Posts Tagged ‘serve in missions’

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 Amanda Swift with Richard Gretsky

In the Tanzanian village of Bwitenge, an elderly man came in and sat down at the end of a meeting between the Ikoma translation team and the Ikoma language committee. After the discussion ended, the man stood up, greeted everyone, and started giving his testimony.

In his old age, he had become blind. Because of a friend’s recommendation, he had seen an eye doctor in Nairobi, Kenya, who gave him two pairs of glasses, one for reading and one for regular use. But standing in front of the crowd of people, the man no longer needed the glasses—God had healed his eyes.

Pausing from his speech, clearly seeing the crowd of people in front of him, the man looked to the table next to him and saw a printout of the Lord’s Prayer in the Ikoma language. He picked it up and read some of it out loud to prove that he was able to read without using his glasses. He gave glory to God and expressed deep appreciation for God’s healing power and goodness. He also shared that he had long been praying that Scripture would someday become available in the Ikoma language.

At the end of his testimony, some people from the group gave him the publications of the Gospel of Luke, Ruth, Jonah, and the Lord’s Prayer—all in the Ikoma language.

Soon after, two members of the translation team saw the man again while they were walking down the street. He enthusiastically greeted them. To explain how thankful he was, he compared the gift of God’s Word in his own language to ugali,* the beloved, staple food of his home country.

He said, “Nimebarikiwa sana. Nimepewa chakula kitamu sana kuliko ugali.” (I have been very blessed. I’ve been given food sweeter than ugali.)


*Ugali is a dish of maize flour cooked with water to a dough-like consistency.

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By Richard Gretsky

In college, Amy was passionate about art. But for a vocation, she realized how difficult it would be to make a profession out of. Because of that, and because she had so many things she wanted to do, she decided to try pursuing other professions. She tried camps and considered the Air Force, but while both of them held a special place in her heart, she felt an increasing pull to get involved in an old family business: missions.

She’d long believed that Bible translation was important but was never sure how her particular skills would translate into helping provide people with the Bible. She knew that it was finally her chance to find out.

“I’ll just go to TOTAL It Up! and see what happens,” she said.

The Art of Translation - TIU 2014

The translation and linguistics course met and surpassed all her expectations.

“I loved all the linguistics stuff, hearing about all the people waiting for the Bible, and the stories of what happens when people finally receive God’s Word in their language … (they) moved me,” she said. “’If nothing else,’ I said, ‘I’ve got to do something about this.’”

If that wasn’t enough to solidify her leap into Bible translation, while Amy was at TOTAL It Up!, she heard about a Race to 2025 event nearby and said, “That is so me, I have to do that.” Just over two months later, she participated in the race that marries outdoor adventure and translation challenges.

The Art of Translation - Helmets

“The race itself was so fun … especially after I let go of my competitive side and just enjoyed it,” she said. Between the different activities, the linguistics tasks and group time in the evenings — spent singing and hearing stories from the field — Amy was inspired.

“I’m not sure how it happened, it just kind of solidified that in me, the passion and calling to be part of Bible translation and be someone actually going to serve,” she said. “I wasn’t even sure at that point if it was going to be in a linguistic role, though that’s what I was leaning toward, but I knew that I needed to go.”

Amy signed up with Wycliffe and — after training and partnership development — she’ll be heading to Papua New Guinea in September of 2015 as a Language Program Intern.

And what caused her to lean towards translation?

The Art of Translation - Kayaking

Was it because she found translation work interesting, because she found in translation another outlet for her creativity, or because she took joy in discovering how God created languages and allowed them to be made?

Absolutely. But more than any of those, Amy wanted to be involved in translation because she knew that the results of that work matter tremendously.

“Maybe the most beautiful thing is that when people are receiving God’s word, they’re receiving life,” Amy said. “That has got to be the most beautiful thing about it. They’re receiving life when they get that.”

And for Amy, any profession that allows her to help people experience that reality is artistry enough for her.

