Just days after four Wycliffe Associates workers were brutally murdered by Islamic militants while working in the Middle East, Bible translators in the region are pressing on, fervently working to ensure the Gospel is distributed by every possible means.
As previously reported, four national translators, unamed for security reasons, were recently slaughtered by Islamic extremists while working in an unidentified Middle Eastern country.
"Militants killed four national translators and injured several others in a raid on a translation office in the Middle East," reads the report from Wycliffe, an organization which seeks to "involve people in the advancement of Bible translation."
"They shot and destroyed all the equipment in the office including the Print On Demand (POD) equipment," it continues. "The invaders burned all the books and other translation materials in the office. Two workers died of gunshot wounds. Two other workers laid on top of the lead translator-saved his life-and died deflecting bludgeoning blows from the radicals' spent weapons."
President/Chief Executive Officer Bruce Smith confirmed the deaths in a statement to Mission News Network, and lamented that the story has not made national headlines because such cases are far too common.
"This is actually normal. Christians are attacked, they're beaten, they're killed, they're jailed, they're tortured, and they're terrorized in this part of the world routinely," he said.
Despite such danger, translators "have such a thirst and such a commitment to getting God's Word to their people that these are risks that they accept," he said. "It increases their resolve to seeing God's Word reach the hearts of the people who are caught in this kind of violence and hopelessness."
Miraculously, the hard drives containing the translation work for eight language projects was saved, and the remaining team has vowed to redouble their effort to translate, publish and print the Gospel for the eight language communities that they had been working on.
"By God's grace, the digital copies of the translations that were underway in about 8 languages were protected. They were backed up, and the work can continue," Smith said. He revealed that on the heels of getting word of this sobering situation, came word from another Bible translation team that four New Testaments have been completed in the past couple months.
"The days of reaching the easiest places are mostly behind us," he told MMN. "Getting God's Word to the remaining nations of the world...is the challenge that we face, the challenge to which God calls us."
Wycliffe confirmed it will be looking for a new safe location to continue its translation and printing work.
According to a June report from Wycliffe, there is a widespread, deadly presence of Islamic extremists in the Middle East and Central Asia, and over the past year, 11 of the 28 Bible translators living and working in this region have been reported dead or missing.
The report notes that extremist groups are free to operate and are systematically wiping out Christian minorities. In fact, some Christians have been abducted and interrogated in an attempt to force them to renounce their faith, while others have been beaten, jailed, and put to death.
However, translators are working tirelessly to share the Gospel in the region, as nearly 1,000 languages-representing 280 million people-are without the Scriptures.
"Given the realities of the world in which these translators live and serve, some people might think the best thing they could do right now is to go into hiding and lay low for a while," Smith said at the time. "But that isn't their plan at all."
"The church is growing rapidly in these countries through the sharing of God's Word," he added. "even through means such as God revealing himself to non-Christians in dreams."
Mae Greenleaf, a prayer coordinator for Wycliffe, is urging believers worldwide to not only pray for the families of those martyred, but the killers, as well: "Pray for these whose hearts are so hard," she wrote in a press release.
"Pray the Lord will open their eyes to what they have done. Please ask the Lord to meet them, each one, right where they are. Pray that He will show Himself merciful, that they will know His forgiveness, His love, and His peace."
"Please take this opportunity to be an encourager to translation teams in dangerous places. And continue to pray," Greenleaf urged.
"Pray for all the newly formed translation teams diligently translating Scripture in their own language, for their own loved ones, in extremely difficult places."
Wycliffe Associates, which was formed in 1967 and had over 6,279 staff and volunteers translating the Gospel in 75 different countries in 2015, according to its website.