Posts Tagged ‘Americas’

“The Quechuas … did not only want half a Bible. They wanted the whole thing.”

When Rick and his wife Melanie moved to Peru in 1981 and started translating the Wanca Quechua New Testament, they couldn’t imagine that 25 years later, they would be celebrating its completion. After living in Peru for so long, Rick and Melanie then decided to move to California where he now teaches linguistics courses at Biola University. It would seem like the end of his translation story, right?

Not quite. In fact, Rick continues to work with the Quechua team via Skype on a translation of the Old Testament. And as time has passed, something amazing has begun to happen –– the team is growing! Today it includes students in Rick’s capstone course who are working with the Quechua team virtually to edit and translate text. The entire experience is powerful to watch unfold. “Students participating in this way, it’s the difference between reading a recipe and cooking and eating the banquet,” Rick said. Because of the project, some of Rick’s students have even taken time out of their schedules post-graduation and accompanied him to work with the translators in person — all the way in Peru!


For Rick and his team, the translation project is more than just a job. “There is a knowledge that comes to us as North American translators from afar that we might not have had, had we not had the interaction with the Quechuas,” he explained. One particular passage — the parable of the lost sheep — took Rick’s Quechua co-translator, Amador, by surprise.

“Nobody would just abandon all their sheep to search for the one that was lost,” Amador, said regarding the part where the shepherd had counted 99 sheep and noticed that one was missing. Amador explained that since sheep are the livelihood for his people, even his mother who is illiterate and cannot count would know if a sheep was missing from the flock.” Puzzled, Rick asked how this could be. Amador said that even though his mother cannot count, “she knows each and every sheep,” because she has an intimate knowledge of her flock.

The Quechua people taught Rick something new about God’s character through that famous parable. “Rather than being a numerical issue or a statistical issue with God [and the parable], it’s a relational issue,” Rick said. “[God] knows each and every one of us. … He knows us in ways that we can’t even imagine. But the Quechuas can.”

Rick was amazed by this newfound knowledge and view of God! “[We came] away with a perspective on the Scriptures and a perspective on [our] relationship with God that we did not expect.” And as he continues to work with the team, Rick is reminded that the work they do is important and life-changing, not just to those reading the finished translation, but to those translating too.

Story by Jennifer Stasak
Photo by Katie Kuykendall

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For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will. —John 6:38 (NLT)

In Alaska’s frozen north lands, there are no natural landmarks like mountains or streams, so it’s easy for people to get lost and freeze to death in a snowstorm. To help mark the trails, they build tall tripods and attach a piece of reflective tape to the top of each one. Even at night, light reflects from that tape, marking the way.

One language in this area has a word that means to “follow” or “obey.” People follow these trail markers, “obeying” them when they can’t see the trail ahead.

When the Bible translators in this language came to John 6:38, where Jesus says that he came “down from heaven to do the will of God,” they realized they didn’t have a good word for “do.” So instead they used the word for “follow” or “obey.” The verse reads something like this: “For I have come down from heaven to follow, or obey the will of God who sent me; not to follow, or obey my own will.”

As both fully God and fully man, did Christ know ahead of time every detail the Father had planned for his life here on earth, or did he have to obey one step at a time? The Bible isn’t clear on this point. But one thing is clear — our Father does ask us to trust and obey him even when we can’t see the way ahead, just as Alaskans trust and obey trail markers in a snowstorm.

How are you obeying God’s markers in your life even when you can’t see the way ahead?

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Will the Job Be Done - Translators (Elyse Patten)

If you’ve been following Wycliffe’s work for a while now, you’re probably familiar with our mission to see a Bible translation program in progress in every language still needing one by 2025. As that date rapidly approaches, some people have asked, “Once you reach that goal, will your work be done?” Definitely not!

You see, our ultimate goal is for everyone on earth to have access to God’s Word in the languages they understand best. That means we’ll have to finish every Bible translation we start. And even after every translation is complete, many will need to be revised. Because of the way languages change over time, Bible translation will continue to be a need until the day Christ returns!

So while starting a Bible translation for every language that needs one by 2025 is a critical goal, it’s definitely not the end goal.

This post is part of our Wycliffe 101 series. Click here to read the previous post, or here to start at the beginning.

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By Bill Gardner with Richard Gretsky

Many people think that Bible translation has been a recent phenomenon that really only started in the last 150 years or so. But the reality of Bible translation’s history might surprise you.

