Let’s Celebrate!

This article comes from our Newsletter which comes out 3-4 times per year.  Sign up to receive in your inbox!


Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.
Psalm 115:1

The vision of Wycliffe is to see God’s Word made accessible to all people in the language that speaks to their heart. On September 23rd, we paused to celebrate the completion of Bibles and New Testaments for people groups who are getting God’s word for the very first time. You should have been there! Local pastors and ministry representatives paraded into the auditorium amid exciting music and applause carrying the precious Bibles. Here are some interesting statistics about this year’s celebration:

  • 25 languages communities
  • 7 complete Bibles
  • 17 New Testaments
  • 1 “Hybrid Bible” (NT + Genesis + Exodus in Takwane, Leviticus – Malachi in Portuguese — permission of Bible Society of Brazil)
  • 17 of 25 Scriptures available in a digital format
  • 7 of 25 have launched a website
  • 13 available in audio format
  • 7 available in Jesus film, Luke video or Genesis video
  • 7 available as Android or iPhone app
  • 12 are available in the YouVersion Bible App

Statistics are interesting, but read below about one of the language communities that received God’s Word.

The Lahu Si New Testament

Upai Jasa, Wycliffe Thailand, recalls his reluctance to join the team working on this project.

“The Lahu Si New Testament translation began in the 1980s and by 2009, it was… well, it was a mess. Relationships among the team working on the project were broken, trust was nonexistent, many viewed the Lahu Si community in Thailand as being riddled with divisiveness. They saw Lahu Si churches split over the smallest disagreement, clans and communities also split.”

They had no idea how this project might move forward.  God did.  Read this whole story (and more stories) in the 2016 Scripture Celebration Information Sheets (page 9).

It goes right into my heart!

During our community testing as we were reading through the Lahu Si draft of Acts, a pux (the grandfather) said, “Even though I preach and pray in Lahu Na (a related language) in church, that doesn’t enter my heart as when I normally pray on my own in my own language. When I read the draft it goes right into my heart, as no other language can do.”

Let’s Hack!


Our team has recently released the first version of the Scripture App Publishing Service which automates the process of publishing Scripture Apps to the Google Play Store.  We currently have 175 apps managed in the Wycliffe Bible Translators, Inc account. However, our first version is only a minimum viable product and has limited workflow process management to handle the interaction between end users, the build infrastructure, and the service administrator.  Only parts of the process can be automated so people have to be involved.

To help accelerate the development of the Scripture App Publishing Service, our team is partnering with Indigitous, a movement passionate about connecting people to Jesus using digital strategies. We have submitted a project to the 2016 Indigitous #Hack, a global missional hackathon focused on solving technology problems related to missions. Are you a software developer? Consider participating in the hackathon which is Nov 4 – 6. There are host cities as well as a virtual group.

At Just the Right Time!

The vision of Wycliffe is to see God’s Word made accessible to all people in the language that speaks to their heart. Usually this might mean distributing a printed book. If there is a low literacy rate, then access to an audio version is important.

Audio versions of the Bible are recorded (often by Faith Comes By Hearing) and can be distributed on dedicated audio players like the Proclaimer. With the availability of smart phones, now a Scripture app created with Scripture App Builder can be distributed with the text and audio of the Bible bundled together.

What about early readers in the people group? Wouldn’t it be great if the text of the passage could be highlighted while the audio is being played?

In order to accomplish this, special timing files have to be created to let the software know which portions of the text and audio go together. Early attempts at this would take 45-60 minutes per chapter! For the Bible en Songoy de Gao App, this took weeks for a team of volunteers (listening to a language they didn’t know) to create these timing files.

Colleagues at Wycliffe searched for another way. Could software automate this process? Praise God, a solution was found! The Aeneas Library allows for the automated creation of the timing files. What used to take almost an hour can now be done in 3-5 seconds! How is this accomplished?

How does this thing work?

One word: Math

One Sentence (Layman Edition): A good deal of math and computer science, a handful of software engineering and some optimization tricks.

One Sentence (Pro Edition): Using the Sakoe-Chiba Band Dynamic Time Warping (DTW) algorithm to align the Mel-frequency cepstral coefficients (MFCCs) representation of the given (real) audio wave and the audio wave obtained by synthesizing the text fragments with a TTS engine, eventually mapping the computed alignment back onto the (real) time domain. 


