By Brad Phillips One of the things that I have often taken for granted is the availability of God’s word in my own language. I have a massive personal library of books that I have collected through the years, and with the internet, I have access to a seemingly infinite number of more books electronically.
But this is not the case for most of the people we serve in the two Sudans. That is why I am so excited about the opportunities to train and disciple at the Jebel Lopit Training Center (JLTC) in Lohutuk, South Sudan.
In 1917, a missionary named William Cameron Townsend went to Guatemala to sell Spanish Bibles to the natives. He was surprised that most couldn't speak or understand the language. They spoke a tongue called Cakchiquel, which had no Bible. The natives asked Townsend, "If your God is so smart, why can't He speak our language?" This was the unofficial beginning of Wycliffe Bible Translators.
Last September at the JLTC, PPF hosted a special training event for pastors from the two Sudans. More than 30 pastors gathered together, and it was a wonderful occasion to strengthen relationships, encourage one another, share testimonies, fellowship, pray, but also to resource and train the shepherds from regions where PPF is engaged in ministry.
In God’s providence, the door opened for Drew Fitzpatrick, a representative of Wycliffe Associates, to join us at our pastor’s conference. Drew shared his vision for Bible translation with both the Lopit and Nuba pastors in attendance. So far, the results have been amazing.
As of this writing, a team of six Lopit translators, selected from those at our conference, have completed the translation of the Gospel of Luke as well as the Old Testament “OBS” (Open Bible Story) used by Wycliffe Associates to make scripture messages and stories available to unreached languages while awaiting the completed scriptures.
There has been missionary activity in Lopit off and on since the end of World War II. Yet, not until these resources were translated did the Lopit have any portion of the Bible in their own language. This has meant only a small segment of the multi-literate and educated in the community have been able to read the scriptures. Pastors typically translate from English or Arabic into their local dialect.
Until recently, the process for translation into unreached languages has been on average, an 18 year process. But thanks to some new translation technology developed by Wycliffe “we no longer use 17th century weapons to fight 21st century battles.” In February, we plan to introduce the first printed copies of the Gospel of Luke and the Open Bible Story in the Lopit language at a special dedication ceremony at the JLTC.
In March, we plan to launch this same process for one or more unreached language groups in the Nuba mountains.
The potential impact on the culture is massive. To put it in perspective, in the Nuba mountains of Sudan, where the majority are Muslim or animist, there are several dozen languages and dozens more dialects. In about five major Nuba language groups where the Bible has been translated, the majority of the people have adopted the Christian faith. As the scripture declares, “God’s word does not return void.” The Word of God is our most powerful weapon and the means God uses to transform individual lives, families and nations.
As we celebrate the New Year and look ahead, I want to thank you for your part in the ministry of PPF at the JLTC and in the Nuba mountains.