Bible Translation Through the Ages - John Wycliffe

Bible translation actually began even before Jesus was born! Around 200 B.C. many Jews were living in Egypt where they no longer fluently spoke Hebrew or Aramaic, but instead spoke Greek as their mother tongue. (Egypt had been conquered by Alexander the Great.) Since the Old Testament was written primarily in Hebrew with a few sections in Aramaic, they decided to translate it into Greek, beginning with the Torah (the five books of Moses). This Greek Old Testament became known as the Septuagint, and was used widely among Jews and then among Christians. In fact many of the quotes in the New Testament are from the Greek Old Testament.

At first the early Christian church used the Greek Old and New Testaments. But after a couple centuries, people decided they needed the Bible in their own languages, so the whole Bible was eventually translated into some of the most widely spoken languages in the world (i.e. Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Gothic, Ethiopic, etc).1 But as those languages changed over time (e.g., Latin became various Romance languages like French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish), their translations became archaic, “holy” translations, which most people no longer understood at all.

After another 1,000 years a second major wave of Bible translation happened, around the time of the Reformation. While John Wycliffe had earlier translated the Bible from Latin into English, William Tyndale and Myles Coverdale translated the Bible into early modern English from Greek and Hebrew. Around that time, Martin Luther did the same for German and others did so for Spanish, Portuguese, French, etc.2 With the invention of the printing press in the early 1400s, people could more easily access, read and understand the Bible. It led to transformation in individuals, communities and societies all across Europe.

The third major wave of Bible translation began about 200 years ago. During the 19th century, God’s Word was translated into almost 500 languages all across the world.1 The 20th century saw the birth of Wycliffe Bible Translators and other Bible translation organizations, and significantly saw more than 1,000 new Bible translations. And the pace of Bible translation has continued to increase during the 21st century.

Bible Translation through the Ages - Africa

Today, we have the honor and privilege to participate in a movement that God has been orchestrating for centuries. By serving, praying, and fiscally supporting the work of Bible translation, we truly make a difference.

Let’s all work together so that soon all people groups can hear God speak to them in their own language.
[1] Silzer, Peter. “An Overview of Bible Translation Through History.” Lecture, Biola University, La Mirada, 2005.

2 Scriptures of the World: A Compilation of the 1,946 Languages in Which at Least One Book of the Bible Has Been Published since the Bible Was First Printed by Johann Gutenberg. London: United Bible Societies, 1990. 41.

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By Melissa Paredes

“I want you in full-time ministry,” God told him.

This calling came out of the blue for Steve. After all, he was enjoying his life and work as a band and choir teacher near Spokane, Washington. He and his family had a great community of friends, and they even saw themselves staying in Spokane long-term. But it seemed God had other plans for them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen recalling the day he heard God’s voice, Steve admits he was hoping for more details from God. After all, he didn’t feel qualified spiritually, and his particular gifts didn’t seem to fit the mold of full-time ministry. Steve thought about possibly going to Bible college to further his education, but that wasn’t something he really wanted to do — he’d already received an education and loved what he did! He was confused by God’s call and didn’t know what it meant for him and his family.

A year later, Steve happened to meet a Wycliffe recruiter who told him about the remaining need for Bible translation in almost 2,000 languages. But Steve still didn’t see where he fit. “There’s no way I could be a Bible translator!” Steve shared. And isn’t that what he would have to do if he worked for Wycliffe Bible Translators?

But then Steve learned something exciting — something that seemed to answer that haunting question of where his gifts fit in ministry. The recruiter told him that Wycliffe needs teachers, particularly for missionary kids. Even music teachers!

This news struck a chord with Steve. He had a set of gifts and qualifications that could be used right away, and in full-time ministry!

So in 2006, Steve and his family moved to Papua New Guinea where he now teaches at Ukarumpa International School. And through teaching, Steve’s making a difference in the lives of his students, their families and even those who are still waiting for the Bible in their own language.

Steve Blake 1

“I’m helping God’s Word reach new places, new hearts,” Steve shared. “It’s cool to hear parents say, ‘We wouldn’t be missionaries here if it wasn’t for the school.’ These parents are able to focus on translation, literacy and other work because they know their children are being given a solid education.”

And it’s true. When people like Steve use the gifts God has given them for his glory, they’re contributing to the work of Bible translation. Every role is important in this work — even teaching music to missionary kids. It’s just a matter of faithfully answering God’s call when you hear his voice.

