Read the Bible lately? Whether you were at home, in church or using an app on your phone on the train, most likely you were reading in English. Like me, you probably take for granted the fact that you have access to a reliable translation of the Scriptures. For this, we can thank pioneers like John Wycliffe and William Tyndale who strove to make the Scripture’s message known even to the humblest ploughboy or milkmaid in their day. 

They understood that the gospel is the power of God for salvation to all who believe. But without the Scriptures translated into the language of its readers, how would anyone know about the Jesus who can save? Would you know of Christ if the Bible weren’t available in English? Shouldn’t we be more thankful to possess the greatest treasure on earth?

If this is true for English speakers, the same principle applies to other languages. People of all languages need access to the inspired writings for their salvation and edification. Yet contrary to popular perception, this work of Bible translation has not been completed.

Dawt Hniang was a Christian for 42 years before she saw the complete Bible. In fact, in her whole church there was just one copy of the New Testament:

“I would go to the church and read that… New Testament.  In my whole life I have never owned my own Bible as Bibles in our language are almost impossible to come by.”

Just recently, though, she has got hold of a copy of the Bible for herself. How she must prize that long-sought for treasure! But how unusual is her story?

Worldwide, 1 in 5 people don’t have the complete Bible in their language. Of the 7,353 languages in the world, 698 have a full Bible. Others only have access to the New Testament: this is the case for 1,548 languages of the globe’s tongues. And whilst there is a lot of translation work going on in other languages, and portions already available, there are still about 2000 languages that neither have portions of the Bible nor any translation work.

And translation, necessary though it is, is not the whole shooting match. There are many people who can’t afford a Bible or need Bibles distributed to them: people like Dawt Hniang.

In some cases there aren’t enough printed copies to go around: demand way outstrips supply for the world’s most popular book. Then there are those who can’t read and need to be taught. Audio Bibles and Bible apps are a great way to shine the light of God’s Word in some of the darker recesses of the world.

But there is much still to be done. There’s a place, then for computer programmers, educators, distributors and printers in the remaining task. Some of God’s people may feel compelled to give funds, others to go and smuggle. But surely all of God’s people can pray to the Father of lights to give the great gift of His Word to those still in darkness.