An Interview with Bob Creson
Revive asked Bob Creson, president of Wycliffe Bible Translators, about the impact of God’s Word and the task of providing it to the least reached people groups on earth. Bob is part of a team that oversees the Last Languages Campaign: a historic, full-sprint effort to start Bible translation projects in every language group that needs one by 2025.
What is the heartbeat of Wycliffe Bible Translators?
Bob: The thing we get most excited about is our vision: seeing God’s Word made accessible to all people in the language of their heart. Every man, woman, and child ought to have an opportunity to hear the Good News in the language and medium they understand best. That vision is what gets us out of bed every morning.
Why is “heart language” translation so vital?
Bob: I’ve had personal experience reading another language, and I enjoy it; but there is something different about my mother tongue—the language I was born with and that I dream in. That’s the language I want to use to talk to God.
There are still 200 million people without the Bible in their language, representing 2,400 separate groups. How do you start projects?
Bob: Well, as an example, I just got back from India, where I attended a graduation from a Master Storyteller Workshop put on by some of our ministry partners. The goal of this particular workshop was to train biblical storytellers from eight language groups, three of which have had no Scripture access. Key Bible stories are selected and passed on to these master storytellers, who go on to train other storytellers, spreading Bible truth into unreached communities.
There is a high level of illiteracy among the unreached peoples of the world, and many live in oral cultures. Thus, our projects usually start with chronological Bible storytelling. From these seeds, we then move on to deeper translation work and eventually to producing Bible portions.
Of the language groups represented in that workshop in India, three have started the Luke Partnership, where Luke’s Gospel is translated and handed over to the Jesus Film Project. They can then use it as the script for a Jesus Film for that region.
As of 2009, how close are we to completing the task of Bible translation for the whole world?
Bob: We and our partner ministries are on track to see translation projects started in every remaining “Bibleless” people group by the year 2025. In the last ten years, 600 translation projects have begun. The rate of progress is increasing because so many indigenous leaders are getting involved in the work, and because computers can assist translators in generating material.
We’ve launched the Last Languages Campaign to raise awareness of the Bibleless peoples. A historic opportunity exists for Christians in the West to provide Scriptures for those who have never had them. We can link those interested in prayer support to specific language groups. To complete the work, we face a $1 billion need.
You personally served with Wycliffe in Cameroon and Chad, West Africa. How were you called into this ministry?
Bob: I was a businessman in southern California, and God used an economic downturn to move my wife and me to this ministry. We were forced to rethink our priorities and values, and we started taking small steps. I knew that the Word of God had impacted our lives, and I felt like I should do something to help provide its access for others. If you had asked me years ago about West Africa, I would have said, “No way!” But we ended up there because so many translation needs exist in that region.
What impact does the Bible have on cultures where it is introduced?
Bob: It changes everything. It changes the way people treat their families and the way they interact in their communities and economies. Before the Bible arrives, you may see a people dominated by fear, alcohol, or animism; when the Scriptures come, you see people taking more responsibility for themselves, becoming leaders, and seeking education. Of course, more importantly, when people come to Christ, they gain a relationship with God. That’s what it’s really all about: the image in Revelation of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation worshiping at God’s throne.
Can you describe the attitude of believers who receive Bible portions in their own language for the first time?
Bob: I’ve been in a number of Scripture dedications—a community will hold a service when a translation is completed. I’ve seen person after person weeping with joy, holding their Bibles up, dancing, singing, and praising God. In contrast, I’ve seen many Christians in the U.S. purchase a Bible, but I’ve never seen one weep as they walked out of the bookstore.
What would your challenge be to Christians in the West, pertaining to their own treatment of the Bible?
Bob: Don’t treat it lightly. Thank God every day that you have the opportunity and freedom to read God’s Word and practice your faith. Many of the 2,400 language communities that need the Scriptures are in very difficult-to-access areas—places where they don’t have freedom. It goes back to what led my wife and me into translation work: stopping to remind ourselves that we have access to the very heart of God, John 3:16, the good news of the gospel. What an awesome privilege!
If I want to learn more about serving in Bible translation work or getting involved in Vision 2025, what should I do?
Bob: You can visit our website, www.wycliffe.org. God is doing something very special around the world. The rate of translation and the availability of the Bible is growing at a rate faster than at any time in history.
Here’s a question you might ask yourself: Since I have access to God’s Word, does He want me to do anything to help provide it for others?
Copyright © 2009 Revive magazine, Vol. 40, #3 “Bible Boredom,” by Life Action Ministries.