2022 and the Vision for the Alliance

Dear Friends,

Stephen Coertze – Executive Director of the Wycliffe Global Alliance

In the early weeks of a new year, it is customary for an organisational leader to talk about his/her vision for the coming months. The Alliance has never set a separate, individual vision for a specific year in terms of what we want to accomplish. We all do, however, share an agreed-upon vision statement: Individuals, communities and nations transformed through God’s love and Word expressed in their languages and cultures. So, while I will not be bringing anything brand-new to the table here, I would like to take time to nuance how we as an Alliance might give focus and expression to our shared vision in 2022.

We have identified three major areas of focus: Bible translation, influences impacting the Bible translation movement, and collaboration. Allow me to briefly address each.

Bible translation

This of course remains at the core of our vision, to make Scripture available in every language that needs it. Part of our focus remains technical competence in the process of translating text from one language to another, resulting in Scripture that is accurate, clear and useful. It is worth noting here that the Alliance, as represented by the Alliance Leadership Team (ALT), does not do translation. We do facilitate missiologically sound training, and help make it available for mother-tongue translators and expats, all of whom can then train others.

Consultancy remains another focus as we work to alleviate bottlenecks. The Alliance helps our organisations recognise consultants and understand the requirements and qualities needed for the consultancy process. But we also ask questions like: Aside from the final checks at the end of the translation process, are there other spaces in Bible translation where consultants come into play? What is the potential of helping churches to recruit and train consultants? Who could alleviate some of the pressure surrounding the final consultancy check?

The Alliance serves as a catalyst for all-Scripture translation, also known as closing the Old Testament gap. We certainly are not driving this movement, but we connect people and organisations who are — which then gives them the ability to drive it.

We will continue to be involved in and assist where we can in terms of multimodality products in translation. There are so many initiatives happening. For example, as organisations such as Wycliffe Australia (among others) develop software to be used in translation for the Deaf, they can connect with other organisations to discuss initiatives and share resources. If needed, the Alliance can assist in making such connections possible. Or, take oral Bible translation. One thing we have learned is that oral translation and consultancy cannot happen in the same way as in written translations. So, as we see more and more players step into this space, we help expand those conversations and bring the role players together.

Those topics represent the technical side of Bible translation focus. There is also an increasingly complex question: Who participates? The involvement of the church is central — not only in the technical sense of doing Bible translation with the church, but also in doing Bible translation for the church. (In next month’s issue of The Journey we will take a closer look at this).

We really cannot talk about a fully functional church if we cannot talk about the church and the Bible in the same language. We as an Alliance need to understand and discuss the place of the church in the Bible translation process and programmes. More than that, we will also continue to engage with the church to understand its place in mission, and for Alliance organisations to better understand how we relate to the church.

On the subject of who participates in Bible translation, another question looms: What is the future working relationship between local translators and expats? Feelings about this range from uncertainty to anxiety. I want to ensure that expats still feel welcome and needed at the Bible translation table. God has gifted his church globally, not only in certain regions, and I don’t believe that God is withdrawing his gifts from one area and simply handing it to another area in the ministry of Bible translation. There is space for all at the Bible translation table. I don’t believe a shift has taken place where the workforce is now the majority world church and the funders are the traditional players involved in Bible translation. Both of those areas belong to the global church.

Something has shifted, though, and that is how we participate at the Bible translation table. Together, we must work through a fundamental understanding of our sending practices in light of Scripture. Traditionally, it was easy to understand that being “sent” was to go somewhere else—to be a missionary. I believe the nuance of being sent has shifted. What does it mean that I and others can participate in a language programme without living in the context of that language programme? What can and should our contribution be now? What does it mean when the Lord Jesus Christ says, “As the Father has sent me, so send I you”? We need to prayerfully explore these kinds of questions together.

Of course, there are other important activities that surround Bible translation programmes, and we will continue to give them focus as well. Those include Scripture engagement, literacy, language development, church planting, mercy services and more. Throughout our history we have always tried to take a holistic look at Bible translation, but today that holistic look is broadening more than we might have ever imagined. Although many of these activities are fulfilled by other ministries, Bible translation forms a central piece within the mission of God.

Influences

When we talk about influences impacting the Bible translation movement, by no means do we mean strictly negative influences. There are numerous positive influences. In those, we can celebrate the continuing impact of all those who have gone before us in this ministry. We have not arrived in a new era where we have suddenly discovered good, new things that those people could never see. We are experiencing the fruit and reaping the harvest of what they have sown, and the growth that God has given. So, we look at new organisations and denominations joining the Bible translation movement as positive influences, even when they bring new questions to grapple with.

We don’t necessarily need to see the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world as all bad; there are many positives. VUCA helps us to think about issues thoroughly and become creative in our approaches. It helps us to be nimble. It helps us to think differently. It helps us to devise creative solutions. So, in terms of vision, VUCA is something that we could embrace rather than shying away from it and trying to protect ourselves from it. It helps us as an Alliance to move to the cutting edge of things.

My wife, Lezelle, reminded me recently that we are all going to falter and make mistakes. But when we falter, she added, we can falter into the future and not into the past. Our mistakes can help us embrace new opportunities.

Collaboration

In the world we work in, I cannot see any other way we can be effective if not through collaboration. We want to help each other make the best contribution we can toward the same goal and vision we have for Bible translation. Four metaphors may help understand how we as an Alliance can navigate the world of collaboration.

  • On the lookout. Let us make one another aware of what is happening in the Bible translation world. What do we see? Where do we see growth opportunities? Where do we see dangers? Where do we see initiatives that we can embrace and move forward in?
  • In the garden. This is simply ministering to and serving one another. Looking out for one another … helping each other to grow … sharing resources and expertise. Alliance organisations come together with specific initiatives year to year. And then, we join with other organisations to continue this journey of helping each other, to give our best for the Bible translation movement.
  • Setting tables. The key to collaboration is having needed discussions with the right people present. There are so many discussions we need to have. We as the Alliance will help set tables where needed. Alliance organisations can also set tables among themselves, inviting each other into their discussions. And then, we as an Alliance can encourage organisations to share what they have learned.
  • Be a bridge. The Alliance can help link people, organisations and ideas. We can help connect the past to the future. Significantly as we look to 2022, we also can be a bridge between the known and the unknown. Sure, we sit with some fear and uncertainty about what lies ahead, but there is a lot that we know. How can we assist one another in bridging the gap between the known and the unknown? Between the now and the future? Between ideas that might be foreign for some, where others have already started to articulate them? How can we help bridge those gaps so that we can come into a common space of understanding?

Finally …

There is so much more I could say about any of these areas of focus. They are vast, and they can feel overwhelming. When I pray about it all, I pray that as an Alliance, we can move forward in unity and common understanding. I pray that we hear all the voices that we need to hear … that each organisation can contribute to the conversations we need to have. I pray that our vision will be met — that we will see individuals, communities and nations transformed through God’s love and Word expressed in their languages and cultures. And when we say “through God’s love”, that our translation projects and programmes will be centres of God’s love, demonstrated to the church that we wish to participate with and also serve.

Together in Christ,

Stephen Coertze
Executive Director
Wycliffe Global Alliance

 

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Photos:

  • Sosthene Dankouli makes edits to the draft translation of the book of Luke during a checking session, Chad. Photo by Elaine Bombay.
  • A regular Sunday morning service at Trinity Church, Mitchells Plain, South Africa. Photo by Elyse Patten.
  • Tourists cross a hanging bridge in Arenal Hanging Bridges Park in Costa Rica. Photo by Rodney Ballard.

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