The Bible is much more than just a book — it is God’s love letter to us! Wycliffe Bible Translators USA believes this Good News is for all people, and we are committed to providing Scripture that every person on earth can access in a language and form they clearly understand.
In this report you’ll read about the Keliko people. Though their homeland is in South Sudan, many Keliko now live as refugees in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They have endured a number of hardships and conflict, but this did not hinder them from celebrating the completion of the New Testament translation in their own language. On August 11, 2018, in the town of Koboko, Uganda, the Keliko received God’s Word in their own language with uncontainable joy and hope. The Keliko now have access to God’s great love letter.
When we reflect on Wycliffe’s rich history, the Keliko New Testament translation is evidence of God’s continued faithfulness in the Bible translation movement. It is the 1,000th New Testament translation to be completed with the involvement of Wycliffe USA and SIL International — a primary strategic partner.
The first 500 translations took 67 years to be completed, but the next 500 languages only took 17 years! This accelerated pace of Bible translation is unprecedented, and we do not take this opportunity for granted. We know that this is God’s work, and he is building his kingdom so that all might come to know his love and hope.
God’s Word transforms communities, and we are grateful for your faithful investment in this work. Thank you for your partnership. I look forward to the day when we will worship God together with people from every nation, tribe and tongue.
Warmly in Christ,
Wycliffe Bible Translators, USA
"Thank you, thank you, thank you to God, because this [New Testament] will now speak to the hearts of the people. Hallelujah!”
— Bishop Seme Nigo,
Thirty-three years after Pastor David’s vision came to life, the Keliko received what they asked God for — Scripture in their own language!Read Their Story
In 1985 Keliko Pastor David Gale went to a conference in Juba, South Sudan. There the clergy were asked to read or sing Scripture in their own language, but he couldn’t participate. God’s Word wasn’t available in Keliko. The language hadn’t even been written down.
He and fellow Keliko leaders declared Matthew 7:7 as the theme of their translation project: “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you” (NLT).
These faithful Keliko leaders and generations that followed would cling to this verse.
The team eagerly started a translation program, but civil unrest created many difficulties for them and their families. As a result, the translation came to a halt before they could finish developing the written language.
But the Keliko continued to faithfully ask, seek and knock — for 10 long years.
When God opened the door again, the team restarted the work. Despite having to move the translation to different locations and be away from their families, the translators would not give up. Even when the Keliko were forced out of South Sudan and scattered to refugee settlements in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda, the translation moved forward with a team of translators led by Pastor David’s grandson.
Today the Keliko are still displaced and facing hardships, but you wouldn’t know it from the joy they express. Thirty-three years after Pastor David’s vision came to life, the Keliko received what they asked God for — Scripture in their own language!
On August 11, 2018, the Keliko New Testament with Old Testament portions was dedicated in northern Uganda.
This dedication also marks an important milestone. Keliko was the 1,000th New Testament completed with the engagement of Wycliffe USA and SIL International — a primary strategic partner.
Wycliffe’s Chief Operations Officer Russ Hersman and staff involved with the Keliko translation were recognized at the celebration along with representatives from SIL, Wycliffe Germany and OneBook of Canada who partnered in the project.
The Keliko New Testament is now being eagerly received by the people and leaders of various churches living in the refugee settlements. A robust literacy program is drawing even more readers.
Janet Vaughan shares Bible translation with anyone who will listen: “Being a part of the work of Bible translation reinvigorates your own faith, and it makes you so happy for those receiving God’s Word for the first time.”Read Janet's Story
Janet Vaughan shares Bible translation with anyone who will listen.
“Everyone I tell is interested, but it’s just a story to them,” she says. “Being a part of the work of Bible translation reinvigorates your own faith, and it makes you so happy for those receiving God’s Word for the first time.”
Although Janet may sound like a linguist or a missionary, she’s actually a passionate financial partner of Wycliffe Bible Translators USA.
Two years ago, Janet and her husband, Chip, felt God was guiding them to make a significant gift through a family fund established by Chip’s parents to support kingdom work. Prayer, research and counsel from their advisor with Ronald Blue Trust led them to consider investing in the work of Wycliffe. Janet says, “We wanted to get the funds out to do God’s work. What’s more key than giving God’s Word for each individual language?”
With the help of Wycliffe representative Amanda Fewless, the Vaughans began learning more about the Dodoma Cluster project in Tanzania. This project was doing translation in a cluster approach, where four related languages (including the recently completed Burunge New Testament) worked together to complete their Scripture translations.
