Musicians and politicians are declaring 2020 the "year of the Bible". It's a year-long campaign to promote a global celebration of the Word of God.
Jesus said, preach the word to every tongue, tribe, and nation and then the end will come. Today, thanks to new technologies, what once seemed a nearly impossible task, is now happening at much greater speed, and that includes Bible translation.
Twenty or 30 years ago, Bible translators had to say goodbye to friends and family, sometimes for years at a time, to live overseas. Today, video chat, text messages, and the global network allow missionaries to serve from their homes in the US and connect to translation teams remotely.
Dr. John Chesnut of Wycliffe Bible Translators tells CBN News, "What used to take years and years to do – for example, a New Testament may have been 20 years, 30 years – now we can bring it along in about 6-8 years which is pretty incredible."
Chesnut says today's technology allows the indigenous people themselves to engage in the work, much more so than in the past.
"Many have training or we get to train with them, in order to use this technology. And so more and more, they are actually doing the work," Chesnut says.
Chesnut says they're also seeing smartphones replace print.
"And smartphones can go and take text and scriptures and videos places where print cannot, particularly in countries where it may be a safety or security issue for them to be caught with something that's printed," Chesnut says.
There are still many many people groups out there that don't have the Bible in their own language.
Chesnut says, "You would think, 2019, the work would be getting close to being done, but there's almost 7,000 languages around the world today and it's estimated that about 2,100 do not have any form of scripture in their language that they understand, that they speak in their homes. It's about 170 million people that we believe do not have any scripture yet in a language that really speaks to their heart."
He says it's an incredible experience to actually be there when someone receives the Word of God in their own language and holds it in their hands for the first time.
"I'll tell you, just getting to see the expression – something we don't understand here in the US because I was born with God's Word available, but when a community has God's Word for the very first time and they're getting to experience that – this is in my language, it's not in another language, it's in my language, God speaks my language – that is transformational."
Even with new technologies, the work can still be dangerous.
"It is very much so – the unreached people groups of the world are unreached for a reason. They're in some of the hardest areas and most difficult areas of the world. Those from the US can get kicked out of these countries, but those that are from these communities are often the ones in the greatest danger and so it continues to be a sacrifice for all those involved."
Chesnut says God is using technology to expand his kingdom.
"And so we are looking to continue to engage fully in technology to see how God will continue both in speeding up translations, making higher quality translations, as well as getting God's Word out in all of these forms so that people can know and understand and interact with His Word."