10 Bible translation organizations unite to end Bible poverty by 2033

Kathie Watters (far left), developer of Wycliffe Bible Translators' AIDS program and co-author of AIDS education shell booklets known as Kande's Story, works with a translation team in this undated file photo.
Kathie Watters (far left), developer of Wycliffe Bible Translators' AIDS program and co-author of AIDS education shell booklets known as Kande's Story, works with a translation team in this undated file photo. | Wycliffe Bible Translators

The world’s leading Bible translation agencies have united to “eradicate Bible poverty” in this generation by making Scripture available in every language by the year 2033 as half of the world’s languages still lack a complete translation.

The “I Want to Know” campaign was launched Wednesday in time for the Easter season and is spearheaded by illumiNations, an alliance of Bible translation organizations. The initiative aims to make at least a portion of Scripture available in every language within the next 12 years.

Of the more than 6,000 vital languages spoken worldwide, over 3,800 have little or no Scripture translated.

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The 10 Bible translation partners include the American Bible Society, Biblica, Deaf Bible Society, Lutheran Bible Translators, Seed Company, SIL International, United Bible Societies, The Word for the World, Pioneer Bible Translators and Wycliffe Bible Translators USA.

Mart Green, the ministry investment officer of Hobby Lobby, said the partnership provides collaboration and a centralized database that allows them to accomplish more together than they could apart. 

“None of our ministry partners can say that they are going to eradicate Bible poverty with their organization,” Green told The Christian Post in an interview. “But when we come together, [they] can now say that because they have nine other teammates.”

In 2010, Green rallied with resource partners and translation agencies to form illumiNations to change this reality

“To think that in our lifetime, everybody on this planet could have some Scripture in their heart language is mind-boggling because we are 2,000 years into this, and that has never happened,” Green said.

“When a people group really wants God’s Word, there’s a sense of urgency…, which means no matter what happens, they’re going to rise up…,” Green added. “They’re going to find ways to do it. They may even risk their life to translate the Bible, but they want God’s word in their heart language. And we want to be a part of helping them do this.”

God has opened doors through modern technology, Green said. Not only does technology make the goal of Bible translation more achievable, but it helps remove cultural barriers in using apps like YouVersion in countries where carrying a physical Bible would be dangerous.

“No other Scripture translation project in history has been this ambitious or this well-coordinated,” Green said in a statement. “And never before have translators had the ability through technology and software to supercharge translation at such a rapid pace. You could say illumiNations is a visionary movement of ‘biblical proportions’ — and the strategy, the people and the technology are in place to make it happen.”

Green believes this “is the most exciting part of the Great Commission in our lifetime” as it helps to make disciples of all nations before Jesus’ return.

The newly launched “I Want to Know” campaign is for people who “want to know” who God is, how to serve Him and that they have a purpose in life, he explained. 

“The number one way to get intimacy with God is through God’s Word, and if you don’t have it, then that’s the poverty we’re trying to eliminate,” Green said.

Green shared the first time he witnessed the significance a Bible translation has on an individual was on a 1998 trip to Guatemala.

When Gaspar, a local of a remote Guatemalan community, first received a Bible translated into his Eastern Jakaltek language, he sobbed with joy.

“I’d never held a Bible like Gaspar did — as if he were grasping the most precious item in the world in his hands,” Green wrote in an opinion editorial shared with CP.

Green said his life changed forever when he saw Gaspar’s reaction, and a flame was lit in his heart.

“Because of Gaspar — and millions like him around the world — I knew I had to find a way to make sure everyone could have God’s Word in a language that speaks to their heart,” Green continued.

Over 1 billion lack access to God’s Word in their language, according to illumiNations. More than half of the world’s language communities still do not have a complete Bible translation, and over 2,000 languages are yet to have a single verse of Scripture translated.

Not having access to the Word of God is known as “Bible poverty,” which Green said is the worst kind of poverty because of its eternal implications.

“When someone has poverty, that means they lack something, sometimes that’s used around food or other things, but … God’s Word is food to our life,” Green said. 

“It brings life to us. … Poverty is the lack of something, and there are people groups that don’t have God’s Word in their heart language, and so that is the worst poverty. Now obviously, you have to feed people. People have to have water and basic essentials. But for eternity’s sake, they need to know about the Lord. … So, I care about people’s eternal state as well as their current state, but there’s a poverty of knowledge in knowing the Lord.”

The illumiNations translators hope to ensure 95% of the world’s population will have access to a full Bible, 99.96% will have access to the New Testament and 100% will have access to some portion of Scripture by 2033, which Green believes will be a significant year for the Church.

“If Jesus was 33 years old when he left and Pentecost happened in the year 33, we thought, ‘Well, it’s been 2,000 years since Jesus has been born. 2033 is, we think, going to be a significant year in the life of the church,” Green asserted.

Green said that sponsors can contribute to one translated verse out of the 31,000-plus verses of Scripture with a $35 donation. He believes the initiative allows everyone to be involved in the mission.

“So, if someone wants to [sponsor] a full Bible, which costs about a million dollars, [you] got it,” Green said. “And if you want to do $35 and do one verse, you got it. But everyone’s a part of eradicating Bible poverty. …”

Hobby Lobby’s Green family also established the Museum of the Bible, which presents the history of the top bestselling book of all time. It opened in November 2017 in Washington, D.C.

As part of the campaign, people are also encouraged to post the Bible verse that means the most to them on social media that they “want the world to know” by posting #IWTWTKBible.

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