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By Hannah Weiand

Hannah is a Wycliffe USA intern, attending Oral Roberts University. She will graduate with a degree in writing in May 2015.

a woman reads her Bible to her friend

Photo credit: Marc Ewell

Here at Wycliffe Bible Translators, we believe everyone needs the Bible in a language they can clearly understand. Well-meaning people sometimes ask, “Why not just teach people English?” Well, that would be like asking a native English speaker, “Why not just teach you Latin?”

It sounds funny put that way, but before the late 14th century, when John Wycliffe and others translated the Bible into English for the first time from Latin, that’s exactly what English speakers had to do if they wanted to read the Bible.

John Wycliffe believed the common person should be able to read and understand the Bible in their own language. But at that time in history, many people thought English was a vulgar language, unfit for God and his holy Word. So when Wycliffe and others translated the Bible, many church leaders were angry. Years after John Wycliffe died, they were still so angry that they dug up his bones to burn and destroy them. And they took one of his followers, John Huss, and burned him at the stake for telling people that everyone should be able to read the Bible in their own language.

Today, thanks to the sacrifices of John Wycliffe, John Huss and others, we can read the Bible in our own language. And we believe other language groups around the world should be able to have that opportunity too.

When Wycliffe Bible Translator’s founder, Cameron Townsend, went to Guatemala to sell Spanish Bibles in 1917 — before he ever started thinking about Bible translation — a number of people asked him why God didn’t speak their language. Cam was troubled to learn that they couldn’t clearly understand the Bible in Spanish. Their need inspired him translate the New Testament into Cakchiquel, and ultimately, to found Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Photo credit: Elyse Patten

Photo credit: Elyse Patten

That’s why we think Bible translation is so important — because we want people to fully understand what God is saying. When people learn a new language, they usually don’t understand it as well as their first language, so it’s difficult to fully grasp the power and the meaning of the Bible in that language.

Bible translation is important because of the way it transforms people’s lives when they can clearly understand God’s Word. It’s not just about being able to read the Bible – it’s about being able to connect with what it says. Having the Bible in their own language allows people from around the world to make that connection.

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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“We would like to find the [Dâw] tribe. Where are these [Dâw]?” missionary Valtier Martins said when he first arrived in the Amazonas town of São Gabriel, Brazil.

He was answered with a laugh.

“Ok, the first person you find there in the street, fallen down, drunk—that’s a [Dâw],” was the reply.

Valtier finally located the Dâw and began living among them, teaching God’s Word. Several of them were wary of the foreigner. They had long been exploited by the plantation owners they worked for, and they assumed the missionary would do the same.

But this outsider was different. He and nearly a dozen others taught them God’s Word over the course of many years.

“Everything began getting better little by little because we were listening to the Word of God,” deacon Célio Dâw said. “And God kept giving us more and more strength.”

Click here to watch a video in which Célio and three other Dâw men tell their stories of how God spoke to them, drawing them out of despair and drunkenness to spiritual leadership. Today, the Dâw have grown from sixty to one hundred and twenty people who are respected in their community.

Hope

 

 

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We often underestimate the power of prayer to change the world around us. But as the examples in this video show, our prayers can help change people’s lives in significant ways. And just by praying, you can help people get a Bible translation in their language.

Visit wycliffe.org/prayer to learn how you can start impacting lives through prayer today!

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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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“It is as if we Tun woke up when our language project started,” said Kallah NDoh, who works with the Tun language team in the African nation of Chad. “Our joy was great. But then we faced financial problems; the work could not move forward and we lost hope.”

The Tun people are a small language group with fewer than five thousand people. As one of the least, the last, and the lost people groups, they did not have God’s Word in their language. They did not even have an alphabet to write it in.

But God had not forgotten the Tun. He put them on the hearts of Samuel Mbaihoguemel and his wife, Claudine, who are Bible translators with ATALTRAB,* Wycliffe’s translation and literacy partner in Chad. They moved into the area to learn the language and develop its written form, so that the Scriptures—and its message of hope in Christ—could be translated into Tounia, the mother tongue of the Tun people.

“Today, by the grace of God, the project is moving ahead again, and we bless the Lord for that,” says Samuel. “We see a change of behavior in the lives of those learning to read the Scripture in Tounia.”

The work of the language team is a great encouragement to Tun Christians, who now recognize that God cares for them and has plans for their future. As Kallah puts it, “Although we are a small people group, God has his eye behind us.”

Now the Tun people will have a chance to read the Word of a loving God who speaks their language. Nothing is more important than getting the Good News of Jesus Christ to people in the language and form that speaks deep into their hearts, so that they can come to know Him and grow in Him.

There’s still time to take advantage of this summer’s special matching gift opportunity. When you give to our First Words to Final Printing campaign, your gifts will be matched dollar for dollar, thanks to committed Wycliffe partners who have offered to match gifts up to $175,000.

Your gift will have twice the impact to support accelerated Bible translation and offer more people the life-changing message of God’s Word in a language they understand.

Go to www.wycliffefirstwords.com to learn how!

*Association Tchadienne de L’Alphabétisation, de la Linguistique, et de la Traduction de la Bible

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By Elyse Patten

Photo by Steve Evans

Selling root vegetables by the side of the road and enjoying each other’s company, this beautiful bunch from Madagascar reveal their unique personalities to a photographer. The island nation of Madagascar is distinct from other African countries as it is widely believed that its earliest inhabitants migrated from
Asia, not Africa. Certainly ten out of its thirteen unique languages belong to the Malayo-Polynesian family, and culturally the people of Madagascar display both Asian and African traits in their way of life and traditional religious practices. The majority of language communities in Madagascar do not have any
Scripture at all available to them and literacy is a low 46 percent.

Please pray for the ministry of Bible translation in Madagascar!

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