and Wycliffe Bible Translators USA (representing SIL International and The Seed Company). ETEN’s primary focus is the development of the Digital Bible Library (DBL) which currently holds 535 texts—including the Ngiemboon Bible that Moise reads.

YouVersion is one of the first organizations to utilize the DBL and make the texts available to smartphone users. Other organizations share them on websites or use them for purposes like e-books and print-on-demand.

If you haven’t already downloaded the YouVersion application to your phone, I’d encourage you to try it!

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By Melissa Chesnut

Fernando* was only ten years old when his father shared an idea with the translation team working in the Zapotec language in his town. At the time, his father’s idea seemed far-fetched and almost impossible.

He told the team that Fernando would be a good person to help translate Scripture for the Zapotec people once he finished school.

It wasn’t good timing though. Fernando still had almost eight years of schooling to complete before he would be able to potentially join the team. For the translators, that seemed a long way off.

But God had other plans. During the years following Fernando’s father’s idea, the translation work was paused for various reasons.

By the time the team was once again ready to resume the translation project, Fernando was done with school. He was also looking for work. When the translators learned the Fernando had completed his schooling and was looking for a job, they offered him a role on the team. Fernando gladly accepted.

Fernando2Working as a Bible translator is not just a job to provide income for his family; Fernando has wholeheartedly taken on this full-time role, while also fulfilling an obligatory role in his town of supervising the community store. Fernando is certainly busy between the translation work, supervising the store, and spending time with his wife and young baby, but he is an invaluable contribution to the team! He also encourages the local church to listen to the audio form of Luke, which was recently produced and released in his heart language.

Although it once seemed impossible that a young boy would grow up to work as a translator for his people group, God orchestrated events in such a way that Fernando’s father was right. Fernando would be a good person to help translate the Scripture and bring God’s Word to his people in the language of their heart.

*A pseudonym.

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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

The Gospel has a way of changing people in amazing ways, and sometimes it starts in places you wouldn’t expect!

During his early travels, Cam Townsend met a man named Silverio Lopez. Silverio was one of the few Cakchiquel Indians who could understand and read a little Spanish. When he was working in Guatemala City, he bought a Spanish Bible. But it was filled with so many words and phrases he didn’t know that he couldn’t understand it! Frustrated, he put the book away and forgot all about it.

Soon Silverio had to return to his village home because one of his children died and another was very sick. Desperate to help his child, Silverio visited the village shaman. The shaman blamed the sickness on the spirits of dead ancestors, and told Silverio to buy candles and put them before an image in the Antigua church. Silverio followed the shaman’s orders, but was soon in heavy debt.

One day Silverio found a scrap of paper on the road. He picked it up and read, “My Father’s house should be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” When he got home, he looked up the verse in the Bible. Convicted by what the Bible said, Silverio decided to stop paying the shaman and to quit taking candles to the church. Instead, he went to the doctor and bought medicine that soon cured his daughter’s stomach. Then he went to the Antigua church and talked to the Guatemalan pastor, who told him how to believe in Jesus.

320_CAK_ManReadingBible_3Silverio surrendered his life to Christ and soon became an evangelist to his own people! Just six months after accepting Jesus, Silverio had already led forty Cakchiquel Indians to Christ.  His life was so drastically changed that he couldn’t help but share his newfound love with everyone he met, and his passion continued to spread.

Silverio wasn’t the only person Cam met whose life was changed in a big way. One day Cam met a shoemaker who had once been a drunkard, but who had abandoned the bottle for Jesus. “Before I was a believer, I was thrown in jail sixty-three times for drunkenness,” he told Cam. “Now I’ve been behind bars three times for preaching the Gospel.”

Cam also met a Cakchiquel Indian man who had gone to the president of Guatemala to complain about Cam’s work among his people. When the president met the man, he asked the man if he could read. The man said yes, so the president handed him a copy of the Cakchiquel New Testament that Cam had given him.

After reading a few lines, the man looked up in amazement. “This is wonderful! God speaks our language! Where can I get a copy of this book?”

The president told him, “From the people you were complaining about.”

The man returned home, bought the Bible in his own language, and became a believer. Someone later told Cam, “Now he goes everywhere, telling people that the president evangelized him.”

People like Cam, Silverio, the shoemaker, and even the president of Guatemala didn’t let the change stop with them. They didn’t keep their passion and excitement to themselves, but rather shared with the people in their lives about Jesus. Because they took bold steps of faith, they were able to touch the lives of many people.

Change can start with just one person!

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Evans Award

Drs. Tony and Lois Evans received the 2013 Scripture Impact Award to recognize their work promoting and supporting Scripture translations around the world.

Wycliffe USA President and CEO Bob Creson presented the award at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas on Sept. 8.

Dr. Tony Evans is the senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship (OCBF), a church he and his wife, Dr. Lois Evans, started in 1976 with only 10 members. OCBF now has more than 9,700 members and over 100 active ministries, including intentional outreach in support of Scripture translation.

Click here to read the rest of this story at its original source on our website.

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The Impact of Women in Literacy and Education

By Katie Kuykendall

DSC_0344I take great delight in losing myself in a good book, and I come by it honestly. I remember my mom always reading some kind of novel or devotional in her spare time when I was growing up, and she encouraged my sister and me to do the same. For years our holiday tradition was to curl up on the couch with her on Christmas Eve while she read us a Christmas story.

