Every language by 2025 is Bible translators' goal

A $50 million donation is being used to kick off an effort to reach an estimated 200 million people around the world with a Bible written in their own language by the year 2025.

The Last Languages Campaign is being launched by Wycliffe Bible Translators, whose leaders believe "not only do people comprehend the Bible best when it is written in the language they speak in their home, but that critical community development – literacy, the establishment of water purification systems, AIDS education, human rights, and community empowerment – often starts in the strangest place: with Bible translation."

The organization this year is recognizing Bible Week, which runs over Thanksgiving week, with a variety of events to celebrate a new campaign that will use high-tech translation techniques to accelerate the pace of language development and translation.

What previously was projected for 125 years of work now is being organized into a 17-year effort scheduled to conclude in 2025.

"People without a written language need one," said the donor whose $50 million is covering a large part of the beginning program costs. "Literacy is a key to helping people work their way out of poverty and to resist oppression by others. Children who first learn to read in their own language are more likely to become literate and to stay in school than those who first learn in a different language."

The donor insisted on anonymity.

Wycliffe, founded in 1942, is made up of dozens of groups involving more than 7,000 people who are trying to provide a written Gospel to every group of people around the world.

Wycliffe USA President Bob Creson called the special donation "a bold step of faith." Another such step was a second donation, from deputy chairman of the New York Stock Exchange holding company Marshall N. Carter, who has provided a personal aircraft to one of the Wycliffe partners for its use.

The organization believes there are about 2,200 languages that still do not have a translation of the Bible.

Under the program, the "last language can be started by 2025."

"It is possible, and that is Wycliffe's mission and commitment," the group said.

"Having their own Scriptures often inspires Christians to compose hymns, dramas and songs borne from deep within them. Their prayers become more meaningful as they pray God's Word using their first language, fully expressing their innermost thoughts and feelings," Wycliffe's announcement said.

For the first 1,400 years following the time of Christ, there were only 30 Bible translations. In fact, there were no English translations until John Wycliffe's work in the 1300s.

But missionaries reaching out to new people groups realized the need and started the work. One of the first was John Eliot, who translated for the Algonquiin community in Massachusetts in 1662.

While Wycliffe workers already have translated the Bible into hundreds of languages, in 1999 leaders realized the work was too slow. So the group resolved to develop new ways to translate and speed up the pace.

"Where untranslated languages share a similarity with a translated language, computer tools can now provide a first draft of a rough translation, based on 'predicting' key terms and phrases. Where several languages can be started at the same time, a 'cluster approach' to translation begins all languages simultaneously, rather than sequentially," the organization said.

One of the recent projects was the language for the Mofu-Gudur tribe in West Africa. French or Fulani languages had been used, but only with marginal impact. According to Wycliffe's on-the-scene missionaries, one man said after hearing the New Testament in his own language, "God's Word is so delicious."

Of the encompassing budget of $220 million for all Wycliffe and affiliated organizations each year, $150 million is dedicated specifically to language projects.

The estimated funding that will be needed by 2025 to start all the language projects is $865 million, officials said.

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