The areas of the world in which we have the privilege to be involved firsthand
The Middle East Project is dedicated to an ethnic group of several million people, few of which have been reached with the Gospel.
The majority were forcibly converted to Islam in the course of the centuries, while others have maintained traditional religions.
In the last twenty years various small churches have been planted thanks to missionary work.
The churches in question are comprised of groups scattered among various villages that generally lack a dedicated place for worship, meeting instead in private homes. There are also individual families that have no opportunity to meet with other believers to enjoy communal church life and grow spiritually. In many areas believers live their faith in secret because they face persecution. This comes at the hands of both Muslims and those who profess traditional religions, because conversion to Christ is considered a betrayal of one’s ethnic group.
The project is being carried out in collaboration with international partners.
The NewTestament was published some fifteen years ago. The translation team is also at a good point in the translation of the Old Testament, of which some portions have already been published and distributed.
The publication of the entire Bible should be completed in the next few years.
This people group’s level of literacy is rather low. Many among the believers came to faith listening to the preaching of the Gospel, but are not capable of reading the Scriptures. So, together with our partners we also work on the production of literacy materials. At the end of home-based worship services, in many villages believers meet to learn to read and write. We also prepare audio CDs with Bible stories that are used both by the believers and for evangelization.
Work among children is still in its initial stages, despite the enormous need, because families are large. For this reason, we have become involved in the preparation of materials that can be used by parents to bring their own children to the Gospel.
These texts also often stimulate interest among older people, because they are rich in images and easy to understand.
Some areas of the world never seem to have peace: war, famine, extreme poverty, persecution of every type. Continuous flight, above all of young people, willing to face indescribable risks, just to have the chance at a better life. It is in this context and in this area that AITB has been active already for several years, though unable to do it openly.
From the beginning the work of Bible translation for one of the local people groups (with a Muslim majority and Catholic and Orthodox minorities) has been accompanied by the production of linguistic materials (dictionary, grammar, etc.), which have in turn been donated to schools in which the language of this people group is spoken.
Work started from scratch: no church, no known believer, just an old translation of the Gospel unused for decades and in a writing system never in common use. Then came the first conversion and—all the while in secret and in the midst of countless difficulties—the beginning of the work of Bible translation. While the main mother-tongue translator was in Europe to pursue linguistic studies, however, sudden persecution forced him to request political asylum.
Another three and a half years would pass before he would be able to see his wife and three kids, left in the homeland without permission to leave.
There followed a first failed attempt of wife and children to flee to a neighboring country, arrest (not just of the wife, but also of the children, who were all held in prison), release in exchange for payment… then a further attempt at flight, this time to another country, on foot, at night, in the desert… a refugee camp, and, finally, the long-awaited family reunion!
The persecution has forced the team to move fieldwork to a neighboring country, where a variant of the same language is spoken. Here, too, given that the area is at risk from a new conflict between the two bordering nations, progress moves along two parallel fronts: official linguistic-cultural activities and unofficial translation of the Bible.
And here the Lord shows the greatness of his work. While the team faced the consequences of persecution and the need to reorganize, a small group of believers formed and… the first church was born among this people!
In the meantime, verse by verse, chapter by chapter, the first translated books of the Bible began to appear. Audio versions have also been produced and distributed via internet and then delivered, together with other materials for evangelization, to the local church. The material, though in a different dialectal variant, but nevertheless comprehensible, has begun to spread. The constant and courageous work of the believers has carried the message of the Gospel from village to village and now believers number about 80!
There are already believers available to work full-time, if it were economically feasible, and to build one or two places of worship, if the local authorities would let them. Opposition is not lacking, but God’s work advances. One of these believers is finishing Bible school, studying Hebrew and Greek; another is involved in a translation project for his own dialectal variant; while we continue the translation of the variant spoken by more than 90% of the people group.
It has also been possible to start literacy classes in the language in a refugee camp, for both children and adults, furnishing them with the necessary materials. People need to be prepared so that they’ll know how to read God’s Word in their own language… and it is in these very refugee camps that hundreds of SD cards containing nearly seven hours of biblical texts and preaching, including the Jesus film translated into this language, have been distributed.
And the dissemination continues… thanks also to an internet site dedicated exclusively to their history, language, and culture, and where one can find all the materials delivered at the refugee camps.
Others are coming to the Lord thanks to these very tools that have the ability to overcome borders closed by war and to bypass persecution to reach anyone, whether at home or abroad. God has no barriers and the people who were in darkness have seen a great light; on those who were in the valley of the shadow of death a light has dawned (Matthew 4:16; Isaiah 9:2). Heartfelt thanks to all those who want to pray for and support this project!