The Denver Post has a fascinating story about the work of Wycliffe Bible Translators and their goals over the next decade and a half. Their missionary work is straight forward, ambitious, and crucial – and the work they do nothing short of phenomenal. The Post reports:
“Wycliffe missionaries don’t evangelize, teach theology, hold Bible study or start churches. They give (preliterate people) a written language,” Edwards said. “They teach them to read and write in their mother tongue.”
The missionaries develop alphabets. They create reading primers. They translate the Bible.
About 2,200 languages remain without a Bible. About 350 million people, mostly in India, China, sub-Saharan Africa and Papua New Guinea, speak only these languages.
Working on this “to-do” list are about 6,600 career and short-term missionaries with training in the Bible and linguistics.”
I have to admit I am somewhat biased in regard to Wycliffe. I have some dear friends who work throughout Africa with Wycliffe, and I have spent some time in Kenya with them myself, seeing firsthand the life transforming work of these folk. They are among some of the brightest, most dedicated people I know.
In fact, the name of this blog is derived in part from a book about Wycliffe and the impact of his translation of the English Bible – a work by Benson Bobrick called Wide as the Waters: The Story of the English Bible and the Revolution It Inspired which chronicles how the translation of the Bible into the English language not only defined that language, but helped create the English people as well. Much of the same can be said of Luther’s translation work in Germany. As Americans, our spiritual, cultural and political life owes much to the work of Wycliffe and those that followed, as much of our culture and political knowledge derives from this critical period in English history – much of the early colonists came here as the product of a desire to fully live out the words of Scripture as they read it in their own language.
And that is why the work of Wycliffe is so critical in other parts of the world – the gift of literacy and Scripture provides people everywhere a foundation for spiritual freedom which can ultimately grow into social and political freedom as well.
On a day when we are celebrating the freedom we have enjoyed for so many generations, it’s good to consider what it takes for others to enjoy it as well.