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IMB/Wycliffe link could speed Bible translation by 100 years

DALLAS (BP)–A new missions partnership could accelerate by 100 years the translation of the Bible for the estimated 1 billion people who still do not have God’s Word in their own language.

Leaders of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board and Wycliffe International announced the agreement Nov. 1 in Dallas. Under the new plan, the IMB will appoint missionaries to fill needs for translators, share more information about church planting and translation projects and coordinate strategies for taking the gospel to unreached people groups.

About 3,000 language groups have no access to the good news of God’s love. At the current pace, translations for all of them could not be completed until 2150.

“We have such a great need to get the Bible into the languages of the people around the world,” said Avery Willis, senior vice president of the International Mission Board. “Everybody deserves to have the Word of God in the language they love, the language they cry in and get mad in and rejoice in.

“If we are going to communicate the gospel to these last people groups, the Bible has to be translated into their languages.”

As many as 400 million people speak languages for which no one is even trying to translate the Scripture, said John Watters, Wycliffe International’s executive director.

“We have been asking ourselves what would it take to give every language community some access to God’s Word by 2050,” he said. “That would cut 100 years off the translation process that’s already going on.

“That’s overwhelming. In fact, we recognize it is impossible for us. But it is not impossible for the Lord of the harvest. That’s why partnership is critical. That’s why we’ve been talking with the IMB about ways to effectively and cooperatively work together for the glory of God.”

Watters spoke to IMB trustees during their Nov. 1-3 meeting in Dallas. His presentation followed a daylong meeting of Wycliffe’s and the IMB’s overseas leadership. Top leaders of the two groups had met at IMB headquarters in Richmond, Va., on Aug. 30.

Wycliffe’s 5,000 missionaries have helped translate the New Testament into more than 500 languages and currently have another 1,400-plus projects underway. Their translations of Bible stories and the Gospel of Luke speed the process of getting the gospel to people groups through Chronological Bible Storying and the JESUS film.

The group’s role as a Bible translation organization makes it an ideal partner for the IMB’s focus on evangelism and church planting, and recent meetings between leaders of the two organizations have moved their relationship to a new level, said IMB President Jerry Rankin.

“The partnership the IMB has had with Wycliffe has been a wonderful synergy of working together,” Rankin said. “With John’s vision and encouragement, we are now strengthening our partnership and pushing it out to the mission field.”

Missionaries report that when people groups hear God’s Word for the first time ever, lives are changed:

— About 13,000 people in one isolated people group were exposed to the gospel for the first time after the “Jesus” film was translated into their language, said Dickie Nelson, leader of IMB work in the Caribbean Basin region. About 425 made decisions for Christ and the first 82 believers were baptized in October.

— One old man who was among the first ever to hear the gospel in his own language told a missionary: “When you shared with me, my heart said, ‘That’s it! That’s what I’ve been waiting for!'” said Bill Bullington, leader of IMB work in the West Africa region.

— A girl who was afflicted by evil spirits got worse after a traditional religious leader used a spell to help her, said John Brady, leader of IMB work in the northern Africa and the Middle East region. Her father, however, had recently received a Bible in his own language. When he prayed to “the God of this book,” she was delivered — and her father gave his heart to Christ.

— When the Bible was publicly read for the first time for one people group, their leader exclaimed, “God speaks my language!” — and every adult present decided to follow Christ, said Gordon Fort, leader of IMB work in the Southern Africa region.

Watters called for Christians to pray that God would call out missionaries to tackle the challenge of translating God’s Word for people groups that have never heard it.

“There are 500 or 600 million Christians in the world who take the Word of God seriously and have a heart to share it,” he said. “All we’re asking him to do is raise up 20,000 people in the next 25 years to see that God’s Word is translated into all the languages of the earth.

“We rejoice to have the IMB as a partner in this effort,” Watters said. “We look forward to the future we see in Revelation 5 and 7, where the Lion of Judah is also the Lamb of every tribe, language, people and nation.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: PARTNERS.
— Want to help translate the Bible for unreached people groups? E-mail [email protected].
— What can you do overseas? http://going.imb.org/whatcanido.asp.
— Wycliffe USA: http://www.wycliffe.org.

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  • Mark Kelly