Testify! Our Staff Share Stories of Your Prayers at Work. Here’s Erle.

Your faithful partnership is helping us reach countless lives around the world with God’s Word

In this “Testify Series,” our staff at American Bible Society share the testimonies of people whose lives have been transformed through your prayers.

Your prayers enable American Bible Society and our global partners to share the life-changing message of the Bible with people around the world. And God is moving on hearts in miraculous ways!

Today, Erle Deira, who serves on our Bible Translation team, shares how your prayers are helping us bring God’s Word to those still waiting for it in their heart language and how you can continue to pray for the work the Translation team is doing. We hope this testimony inspires you to continue praying for lives to be transformed through God’s Word.

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do at American Bible Society.

I have been married to my beautiful wife Patricia for 42 years and we have two adult daughters. I am originally from Suriname where I served as General Secretary /CEO at the Suriname Bible Society. After that, I joined American Bible Society and have worked here for 17 years thus far.

I currently serve as the Director of Translation Partnerships on the Bible Translation team. In my role, I have the privilege of working with multiple partners, including Bible Translation agencies and Bible Societies that are involved in translating God’s Word into every living language so that every person on earth can experience its life-transforming message.

What does it mean to translate God’s Word into every living language?

There are more than seven billion people in the world today, speaking 6,059 distinct languages. Around five billion people have access to the Word of God in their heart language, but more than two billion people are still awaiting Scripture in their native language. That means approximately 2,200 languages, including sign languages, still do not have any Scripture translated.

They need the Bible in their own language. That is what our team endeavors to make possible. ABS is a founding member of the United Bible Societies, as well as of the ETEN Alliance, and as such our Translation team serves as the arms and legs of ABS to do our part, together with our global partners, to translate the Word of God into the language of every living person so that the knowledge of the Lord will fill the earth as the waters covers the sea (Habakkuk 2:14).

What does translating the Bible entail?

Translating the Bible is a complex, collaborative, and labor-intensive process. It requires training, the use of special technology, proof-reading, quality assurance checks, and years of pouring over the texts. In the past, it took decades to complete translation projects. However, with innovative approaches and technology, qualified manpower, and fully funded Bible translation projects, translations can be completed as fast as 3‒5 years for New Testaments and 8‒12 years for a full Bible.

In addition, translation work can be dangerous for Bible translators who serve in areas hostile to Christianity. They face threats of violence such as their homes being raided or burned down. In Christian minority countries local authorities could constantly track their every move. Bible translators often have to flee their communities and go into hiding.

But despite the arduous task of translating the Bible and the numerous challenges Bible translators sometimes face, they continue to forge a path for God’s Word to reach every person on earth. Their sacrifice enables millions around the world to experience Scripture for the first time in their heart language. And they need our support, starting with our prayers.

Can you share a testimony of someone who received God’s Word for the first time in their native language?

Sure. Angola’s Umbangala people recently celebrated the completion of the very first translation of the New Testament in their heart language!

More than 500 people gathered at a school in Lunda Norte Province in the northeast of Angola to receive the new Scripture. As sister Adelina* began reading verses aloud for all to hear, she said, “I have dreamed of this day for years.”

Until the completion of this translation, the 400,000 Umbangala people had no Scripture in their own language. The majority live in poverty and do not have running water or electricity at home. But the lack of Scripture in their own language has caused most in the community to feel forgotten, and that was an obstacle to evangelism.

“It has been very hard to understand Bible texts in the Cokwe language read during church services,” explained Marjory*. “We will no longer need the Bible in a language that does not touch our hearts, and when we go to evangelize, we will have no more difficulties.”

The Umbangala New Testament was launched amid exuberant singing and dancing by a procession of children carrying copies of it in palm leaf baskets to be blessed and dedicated. One elderly woman fell to her knees and praised God as a passage of Scripture was read out loud.

A young boy named Justin* sat down on the ground and began reading his copy immediately. He said, “It was good to read a few verses. I know that Jesus says, ‘Let the children come to me.’ I hope to learn more about the Bible.”

Praise God that the Umbangala people now have access to God’s Word in their heart language. Dr. Fausto Liriano, UBS/NIDA Translation Consultant said: “If you cannot understand the Word of God, you cannot live by the Word of God.” So true! Now, the Umbangala can read, understand, hear, and experience God saying to them through His Word, “I love you, and I have a purpose for your life.”

And this was made possible through a team of Bible translators, Bible agencies like American Bible Society and others, local churches, and partners, and YOU, as our faithful prayer and financial partners.

How can we pray for the work you are doing to translate God’s Word?

First, I want to say thank you to this prayer community for praying. Your prayers are vital to the work we do. Here are some specific ways you can pray.

  • Pray for those still waiting for Scripture in their heart language. Ask God to guide them and provide for them as they wait to read his Word in their native language. Pray that every person will have the opportunity to experience God’s Word in their heart language.
  • Pray for Bible Translation teams. Pray for their safety and that God will strengthen them so that they may persevere in translating God’s Word, which often takes years to complete. Pray for the Bible agencies and Bible Societies working together to provide resources and support to Bible translation teams.
  • Pray for those who have received God’s Word for the first time. Pray that their faith deepens as they engage God’s Word and join local faith communities. Pray that local churches will invite new believers into discipleship programs.

Witness the joyful scene as the Umbangala community receives the New Testament in this video from our Bible Society partners!

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Nena Podbury
Nena Podbury

Nena Podbury is a Prayer Mobilization Associate at American Bible Society. Originally from the Bronx, she served in children’s ministry for 12 years doing Sidewalk Sunday School. Nena is married with two children, Noah and Emilia.

Thanks to the support of our faithful financial partners, American Bible Society has been engaging people with the life-changing message of God’s Word for more than 200 years.

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