The Vaughans reviewed the Dodoma Cluster project materials as a family and decided to make a gift to support the work. Amanda kept them linked to the project by introducing them to staff working on the translations and forwarding prayer requests and updates from the teams.
“You start out giving to help people who don’t have God’s Word,” Janet said. “You forget that, in the process, your connection will bring the work to life. It’s not just giving money; it makes you a participant in the project.”
That’s the moment that Wycliffe is inviting people into: discovering how God is calling them to participate in Bible translation and receive the blessing that comes from obeying that call. Representatives like Amanda are able to minister to donors by building relationships, discovering the way God is leading them to partner in the work and facilitating opportunities for them to be involved.
The Vaughans represent thousands of generous partners around the world who are supporting Bible translation efforts. Individuals, families and businesses are stepping into the work through their prayers and financial investments.
In August 2017 Janet and Amanda traveled with a small group to Tanzania to visit the work the Vaughan family had been involved in through prayer and giving.
Janet says, “We were blessed to see the entire process — to go into the translation office and see translators diligently work through a passage of Scripture, then to see a community check where people in a village sat and read the text together and talked about it. We even went out one night when they showed the ‘JESUS’ Film. Everything culminated with the Burunge celebration where translation has been accomplished and they are passing out their new Bibles. It was a quick encapsulation of what takes years to happen.”
“You saw the people kiss their Bibles and hold it like a precious gift. It caused me to treasure my own Scriptures more, and it changed my heart as much as I knew it was going to change their hearts.”
Chip and Janet want to stay involved with the Dodoma Cluster project in the near future. Janet says, “Having seen people’s response to God’s Word in their language, we want to ... help put Bibles in their hands. Through Wycliffe, we’re giving so people can receive the completed Scriptures in their [own] language.”
Be glad now and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things.
—Joel 2:21b (NLT)
Today Bible translation teams are hard at work across Indonesia bringing the Scriptures into the local languages people use at home and relate to most.Read Their Story
In Indonesia, church on Sunday morning is a ceremonious event.
Kids, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles file into the church in their Sunday best and seat themselves before a larger-than-life podium. The pastor enters, draped in robes, and steps up into the podium overlooking the congregation. He preaches from the Bible in Indonesian — a formal language that commands respect in this moment but that no one will use again when they leave here — just the way he was trained to do and the way his pastor did before him.
The congregation stirs in their seats, flipping through the liturgy (also written in Indonesian) or using it to fan themselves absent-mindedly.
They come. They go through the motions. They leave. For many, this is how church has been done for decades.
But thanks to Bible translation, a fresh wind is stirring.
“Historically, Indonesian was emphasized as the language to be used in education, government and religion,” said Jon Richards, Wycliffe USA’s eastern Indonesia partnership facilitator. “The use of ... local languages was not encouraged and was even discouraged in some contexts.”
Today Bible translation teams are hard at work across Indonesia bringing the Scriptures into the local languages people use at home and relate to most.
On Ambon Island, one translation team has almost finished translating the Ambonese Malay New Testament. They’ve been talking with pastors in the area about the idea of preaching and reading the Scriptures in Ambonese instead of Indonesian. It was difficult for most to imagine, both because of the historical precedent and also because all of their training and experience is based on communicating in Indonesian, creating a long-standing practice.
But the team challenged this.
What if sermons were given in simple, everyday language, and the congregation understood them clearly?
What if talking to God and reading his Word could be personal? What if you could do it as naturally as though you were talking to your earthly dad? It seemed far-fetched, but gradually more and more pastors have been willing to try this approach, and the results speak for themselves.
“I’ve heard of people actually sitting on the edges of their seats, listening to pastors preaching in Ambonese from the Ambonese Scriptures,” said Carrie Beckley, a translation facilitator for the Ambonese Malay team.
“The culture here is that when you’re praying, you pray in Indonesian,” added Dave Saxby, also a facilitator. “But you can see the emotion that people feel when they’re praying in the same language that they would speak to their mom or dad at home.”
And the impact isn’t just for the congregations, but for the pastors too.
“For true spiritual growth and development, you need to use a language people understand,” said Pastor Athes Werinussa, chairman of the Protestant Church of Maluku synod, a key partner in the region. “If I use Ambonese or another local language, I get goosebumps. For me, it’s a spiritual experience.”
