There's a mountain to climb in Bible translation

Karen (left) setting off with two other Wycliffe supporters on the Prayer Climb

Members of the UK's biggest Bible translation organisation, Wycliffe Bible Translators, hiked Mount Kilimanjaro last month on a 'Prayer Climb' for the 800 African languages still awaiting the Bible.

Nearly 2,000 language groups in the world are without a single verse of the Bible in their heart language - meaning over 200 million people cannot access Scripture in their own tongue.

Karen Floor, Wycliffe South Africa Director, started the hike up Mount Kilimanjaro on 14 September alongside two Wycliffe supporters.

During the hike, they carried a prayer banner with the collective prayers of God's people for the Lord to bless the spreading of his word through Bible translation.

After completing the hike, Karen explained how the physical challenge of the Kilimanjaro climb acted as a metaphor for the wider challenge of Bible translation.

She explained: "It was through grappling with the difficulty of communicating the immense challenge of bringing God's Word to millions of people through Bible translation that we began to use the mountain metaphor.

"After a while I began to dream about experiencing the challenge of Kilimanjaro physically, as a means to extend the metaphor, by comparing this part of the climb with that part of the challenge of translating the Bible for those who might otherwise never experience God speaking to them through his Word in their own language."

At the summit

The lengthy trek entailed many physical and spiritual challenges for Karen and her peers.

They each had to make sure they were carrying around four litres of water each day in addition to their day packs, which consequently put a lot of strain on their shoulders.

Karen remembers feeling especially drained on summit day from the shortage of breath.

"On summit day every step becomes an ordeal, draining you to the point of exhaustion," she said.

"I will never forget how small I felt, being so aware of how dependent I was on every breath of air."

For Karen, the last 300m climb to Uhuru peak was the toughest mentally, "seeing the final steep part of Kilimanjaro for so many days without feeling we were getting any closer to it".

She said: "Having come so far, you really begin to wonder whether you'll make it to the top. You see people coming back down so effortlessly and thoughts go through your mind that they must be really strong and you really weak. I found it an enormous help to know there were people praying with us to reach the top. We didn't want to let them down, and the thought of them praying spurred us on."

After the week of hiking, she is all the more aware of the huge need that remains for Bible translation, with thousands of language groups still waiting to receive God's word.

Going forward, Wycliffe will be focusing on seven language groups each year.

Karen added: "Wycliffe's aim is to tackle the mountainous challenge of starting Bible translation in each of the remaining 100 or so languages in southern Africa - step by step, in dependency on God - until we reach the top where no one is excluded from having God's Word in their own language."