Phew! The result is that, now, a whole New Testament can be processed in less than an hour instead of weeks. Wycliffe is preparing to publish hundreds of Scripture apps. Many of them already have audio. This new software process came at just the right time!


Above: Bible Dedication of the Soŋay Language of Gao, Mali included the Bible en Songoy de Gao App

Right: John 3:16 in Soŋay Language of Gao with text highlighting synchronized with audio



One Thing

Chris recently attended the Mobile Ministry Forum 2015 Consultation. This photo and the story show below made quite an impact on him and those attending the meeting. In the face of some extremely challenging circumstances, God is using technology to spread the good news. The Gospel is being heard, seen, and read on mobile devices…and shared rapidly via Bluetooth and microSD cards.

Displaced Iraqi Christians Identify Their Most Treasured Material Possession

ERBIL, IRAQ – DECEMBER 13: (Editor’s note: Image has been processed using a digital filter) A Iraqi Christian, who asked not to be named, poses for a photograph in her tented home erected in the grounds of Mazar Mar Eillia (Mar Elia) Catholic Church, that has now become home to hundreds of fellow Iraqi Christians who were forced to flee their homes – many with less than an hour to do so – as the Islamic State advanced earlier this year, on December 13, 2014 in Erbil, Iraq. Asked, after her family what was the one thing she could not leave behind as ISIL advanced on her home, the student from Qaraqosh said her mobile phone. Although the autonomous Kurdistan region of Northern Iraq was already a refuge for an estimated 250,000 Syrian refugees, since the Islamic State began its onslaught on Iraq in June, Kurdistan has also taken in a more than one and a half million displaced people. Many have been placed in purpose-built refugee camps but the huge numbers mean thousands of others are forced to live in un-finished buildings or inadequate, makeshift shelters and as winter in the region closes in, there are growing concerns for the welfare of the refugees who, while their homes are still in ISIL controlled territory, have no realistic prospect of returning to them. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Meeting of the Mobile Minds

Payap University - Linguistics InstituteWycliffe has recognized that, even in the developing world, mobile computing is becoming more prevalent. We want to determine the most productive ways we can apply mobile app development to aid the Bible translation process. However, it takes dedicated time to assemble the data and people together to determine the correct course of action.

Our leadership decided it was time for this to happen. So, we began by gathering input from domain specialists and people working in the field. We wanted to know what mobile apps are currently being used or in the process of being developed. We also asked people to suggest ideas for mobile apps in the different areas related to our work: Bible translation, literacy, anthropology, cultural learning, linguistics, and ethnocentric arts.

The next step was to have a meeting of technical leaders with experience in mobile apps. Thanks to a generous gift by Every Tribe, Every Nation, we were able to meet together in Chiang Mai, Thailand at the end of September 2014. This meeting was comprised of developers from the language software group (including Chris) along with other Wycliffe missionaries in the field who were already developing mobile apps. These missionaries in the field have various primary ministry responsibilities, but they also have a background in programming and are doing extra work to meet a need where they are serving. Initial efforts at developing mobile apps have mostly been focused on scripture and dictionary publication. The mobile developers were able to compare experiences and learn from each other, process the data collected, and make plans for what Wycliffe should focus onin the near future. This meeting also helped build relationships among all these developers and find opportunities to work together.

As a result of these meetings, we have a better understanding of where we are currently and the next steps to take as we move forward. In the coming year, Chris will be helping with the completion and integration of several of the scripture and dictionary publication applications. After that, there is now a pipeline of mobile apps to work on. We are excited to see how God will bring about fruit from these meetings. We look forward to seeing the appropriate use of mobile apps to help those who receive the scripture in their heart language to engage with it and grow.

Note: This was originally included in our Winter 2015 Newsletter.

Mobile Devices

All the devices
brought by 11 people
to the mobile meeting
in Chiang Mai, Thailand



Why Another Bible App?

Bible AppsWhy should Wycliffe create yet another Bible App? One would think that existing Bible Apps could be used. Similar to the challenges with the publication of printed Bibles, there are cultural aspects of a Bible App (color, layout, usability, etc) that can be significant and affect the acceptability of an App within a culture.

