God Can Speak to Unmapped Cities with Tiny Kit

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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Wycliffe Associates' mission is clear the moment you arrive at the organization's Orlando headquarters. The ministry exists to deliver the gospel to every nation, every tribe, and in every language.

Regent University graduate Bruce Smith guides that mission as president of the organization.   

"People need to hear from God in the language in which they pray because many people in the world pray," Smith told CBN News. "And when they pray, they pray in their first language, they don't pray in some second or third language." 

"When they are pleading to God about their desperate situation, about their family and their circumstances, they need to hear an answer from God in that same language," Smith continued.

To the 'Bleeding Edges'

There are about 7,000 languages in the world. And Wycliffe Associates is working to make sure the Bible is translated into every one of them.

The organization has worked with roughly 3,000 volunteers in 70 countries to speed up the process of translating the Bible. Many of those countries are quite difficult to reach.

"These are the bleeding edges of civilization in a lot of these places," Smith said.

"The great thing about Bible translation in the last century is that it has reached hundreds of language groups around the world," he continued. "The challenge we face today in the 21st Century is that all the easy places are finished. All that's left are the difficult places."

Solar-Powered Communication

One of the biggest challenges in those difficult places is reliable communication. It's a need that gave birth to what Smith calls the Bible Translation Acceleration Kit, or B-TAK.

"As soon as we started talking about this, we found a whole pool of talent that had been just beyond the horizon for us, ready, willing and able to help accelerate Bible translation, but not knowing how," he explained.

"So as soon as we started describing this opportunity, they just started flooding our direction. So, I pretty quickly had a manpower team that was like a dream team," Smith told CBN News.

That dream team's kit includes a solar panel to generate electricity and charge a battery. That battery then powers a small laptop and Internet modem. The modem connects to the Internet by satellite.

In the last three years, the kits have served about 295 translation teams.

"Some of the translation teams are telling us, just by having reliable communication, their translation has doubled," Smith said, reflecting upon the technology's success.

"This is not because they have become faster translators," Smith continued. "It is because all of the delays that were inherent in the system before, waiting for answers to questions, not knowing how to proceed forward, waiting to trade files and get responses back, those delays are now gone. And they can have answers immediately because of these tools."

Celebrating Connection

There is often celebration when the kits arrive in some of the most remote places.

"So many of these places are not actually cities on a map," Smith, who has personally traveled to some of them, told CBN News,

"They are areas where semi-nomadic people take care of animals, have seasonal farms," he continued. "These are not cities of any kind of description at all, and so they may have telephone poles, but the poles have no wires on them."

Volunteers also find comfort in the connection the kits provide.

"To have the capability to connect that computer and have connection with people outside their own area is encouragement to them because these are the people that are risking their lives in many cases, on the roads, unsafe conditions in areas that are antagonistic to Christianity," Smith said.

Baby Boomer Helpers

This work also helps to open a new door to missions work. Wycliffe Associates is seeing an increasing number of retirees traveling to its Orlando facility to work as volunteers.

"Right now, we're in the midst of the retirement of the baby boomers in the United States. In 2006, the first baby boomer started turning 60. The last Baby Boomer won't turn 60 until 2024," Smith said. 

"So right now, were in a unique provision in terms of God preparating among all these Christians who can contribute to mission and Bible translation in a way that wasn't possible 20 years ago," he added.

Peter Polloni is a retired engineer who helps to assemble the Bible Translation Acceleration Kits. He and his wife have been volunteering at Wycliffe for the last four years.

"It is a tremendous environment and it gives you much deeper insight into what's going on around the world," Polloni told CBN News about his volunteering experience at Wycliffe.

Polloni and his wife typically travel from their Philadelphia home to Orlando in early February and volunteer at Wycliffe until late May.

Like many of the retirees there, it gives them the chance to escape the harsh winters back at home. In fact, Wycliffe Associates has a waiting list for the RV Park on its campus.

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Efrem Graham

Efrem Graham

News Anchor & Reporter

Efrem Graham is an award-winning journalist, who comes to CBN News from the ABC owned and operated station in Toledo, Ohio.  He received his master's degree from the Columbia University Journalism School. He also holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.  Follow Efrem on Twitter @EfremGraham and "like" him at Facebook.com/EfremGrahamCBN.