Scripture In Heart Language? Wycliffe Gives Tiny Island Incredible Bible Translation

Bob Creson
Bob Creson is the president and CEO of Wycliffe Bible Translators USA, and the author of "The Finish Line: Stories of Hope Through Bible Translation."

On a tiny exotic island just off the coast of Papua New Guinea, the Patpatar people are reading and understanding Scripture that's in their heart language as the result of the completion by a Bible translation team of the New Testament, Wycliffe Associates announced this week. A training facility for translators is growing as well.

Bible translators Ed and Debi Condra, along with their Bible translation team, were such an encouragement to the Patpatar churches that they created the New Ireland Translation Institute (NITI) to provide quality training to those nationals who want to become Bible translators.

"What God had established here was the potential for a rustic yet cutting-edge, dream-come-true translation center—where native speakers would be trained to be quality translators," Wycliffe officials state. "A place where the nationals would also lead, coordinate, and conduct the translation of the Scriptures into their own mother-tongues. Here everyone works together on 15 language projects simultaneously—thus impacting an entire region with the power of God's Word."

Wycliffe added, "The New Ireland Translation Institute is a model of the power of partnership. The project involves the New Ireland Translation Institute, Wycliffe Associates, and others to provide the funds needed to construct the new institute and to cover the operating expenses and the ongoing needs of the national translators as they work to eventually translate Scripture in all 25 language projects in the whole province."

Several years ago, a total of 54 mother-tongue Bible translators and literacy workers from 11 language groups came to the tenth course of the New Ireland Translation Institute. This was marked by the handing out of the first published copies of whole books from the New Testament to the translators and literacy workers to take back to their villages. "At last, the people saw the first fruits of the translation teams' years of work," Wycliffe stated.

in 2007, these translation students used a computer for the first time. Then the translation teams returned to their villages with laptop computers, three of which have satellite communication terminals, and nine also have solar panels. Living in remote locations, without electricity or even an Internet connection, these national translators communicate via a satellite connection with translation consultants hundreds or even thousands of miles away in real-time—greatly reducing the need for dangerous travel.

In May 2013, all the New Ireland mother tongue translators diligently prepared for the fourteenth training session. Several teams had even sent their back translations to the consultants ahead of the training.

Following the fourteenth training, Ed Condra wrote, "I was working with Barok translators Lucy and Sonia recently on a difficult passage in one of the epistles. They hadn't done a good enough job in their translation because they didn't understand the passage in English. So we were trying to figure out how to fix their translation.

"Just out of the blue, Sonia exclaimed, 'People in the village think they understand these kind of verses, but they really don't!' What she meant was, a few relatively more educated people who are sufficiently literate in English to read English Bible translations think they're getting the right meaning. Actually they're getting a wrong meaning in some cases because they don't understand English well enough."

Wycliffe says this example is why the ministry works to translate God's Word into these mother tongues: "not only so people have access to God's Word in the language they understand, but also so they won't be led astray by reading translations they think they understand but don't."

The organization adds, "Thanks to the giving of faithful supporters, the translation progress continues to move forward at a rapid pace. Some complete New Testament drafts are now in the final checking and printing stages."

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