The Bible in Every Tongue: A 'God-Sized' Mission

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ENTEBBE, Uganda - Young American couple Amber and Terrill Schrock have set an ambitious goal many wouldn't dream of taking on.

She's from Ohio and he's from Alabama, but together they now call Uganda home. There, they are developing a written language for a remote African tribe.

Their efforts are part of a project to translate the Bible into the last remaining languages on earth.

"We are not here just to make ourselves happy," Amber said. "We are here to do something for them to improve their lives."

"I can't even believe it sometimes. This is my life," she added. "I wake up in Africa everyday now."

The setting is picturesque, but nothing in that part of the world is easy. On one trip up a local mountain, the Schrocks found themselves facing raging floodwaters from a sudden downpour.

But it is home.

"We are on our way to Kamajong," Terrill said during the trip. "It is one of the main Ik centers -- a cluster of villages."

Since 2008, the Schrocks have lived among the Ik people. There are about 10,000 Ik tribe members and they live close to the Kenyan border.

Amber is a nurse. When they arrived in the village, she found a woman with pain in her waist.

"We have clinic on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.," she said. "I've been seeing 75 to 100 people a week."

Terrill is a linguist.

"My personal style of language learning is just spending a lot of time surrounded by it," he explained.

The Ik have always had an oral culture. But thanks to Terrill and his team, the tribe will soon have something they've never had before -- a written language.

"We already have a trial alphabet," he said.

And once the alphabet and testing are complete, Terrill will turn his attention to the main reason that he's there -- to give the Ik people a Bible in their own language.

"I love to translate, so if I can get to the point that I can actually translate Ik, I'll be translating anything," Terrill said.

The husband and wife work for Wycliffe Bible Translators, the world's largest Bible translation organization.

Several years ago, Wycliffe launched a project to reach an estimated 200 million people around the world with a Bible written in their own language.

Wycliffe USA president Bob Creson describes the campaign as "God-sized."

"We knew humanly speaking that it was going to be impossible unless God was a part of it," he said.

To accelerate the pace of Bible translation, teams now rely on computer software that uses related languages to adapt words and phrases to produce an initial rough draft translation of the Bible.

"I have friends who have actually created draft New Testaments in a matter of months," Creson said. "Now, it still takes several years to test those New Testaments, but it is cutting down the time that it takes to produce Scriptures for communities."

And that is music to the Ik people's ears.

"We can't wait to read the Bible in our own language," Ik tribe member Joseph Lochul said. "So many people around the world have the word of God in their native tongue. People in America, Germany and other parts of the world have the Bible. Now it is our turn."

Until that dream is fulfilled, Terrill and Amber continue to lay the foundation for Bible translation by improving the lives of the Ik people through practical ways, like basic health, education and job opportunities.

"So, by me having a public face and a public ministry with the people, they can look at Terrill and I as a couple and say 'We know them and they are here to help us so we accept them, we welcome them,'" Amber said.

*Originally published April 14, 2010

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