During many years of life, I’ve visited a lot of churches around America and have preached in churches in at least a dozen different states. But while too many churchgoers hop from church to church, I’ve only been a part of two churches in 67 years.
I grew up and spent my first 44 years in Riverview Chapel in the Mountain State. It was there I was saved, nurtured and taught; I preached my first sermon there at age 18 and began to serve as elder and pastor a few years later.
Then 23 years ago the Lord called my wife and me to Conway to serve at Bethany Bible Chapel, and we’ve been here ever since. Both of these churches have similarities: both are strong in basic Bible teaching; both are loving and mission minded.
I can remember hearing missionaries from across the world and reading letters they wrote. I remember special offerings for special mission’s needs and the emphasis on praying for and supporting those the Lord calls to foreign lands.
Many of those missionaries have been called home to “Glory” and others have taken their place. Many young people and families are still being called on to accept the Great Commission away from home, as we who live here in America share the gospel where we live and work. Many mission organizations I remember from years ago have changed names, or are no longer functioning. But one important mission organization I remember is very much still working today. The work of these men and women is vital to the Great Commission and that work is scripture translation. The organization I remember and one our church still supports is Wycliffe Bible Translators.
In the early 1900s, William Cameron Townsend was sharing God’s Word in Spanish and discovered many areas where there were languages and dialects without a shred of the Bible. He began to work and in 1942 Wycliffe Bible Translators was born.
Wycliffe completed its first translation in 1951 and its 500th in 2000. But there is still much work to do. While 1,500 languages now have a complete New Testament and 650 have the full Word of God, there are still 2,000 known languages that do not. More than 1.5 billion people still don’t have the Bible they can read.
But God’s work in translating His Word is going strong. Currently there are translation works on 2,500 languages in 170 countries. Jerry and Sue Pfaff, who do translation work in Papua New Guinea, are rejoicing at the recent completion of the New Testament in the Nali language.
Even with today’s technology, it is difficult and lengthy work, especially in areas where there is no written language.
In cases like that, the missionaries must first learn the language. Then they must put the language into written form. And then they must teach the people how to read their own, newly written language, and finally they translate the Bible into that new language.
As Americans, we are spoiled. The average American home has multiple copies of the Bible. We also have access on computer, phone and tablet. And sadly, all too often we take this for granted and the Bible simply collects dust on the shelf or takes up space on the device.
What can we do? First, let us rededicate ourselves to studying, memorizing, applying and obeying the Bible. Then let us support those organizations like Wycliffe (and there are others) who are diligently working to provide the Bible in languages so that the whole world might hear. We can do so financially; we can do so in mission’s trips; we can invite missionary translators to come to our church to share the ministry and needs; and we can all pray.