The Bible is central to the life and faith of people who follow Jesus. From its words, we learn about God, His great love for us, and the price His Son, Jesus, was willing to pay to cover the wrong things we’ve done. As these words take root in our hearts, God uses them to transform our hearts and minds. We become more like Jesus—full of grace, hope, and love. Because of these truths, Jesus followers believe that translating the Bible into every language matters, so all people can learn from and be changed by its words.
The Need for Bible Translation
But there’s a problem. Over 7,000 languages are spoken in the world today, but the speakers of approximately 3,500 of these languages have little or no Scripture available to them. If we break it down by continent, that’s …
- 220 languages in the Americas
- 113 languages in Europe
- 1,301 languages in Africa
- 1,380 languages in Asia
- 575 languages in Oceania
These statistics aren’t just numbers—every unreached language represents people who don’t have access to the transforming power of the Bible’s words in their first language. While many speakers of these unreached languages might learn a second language, allowing them access to translations of the Bible, there’s no substitute for reading or hearing the Bible in your first language. Doing so makes the barriers that come with trying to understand important, life-changing concepts so much less formidable.
Bible Translation Is a Global Effort
That’s why, at Life.Church, we’re passionate about Bible translation and getting God’s Word to everyone, everywhere. So we’ve partnered with illumiNations to support teams of local leaders in key areas around the world as they work to translate the Bible into their native languages.
illumiNations is an alliance of 11 Bible translation agencies. These agencies work with communities and mission partners to determine the need for Bible translations in different parts of the world and empower local teams made up of multilingual translators through training, technology, and support. While the length of the translation process depends on a number of factors, a clear, accurate, natural translation of the New Testament takes an average of seven years to complete, while the Old Testament takes another nine years. These translations often appear in written form, but sign language and oral cultures are also included in the work being done.
And it’s through the giving of ordinary people that we’re able to partner with illumiNations and support the work their teams are doing. Here’s a brief look at a few of the translations Life.Church is helping fund by region:
- Colombian Sign Language (Colombia), 554,000 signers
- San Pedro (Mexico), 24,855 speakers
- New Ukrainian (Ukraine), 33,178,480 speakers
- Spanish and Catalan Sign Language (Spain), 90,000 signers
- Sudanese Arabic (Sudan and Egypt), 33,000,000 speakers
- Mahafaly (Madagascar), 1,300,000 speakers
- Sumbi, Tipah Central, and Tipah North (Indonesia), 2,950,000 speakers
- Chhattisgarhi (India), 16,300,000 speakers
- Pitjantjatjara (Australia), 3,550 speakers
- Yekora (Papua New Guinea), 1,050 speakers
How One Community Is Translating the Bible
Recently, a few Life.Church staff members had the opportunity to travel to Egypt to meet one of the translation teams our church supports. This team, made up of Sudanese refugees, was working on an oral Sudanese Arabic translation of the Bible.
Accessibility and preference prevent most Sudanese Arabic speakers from interacting with existing written translations of the Bible. The traditional Arabic translation uses an older form of the language (similar to the English King James Version), making it harder to understand. Many Sudanese Arabic speakers also have a cultural preference for oral storytelling and spoken communication instead of the written word. As a result, an oral translation of the Bible using common, everyday Sudanese Arabic has the potential to impact tens of thousands of refugees in Egypt and millions of Sudanese people still living in their home country.
The translation team in Cairo starts by reading a passage of Scripture and then talking through what stuck out to each team member. Together, they recount the passage in their own words and then set to work recording the passage. Once the passage is recorded, then the feedback begins. Does the recording communicate what the team is hoping to communicate and stay true to the original intent of the passage? Does it do so in easy-to-understand language? These are some of the questions the team asks as they send audio files out for critique. They even send these in-progress audio files to their friends and family members—people who may not ever pick up a written Bible, but who are happy to give feedback on a recording of a Scripture passage.
The team finished their oral translation of the New Testament in 2022, and they’re hard at work on the Old Testament now. While it will still be several years before they complete the Bible, they’ve already seen people reached and lives changed as a result of the work they’ve done.
How to Get Involved
You can be a part of getting the Bible to everyone, everywhere. And you don’t even have to learn a new language or leave your town! There are two ways you can partner with us and support the work being done by local translation teams around the world:
- Pray for illumiNations’ translation agencies, as well as the local translation teams they support. The translation process takes years to complete, and many of these teams are working in areas with some resistance to the gospel. Pray for safety, wisdom, and endurance for everyone involved.
- Give to YouVersion & Bible Translation. When you give, you’re helping support not just the translation process, but the lives and families of the individuals on translation teams.
Interested in learning more about how we can get the Bible in every language? Just click the button below.