When Yanti Karundeng became a pastor many years ago, she thought it was her ticket to heaven. “I thought that if I went into theology school, that all my sins would be forgiven,” she said.
She’s a Manado Malay speaker and, even though she’d been through seminary and had already been a pastor for several months, she didn’t realize she actually wasn’t a believer until she heard the gospel preached in her language.
“I was serving people in the church, I was preaching, I was doing all the activities that a pastor does, but I still didn’t have Jesus as the Lord of my life,” she said.
“I felt something come upon me where it was my time to do something. I needed to respond to the call of Jesus. So I went forward, I knelt down and I received the Lord.”
She went to her congregation and humbly told them what she’d discovered. From that point forward, she preached from her heart.
Thanks to the translated Word, churches throughout Indonesia are embracing the Scriptures and the beauty of how God created their culture.
In Ambon, for the first time in the history of the Protestant Church of Maluku, the church will regularly hold services entirely in the region’s local languages.
The first Sunday that churches held services in Ambonese Malay was one for the history books.
The local church building was bursting with people listening to their pastor preaching in their own language. One after another, teams of people stood up in front of their families and neighbors to sing, dance, strum guitars and beat drums with rhythms and voices that are uniquely Ambonese. For hours, the congregation celebrated.
Stephanie believes this is only the beginning.
“I pray for revival,” she said. “That’s my heart. We know there’s a spiritual battle going on here; we’ve seen it with our own eyes. It’s very real. We want people to have the freedom that they can have in Christ.”
It’s a beautiful thing to see a language community understand and enjoy God’s Word for the first time. Most of us are fortunate enough to have had this access for hundreds of years, in hundreds of versions, and it’s thrilling to know our brothers and sisters across the world now share this same privilege.
Despite the fact that they don’t speak the same language and live in completely different environments, the Siwu and Nyagbo people have one thing in common: a hunger for the Word of God in their own languages.Read Their Story
Can you remember the best meal you’ve ever had? Maybe you think of deep-dish pizza, crisp French bread or simply your mom’s classic macaroni and cheese. But the idea of a meal has a deeper meaning for the Siwu and Nyagbo language groups of Ghana.
Despite the fact that they don’t speak the same language and live in completely different environments, the Siwu and Nyagbo people have one thing in common: a hunger for the Word of God in their own languages.
Most people in the Volta region of Ghana where the Siwu and Nyagbo live speak either Ewe, the local trade language that’s taught in schools, or English. Even when the Siwu and Nyagbo read the Bible, hear sermons or sing hymns in church, services are mostly conducted in Ewe.
But that is not the language that speaks to their hearts. To feed their souls with understanding, they want the Word of God in their languages.
The Siwu finished translation work on the New Testament in their language in 2009. Meanwhile, the Nyagbo are just beginning translation work on the New Testament. This marks the first time that the Nyagbo have written their language down.
But the New Testament alone is not enough for the Siwu. Merely having Bible stories is not enough for the Nyagbo. The Siwu and the Nyagbo want the whole meal: the complete Word of God.
John Atsu Sagbavu, one of the Siwu translators, said, “Having the New Testament without having the Old Testament is just like having your raw bread without tea or oats. So you’ll be half-fed. To be fully fed and satisfied, we need the Old Testament.”
A good meal is satisfying — it nourishes our bodies and provides us with comfort and fulfillment. And it’s even better when it’s shared. Togbe Owusu, the chief of Nyagbo-Sroe community, is an old man with an infectious, toothy smile and an enthusiasm for Bible translation work among his people. “[Translation work] has given light to our children for generations,” he said. The chief wants his people to be fed by God’s Word — for every generation to be seated around the table.
That is what Ghanaians are hoping and praying will happen. Their goal is to see their country changed by the Word of God.
Michael Serchie, the project manager, said it best when he envisioned the future of his country:
“I believe that if people are able to read the Word of God and they know what God has for them, individual lives will be changed. It will result in changing of family lives, it will result in changing in communities, and it will result in changing of a whole nation. That is how the Bible works.”
Wycliffe USA recognizes that the need for Bible translation is so great that we can’t do it alone and that collaboration with God’s people accelerates the process with excellence. So we work in partnership with churches and organizations worldwide to effectively and efficiently accomplish Bible translation. Our full partner list is too long to include here, but we are incredibly grateful for everyone working to spread God’s Word.