Posts Tagged ‘Spanish’

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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Scripture through the AirwavesThanks to you, translated Scripture is being broadcast over the radio to more than two hundred thousand people in villages throughout Peru’s northern jungles.

Translated Scripture is available in many South American languages, but Scripture use and distribution are difficult because of limited access to the people, low literacy rates, and other factors. A radio strategy will address these issues and more, allowing radio broadcasts of translated Scripture to reach all parts of South America.

The installation of the Chazuta Christian shortwave radio station came after nearly two years of prayer and planning. The station includes recording studios, transmitting equipment, and a hostel for those arriving to produce radio programs.

Local volunteers are trained in recording and equipment use. The station’s broadcasts include Bible readings; music; special programming for children and women, including lessons based on the book called Women of the Bible; and public service announcements.

Today the program called Radio Logos (in this case, “Logos” meaning “the essence of God”) is broadcasting in nine languages: Achuar, Bora, Candoshi, Junicui, Ticuna, Pastaza Quechua, Urarina, Machiguenga, and Spanish. New Testament readings in each of these languages are broadcast daily, and reports indicate that the broadcasts are reaching beyond these nine language groups.

One of the radio programmers said, “Many of those we talked to about the Lord thought we were telling fables until they heard the Word of God by radio in their own language!”

Future plans include:

  • Equipping Ticuna people to run a new recording studio in Amazonia.
  • Airing radio programs in five Colombian languages.
  • Completing eight-minute programs of John and Acts in several Peruvian languages, produced by Vernacular Media Services of JAARS and SIL.*

“So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ” (Romans 10:17, NLT).

Thank you for your part in ensuring that God’s Word is heard in some of the most remote parts of South America!


*Wycliffe’s strategic ministry partners



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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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By Richard Gretsky


Every year at Expolit—a conference for Spanish-speaking Christians from around the world—the conference organizers pick a project to highlight and support.

This year, they selected a Wycliffe project.

Members of the media, artists, publishing houses, and Christian professionals from all over the world converged on the Convention Center at the DoubleTree Hotel at Miami Airport May 2–5 to check out Christ-honoring products available in Spanish and see what was new in their various industries.

And because of the spotlight on Wycliffe, everyone who attended also got a front row seat to learn about Bible translation.

Expolit showed a special Wycliffe video in Spanish and enabled us to set up a booth to tell people stories about how lives are changed through the process of Bible translation. In addition, Expolit graciously used that platform as an opportunity to raise money for a Wycliffe project to translate the Bible for the Ico* people of Colombia. The patrons were encouraged to give to the project, and Expolit agreed to match whatever was raised. On top of that, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of a new Spanish Bible translation by Holman Bible Publishers will be donated to Wycliffe.

And that spotlight paid off.

By the end of the conference, tens of thousands of dollars were raised for the project and other general Wycliffe funding; but what’s more, people were amazed at the relevance of what we do. Many were previously unaware that there are nearly 7,000 worldwide languages, and that—though we’re working on 1,500 language projects currently—there are still almost 2,000 languages with no translation.

Marcos Crespo, a graphic designer at Wycliffe USA, facilitated the booth at the conference and was encouraged by the response of pastors and church members from all over the globe.

“People were very perceptive…(and) it was easier for them to be in touch with understanding that people who need the Bible live close to them (wherever they live),” Marcos said. “Some were in tears knowing that the people we service are people near them that they, too, are trying to reach.”

On the whole, the conference was a big hit for Wycliffe, as people learned more about Bible translation. Many have already sought to partner with us to help people all over the world have the Bible in their own languages.

*A pseudonym

Give to the Ico project at: http://www.wycliffe.org/Give/expolit.aspx

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A Mazatec man sets up a recording studio in his home so others can hear.

By Terry Schram

Félix Ventura, an educated assistant pastor, joined the translation project late. The Jalapa de Díaz Mazatec New Testament had already been translated, but another step needed attention. His task was to read the translated Scriptures and think about how clearly Jesus and Paul and the others spoke Mazatec.

Doing this, he discovered that the Scriptures had much more impact on him when he pondered them in his own language, and he began to teach others to read Mazatec. He found that people who already knew how to read Spanish could extend their reading skill fairly easily if they followed the printed Mazatec passage while listening to it read very slowly, word by word. He used the book of Jonah for this because it’s fairly short and tells an interesting story. As he worked with older people, he realized that although many would probably never learn to read, they did want to listen to Scripture.

Soon Félix became so impressed with the great value of recorded Scripture that he decided to buy recording equipment and set up a small studio in his home. Now he records Scripture with three distinct purposes in mind. First, he reads the books he is currently revising and then gives those recordings to specific listeners he has incorporated into the revision process. They listen and give him feedback on how clearly it communicates in their language. Second, he reads some materials very slowly, as well as at normal speed, so people who read Spanish but not yet Mazatec can follow along in a printed text and teach themselves to read their mother tongue. Finally, he records published Scripture so those who cannot read can also have access to God’s Word.

Félix joined the translation project late, but it wasn’t too late for him to see a possibility, take initiative, and make the Word more accessible to many.

*Terry and his wife, Judith, serve in Mexico with the Jalapa de Díaz Mazatec translation project. This story was taken from the Fall 2012 issue of Rev . 7, a quarterly publication of our partner JAARS.

Committed to spreading God’s message, Félix Ventura records Scripture for oral learners, Scripture revisers, and new readers.

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