My mom’s mom, another lover of books, is a retired librarian—always reading, always learning. To this day most of my family members can expect to receive a book from my grandma every Christmas. I once turned my room into a library, just like Grandma’s, so friends and neighborhood kids could check out books from my bookshelf. I even wrote a few stories of my own as a kid.

Whenever I walk into a used book store, the smell of aging pages and ink triggers strong memories of Grandma’s house, where my sister and I would rummage through countless bookshelves stocked full of stories, history books, and the like. I could always count on Grandma to counsel me about the importance of expanding my mind, reading every chance I got, and taking full advantage of any chance to get an education.

All my life, these matriarchs of my family have been shaping me into a woman who values literacy and takes pride in her education. That’s why I was proud to graduate from the same college they both attended.

They’ve also taught me to consider myself a lifelong learner. I’d say I’ve learned at least as much from authors as I have from my own experiences, and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to become a writer.

And for as long as I can remember, they’ve also been wise enough to teach me the importance of caring not just for my mind, but for my soul. I’ve always had at least one copy of the Bible to call my own. That’s how I got to know my Savior, learned to recognize His ways, and first found comfort in His promises.

So naturally the idea of kids growing up without these opportunities doesn’t sit well with me.

As a writer for Wycliffe, I recently traveled to Senegal where Wycliffe is funding literacy classes* for a minority language group. Girls there grow up following in very different footsteps. Until recently, educating women has never been a priority, and it’s still a big struggle now. And they’re not alone—66 million girls worldwide aren’t in school today.

686Sedhiou00546I met little girls whose mothers have never read to them because they don’t know how. And I looked into the eyes of teenage girls hurtling toward adulthood with a warped view of themselves and their families because they were never allowed an education.

They don’t have bookshelves like my grandma’s or even a single book in their homes, and they’ll never be encouraged to attend secondary school or college like I was. In many cases, it will actually be considered a waste of time and money to educate them.

And although the New Testament is planned to be printed in their language in 2015, they might never be able to read it for themselves like I have.

These girls haven’t had examples of driven, educated women to follow like I did. But their children can.

Through these free classes that allow them to learn in their language, they can be motivated women who understand the benefits of literacy and education. They can be moms and grandmas who instill that value in their families, and they can be agents of change for their communities.

*This literacy project is being coordinated by SIL International, Wycliffe’s primary strategic partner. Wycliffe funds projects like this because we want to see God’s Word accessible to all people in the language of their heart, and literacy is foundational to understanding translated Scripture. The Seed Company, another ministry partner, is currently translating the New Testament for this people group.

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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.

It all began in 1917.

William Cameron Townsend (known by friends as “Cam”) was a passionate twenty-one year old, fueled by a vision to obey Jesus’ command to take the Gospel to the nations.

“The greater need is where the greatest darkness is,” Cam said. “Our orders are to forget self and to give our lives in service for the Master.” While many of his friends and peers were fighting in World War I, Cam decided to fight a spiritual battle—a battle for lost souls. He packed his bags, said goodbye to his family, and moved to Guatemala to sell Bibles to farmers and villagers along the sparsely populated trails of Central America.

young cam

When Cam stepped off the boat, his youthful enthusiasm for sharing the Gospel was high, but he soon realized that most of the people he was meeting didn’t understand the Bible in Spanish!

Cam faced a dilemma. If they didn’t understand, how was he reaching people for Jesus? Frustrated and disappointed, Cam began to wonder if he’d failed. But God had others plans in mind.

As he continued to travel around Guatemala, Cam soon learned about the Cakchiquel Indians. People of Spanish heritage often thought of them as inferior and uneducated members of society, but Cam disagreed. Instead, he was impressed when he met the Cakchiquel man who first brought the Gospel to his own language group and led forty people to Christ—all without a Bible in his own language! After sharing a short testimony in Spanish, Cam decided to put behind his first failure and help reach these people with the Gospel. So he abandoned his attempts to sell Spanish Bibles to non-Spanish speakers and began serving as a missionary to the Cakchiquel Indians by helping start a school to teach them how to read and write.

Still, Cam didn’t have any Scriptures in Cakchiquel. When he’d brought Spanish Bibles to men who only spoke Cakchiquel, they’d asked him something that really made him think—why didn’t God  speak their language? Was he only the God of English and Spanish speakers?

Deep down, Cam thought everyone—man, woman, and child alike—should be able to read God’s Word in the language of their heart. So although it would end up taking almost ten years of his life, he decided to learn the complex Cakchiquel language, create an alphabet, and translate the New Testament.

When he was done, the Cakchiquel Indians finally had God’s Word, but thousands of other languages still needed it. So in 1934 Cam started “Camp Wycliffe,” a linguistic training program named after John Wycliffe, the first translator of the entire Bible into English. Less than ten years later, the humble training camp had grown into two affiliate organizations known as Wycliffe Bible Translators and the Summer Institute of Linguistics (now SIL International).

Cam served for over sixty years in Latin America, witnessing the work spread across the continent and reaching language communities in Guatemala, Peru, Mexico, Colombia, and more. SIL International established an SIL Americas branch, focusing on reaching people with the translated Word of God in the language they understand best. Cam’s work in translating the Bible for the Cakchiquel Indians was just the start!

Almost one hundred years later, Cam’s legacy lives on. Today there are over 1,500 translation projects currently in progress, with 518 language groups having the entire Bible and 1,275 having the New Testament in the language they understand best.  And it all began in 1917 when a man’s eyes were opened to a people who were vastly overlooked and desperately needed to know that God spoke their language too.

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