What Can A Person Do?

Making a difference for Bible translation

With a mission and vision as big as Bible translation for every people group on earth that needs it, what can one person do to make a difference?

A few months ago, Wycliffe USA’s Prayer Ministries Department received a visit from a very special guest, a man named Richard Smalley. On a trip to Orlando, Florida, Richard stopped by to see the headquarters of Wycliffe Bible Translators USA and visit a team of people that he had never met, but was closely connected to. Richard said, “One time I called Prayer Ministries, and they said, ‘Everyone here knows you.’”

In 1990, Richard came across a magazine with a Wycliffe ad on the back, promoting the Bibleless Peoples Prayer Project. It invited Christians to contact Wycliffe to receive the name of a Bibleless people group to pray for, and to stand as an intercessor until a Bible translation program began for that people group. Richard asked Wycliffe for a couple of names and began praying that year. Later, God led him to sign up for more. “God burdened my heart to pray for them,” Richard said. “They were in the jungles, and there was no other way to reach them.”

On average, prayer partners with the Bibleless Peoples Prayer Project pray for one to three language groups. Today, Richard Smalley—still a dedicated intercessor after more than 20 years—prays for about 700 people groups. A custodian from Harrison, New York, Richard spends two hours a day before work going through his list of Bibleless peoples asking God to “bring the translations forth.” He said, “Even before I start praying I begin with a special prayer…praising God and thanking God, asking Him to hear the prayers. It’s amazing what He can do.”

Over the years, Richard has seen many Bible translations finished for the people groups he consistently lifted up in prayer. He said, “There have been answers…some of them taken ten years. It feels really good getting the certificates of completion from Prayer Ministries as each project is finished, knowing that God is hearing the prayers.” But as translation programs began and the names dropped off the list, he contacted Prayer Ministries for more.

Finally getting the chance to meet Richard face-to-face, the Prayer Ministries team was blessed by his humbleness and his fervor for prayer on behalf of the people groups still waiting for God’s Word in their own language. When asked how he stays motivated to pray for so many people groups over a long period of time, Richard said, “I just keep praying. When it’s God’s time, it’ll just go through. I don’t get discouraged. I honestly believe that with God all things are possible. I’ve seen in my life what God can do, and for people who trust in Him.”

At 66, Richard seems content with his call to pray for people all over the world. His passion flows easily and quickly encourages others. “Stand fast and pray for them,” he said. “Your reward won’t be here, it’ll be in heaven. The most important thing is when God says, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.’”

  • Praise God for Richard’s faithful partnership in prayer, and for the thousands of others who regularly pray for Bibleless peoples.
  • While people’s skills, abilities, and passions may vary, there are equally as many ways that one can support the worldwide translation team and further the Bible translation movement. Ask God to call many more people to personally invest in this ministry through prayer, service, and giving.

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