The Art of Translation - Teaching

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By Richard Gretsky

When Ken and Joyce Prettol returned to America after four decades of working with Wycliffe Bible Translators on three different continents, a number of cultural differences stood out to them. None may have been quite as stark as the difference between how Americans and Indians view food.

Value of Eating - Food Tray

“Indians have such a high level of awareness of their food,” Joyce recalled. Like many people, they enjoy the taste of their food, but more than anything, the Prettols noticed a gratefulness and constant vigilance among their Indian colleagues to think of those without much food.

“Our Christian Indian colleagues always pray for people who don’t have any food. Coming back to America, we see that we’ve lost that sensitivity to people who don’t have food,” Joyce stated.

“In the US, we’ve become quite calloused,” Ken added. “In India, many Christians see the massive amount of people who don’t have food and are empathetic towards them. They pray for them regularly and help them when they can. Maybe that’s why they enjoy their food so much, because they realize that people around them often go hungry.”

Regardless of where they live—whether it be America, Asia, or elsewhere—the Prettols have learned from their Indian colleagues to be truly thankful for what they have, whether it’s material possessions, cultural history, or the very food they eat.

“You may not have a lot of food,” the Prettols say, “but what we’ve learned is that it’s a matter of being grateful for what you have and feeling compassion for those around you.”

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By Jon Hampshire with Richard Gretsky

During my years at Bible college, I committed to serve God “anytime, anywhere, and in any capacity.” Accordingly, the Lord led my wife, Cindi, and me on an incredible journey which took us, along with our two little girls, to language study in France, on to cultural orientation in Kenya, and into the rain forest of eastern Zaire (now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo or DRC). The needs were great and the work was intense. And after having been selected to direct the work in the Congo, I became more and more busy, taking on more responsibility and tasks. I saw the enormity of the needs and I knew that the challenges that our Congolese brothers and sisters faced were overwhelming. I just wanted to help in every way I was able, and I did so for many years.

Five years into the director’s role, strange physical symptoms began to affect me: accelerated heart rate, nausea, dizziness, and extreme fatigue. As the symptoms worsened, I got scared, seemingly taken over by an anxiety that I had never experienced before. Visits to the best heart doctor in Kenya, as well as to a neurologist and a general practitioner, only revealed that on paper, I was healthy.

I thought maybe I was going crazy—a fearful thought for a person who felt he always had things under control and whom others looked to for leadership in times of crisis.

The truth is, years of directing translation work in a country that was at war—bringing insecurities, dangers, and numerous unknowns—had taken its toll. I had become depleted in just about every way. (It came to the point where I literally couldn’t even walk up a flight of stairs without being completely and utterly exhausted.)

Burned Out - Bunyakiri Office

Then, while I was at a conference out of the country, some of my colleagues intervened. They said that I was burned out and in serious danger. I knew they were right.

Changes had to be made. With my family’s support, I began seeing a counselor to help guide me to the path of healing. I started delegating responsibilities that weren’t essential to my job, and even some that were. I rested. I spent time with the Lord.

And God met me in the pit—a fact that moves me deeply, even today. With comfort, encouragement, and love, He was there with me. I knew He was in control in spite of my pain, and I began to see a bright light at the end of the tunnel.

With time, I began to heal.

Now that I am stronger and most of my symptoms have gone (though I still deal with some), I am able to reflect on that difficult time with more clarity.

Because I witnessed God’s power and goodness in that time, I recognized that I could trust Him whether He healed me or not, and I realized that it is only by His grace that true healing comes.

Burned Out - Jon and Cindi at Easter

Yes, I burned out, but God, in His deep and never-ending love, was with me at every moment, just as He promised He would be. So I don’t regret having spent some time in the pit, because it was there that I grew to know God more deeply.

And having been there, I am now able to encourage others who find themselves in similar situations—to make wise decisions, to set good boundaries, and above all else, to seek and trust the Lord.

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