Stephanie, Oral Bible Translation Project Coordinator at Faith Comes By Hearing, shares the exciting vision of oral Bible translation—communities with no written language will be counted among those standing before the throne of God in the Last Day!
Imagine this: You’re sitting on a worn, wooden bench—or even the floor—of a tiny church in a rural community. Maybe you walked hours just to be here, carrying the weight of the troubles from this past week into this place of rest. Your feet hurt, your lips are dry, and your soul is longing for that precious Word of God to be spoken into your heart so that you may be refreshed once again.
The pastor speaks, and your ears tune in to hear a life-giving message that will calm your spirit… but there is a disconnect. A disconnect between the melodies of Scripture and the strings of your heart. Confused, you begin scanning the pages of your precious Bible; but to your dismay, you can’t read it!
Even though you hear the words and even see them before you, they are so foreign that the Word of God—despite being sharper than a two-edged sword—is unable to pierce your soul. Mournfully, you wrap your beloved Book in cloth and tuck it away for the long journey home.
“If only God spoke my heart language,” you say to yourself.
This is the reality for millions of people across the globe whose heart language is deeply rooted in oral communication. Some can comprehend or are even fluent in the trade languages of the country they live in, but trying to read the Word in the language of business does not have the same spiritual, eternal impact as hearing Scripture in their mother tongue.
So what is the solution? Oral Bible Translation.
Oral Bible Translation may seem like a new undertaking, but the culture of orality was dynamic long before any ink ever struck parchment. Jesus embraced this in a beautiful and powerful way as He shared truth—completely through spoken word—among the prestigious and common people of His time. Many would gather to hear Him speak about His Father and the kingdom of heaven in the form of stories, parables and narratives. Jesus completely understood the importance of people hearing the Gospel in a way that best communicated to the heart of every individual. He has always been so personal.
This is the vision that influenced the birth of Render, a software jointly created by Faith Comes By Hearing, Seed Company, SIL, and Pioneer Bible Translators that guides oral communities through the process of internalizing and translating Scripture into their heart language from a reference language that they can understand. And here’s the key: They don’t need a written language of their own in order to use it.
Praise God for this powerful tool! With every oral-only language receiving God’s Word, the vision of Revelation 7:9-10 comes clearer into view: People from every nation, tribe, people, and language will stand before the throne of God in the Last Day. One of the pastors playing a key role in an oral Bible translation project in Zambia said, “My parents, who do not know how to read and write, will not be denied a Bible, for God has performed a miracle.” Wow! This is true for all of us. God does not withhold any good thing from us, including His Word, in a format we can understand best.
Hearing God’s Word in your heart language changes you like nothing else can. It transforms you. One man serving as an exegetical advisor on a Render project said, “I can internalize most of a chapter [of the Bible] now. When a challenge comes, or a temptation comes, sometimes it’s difficult to combat it with just one or two verses of Scripture. But if you internalize a lot of Scriptures, you have a powerful tool; a powerful weapon that is not of this world—as the Bible says. Through Render, we know that there will be no challenge that our people cannot overcome. So I have been encouraged. I am a changed person.” Render is enabling oral people from all across the globe to hear Scripture in their mother tongue for the first time in history.
The Oral Bible Translation process is both a physical journey and a spiritual battle—the translation teams often face remote locations with poor recording conditions, sickness, and even persecution. But what a joy it is to see the spark in an elderly woman’s eyes reignite as she realizes that God has not abandoned her! What an encouragement to hear the words of the living God rolling off the lips of children! What a miracle it is to witness a father returning home to his family, ready to be a spiritual leader!
God is giving people everywhere the opportunity to know Him and make Him known to others.
This is why we get out of bed every day. This is why we pray and collaborate with partners all across the world. We will not stop this God-given mandate and mission until His Word has been made available for all people, in a format that they understand best. Orality has been deeply rooted in the language of so many people, and it will continue to be the primary mode of communication in cultures around the world. We are excited to be a small part of this journey and come alongside other like-minded people who yearn to fulfill the Great Commission.
Fellow laborers, God is moving among the oral communities of the world. Please pray that the hearts and minds of these people would be open to His truth, and that God would guide and encourage Stephanie and the rest of the Oral Bible Translation team in this good work. Please also join us in lifting up Vision 2033—that Faith Comes By Hearing would be able to record and provide Scripture in every translated language by 2033 so that people worldwide have a chance to hear the Truth and come to Christ.
Read part two here.