Hope for the Bibleless
This week is the first week of Advent, the season of preparation before the celebration of Christ's birth in Bethlehem.
As Christians around the world wait for Christmas, we'll be focusing the next four weeks on communities and language groups who are still waiting for the Bible in their own languages - 1 billion bibleless people.
Believers from Christian traditions who use Advent candles light the first candle to symbolize hope.
The goal of a complete Bible in every language can seem daunting. There are currently over 6,000 language groups waiting for the whole Scripture to be translated, and about 2,000 of those don't have even one verse. Many of these people groups live in remote areas with limited access to the resources needed to undertake a translation project. When looking at the sheer number of people waiting to hear God's Word in their heart language, the task feels overwhelmingly huge.
But there is hope.
Hope for the Bibleless
Just this year, the Bible translation community celebrated the 700th bible translation being completed. In recent years, we have seen major advances in technology that help accelerate and create better translations. This includes everything from translation software programs like Paratext to audio recording software like HearThis to easily and quickly distribute mother-tongue Scripture throughout a community via mp3 files and smartphones.
While increased globalization brings endangerment of minority languages, it has also opened doors for better training, education, and communication among people groups. Translation teams from related languages are now able to work together in cluster groups, collaborating to share resources and insights to help each other's translations. Having a Bible translation completed or underway also strengthens these endangered languages and promotes their value among younger generations of speakers. Because of this increased access to education and training, more native speakers of bibleless language groups are able to become translation advisors and consultants, eliminating the time it takes for an ex-pat to learn their language before translation can begin.
On a larger scale, translation organizations are able to work together now more than they have in previous decades. While several different Christian denominations operate their own Bible translation organizations, they are sharing data, training programs, and even human resources to work together for the common goal of Scripture in every language. In the past month alone, I have had the privilege of working with colleagues from about a dozen translation organizations outside my own!
Hope Does Not Disappoint
So there is a lot to celebrate about the bible translation movement, both where we are and where we're going. While our English word for hope can mean just wishful thinking -- "I hope it snows on Christmas Eve" --- biblical hope stands for the joyful expectation of a certain outcome.
And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
Hope with me for the bibleless people around the world. Consider including them in regular prayer, giving to a translation worker or project, and learning more about how you can become involved in bringing the Scriptures to those who are still waiting.