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This blog is personal correspondence from one of Wycliffe Associates’ directors who is at work in the field, supporting Bible translators in some of the most dangerous places in the world. Those who are hostile to the Good News regularly troll the internet, so we are omitting names and places to protect believers who may be at risk.

Q. What’s it like to see the persecution and injustice our Bible translation partners endure each day?

A. My personal reactions to these situations are hard to describe. I get really defensive of my brothers and sisters initially. My flesh wants to fight the oppressors for them, but my heart knows that would only make their situation worse upon my departure. Raising a voice to injustice is ingrained in me, so it is hard for me to watch as they constantly look over their shoulders for the next threat.

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit responds differently. While my heart aches to see what they go through, I am overcome with a sense of respect for them. I am immediately confronted with what is driving them to endure this: faith in the eternal promise of paradise beyond this earthly oppression. These incidents only further inspire me to help them have the only true freedom they may ever know—the freedom they can find in Christ alone, through the Scripture alone.

When I’m stopped and questioned or surveilled rather obviously by the powers that rule these places, I can’t help but put myself in the local believers’ position. Imagine what it must be like living in this environment of scrutiny and threats day after day. What strength of spirit it must take to remain faithful to Christ and the Christian community under such persecution, where loved ones are captured, beaten, and sometimes killed. It is at once soul-crushing to hear of or witness, and awe-inspiring to watch unfold. It is a rare privilege to serve with these brave national Bible translators as they honor God under constant threat of suffering and death. To our Lord be the eternal glory. It's just so hard to put into words the rollercoaster of emotions I experience when serving side by side with our partners.

Q. Where is persecution the worst among the translation projects under way now?

A. There is one country in Southeast Asia that is by far the worst official oppression I have encountered. The police there have convinced believers that one in six of them are government operatives, spying on the local church.

We were under daily surveillance by plain clothed and uniformed officers at the Bible College. My student told me that a common tactic of the government there is to allow Christians to gather freely, then follow them home from the gatherings.

The police do this to track the movements of leaders they feel may subvert governmental authority through the underground church. Some provinces are more aggressive about this tracking than others. One team from that area was detained and questioned for TWO DAYS before being allowed to continue on to the workshop.

Since it is impossible for westerners to visit the remote villages without placing a target on the local church, we have to bring the community leaders to places where tourism and education are feasible reasons for them to be away from home. But this still doesn’t guarantee they won’t be followed.

So, in order to return home safely with the completed translation work, and the technology they need to continue, they must switch motor bikes at the border of each province as they travel home. The goal here is to have a bike with a license plate that matches each province they are traveling through. This minimizes the threat of being pulled over and interrogated.

God has blessed us with one local pastor who can move around the country freely due to his academic status. This helps us to network with the local teams and aid progress on the translations. Still, a workshop he held last year was raided by police. They heard there was a gathering of Christians in a rather rural building and swooped in. (I saw a video of this transpiring. It looked like a shack in the middle of nowhere).

Many translators fled into the surrounding countryside to avoid questioning, but some were detained. These were later released when it was determined they were no threat to the government yet were still warned not to gather in this province anymore.

Despite these restrictions, there is a workshop being held in this country. From what I can tell, it is the first publicly acknowledged gathering since the raid. The goal is to bring these brave believers to a place where they can meet with western missionaries in relative security, compared to their home villages, and train in Bible translation for their mother tongue. My guess is, they will still be sneaking home, while we freely board airplanes home.

I can think of another very restrictive country which I cannot name publicly, as the government is Muslim from the top down. A previous meeting there was raided by government police and local Christian leaders were detained and questioned for SIX HOURS. No one was imprisoned that time, but a message was definitely being sent.

When we gathered at a Christian school in a village outside the capital (which is contained within a compound surrounded by spiked concrete walls and battered iron gates) last year, we foreigners were stopped by the police entering AND leaving the city, morning and night.

Last month, instead of attracting this unwanted attention, we brought the students out of the villages and hunkered down at a hotel for 10 days of Bible Translation Boot Camp. Not only did a team there revive a stalled Old Testament project, but six new language groups, inspired by the training, stepped up to start working on their first heart language Scripture translations. Praise God!

Also, thanks to these training efforts, a February event is being held with our financial assistance, but all of the hosting and training is being done by nationals. This is Church Owned Bible translation in action!

Please pray and give as you are able to encourage and equip underground churches and Christians who are actively pursuing Bible translation at great risk to themselves and loved ones. Thank you for spreading the word to other believers about the great need for Bible translation and the incredible commitment these believers have to continue their work to see Scripture in a language where it has never existed before!