Just two years ago, we were completing a round of research and on-the-ground investigation on two fronts and wondering what steps to take next.
In Colombia, the brothers had heaps of data about dozens of language groups, all with real needs. Anabaptist churches willing to get involved could reach out in meaningful ways to many of these groups. But which of these situations is All-Nations best situated to help address?
In Canada, we had narrowed the possibilities down to one area. But there were niggling doubts. How urgent is the need for a complete Bible translation in this particular dialect? Are there others in a better position to help accomplish that? Might there be another language group this team could serve who speak much less of the national language than these people do?
God has guided clearly in these situations. As the All-Nations Board spoke into these situations, we realized the need for more clarity about where to focus. So recently we’ve developed some guidelines to help with “Determining Eligibility for an All-Nations Project.”
What are some examples of situations All-Nations projects may take place? We’ve identified three, as follows:
- Groups with no Scripture in their mother tongue, and little or no Christian witness.
- Groups with the New Testament without the Old Testament, especially where church planting is needed.
- Groups with an inadequate or poorly done translation that seems to hinder a local church from developing.
In summary, we only participate in projects where there is Bible translation need. Church planting need is a secondary factor in determining eligibility for an All-Nations project.
As we assist with survey and exploration to identify people groups eligible for a project, two factors will heavily influence our focus:
- We will prioritize requests from Anabaptist church planters working among people groups in need of Bible translation.
- We often facilitate research in a region or language group where an All-Nations member or team, or a sending church, has interest.
A final decision is made by the church(es), team members, and All-Nations together, after a lot of prayer and research. If possible, this involves spending time among the people or close by where the team can assess the situation and better understand what is needed.
At times, all our research cannot fully confirm whether a Bible translation is necessary for a given language. Social factors and language factors overlap, and sometimes it is just hard to tell, for example, how well the people get along with the national language and how fast they’re losing their own language.
We may go ahead with such a project until it becomes clear whether it will involve Bible translation. However, all parties go into it knowing that if Bible translation does not materialize, All-Nations might not continue to participate in the project. We will do best if we stay focused on our target.
The paper closes by carefully narrowing the focus. Naturally, not every potential situation can be addressed, and there may be occasional exceptions. Nevertheless, the following situations are examples of language groups generally outside the target range of All-Nations Bible Translation:
- Groups that need church planting, community development, or literacy work, but have the complete or nearly complete Bible faithfully translated.
- Groups with no Bible translation, but high fluency and literacy in the trade language and few if any who speak only the mother tongue.
- Groups with no Bible translation, but research confirms a high degree of similarity with the orthography, vocabulary, and syntax of a similar variant that has a Bible translation.
- Groups where a thriving local church simply needs to be trained and equipped to undertake their own translation.
Today, a team in Colombia is preparing to focus, Lord willing, on a language group with only two short books of the Old Testament. The team that spent time in Canada almost ready to go serve alongside an Anabaptist church planter among a small Scriptureless subgroup of the Tarahumara in northern Mexico. Right now they are spending six weeks here at the All-Nations base for Team Launch.
We thank God for the experience of walking with these teams and others, and how this helped clarify All-Nations’ laser focus.