By Eric Leijenaar, BosNewsLife Senior Special Correspondent reporting from the Netherlands
AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS (BosNewsLife)-- Translators of U.S.-based Wycliffe Associates have launched two Bible translation projects in countries where evangelism, or even reading a Bible, is forbidden.
In comments obtained by BosNewsLife Saturday, May 21, Wycliffe's Chief Executive Officer Bruce Smith described the efforts as the most "difficult in Wycliffe Associates' history."
"The Gospel cannot be openly preached in these countries and the Bible can't be read in public," he said in a statement to BosNewsLife's Netherlands-based news partner Uitdaging/mv monthly and its website Manna-vandaag.nl.
Smith said among the nations targeted by his organization was at least one predominately Muslim country with a strongly Islamic government, where he claimed Christians face persecution, even from family members and neighbors.
He refused to confirm that one of these countries is Saudi Arabia amid reports that religious police have raided several home churches. 'It's not easy...We have to be careful," Smith explained. "I find myself continually pleading with God for guidance in our efforts, and for protection for Bible translators, trainers, their families, and their support teams."
Smith cautioned that both projects will take over a decade because it is not possible to work openly, making it difficult to edit and distribute texts. "It may take up to 15 years before the Bible becomes available in the native language."
It comes at a time when Bible translation is getting more dangerous, he said, referring to the recent death of a Wycliffe Bible translator in a bombing attack and the disappearance of a missionary with The Seed Company, which also supports Bible translations.
Additionally, Bible translators have to go to unstable remote areas where the Bible was not yet translated in native languages.
Smith told broadcaster Mission Network News (MNN) however that his organization has what he called "Translation Acceleration Kits", 25 of which were recently placed in Nigeria.
He said the technical devices, which include satellite communication equipment, reduce travel time. "[It] enables teams to collaborate across towns, across countries, and across the world, literally, by connecting to the Internet. That reduces the need for people to be out in insecure situations."
As countries in the Middle East and Africa continue to erupt into chaos, translators can have access to the Internet even when the rest of the country does not. Government-sanctioned Internet shutdowns cannot affect them, he said.
"The satellite modems that we're using in many of these locations connect to a satellite constellation that those governments don't control," explained Smith. "Those satellites are up there all day every day, and if you have an antenna that can transmit to and from those satellites, there's really no way for the government to stop that from happening."
He said the devices cost up to $3,500 for each kit. About 50 have been installed so far, but another 300 are needed in the near future, he added.
Wycliffe Associates was founded in 1967 by Bill Butler, Dale Kietzman, and Rudy Renfer, who said they wanted to "bring God’s Word to every tongue and every heart in the world.”
The group says it aims to start translation projects in every language still needing the Bible, by the year 2025. (With additional reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos).