One of the Christian organizations I most respect is Wycliffe Bible Translators. They’re doing an incredible job translating God’s Word into thousands of languages around the world. Years ago, Donna and I worked with missionaries from Wycliffe in Congo and witnessed personally the huge difference it made for people to hear God speak to them in their heart language.
Did you know that Wycliffe celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2017? Here is just a bit of their amazing history:
In 1917, a missionary named William Cameron Townsend went to Guatemala to sell Spanish Bibles. But he was shocked when many people couldn’t understand the books. They spoke Cakchiquel, a language without a Bible. Cam believed everyone should understand the Bible, so he started a linguistics school (the Summer Institute of Linguistics, known today as SIL) that trained people to do Bible translation. The work continued to grow, and in 1942, Cam officially founded Wycliffe Bible Translators.
WHEN GOD’S WORD SPEAKS: Stories of the Power of Scripture in the Lives of God’s People Today is a collection of fascinating, true stories by people all over the world — missionaries, successful executives, seasoned pastors, and communities encountering Scripture for the very first time. The emphasis of each story is a moment where God used his Word to speak into someone’s heart and bring transformation. I used it as a devotional book over lunch. The 60 short devotionals and colorful illustrations really helped me to think of the power of God’s Word in the lives of people.
I agree with the reviewer who wrote, “It’s ideal for personal times of reflection or as a gift for a friend or family member who has a love for God’s Word.”
I urge you to read one of the many great devotionals in WHEN GOD’S WORD SPEAKS:
Inspired by God
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. 2 Timothy 3:16a
No word in Scripture is unimportant. There isn’t anything God wants to say that he cannot say in a clear and natural way in any language he wants to. And no one is too unimportant to merit the Scriptures in the language they understand the best.
Bible translation respects the people receiving the Scriptures, and through the process, it frees them to have a relationship with God in their own words.
In Nigeria, the Mbe translation team was translating the Gospel of Luke. They came to chapter 2, verse 7, which says, “She (Mary) gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.”
The translators took the time to ponder how to translate some of the words, but not “manger.” They immediately used the word “okpang.”
As their translation consultant, I asked them, “What’s an okpang? Tell me what it looks like.” One of the translators drew a picture on the whiteboard. It was essentially a cradle hung by ropes so that the newborn could be laid in it and swung.
I suggested they check the collection of notes and commentaries we were using to help the translators whose first language isn’t English. The Mbe translators saw that “manger” referred to an animal-feeding trough.
Even as the Mbe team read the notes, they objected, “We have always used the word okpang. We have used it for years, and that’s what we should use.” I pointed out to them that it wasn’t just a matter of tradition. God expects us to find the words that express the original meaning as accurately as possible. Furthermore, this word tells us something profound about God.
“When he came to live among us and bring salvation to us, he came in the lowliest way possible. He did not come and sleep in a nice okpang like every Mbe mother wants to use for her newborn. Instead, he showed us his unbelievable humility.” I told them. “So we need to find your best word for an animal-feeding trough.”
Suddenly, the person who had argued most loudly for the traditional term offered, “We feed our animals out of an old worn-out basket that isn’t usable anymore, except to feed animals. We call it “edzabri.”
“Then try that term,” I said.
As the Mbe people listened, they were visibly moved. Picturing the newborn baby lying in the animals’ feeing basket, they recognized in a new way that Jesus was willing to do whatever it took to reach them. As an adult, he would humble himself by washing the disciples’ feet and then by dying on the cross. And this humility started right from birth, when he was born to a young peasant woman under questionable social conditions and laid in an animal-feeding trough.
God in Jesus entered our world. The Word became human and made his home with us (John 1:14). He entered our space, identifying with our weakness, sorrow, grief, and our sin even though he himself did not sin.