Two day’s drive south of Mexico City, in a small mountain village high in the remote regions of Quetzaltepec, speakers of the Mixe language wait eagerly for members of the Bible Society translation team to arrive.
Their late arrival, due to mudslides on the roads, in no way quells the enthusiasm of the Mixe people to meet and thank those responsible for giving them the New Testament, work on which began in the 1980s.
It’s the second of the nine Mixe dialects to receive the New Testament, but in a country with around 100 indigenous languages and many more dialects spoken by around ten million people, it’s only the tip of the iceberg for Bible translation work.
Add to that the fact that many of the languages are from an oral rather than a written tradition, which Bible Society is increasingly responding to by creating audio Scriptures, and it starts to become clear that the Bible Society of Mexico has its work cut out for it.
But it’s a mission which Bible Society is happy to respond to. It’s fast discovering that translation work is a vital first step, not only for bringing a language back from the brink of extinction (there are around 47 languages in Mexico nearing extinction), but also for affirming the dignity and value of the culture itself.
Many of Mexico's minority-language speaking groups remain isolated from the mainstream. They suffer from prejudice and social problems such as low levels of literacy. Receiving a new Bible translation not only allows an indigenous group of people to realise that God does indeed speak their language, but it also has many flow-on benefits such as reducing the levels of alcoholism and crime among them.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that the connection between God’s Word and human rights is an important one for these communities. To this end, Bible Society recently published a Scripture pamphlet in eight languages highlighting verses on issues such as freedom and equality, caring for the poor, and the importance of home and family, which has been widely distributed.