The Bible in their own language
What possesses a couple with a young family to turn away from a promising career and a comfortable life in this country, travel thousands of miles to a remote part of Brazil and live and work with a small tribe and without a salary? I had the privilege of knowing this couple, Peter and Shirley, and can tell you the answer. They simply believed that God had called them to take the Bible to those who had never seen it and who, in fact, had no written language! So their first job was to use their skills in language structure, formulate an alphabet, and then, with the help of some of the tribe, to translate the New Testament. Despite deprivation and illness, this they did and today members of that tribe not only have the Bible but, also, are able to read and write in their own unique language.
Peter and Shirley were sent out by Wycliffe Bible Translators (WBT). It takes its name from John Wycliffe, the first person to translate the Bible into English. WBT was formed by a Cameron Townsend after he had tried to sell Spanish Bibles in Guatemala and discovered that the majority of the people he met didn’t understand Spanish. Neither did they have a written form of their own language. Townsend abandoned his attempts to sell Bibles and began living among them. He learned their complex language, created an alphabet for it, analysed the grammar, and translated the New Testament in the remarkably short span of ten years.
Since then thousands of ethnic groups throughout the world now have their own written language. In just the last decade or so, for instance, WBT personnel, all of whom have to be funded by their own church groups and friends, have helped in the translation of 300 New Testaments and begun new work in more than 700 languages. Wycliffe is currently involved in more than 1,500 active language programmes. As a result, many thousands of people’s lives have been changed, and many indigenous churches have developed and grown. The language work has also contributed to ongoing literacy programmes.
No cultural group is considered too small, no language too difficult. Pioneering continues today as several thousand workers break new ground in many parts of the world. All field work is done in cooperation with host governments, universities and philanthropic groups. More information can be found at: www.wycliffe.org.uk