Myanmar and the Power of the Mother Tongue

Myanmar Languages

The recent military coup in Myanmar (formerly Burma) has thrust this country on the world’s stage and raised awareness around the world.  Most of the information is driven by social media savvy teens and twenty-somethings known as “Generation Z” or “GenZ”.   After losing their majority in the Parliament through an election in November, the military Junta took control through a violent coup on February 1st when the elected parliament was gathered for their first session.  

Chatter From Myanmar

Many people are trying to make sense of the constant flow of “live feeds” and Facebook posts that document the violence perpetrated on the population by the police and military.  Most of the posts are in “Burmese” and translations are rudimentary and only provide a vague general idea of the information presented.  But a closer look will reveal that different language groups are commenting in their own Mother Tongue (MT) and individual comment threads can exist in five to seven other languages. 

The original “Bamar” people who settled in Myanmar arrived around the 7th century AD.  Since that time, other ethnic groups have migrated from the surrounding countries for a number of reasons; the rise of a hostile despotic leader, famine or natural disaster, the search for an autonomous land area to name a few.  In fact, there are currently over 100 MT languages in Myanmar.  And Myanmar is not unique!  According to Wycliffe Translators,  India has 122 major languages and 1599 other languages and dialects. Nepal has more than 120 Mother Tongue languages, Vietnam over 100 and Thailand over 50. It’s difficult to calculate exactly, but most translating societies say there are more than 7000 languages in the world.  Clearly, God’s intervention at the Tower of Babel was very effective  (Genesis 11).

What does this mean for the Global Body of Christ and the advancement of the Great Commission? 

Diversity of Languages

“The full Bible is now available in 704 different languages, giving 5.7 billion people access to Scripture in the language they understand best. The New Testament is available in another 1,551 languages, reaching another 815 million people. Selections and stories are available in a further 1,160 other languages, spoken by 458 million people.  How many languages still need translation?  There are currently 3,945 languages with no Scripture. 167 million people, speaking 2,014 languages, still need translation work to begin. How many people have no Bible?  1 in 5 people, speaking 6,656 languages, do not have a full Bible in their first language.”  (https://www.wycliffe.org.uk/about/our-impact/)

That suggests that nearly 4000 languages or dialects,  spoken by over 6000 people groups have never heard a clear presentation of the Bible.  These Unreached People Groups (UPGs) are found mostly in the 10/40 Window- an area designated by many missions agencies as the area where most of the worlds UPGs are found.

Those statistics have moved us at Live Global to make getting the Gospel to these UPGs a priority.  What is Live Global doing? 

A Live Global Tool for Reaching UPGs

The Ancient Path Project (TAP) is a literature project that has been partnering with national translators, evangelists, and church plants in 5 countries in SE Asia where many of the world’s UPGs live.  In 2010, TAP was written first in Vietnam, to meet the number one objection to Christianity in SE Asia, that Christianity is a Western Religion.  TAP traces the history of the Christian faith from it’s beginnings in the ancient Middle East in a culture very similar to those in SE Asia. The story of God’s love includes creation, the free will choice of Adam and Eve to leave the Ancient Path of God’s love and the resulting corruption of every aspect of our lives, including separation from God.  TAP tells the story of God’s redemptive plan to help mankind find the way back to the Him, by explaining the importance of Abraham and the promise of blessing to all people, Moses and the giving of the law, and the blood of a spotless lamb that spared the lives of God’s people and delivered them from slavery.  

Several important prophetic promises provide the introduction of the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, born as baby in a humble stable in a small town- a beginning common to mankind.  TAP also tells the story of the miracles over nature, sickness, death, and demons proving that Jesus is the Savior God, promised from the beginning.  

Since 2010, this compelling story God’s Ancient Path has been translated into more than 50 languages, and our partners in SE Asia have distributed more than three million copies.  More than 30 of these languages are mother tongue languages of UPGs that have no Scriptures or at most, one or two books of the New Testament.  For most, The Ancient Path is the first opportunity for them to read the Gospel story in their own mother tongue.  

Work Remains to Be Done

The work is far from completed.  There are still many people groups that have never heard the name of Jesus.  Many of these groups live in Myanmar, especially in the Shan State where The Ancient Path Project is partnering with 22 national partner missionaries who are living among 12 different UPGs. These missionaries are “cross cultural”, in the sense that they have relocated to a new area, where a different language is spoken and the local population are a different ethnic minority from their own.  The missions group has adopted innovative platforms for sharing the Gospel. These platforms include a motorcycle repair shop, a barbershop, music lessons, computer training, and farming a leased field, side by side with the members of the community UPG.  They are using The Ancient Path, which has been translated into five of the targeted UPG languages, with another three in development.  For most of these groups, TAP is the first piece of literature in their mother tongue that explains the historical basis for Christianity as the oldest faith in the world.  

If you would like to participate financially in The Ancient Path Project through Live Global, you can help by providing all, or a portion of the funds needed to translate TAP into a new language ($300),  print the first 10,000 of a new language ($1200) or help a national evangelist go to a remote area to distribute The Ancient Path to those who have never heard. 

Adopt an Unreached People Group