Sunday, May 1, 2011

What If You Couldn't Read This?

Nearly one billion people in the world cannot read or write. The result is a continuous cycle of illness and poverty. Bible translation programs break this cycle by teaching people how to read and write in their own language.

Imagine a world where the language that you speak – the language that reaches into your heart and soul, your hopes and dreams, your laughter and your tears – has never been written down. Imagine starting school, only to find that all instruction and teaching materials are in a language that you do not speak or understand. Imagine picking up a booklet that contains vital information on the prevention of deadly diseases prevalent in your homeland and having no idea what it is telling you to do to protect yourself. Imagine seeing a jumble of symbols that make absolutely no sense to you, but for privileged others they hold the very words of God.

Teaching Numanggang primary
school students to read in their
own language.
Literacy changes the way people think about themselves. It gives new value to their language and culture, and by implication, to their own person as well. Literacy also opens the door for education and growth. Readers can learn how to improve their family’s health, run a business, defend themselves from fraud, seek justice and, above all, grow closer to God by reading the Scriptures.

The issue of literacy is near and dear to our hearts. Martha’s mother grew up in Mexico, where she was put to work at the age of ten. She never went to school or learned how to read or write. Martha was fortunate, however, to receive the education that her mother never received, and it is no surprise that Martha has such a strong desire to help others learn how to read. As we receive a Bible translation assignment in Papua New Guinea, it is our desire to have Martha work closely with native speakers to establish a literacy program and help others break the cycle of illness, poverty, and illiteracy.

God is Faithful 
Jesus said, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Mt 6:33). We have been amazed at how God has provided for us above and beyond our expectations as we have been faithful to pursue his call on our lives. We are so thankful for our many faithful partners, who are truly sharing in the work of bringing God’s Word to people who have never before heard it in their own language.

Bella, Asher, and Jacob at the park.
Light for the Lost 
In March, we were privileged to participate in nine Light for the Lost events in eleven days. Light for the Lost is a ministry of the Assemblies of God to provide Bibles and gospel literature in multiple languages all around the world. We were blessed to receive tremendous favor as our ministry of Bible translation was highlighted at each event. We gave away nearly 150 of our DVDs to people who committed to pray for us, and we made connections with many wonderful people who believe in the work of Bible translation.

The Kimyal People 
At many of the Light for the Lost events, the organizers showed a video of the Kimyal people of West Papua, Indonesia receiving the New Testament for the very first time in their own language (see below). Our vision is to participate in a celebration just like the one in this video when one of the nearly 300 Bibleless people groups in Papua New Guinea receives the Word of God in their own language for the very first time in history. Our goal is to see it happen in seven to ten years.

What’s Next?
In June, we head to the University of North Dakota for ten weeks to complete our pre-field linguistics training. Adam will take classes in Phonology, Ethnography, Writing Systems, and Field Methods, while Martha will complete the courses Adam took last summer including Second Language Acquisition, Syntax & Morphology, and Socio-linguistics. In August we will share at churches in Colorado before returning to California, where we will continue sharing at churches while also making our final preparations to depart for the field in January.