We need people who have a heart for missions, are well trained in Biblical studies, can work with the original languages, and most of all, who have a profound sense of inadequacy (i.e. willing to be used by God despite their own inabilities). Does that describe you? If so, read the following prayerfully!
Larry B. Jones presented a paper entitled “Volunteer Exegetical Checkers–addressing the growing translation consultant gap” at the Bible Translation 2009 conference in Dallas, TX. In this paper he cites statistics presented by Gordon Williams and other Seed Company staff in 2006 in support of the Seed Company’s National Consultant Intern project. The numbers are slightly outdated since they were given in 2006 (a recent post of mine gives more up-to-date numbers), but I still thought they would be good to post.
Wycliffe Bible Translators are the “big dog on the block” when it comes to doing Bible translation. In 2006 there were 338 translation consultants in Wycliffe, and they were working on 1,640 projects. They estimated that there were still 2,529 projects needing to be done. Wycliffe and others with the Forum for Bible Agencies (FOBA) established Vision 2025 in which a translation project would be started by 2025 for every language that needs a Bible translation. The Seed Company, therefore, was assessing how to meet the needs of these 2,500+ projects.
Before I give their report on their consultant availability to meet these needs, I want to cite the numbers they give that break down this 2,529 number for languages still needing a Bible translation. They break this number down into regions:
- Americas: 104
- Africa: 881
- Asia: 931
- Eurasia: 181
- Pacific: 432
In Wycliffe where, as I said above, they are working on 1,640 projects, each consultant averages 4.85 projects per person. That’s a little higher than the number of projects each of us BI consultants works on. You may not think I am assessing things correctly, since we have 37 active projects and 15 active translation consultants. But only 7 of those consultants do full-time consulting (I don’t include myself in that number). So, it’s actually quite complicated to figure out how many projects can be distributed over our consultant pool.
Back to Jones’ paper… Though Wycliffe isn’t proposing that they meet all of the upcoming needs in Bible translation, Jones assessed the future situation in Wycliffe by noting the age of the current consultants. Of the 338 consultants, 307 gave their age information. Of the 307 who submitted information, 124 were over the age of 60. This means that it’s possible that 40% of their consultants will be retired by 2016. If I read the line graph in the paper correctly, it looks like only around 64 are 50 years old or younger, so around 80% of their consultants will retire by around 2025, the year that FOBA marks for the goal of getting translations started in all projects that need them. Yes, I know they have new consultants joining on each year, but I’m not sure the new consultants is more than the retiring consultants.
At BI 4 of our 15 translation consultants are over 60. Thankfully, we have 4 new translation consultants currently on deputation (not to mention 2 new literacy/linguistics consultants to join the 1 full-time literacy/linguistics consultant!). We praise the Lord for answering our prayer to send forth laborers into “our corner” of the harvest, but more are needed! Please keep praying so that we can help meet the needs of the millions who still wait for a good translation of the Word of God.