The Old Story in a New Tongue
Fulfilling the Great Commission by Accelerating Bible Translation
In 2015, a group of Zambian Christians attended a church service they will never forget. Their pastor was reading John 11 from a newly completed New Testament translation. It was the first time the church had heard the story of Lazarus in their heart language of Nsenga.
As the pastor read about the resurrected Lazarus stumbling out of the tomb towards Jesus, the church members started laughing out loud with joy; they had read this Bible story plenty of times, but had never heard it end like this. Cobbling together the story in foreign tongues for so many years, they had never comprehended its dramatic climax. One of the Zambian believers explained to the pastor, “Now we understand that it is about Jesus—his power to raise the dead!”
While one community in Zambia gleefully emerged from generations of Bible poverty, millions of Christians around the world aren’t so fortunate. In fact, only nineteen percent of the world’s languages have access to a complete New Testament. And only seven percent have a complete Bible. That leaves more than a billion people without access to God’s Word in their heart language. Like the Nsenga-speakers in Zambia, they have no idea what good news they’re missing.
Bible agencies and translators, including American Bible Society, Biblica, Wycliffe, The Seed Company, and SIL International, have come together in the Every Tribe Every Nation alliance to eradicate Bible poverty around the world.
Bethany is seeking to support these efforts through our Publish4All (P4A) print-on-demand system. Kenneth Hopson, a P4A partner working in Northern Uganda, wanted to get Bibles and Christian resources to those who had nothing. He was approached to provide the Gospel of Luke to the Thur and Ma’di Okollo tribes in northern Uganda. Up to this point it had been impossible. The P4A system enabled Kenneth to easily produce this scripture portion for the first time in these Ugandan and South Sudanese languages!
Every Tribe Every Nation’s goal is to accelerate Bible translation into the heart languages of unreached peoples and distribute them through electronic and print-on-demand formats like Kenneth produced in Uganda. Once a Bible translation is complete, it gets uploaded to the Digital Bible Library, where it can be accessed from anywhere in the world.
Thanks to these advancements in Bible translation and technological advances such as Publish4All, the future looks bright. Although a billion people are still desperate to engage God’s Word in their heart language, Bible translation and distribution is being revolutionized, much like Gutenberg’s printing press did more than 500 years ago. Through technological innovation and persistent prayer, it is plausible that in our lifetime, the Bible will be accessible to every person on earth.
Through Publish4All, Bethany has deployed 89 digital print systems in 55 countries. Bibles and Christian resources are now reaching the neediest places of the world.
This article was taken from Issue 2 of the coMISSION Magazine. You can download a free copy of the magazine, by clicking here.