There are also substantial technical challenges to overcome:

  • Distribute Apps without internet access
    • Use microSD, Bluetooth, and Hotspot–think viral!
  • Bundle text, audio, and custom font into a single App
  • Display complex scripts
    • many minority languages need special character support that isn’t supported by the OS
  • Support older devices
    • Some Bible Apps only support Android 4.0 and up.  There are still phone used and sold that are made with older hardware and run Android 2.3.
  • Protect sensitive users
    • No GPS location captured or network access required
  • Search using special character input
  • Publish incrementally

Actually, we are not creating another Bible app. Scripture App Builder will be used to generate many Bible apps. Each one will be specific to a language and can be published to an App Store and found when someone is searching for their language!

Note: This was originally included in our Winter 2015 Newsletter.  Some of the content was expanded.

Your Prayers Help People Get the Bible

I was at Panera after meeting a friend. I saw this post on Facebook, I watched the video and wow … the tears began welling up.

Please, please, please … take a moment and watch the video. We often underestimate the power of prayer to change the world around us. But as the examples in this video show, our prayers can help change people’s lives in significant ways. And just by praying, you can help people get a Bible translation in their language.

Your Prayers Help People Get the Bible from Wycliffe USA on Vimeo.

A Glimpse of Worship

Won’t you journey with me to Panama City, Panama
to catch a glimpse of a Kuna worship service?panama

Watch your step as we’ll be traveling down a steep hill,
RH Hill 1
KH Hill 1

past closely lined homes with bright eyed youngsters peering out the windows,
TB Hill 1
TB Hill 2
TB Hill 4

through the voices of children,
TB Hill 5

beyond the gates,
TB Hill 6

amidst welcoming youth,
TB Hill 7

and into the church, ready to lift our voices alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ.

With one heart and voice, a unity in Christ Jesus, we worship the One True God together…KF Kuna-Church

and hear His Word,
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spoken in their heart language ~ Kuna.

In the middle of preaching on the importance of God’s Word, the electricity flickers out… but darkness does not deter this local pastor.

Light starts to shine forth…RH Preaching by Cell Phone Light

Accompanied only by the lights from cell phones,
he continues to preach (adjusting the symbolism to fit the situation at hand)– Psalm 119 105 ‘Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.’
(Scripture from Psalm 119:105, part of the Old Testament that has just recently been
translated, published, and dedicated for their people.)

Upon the end of the sermon, we are welcomed warmly by the body with hand shakes and hugs.
And the sweet, sweet Kuna greeting of “Bab be bendake”  – ‘God bless you.’
(You pronounce it somewhat like: bob bay ben dock ay.)

Then (while still surrounded by a physical darkness)
boxes that are filled with the completed Kuna BiblesIMG_4521

…are opened for the people.RH Bibles by Cell Phone Light

May God’s Holy Word shine brightly in the hearts and minds of the Kuna.
May His Word truly be a lamp to their feet and a light for their path!
Praise God that the Kuna now have the entirety of God’s Word in their own heart language!


Did you know that Kuna is only the 531st language group (of close to 7,000)  with the blessing and privilege of having access to both the Old and New Testaments?   This particular Kuna congregation is just one of many in the Panama City area.  There are approximately an additional thirty Kuna churches on the nearby San Blas islands.  Kuna pastors, leaders, and families now have access to ALL of God’s Word in their heart language!   We look forward to hearing how God’s Holy Spirit will continue to work through His Word in the lives of the Kuna people.

Why is it so important to translate Scripture into all of these languages?

Bible Dedication Highlights

Waiting …
DS Waiting for the Kuna Bible

no more!
RH Kuna Bible

… this is a historical day.
You’ve got the full counsel of God.

~Keith Forster (translator who worked on the Kuna Scriptures)

The Kuna people, along with translators Keith and Wilma Forster, recently celebrated the dedication of the entire Bible into their San Blas dialect.  Three Scripture dedications were held – two on the San Blas Islands and one in Panama City, Panama.  We were privileged to be able to attend the dedication celebration on the mainland with a handful of other stateside Wycliffe members and staff.

As I glanced around at the many Kuna in attendance, I noticed a large number of women and children.  Who could miss the women?  They were beautifully dressed in their lovely traditional clothing made with hues of red, yellow, orange, black, and white – some with their intricate handiwork ‘molas’ sewn on.  Many were also adorned with red head scarves and their delicately created bead bracelets on their arms and legs.  These were the mothers, grandmothers, (and future mothers) who would prepare the next generation to know Him. Women who, although live in another culture and speak a different language from me, are similar to me in that they now have all of God’s Word readily available to them to read, memorize, teach from, share, and pass on to their children!

