A key translator for the Tarok Bible translation project is still reported missing since his disappearance late last year.
"Stephen" was kidnapped in the violence stricken region of Jos, Nigeria, on December 16, with little known about his condition or current location.
He worked as project coordinator for The Seed Company, an affiliate of Wycliffe Associates, whose mission is to accelerate Scripture translation and impact for people without God's Word.
His captors allowed him to speak briefly with his wife via phone on two separate occasions, The Seed Company reported. But that call came over three weeks ago and no new information has been released since.
In the meantime, the Tarok project continues to suffer as well. Though 70 percent of the Tarok people are Christians now, many of them have never had access to the whole Bible. They have had the New Testament only since 1988.
The believers are eager for more background material, which the Old Testament can provide.
Excitement began to grow among the local believers as they understood the potential impact of having the complete translation of God's word, including richer spiritual lives and a stronger foundation for Christ's teachings.
Stephen is a vital piece in completing this crucial project.
The Seed Company is asking supporters to intercede for their Nigerian colleague with urgency remembering his family, his own faith, the repentance and salvation of his captors, and for the country of Nigeria which is facing increasing unrest.
Violence has been escalating in Nigeria between the Muslim north and the mainly Christian south, especially after the Christmas attacks that targeted many of the churches in the city of Jos.
The Tarok people have also faced much turmoil between the two religious groups, resulting in the burning of many of their churches and withdrawal of families.
Bruce Smith, president and CEO of Wycliffe Associates, told Christian Telegraph that he finds himself "continually pleading with God for guidance in [their] efforts, and for protection for Bible translators, trainers, their families, and their support teams."
"The missionaries are ready, the translators are willing," continued Smith. "They are willing to face the risks, because they are so deeply committed to getting the scriptures to their people in their own languages."
According to The Seed Company, 353 million people still have no Scripture in their native language. More than 2,200 people groups across the globe have yet to see even one verse of Scripture in a language they can understand.
Every year, 2.4 million people die without clearly hearing the truth about Jesus.
"People are desperate for God's word in their heart languages," stated Smith to CT. "It's their only hope."
In 1999, Wycliffe Associates committed themselves to a vision: By the year 2025, a Bible translation project will be in progress for every people group that needs it; and perhaps sooner than that, the safe return and release of Stephen, so he and the rest of his team could finish what God had started – reaching people for Christ.