Wycliffe Bible Translators
May 2023 | Edited by Steve Moberg
Wycliffe Bible Translators are working to bring the Bible to people around the world in their native languages. They currently have 2,400 translation projects underway. A Gashland member, Nancy Morse, has served Wycliffe as an Americas Area translation consultant, and has been based at the International Linguistics Center in Dallas since 2014. She is currently on a project in Colombia, doing translation checking. While she’s doing that, she asked one of the people she works with to share a bit of his story.
“My name is Idelfonzo. I’m a pastor in Venezuela. When I was in seminary, a few of us students participated in a training course for indigenous people at the SIL center in Lomalinda, Colombia. While we were there, God called me to indigenous ministry. Many years later I joined the Venezuelan Bible Translation organization, CLAN. I do exegesis of the passages to be translated, help the teams produce a bilingual dictionary, and help transport people and supplies in my truck when we have workshops and village testing.
“Over the years there have been many indigenous people in my church, and there still are. It is obvious that although they understand Spanish and express themselves well in Spanish on topics of daily life, the Bible in Spanish has little meaning for most of them. In fact, I’ve been horrified by some of their misunderstandings, especially of the figures of speech in scripture.”
We asked Idelfonzo how he’s seen God at work in his life and community through this ministry. “I have gained cherished friends and valuable insights, learning an indigenous language and culture. Exegesis for Bible translation is different from, more detailed than, exegesis for preparing a sermon. If we compare giving a sermon to serving a meal, I can say the people in my church have a healthier diet than they used to have since I learned how to do exegesis for translation.
“The ministry of training native speakers of a language to translate the Bible into their language has many benefits for these communities and the people that make them up. And I think the most important part is that the people have a clearer understanding of the meaning of scripture. Other benefits are that a number of the translators are getting advanced degrees in linguistics and can explain their language structure. These are people who eight years ago didn’t know a noun from a verb. The translators gain confidence and become leaders because they can read and write their language, and Spanish, better than most others in their community.”
Idelfonzo has found this work to be extremely rewarding. “As a seminary graduate, I can say translating God’s Word into one’s own language in a correct, clear, natural way, is better than any seminary education.”