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By Hannah Weiand

Where in the World - Pair (Elyse Patten)

A key thing to note is that Wycliffe USA is just one of many organizations working in partnership around the world to make Bible translation happen. Many of these organization are part of the Wycliffe Global Alliance, which includes more than 45 Wycliffe member organizations and more than 60 partner organizations serving in more than 93 countries. For perspective, there are only 197 countries in the entire world, so together we’re working in nearly half of them! You can see the list of organizations within the Wycliffe Global Alliance here.

One interesting feature of the Alliance’s website is a tool that lists the languages of the world, by country, and whether or not they have any Scripture. Although it doesn’t specifically tell you where personnel are working, it can give you a broader scope of the work that is both being done and still needs to be done. So if you have a specific country in mind, and want to know if Bible translation is being done there, this tool can help.

This post is part of our Wycliffe 101 series. Click here to read the previous post, or here to start at the beginning.

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By Melissa Paredes

The Bigger Picture

Prayer is one of the most significant ways you can help people get the Bible in their heart language. You may not clearly see the answers to your prayers, but some people do. Bob and Betsy Eagar are among them.

In November 1982, Bob and Betsy were living in Atlanta with their two school-age children, Melanie and Rob. That’s when they first heard about Wycliffe’s Bibleless People Prayer Project (BPPP), a program that helps people pray for specific language groups that need Bible translation.

“I thought it would be really important for our family to pray for one of those Bibleless people groups,” Betsy shared, “[that] somebody would go to them and translate the Bible for them.”

They were assigned to pray for the Iyaru (name changed for sensitivity), a language community in Southeast Asia. The family started praying that the Iyaru people would one day receive the Bible in their heart language.

Years passed. Melanie and Rob grew up and left home for college. Then one day Bob and Betsy learned that Wycliffe was sending a husband-and-wife team to the Iyaru people to start a translation project! Their names were Craig and Sarah Marshall, and they were working to raise financial support so they, along with their four children, could move to Southeast Asia.

Excited to see their prayers being answered, Bob and Betsy decided to support the Marshalls financially. They also began receiving Craig and Sarah’s updates and prayer letters, following the events of their lives and their work among the Iyaru people. This continued for many years. Then Bob and Betsy had the opportunity to meet the Marshall family face-to-face.

“They happened to be in this part of the United States,” Betsy shared. “They came and spent the night with us. And it was wonderful to get to meet them, these people that we had been supporting and praying for all these years! We were thrilled about that.”

The Marshalls were equally excited about meeting Bob and Betsy. “They welcomed us, and, with tears in their eyes, told us how much they appreciated us and our efforts out among the Iyaru,” Sarah shared. “They told us they felt so blessed being a part of our team, and we felt exactly the same way about them!”

Although this was the first time the Eagars and the Marshalls met in person, it wasn’t their first conversation.

“Once, about 10 years before we met them, [Betsy] called us soon after we landed in California and helped debrief us and give wise input,” Sarah shared. “We had just gone through several emergency situations that required our getting evacuated out [of the country], and she wanted to be sure we were okay and to help us process what we’d been through as a family. As a trained counselor she understood that we’d seen and experienced some crazy, unsettling times, and reached out to us even though we’d never met. Talk about being a supportive team member! We knew we had to meet these special folks even though we didn’t know others in the [south].”

It was a joyous occasion for both families to finally meet in person on that day in Georgia, but that’s not the end of the story for the Eagars, the Marshalls and the Iyaru people.

When Bob retired in the early 2000s, he began volunteering in the “JESUS” film department at Cru, in Orlando. Almost 10 years later — in the beginning of 2014 — he learned that Iyaru was on a list of languages needing a translation of the “JESUS” film. Bob excitedly shared the news with Betsy, Melanie and Rob. As soon as they heard, they decided as a family that they wanted to help fund that project too.

“To me, [this] is a cool thing that has happened in our lives,” Betsy shared, “that we have been a part of what God is doing, from praying for that people group to now being able to help the “JESUS” film be translated for them.”

Now in their 70s, Bob and Betsy still pray for and support work among the Iyaru. Their story began over 30 years ago, and only recently have they learned how all these pieces of the bigger picture came together. But after so many years of faithful dedication, the Eagar family is seeing just that, and it’s a beautiful thing.

To learn how you can partner with Wycliffe in prayer, visit wycliffe.org/prayer.

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