It was December 1979. I had just completed six months’ research at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, USA. The research was part of the requirements for the doctorate in Greek and Linguistics that I was doing under the guidance of Johannes P Louw at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. Within a week I would be traveling back to South Africa, and safely back in the church I was pastoring in Pretoria. Or so I thought.
I had been invited to come to Los Angeles to visit an American Bible translation agency. They had indicated to me that they were considering hiring me to head up their translation work. Alone in the section of the large plane, I began to seriously consider the opportunity. Until I had an experience that would dramatically change the course of my life.
Through what I perceived to be God speaking directly to me, I realized that God had planned for me to be born in Africa, one of the continents in the world with the greatest need for first-time Bible translation; and that He had led me to study exactly what would be needed for Bible translation, under the guidance of one of the foremost leaders in the field of Linguistics and Biblical Greek in the world.
By the time I stepped from the plane in Los Angeles, it was settled: I would go back to South Africa and found a Bible translation agency. I had received the basic principles: The agency would be indigenous to South Africa and therefore to Africa; it would focus on empowering nationals to translate Bible for their own people.
Certain as I was about the new call on my life, my mind did not accept it all without some questions. Like: Why go through the demanding exercise of translating the Bible into all the languages on the face of the earth? Why not just teach everyone to understand one of the larger languages, and concentrate on making the Bible available in those languages?
Coming back to my room one night after a long and exhausting day, I felt the keen need to read Scripture. My host had very considerately placed several Bibles in different languages on my bedside table. Yet I found myself on my knees, pulling my suitcase from under the bed, and looking for my Afrikaans Bible. Once again, a very real experience: “Why look for the Bible in your own language? Don’t you understand English?”
Instantly I learned a lesson: God never speaks as clearly to anyone as when He speaks in their heart language, the language God gave them. Years later, Nelson Mandela would say “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart."
And so TWFTW was born on January 9, 1981. I sat down at our dining room table in Lynnwood Glen, Pretoria, and signed the organization into being. My co-signer was a young attorney, P.J. Vivier. (He is still active in the organization, serving as the chairperson of the International Board.) All we had was a dream:
- God’s Word for every person in the language God gave them
- Empowering nationals to translate the Bible for their own people
Since 1998 we have offered the Diploma in Bible translation program in an integrated manner of formal, non-formal and on-the-job training. We have held training events in the DR Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Eastern Europe and South East Asia. The program is recognized as equivalent to 2 years of a 3-year BTh program at the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), a distance education institution. For details of current locations and upcoming DBT training click here.
Since 2012 we are offering a MTh in Bible Translation Consultation through SATS. It follows the same practice-oriented approach as the DBT program. Students can complete the bulk of the modules in the country where they live. For more details about our MTh program click here.
The vision of TWFTW is the glory of God through transformed lives by the power of his Word in everyone’s heart language.
VISION 2050: TWFTW envisages completing first-time translations of the complete Bible in 500 languages by 2050, and assisting other agencies in many other Bible translation projects.
The mission of TWFTW is to enable persons, ministries and organizations from language communities that do not have the Bible in their own language yet to take responsibility for Bible translation and related activities and to ensure its availability and accessibility.
Statement of Faith
The Word For The World is an interdenominational Bible translation ministry. Our personnel come from a wide variety of Christian circles. We want to serve the Church in its broadest sense to make God's Word available to all the nations of the world.
We believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and is infallible and authoritative in the original writings.
We believe in one God eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in his virgin birth, in his vicarious death and atonement through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, in His personal return in power and glory.
We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful man, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and regeneration by the Spirit are essential.
We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit, by Whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a Godly life.
We believe in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life eternal.
We believe in the spiritual unity of the Church, which is the Body of Christ, composed of all who are regenerated through faith in the Lord Jesus.
The Word of God – God desires to speak to people through the entire Bible. Therefore, our goal for every language in which we work is to translate the entire Bible.
First-time Bible translations – We are passionate about giving priority to first-time Bible translations because that is where Bible translation is most needed.
Respect for all cultures – Each people group is a blessing from God and has the right to hear God speaking to them in their own language.
Interaction with our partners – We see ourselves as co-servants with other ministries, and with our intercessors, volunteers and financial supporters.
Excellence in serving the Lord – We dedicate our efforts to pleasing God above all. Our excellence is evidenced through the:
- Integrity of our conduct
- Innovation of our methods
- Discipline of our stewardship
- Combining of sound academic principles and practical skills in our empowering of nationals for Bible translation