A Testament to God’s Faithfulness

The 60th anniversary of Lutheran Bible Translators (LBT) is a significant milestone in the mission to bring God’s Word to all people in the language they understand best. This celebration not only reflects on past achievements in translation but also highlights the enduring faith and dedication that have driven the work for six decades and counting.

African woman and man holding Bible with brick wall in background

LBT celebrates 60 years!

The Humble Beginnings

Lutheran Bible Translators began in the early 1960s in response to the urgent call of need in Nigeria, where numerous linguistic groups lacked access to the Bible. Despite significant challenges, including a deadly epidemic, the mission persevered. God was already at work, gathering others passionate for the mission in southern California, and it was agreed that something had to be done to engage more dedicated Christians in Bible translation work. And so, in 1964, Lutheran Bible Translators was born, a beacon of hope for those who yearn to hear God’s Word in their own language.

Expansion and Early Successes

Throughout the years, Lutheran Bible Translator’s efforts expanded globally. In the 1970s, initiatives such as The Institute for Liberian Languages (TILL) and similar programs in Sierra Leone brought hope to many communities. The first major success came in 1980 with the publication of the Yessan-Mayo New Testament in Papua New Guinea. This accomplishment, supported by global partnerships, underscored the importance of community and collaboration in the mission.

vintage black and white photo of group of men and women seated around table in classroom

TILL devotions with Mike Rodewald

black and white vintage photo of American woman and Papua New Guinea man seated at table working on Bible translation

At the Yessan Mayo translation table with Helen Marten of Lutheran Bible Translators | Papua New Guinea, 1975

The 1990s brought significant changes. Lutheran Bible Translators adapted to political unrest in Liberia by shifting from expatriate-led efforts to empowering local leaders. This strategic shift ensured the continuity of Bible translation efforts even amidst conflict. The establishment of LIBTRALO (the Liberian Translation and Literacy Organization) in 1995 exemplified Lutheran Bible Translator’s commitment to sustainable, locally-led initiatives. This model of supporting and equipping local leaders has continued to influence Bible translation efforts worldwide.

African man seated at table holding paper with books and manuscripts in background

Checking translation work | Samba New Testament, Cameroon, 1990

Embracing the Digital Age

As the world entered the digital age, LBT expanded its reach further. By its 50th anniversary, LBT had dedicated its 37th publication, the Dhimba New Testament in Namibia. The ambitious “More Than Words” campaign, launched in 2019, aimed to double the organization’s language community partnerships from 72 to 144 in five years. This required innovative thinking and new approaches to scale the mission effectively.

2 African women wearing white blouses and teal patterned skirts and headscarves, one holding book, with group of girls wearing black skirts and red blouses in background

Women joyfully receiving their newly printed Nsenga New Testaments at the dedication celebration | Zambia, July 2016

Remarkable Achievements and Future Aspirations

By early 2024, Lutheran Bible Translator’s commitment saw remarkable results, with the number of language programs soaring to 135. Yet, with thousands of languages still waiting for translations, the mission presses on, fueled by faith and the partnership of believers worldwide. This anniversary is not just a reflection on the past but a call to action for the future. 

African schoolgirl seated reading book with other schoolchildren in background

Girl reading her new Bible

Joining the Mission

The 60th anniversary of Lutheran Bible Translators is a testament to God’s faithfulness and the dedication of countless missionaries, the vision and perseverance of local community leaders and the support and generosity of partners worldwide. Join in praying that everyone around the world will someday have scripture in a language that speaks to their hearts. We believe that God’s Word brings hope, life, and transformation.

open Bible against black background

Help support the translation projects at LBT!

Visit lbt.org

Want more info?

  • Email the author.
  • Download PDF.
  • Like this article? Share it using the social media buttons below.
  • Want a print copy? Click the printer icon below.
  • And please rate the article!