In the Middle East alone, 150 language groups still don’t have a translated Bible. Yet launching a translation project independently is not viable due to the extreme poverty and immense risk persecuted Christians face on a daily basis.
“National Bible translators are living under such severe persecution, you and I can hardly fathom what they’re going through,” says Bruce Smith, President and CEO of Wycliffe Associates. “Many have been arrested. Their families have watched them being dragged off, jailed, beaten, and tortured. They’ve lost their jobs and their families simply because they tried to share God’s Word with their countrymen.”
One translator was arrested and imprisoned for eight months, spending part of the time in solitary confinement. Eventually he was released on the condition that he was not to associate with any Christians for five years. He lost his job due to his imprisonment and relies on the help of Christian friends for his family’s survival.
A leader of five house churches was arrested when police burst into his home and dragged him and his wife to jail. They were taken to court, and he was sentenced to a year in jail but was set free on “bail” and informed he would be taken into custody later to begin his sentence. Every day, the translator and his family live with the lingering threat of imprisonment.
Police raided the home of another translator and sent him to jail for 33 days, accusing him of spying. The authorities insisted that the translated Scriptures were in code and that his translation work was an attempt to take over the country. The translator was later released and forbidden to leave the country. He also was informed that he would be summoned for sentencing and sent to prison. Having lost his job due to his arrest, he and his family moved in with relatives, living as refugees in their own country.
Wycliffe Associates has set a goal of launching 30 new translations in the next 45 days in the Middle East and is raising funds to cover the cost of $19,500 per language.
Mother tongue translators are eager to translate the Scriptures for their people using the MAST method (Mobilized Assistance Supporting Translation), a groundbreaking collaborative process that makes it possible for an entire New Testament to be translated in months rather than years.
“I have never seen faith like the faith of these Christians, laying their lives on the line, risking horrible recrimination if they’re caught,” says Smith. “That’s how important God’s Word is to them. In this region of the world, the Bible is a matter of life or death. Eternity hangs in the balance.”