Coming to a theater near you …

Sometime around Christmas, Katherine and I saw the trailer for the movie The King’s Speech. It looked interesting, especially since it starred Colin Firth, an actor we both enjoyed in Pride and Prejudice. A few weeks ago, Katherine saw the movie here in St. Joe with my aunt and cousins. She liked the film quite a lot.

I like to watch movie trailers – they boil down films enough to fit into a short time span, give each viewer a strong sense of the content, and leave the interested viewer with a desire to know more. But it had been some time since I had seen the preview for The King’s Speech. Despite Katherine’s concern that she would spoil it for me, I asked her to describe the movie’s plot, characters, and developments. When she did, I understood the movie much better and realized that while the trailer was certainly accurate, there was much more to the film than what those short segments depicted. And since I haven’t experienced the movie for myself, even her own vivid description is fading in my mind. Until I see it, I’m missing out – and the film’s accolades and award nominations are lost on me.

So what does that have to do with Bible translation?

Until translation of the Bible happens for a language, the speakers of the language have experienced, at best, only the “trailer” for God’s Word. They’ve heard limited portions of the message. That may be because only the main points are available in their language, or because they heard it in a language that they don’t understand fully.

For example, would you go see a movie if its trailer was visually interesting – but all the dialogue was in Hungarian? (Try this one – it might be familiar.) What if someone who understood Hungarian described it to you? Or offered to interpret all the lines for you at the theater? Would you be interested then? Would you expect to have a good experience?

What if the content was important to your own safety? Anyone who has flown will recognize the fundamental messages in this video, but I doubt that you’d be able to tell me exactly what was said.

So where does that leave us with The Greatest Story Ever Told? Not only does the content have everything that makes for successful films – God’s Message is absolutely critical for the eternal safety of every person alive. Yet more than 340 million people can’t get this message because it’s not available in the 2,100 languages (and more) that they speak. The whole message is available in 457 languages. (Including in Hungarian, with film.) But many people have to be told, “I’m sorry, that movie’s not showing in a theater near you.”

The good news is that we’re not satisfied with that statement – right now, Wycliffe is working in more than 1,500 languages to get God’s Message out. And we’re not alone – the Church is cooperating more and more on that effort. There are a lot of names that roll by in the credits, in addition to the Producer, Director, and Star who makes it all possible. Katherine’s name and mine are in the credits, too, along with those of the people who pray for and support us. Where is your name among them all?

One more thing – think about what happens to you when you are completely drawn in to a movie and it takes first place among your favorites. What has God’s Message done to you?

And just one more thing. Really – I mean it this time. Guess who will be among the people I’m serving once we get to Europe? That’s right – Wycliffe Hungary.

Keeping our focus on the end result

Last week, during one of our morning devotional times at the office, we watched a video produced from last year’s launch of the Solomon Islands Pidgin† Bible. After many years of hard work, the translators – who were assisted by Wycliffe translation consultants – had finished the whole Bible, and their work had gone through the entire checking and publishing process. Now it was time for it’s release, and I can’t think of any other book in the world that receives such attention at its launching.

Celebrations were planned and put on all over the country, small as it is, and dignitaries at all levels were present to praise the work and the diligent people who brought it about. The event was scheduled to coincide with the day marking the country’s 30th year of independence. This newly completed translation received the highest level of attention and respect that could be given by the nation and the culture.

What struck me the most was hearing government leaders stating, in both the ceremonies and personal interviews, how foundational God’s Word is to the governance, development, and unity of the nation. These leaders are convinced that having the Word in the language of the people is important for the success of the Solomon Islands.

In addition to footage of the formal ceremonies, speeches, and traditional dances, the video also showed scenes of the translation team working together and with the consultants who helped them with the process. The scenes had a few things in common. One was people – you just can’t do a Bible translation without people dedicated to it from beginning to end. Another thing I noticed was that at least one computer could be seen in each instance. There they were, quietly sitting in the background.

Being mere tools in the hands of the translators, computers don’t get much attention. They shouldn’t. But just as a hammer is essential to the work of a carpenter, a computer is now essential for the work of the Bible translator. My colleagues and I work very hard to keep computers in the background of each translator’s and consultant’s work – we only give them attention when they break or need an adjustment. At all other times, God’s Word and the people who listen to it, read it, and translate it should have the focus.

When we “retire” computers from campus use after three or four years, we assess their condition and quality to determine if they might be suitable tools for our colleagues overseas who cannot afford to purchase a new computer. If a laptop is still in good shape, then we breathe new life into it and send it with a translation consultant to a translator who needs a new(er) tool. Perhaps one day I will recognize a computer I serviced in another video – even if I don’t recognize the person using it.

Please pray today for all of the translation workers around the world who need a new computer, and pray that this need will not be a barrier to progress in their work.

† A “pidgin” language is one in which the words from one language have been blended with the grammar of another to form a language significantly different from either. Normally, a stable pidgin that has native speakers is called a “creole” language, but you know how names stick sometimes. English, by the way, is technically a creole language – it has a long history of borrowing heavily from other languages.

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