Wycliffe Associates, an international organization that empowers mother-tongue Bible translators and partners with local churches in the advancement of Bible translation, is providing computer tablets and virtual tools to help mother-tongue translators continue their work in spite of COVID-19 and oppression from anti-Christian authorities.
"Several Christians traveled from a dangerous country to attend a recent Bible translation workshop," says Bruce Smith, president and CEO of Wycliffe Associates. "They had to move through areas of brutal violence to get there. When they arrived, they were so shell-shocked, we thought they might have to go home. But they insisted on working. They ultimately went back to their homeland and recruited more Christians to help with Bible translation."
Now because of travel restrictions due to the pandemic, Bible translators are not able to travel to MAST (Mobilized Assistance Supporting Translation) workshops to receive the tools, materials and training they need to do their work.
MAST is a collaborative translation method that has helped accelerate the Bible translation process for many language groups. Wycliffe Associates first introduced MAST in 2014 as a pilot program in Asia, where mother-tongue translators were able to draft 48% of the New Testament in their language. Since that time, mother-tongue translators have completed 383 New Testaments.
"The work of translating God's Word already was challenging, especially in remote areas of the world, and especially in places of intense anti-Christian persecution," says Smith. "Then came the coronavirus."
In response to COVID-19, Wycliffe Associates is providing V-MAST, a way to continue the translation process virtually. Translators use computer tablets loaded with translation software along with uplinks to online translation tools.
"Tablets are absolutely crucial," says Smith. "Even if a tablet is found and destroyed, their translation progress is stored remotely and safely in the cloud."
With V-MAST and computer tablets, mother-tongue translators can access a private network and a library of translation resources that ensure accuracy and accelerate their work. They can also collaborate with other translators across closed borders. In addition, their work is backed up and secure, beyond the reach of hostile authorities.
"National Bible translators in hundreds of language groups are asking us not to back away because of the pandemic," says Smith. "They can be equipped to launch and complete Bible translation themselves, safely and securely."
Wycliffe Associates wants to provide 1,000 tablets loaded with Bible translation software for national Bible translators this year, at a cost of $300 each.
To date, Wycliffe Associates has distributed 6,397 tablets for mother-tongue translators in 67 countries.
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