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    IMG_4488 (2)

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IMG_4478 RH hand of child
RH 01533

I found myself praying for the women and children surrounding me – that they would take the precious gift they have been given and use it, that their children would witness the change in their lives, and grow up knowing Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  (A prayer I’d pray for myself and other moms I know as well.)
Yes, the Kuna now have the full counsel of God.  May they (and we) pass it on to the next generation!

Here are a few highlights from the Bible Dedication.

The dedication began with worshipping Christ through singing!
(We, surprisingly, recognized many of the tunes.  In Kuna, they sang ‘Amazing Grace’, ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’, ‘How Great Thou Art’, etc.)

RH Singers
music DSC_7638 (2)

Eagerness for the arrival and presentation of God’s Word…
(One Wycliffe attendee compared it to the anticipation felt by a groom awaiting to see his bride walk down the aisle.)

RH 01540

Silence being broken with the sounding of a shofar and Scripture carried forth…
shofar KF shofarRH Entering

Giving thanks to God and praying over His people and His Word…

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Children reading from the Scriptures in the Kuna language!
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The Kuna people now have access to  ALL of Scripture in their own heart language!

RH Bibles  RH Bibles 2IMG_4483 (2)

Praising God for the Work of His Hand…

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Keith and Wilma Forster
(Wycliffe missionaries who dedicated over 40 years in Panama
to revise an earlier New Testament translation and
to translate the Old Testament into the Kuna’s heart language!)

Keith’s thoughts on passing the torch to the Kuna and leaving it all in God’s powerful hands to work His Will…

… And I look around that crowd today and I see … the lives that have been touched and transformed by the Scriptures… And my prayer is ‘God, would You raise up sufficient leaders … shepherds to watch and minister to those flocks, to cause them to grow in Yourself, to keep them on track.’… My translation team – He who began a good work in them will complete it in their day.  You know, and that’s the big thing …The point is this – that God has raised up this thing. We’ve given them tools. We’ve given them the leadership… And so, we’re looking to God to carry it on.

Wilma’s reflections…

I think, today, for me, what was really amazing… When we first came here in 1971, the Kuna church was very, very small and there was only one of them. And as I looked around that huge group of people… just to see how God has been at workit feels like the time has come for the Kuna church to just explode.

Prayers of the Forsters as expressed in their update to partners:

Now the Kuna have God’s Word in its entirety. Please pray earnestly that the initial enthusiasm for the coming of the Word will not peter out. Pray that Kuna hearts will grow deep in their knowledge of the Word and of God’s claim on their lives.

IMG_4479 (2)

Please continue to pray for the transforming power of the Word of God
in the lives of Kuna men, women, and children…
that pastors would use and handle Scripture correctly,
that hearts and minds would be changed,
that the next generation of Kuna would know Him,
and that God would be glorified!

Waiting For WeSay for Linux

Sleeping Coconuts Book CoverToday we had a special treat in the software development office. We got to hear from John Nystrom who is a translation consultant for an 11 language cluster project in Papua New Guinea (PNG). He and his colleagues were the ones that pioneered language cluster project is dramatically improving the quality and effectiveness of translation. He and his wife have written a book (Sleeping Coconuts) about the incredible way that God used a tsunami to change the face of Bible translation in PNG (and all over Wycliffe).
The translation projects get together 5 times a year for a month long workshop to work on a section of scripture. They gain so much from hearing the feedback that the other teams receive that they won’t go back to working separately. The consultants have asked to make sure that they really want to spend almost half a year away from their families in order to be able to work together. The response from all of the translators is that it is invaluable to their efforts.
He was also sharing about some of the technical challenges in PNG. They are currently using Windows and have a horrible issue with viruses. They don’t have good network connections so they rely on flash drives to transfer data. When you purchase a flash drive in PNG, it comes pre-loaded with viruses! It might be pirated music or software, but you cannot get a flash drive without Windows viruses on it. They have repeatedly attempted to train the national translators on how to keep their computers clean, but they just get a blank stare back from them (either they don’t understand or they have just been culturally insulted–it is not clear).
They long to be able to switch to Linux, but they are waiting for an updated version of WeSay to be available on Linux. The good news is that we are on the home stretch. Please pray for our team as we complete the work on WeSay for Linux.

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