In 2016 Wycliffe Associates enabled mother tongue Bible translators to begin Bible translation in 314 languages in 76 countries with services that include training, technology, and logistics. The most severe and brutal persecution occurs in areas where Christianity is fiercely opposed. For the safety of the translators, Wycliffe Associates does not disclose their locations.
“We are getting new reports of oppression literally every week,” says Bruce Smith, President and CEO of Wycliffe Associates. “Spiritual warfare has become the ‘new normal’ for many national Bible translators. When national translators gather in a workshop to launch a new language, it’s actually unusual for everything to go ‘as expected.’ ”
Wycliffe Associates has seen a dramatic increase in requests for help from indigenous churches and language groups since its development of MAST (Mobilized Assistance Supporting Translation), a revolutionary, rapid-translation method in which mother-tongue Bible translators work in parallel to translate books of the Bible while maintaining the highest levels of accuracy and quality. When Wycliffe Associates piloted the first MAST workshop in 2014 in Asia, a group drafted 48 percent of the New Testament in their language in two weeks, compared to traditional translation methods that can take as many as 25 or 30 years for the completion of an entire New Testament.
So far this year, 314 new translation projects have been launched using MAST. The entire New Testament has been completed in 58 languages, and there are 100 more translations nearing completion.
“When I was growing up in suburban Chicago, my church didn’t deal with anything called ‘spiritual warfare,’ ” says Smith. “For a long time, I thought this kind of activity belonged to a long-ago era. To me, it was ancient history. But I have seen too much, with my own eyes, not to believe that spiritual warfare is happening today.”
Wycliffe Associates has received reports of translators falling ill, often without explanation, translators being arrested and thrown in jail, some cruelly tortured, translators being assaulted and murdered, and translators’ family members experiencing sudden problems that kept the translators from their work. Also, one translator died in her sleep after the first day of a translation workshop.
Bruce Smith is asking the organizations’ constituents and Christians in the US to pray regularly for national Bible translators. “We have seen firsthand the power of prayer this past year, more dramatically than ever,” he says. “The work of Bible translation cannot advance without prayer. I firmly believe, as we stand behind Bible translators in prayer on the authority of the Scriptures, they will be strengthened. They will be protected. Their work will go smoothly and speedily.”
In 2017, Wycliffe Associates plans to launch 400 new Bible translation projects.