In the war-torn country of Myanmar, the Matu Chin people number more than 30,000. Formerly animists and headhunters, the Matu embraced Christianity roughly 100 years ago. Today, 80 percent of Matus profess Christianity, with 44 percent claiming to be evangelical, despite heavy persecution within their country. For years, their only piece of Christian literature was a single hymnal. Burdened for his people, a Matu man began translating the New Testament, later helped by BI missionaries.
BI published the Matu Chin New Testament in 1998. However, when BI missionaries were allowed to enter Myanmar themselves, they discovered that the translation was not well received in churches because it was not the Matu people’s primary dialect. So in 2005, Bibles International began a revision project.
Communication was difficult with Matu Christian leaders because of their remote location where Myanmar’s civil war still rages. The translation was finally sent to press this year, and the Matu people eagerly await it, along with the Old Testament, which BI hopes to complete in the future.
The Mnema (a pseudonym) Bible, first dedicated by BI in 2011, became BI’s first transliteration project in 2022. In this Asian Creative Access Nation, the Mnema people’s ancient language and script were used for more than 3,500 years until a new state script was introduced in the 1800s. However, since 2006, the ancient script has been so successfully reintroduced that young people can no longer read the state script, including the 2011 Mnema Bible. The translation team opted to revise the Mnema Bible in the state script for the older generation (dedicated in 2019) and then transliterate it into script readable by the younger generation.
This special translation is a revision of BMM’s first Bible translation project, started at our founding in 1920. Since that time, the government of the Central African Republic (where Sango is spoken) changed its orthography enough that only the older generations could read the Sango Bible. Although the revision should have been a relatively short project, it was lengthened by several setbacks. Rebel fighting that broke out in 2012 made it impossible to hold revision workshops during the next several years. The situation became so dire that the African translator buried his laptop in the forest for fear that it would be stolen by soldiers. By God’s grace, the revision was completed this year.
At press time, BI faced a new challenge. When Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, BI foresaw supply-chain issues with its printer in Belarus, so they switched to a printer in Korea.
Bibles International stands out among Bible societies in its emphasis on the local church. In conjunction with Scripture translations, BI missionaries make every effort to train national churches in how to read and use their new Scriptures. In this way, BI fortifies local churches worldwide.
This year BI created the Scripture Engagement Department (SED) to formalize and increase these efforts. Michael Carlyle was appointed its first manager. With his cross-cultural church planting background (Michael and his wife, Julie, formerly served in Cambodia), Michael brings an understanding of the needs and how-tos of mentoring Christian leaders.
Michael explains SED as the ministerial side of a Bible translation project. Scripture Engagement missionaries will work closely with translators, linguists, and local church leaders from the start so that the translation will be effective for its culture. Even before publication, they will work alongside BI’s literacy specialists who teach people groups to read. SED missionaries will also serve national churches through pastoral training and literature development such as introductory or interpretive articles to give the new Bibles greater dimension. Additional literature may include resources like gospel tracts and Bible studies.
Baptist Mid-Missions’ mission statement was superbly manifested in Bible’s International’s developments this year. When God’s work advances as His church is built up, that’s cause for celebration!
Our God has a tender heart for the hurting people of this world. And so do you. That’s why you gave so generously in 2022 to World Relief.
Churches graduated and launched in 2022 plus missionaries starting their first term of service
Opening new fields and launching specialized ministries. Your gift to the Global Impact fund does this and more.