Thursday, June 24, 2010

Praying for the Work of Bible Translation around the World

By Roy Ciampa, PhD
Associate Professor of New Testament
Where would our churches be today were it not for the fact that we (speakers of “major” languages like English, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, etc.) have easily accessible translations of the Bible into our own language(s)? I have so many different translations on my book shelves it isn’t funny. And yet there are so many groups around the world that do not yet have one whole Bible (or even the Old or New Testament) translated into their language.
Among my heroes are those who dedicate their lives to changing that situation. It has been my privilege to meet many such Bible translators and get to know a number of them. Many have gone to live in a village and do their best to learn its culture and language in order to be able to help some of its members produce a translation of the Scriptures into their language for the very first time. Such women and men have experienced isolation from their own culture and extended family and have undergone dramatic cultural adaptation. And they have loved people that live in places that most of us have never heard of and where we would not be willing to take our families.
The lengths to which they are willing to go to follow through on their commitment to getting the Scriptures into the languages of people who have never heard the Bible read in their own language before is inspiring to me and I consider it an extreme privilege to rub shoulders with such people.
So the last few weeks have been pretty special for me. During the last two weeks of May we had the first residency of the Bible translation track of the Gordon-Conwell Doctor of Ministry program. I had the privilege of spending two weeks with my co-mentor, Dr. Bryan Harmelink, and a group of gifted and experienced D.Min. students (almost all of whom work with one or another of the agencies of the Forum of Bible Agencies International) who brought a rich set of experiences in and knowledge about Bible translation around the world.
Right after the D.Min. residency concluded I headed out on a seventeen-day trip to Spain and Portugal. In Spain I attended a conference on translation and cognition and then the Nida School for Translation Studies, both of which were attended by a combination of Bible translators and academics specializing in the field of translation studies. In Portugal I also met with (among others) old and new friends who have been engaged in the work of Bible translation. The day after I returned to the States I had office hours with a couple of Gordon-Conwell students who are experienced Bible translators (with Wycliffe Bible Translators).
So it’s no surprise that Bible translation is on my mind these days and the importance of having access to the Scriptures in our mother tongue for our spiritual health, the spread of the gospel and the vitality of the church.
Those carrying out the work of Bible translation around the world deserve not only our admiration, but also our support, financially and in prayer. It is very challenging work that requires much time and many resources. If we took a moment each time we opened our own favorite Bible (or try to decide which one to use today!) to think about and pray for those working around the world so that others would also have greater access to the Word of God, what might the impact be? We need to be praying that those translations would not only be completed, but would also be eagerly used in the most effective and culturally appropriate ways so that as many people as possible come to know and experience the love, truth, and grace of God in Christ and become engaged in making Christ and his grace known to others.
And if only more people in our own communities were experiencing the transforming power of the Word of God through their own engagement of Scripture! What impact might that have on our own society?

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