Last week we enjoyed meeting with the Berea congregation in northern Indiana. Though none of us knew it three years ago, when they agreed to send Sister Ayana to work in Bible translation, they opened themselves to supporting ABT’s likely first literacy consultant. Our encounter with this sending church focused on their work as her senders. Our additional meeting with Ayana focused on her initial ideas for literacy work among ABT teams.
The question we face is this: Why translate the Bible if no one can read it? And further, how effective will a translated Bible be if most struggle to read at all and few see value in making the effort?
A good literacy program addresses all of these questions with very practical answers. Thankfully, we can learn from the years of work and research by many others. Ayana has already invested many hours, miles, and even sweat and tears, into pulling from these resources. Kind Literacy leaders at Ethnos360 have shared their time, knowledge, and expertise.
Yet making literate societies out of oral societies is a lot of work. Is it that important that people learn to read?
The Scripture translated brings God’s Word into their language (the first leg of the stool). The Scripture taught, if well done, brings God’s Word into their context (the second leg of the stool). But without Literacy, we end up with a very tippy two-legged stool.
The Scripture read brings God’s Word into their reach. That’s the third leg of the stool. Without a well-developed ability to read, even with Scripture translation and teaching, the people remain dependent on others to read or tell God’s Word to them. But the fully literate person can benefit from carrying the Bible with him anywhere, referring to it anytime, and searching the Scriptures about any question.
Literacy is important because it helps make possible a living, growing, maturing church. Like translation, literacy serves as a means toward that end.
“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17
“Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witness of these things.” Luke 24:47, 48
“Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations.” Matthew 28:19
“In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:3
“That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the Gospel.” Ephesians 3:6
“That they all may be one; as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that You sent Me.” John 17:21
“Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’?” Mark 11:17
“Ask of me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance.” Psalm 2:8
“Behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes.” Revelation 7:9
“Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified.” 2 Thessalonians 3:1
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” 2 Timothy 3:16
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105
“As cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a far country.” Proverbs 25:25
“More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” Psalm 19:10
“All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You.” Psalm 22:27
“Truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.” Numbers 14:21
“Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples. For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.” Psalm 96:3, 4
“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” Habakkuk 2:14
“That all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other.” 1 Kings 8:60
“For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; in every place incense shall be offered to My name, and a pure offering; for My name shall be great among the nations.” Malachi 1:11
“All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and shall glorify Your name.” Psalm 86:9
“For as the earth brings forth its bud, as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.” Isaiah 61:11
"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" Psalm 46:10
"This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." 1 Timothy 2:3, 4
"You are worthy. . .; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God." Revelation 5:9,