Scripture Engagement

Printing and distributing Bibles is only part of the job. People must be able to access and engage with Scripture in a format they can appreciate and understand. For those who read, that can be a print publication. But often, other media are more effective and appropriate to a local context.

Bible Studies

Scripture engagement workers can help communities learn how to interact with Scripture in effective ways. They usually begin with portions that are relevant and interesting in the local context. For example, nomadic peoples find it easy to identify with the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob because of their pastoral culture. Household servants and members of large families can identify with Joseph and the sibling rivalry that he faced. Women can identify with the problems of Sarah, Naomi, Ruth, and Hannah.


Oral communities are accustomed to learning and communicating through stories that are passed down through generations. In projects like OneStory, specialists help storytellers learn to deliver the Gospel through effective retelling of key biblical stories. People from the community will gather to hear these stories and then retell them, resulting in spiritual growth and new believers for the Kingdom of God.


Radio programs are popular in many cultures, and a well-done Scripture program can reach many people who may never hold a Bible in their hands. Sometimes listening groups will gather around a radio or an audio player to listen to God's Word and then discuss the Scripture they've heard.


In addition to pieces like the “JESUS” film or the Genesis video, specialists can also help local speakers create Scripture-based videos that address issues facing their particular culture. A video using local actors facing a common situation can be an effective way to explain biblical truths that apply to the situation in a culturally relevant way.

Ethnomusicology and Arts

Each culture uses its own rhythms, melodies, and instruments to convey meaning through music. An intonation that signals politeness in one language may signal disbelief in another. It would be inappropriate to use victory music at a tragic scene, party music at a serious scene, or shaman music at a worship scene. A familiar musical setting helps people identify with the message. A song that sounds beautiful to a Westerner may sound dissonant to someone else and hinder them from opening up to the message.

Ethnomusicologists work with local artists to help them create meaningful Scripture songs for their community. Wycliffe is also expanding its work to include ethnoarts. Arts consultants work alongside local musicians, dancers, actors, and storytellers to spark the creation of new songs, dances, dramas, and stories that communicate God's message in powerful ways.

Trauma Healing and HIV/AIDS Education

In many parts of the world today, wars, ethnic conflict, and civil disturbances have left people traumatized. In order to help people express their thoughts and emotions and know that God deeply cares about them, Wycliffe staff have created and translated biblically-based trauma healing materials. Healing the Wounds of Trauma is especially useful for church leaders who are called upon to help their congregations after major trauma has occurred.

For communities facing HIV/AIDS, a booklet called Kande's Story has been translated into more than one hundred languages. It teaches a biblical approach to HIV/AIDS prevention and care through a true-to-life story based on the account of an African pastor. As the community–especially people from the local church–help Kande and her siblings, they also learn that by following God's instructions for living, they can avoid getting AIDS themselves or spreading it to others.

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Road to Transformation

The Bible translation process can be loosely compared to a roadmap of checkpoints. While each language project is unique, this map helps to simplify an otherwise complex process for the purpose of illustration.

Steps of Translation

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In cases where a community is not already interested in Bible translation, a gateway project can help raise awareness and open closed doors. Literacy classes, healthcare, and a number of other practical helps are tangible ways to demonstrate love and build relationships with the community and its local government officials. When they see that someone sincerely cares about them, they are more likely to consider and even grant assistance to a Bible translation project.

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Language Development

Translators need a good understanding of how target language works, and local speakers need skills and resources to use their language in new ways (like reading the Bible). Language specialists can help analyze and document language structures, and develop resources like orthographies (writing systems), practical grammars (descriptions of how to form grammatical sentences), dictionaries, and literacy materials.

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Traditionally, the average Bible translation took about twenty-five years to complete, but if trained people, resources, and language development are already in place, some of the initial steps happen much quicker and allow the team to get right to the translation phase. The translation step itself is also enhanced when teams have access to the latest technology or can operate in cluster projects—a method where translators from similar languages work together to complete multiple translations at once. We're excited that these methods have been accelerating the pace of Bible translation more than ever before in human history!

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Translation teams include speakers of the language, along with outside translation specialists. Together they carefully study the original Greek and Hebrew text, specialized translation commentaries, and the local linguistic and cultural context. The team uses special software programs to create trial portions of the text, and then they have it checked by consultants and tested by communities for clarity and accuracy, tediously going through numerous drafts and revisions until it is ready for publication.

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Community Development

Translating Scripture takes place in a larger context of holistic, transformational development. Literacy and education form a big part of this picture. Translators might help create primers, educational curriculum, and booklets addressing crucial issues such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, agriculture, maternal health, and clean water. They may also partner with others who specialize in crucial aspects of community development.

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Once the text of a translation is finalized, it can be published in a variety of ways. Traditionally, there's usually been a printed version, in which case translators will work with a typesetter to lay out and format the text so it can be given to a printing company. The translation team may also ask one of our partners (such as Faith Comes By Hearing, MegaVoice, YouVersion, and the “JESUS” film) to produce audio, video, or digital versions of the Scripture. In the case of signed languages, the Scripture itself will be in video form.

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Translation projects can get put on hold if a team member becomes sick or dies or if the area the team is working in suffers instability or natural disaster. A drop in financial support will also slow down or stop a project until sufficient funds can be raised. Wycliffe translators find that roadblocks tend to increase in amount and intensity as they get close to finishing a Bible translation. If you'd like to pray for translation projects within three years of completion, go to the Finish Line publication for more information.


Once the Scriptures have been published in the form of a book, audio player, or DVD, they'll get placed on board a ship, plane, vehicle, or some other form of transportation headed in the direction of the language group. If necessary, a local agent will be responsible for getting the Bibles through customs and transported to their final destination. Digital Scripture versions can either be placed on a website for people to download or be transferred via cell phone or other storage devices. The community often plans an event to publicize, celebrate, and distribute the new Scripture.

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Scripture Engagement

Scripture engagement workers develop creative ways to help people understand and integrate God's Word into their daily lives. This can take the form of Bible study curriculum, skits, ethnomusicology (composing Scripture songs in local music styles), trained Bible storytellers, radio programs, or video lessons on Scriptural truths. Two Scripture-based studies, in particular, have been highly effective for many people groups–Healing the Wounds of Trauma for those who have suffered tragedy like war or natural disaster and Kande's Story for communities facing HIV/AIDS.

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As communities receive and understand God's Word clearly for the first time, lives can change in dramatic ways. Many find freedom from harmful addictions and longstanding conflicts. When communities realize that they matter to God—that He speaks their language—their personal relationships begin to reflect God's love. And as people find dignity, along with new knowledge and education, they can overcome poverty. The Church can be established or strengthened and the Scriptures can be used to make disciples who will share Christ with new communities! Click here for stories about individuals and whole communities who have been transformed by God's Word.

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