Wycliffe Bible Translators is a missions organization focused on translating the Bible into every language on earth. It all began in 1917 when missionary William Cameron Townsend went to Guatemala to sell Spanish Bibles. He was shocked to find the people there spoke Cakchiquel and therefore could not understand the Bibles he brought. From that moment on, Townsend made it his mission for everyone to have a Bible in their own native language. He began by launching the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) to teach people how to translate the Bible, and in 1942, Wycliffe Bible Translators was officially founded.
The founding story of Wycliffe Bible Translators and their mission to end Bible poverty has motivated countless young men and women to study Bible translation. One such person is Lucas Cone, who finished his undergrad degree in Bible translation at Grace in 2020 and his M.Div. at Grace Theological Seminary in 2021.
Read on to learn more about Lucas’ experience in the program.
How did you land on the Bible translating major at Grace?
I did not know that the Bible translating program existed when I came to Grace. I started as a communication major, but I soon desired to pursue a Bible degree. As I explored the options, I learned about Bible Translation and a light bulb went off. I love languages, I wanted to study the Bible, I am interested in overseas work…so I went for it.
Mission week at Grace my freshman year also had some influence in the decision. I remember quite vividly a speaker from Wycliffe sharing a moving story from his experience with Bible translating. It highlighted for me how much I take for granted having access to God’s Word in a language I understand. I can read a hundred translations just in English, and my ancestors have been able to read the Bible in their heart language for who knows how many generations. Meanwhile millions are living and dying without access to God’s Word in a language they understand.
Why does the world need Bible translators?
There’s a great need for Bible translation. Some statistics from 2021 indicate that of the roughly 7,000 spoken and signed languages in the world, about 1,800 languages do not yet have translation projects started. Over a billion people do not have a Bible in their first language and millions and millions have no Bible in any language they understand.
What did you learn from your program that will stick with you the longest?
Tough to say. The summer I spent studying linguistics with SIL was remarkable. I learned so much, but what impacted me perhaps most was simply being in that unique environment, surrounded by future, present, and past global workers, some there to teach, some there for further training, and others, like me, there to get our feet wet. It was a diverse group, but there was a united desire to see people of all nations worshiping God and hearing/reading His Word in their heart language. The community, conversations, and relationships were priceless.
Are Biblical language courses like Greek and Hebrew helpful for the process of Bible translating?
This is not a simple question. There are different stages and roles within Bible translation and depending on a variety of factors, there can be different approaches to translation. So depending on what approach you use and what stage of the translation you are working on, you may or may not need to have familiarity with Greek and Hebrew. Nonetheless, I’m glad I studied it, and it opens up more possibilities for those who do.
What are ways that people can rally behind Bible translating efforts without becoming Bible translators themselves?
There are great organizations that focus solely on Bible translation such as Wycliffe and others that do Bible translating as part of church planting, like Ethnos 360 for example. These and other organizations need all sorts of people with all sorts of abilities. They need pilots and graphic designers and teachers and accountants, etc. If you have a skill, one of these organizations can probably use you. Even if you don’t do that, the whole body of Christ can and should be praying for the spread of the Gospel and strengthening of the church in the world, and Bible translation is an important part of that.
Lucas Cone is halfway through his two-year pastoral residency at Grace Polaris Church in Westerville, Ohio. This story appeared in a blog post from Grace College. See the original post here and learn more about Grace College here.