The first leg of the marathon: Bible dedications nearing the completion of Phase 1 of the Bible translation project

YouTube Poster

(Following is the transcript of the above video, which is a report of the recent distribution of the Gospel of Luke and 50 chronological Bible stories in four Roma languages in Croatia and Serbia.)

Who are the Roma and why do they need Bible translation?

Roma people, often called Gypsies, are scorned throughout Europe, where most of them reside. They are darker in skin tone than other Europeans, usually far less educated, tend to keep to themselves, and have a reputation for lying and stealing. They are known as those who beg, might pick your pocket, usually have lots of kids, get married early, and dig through the trash to survive.

But God desires these social outcasts to become part of his family, and he is making his love for them known. Many Roma have become believers and churches and small Bible study groups have been formed. There is also a renewed interest in preserving and promoting Roma languages and a realization that Bible translation is still needed. Of the 88 known Roma dialects, only about 15 have any Scripture, and of those, only a half dozen have complete Bibles. Though Europe is generally post-Christian and post-modern, the Roma of Europe seem to be the most open to the gospel of Jesus.

That’s why we are excited to be involved in translating the Bible into 5 of these Roma language, languages spoken in Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro.

Bible translation is a marathon, usually taking 15-25 years to complete.

With Bible dedications, we tend to wait for the grand finale: a complete New Testament. A full Bible. But what about the little steps along the way? They are equally worthy of great rejoicing as communities finally encounter the transformative power of God’s Word!

That’s why we recently held a dedication in celebration of completing the Gospel of Luke and 50 Bible stories in four Roma languages spoken in former Yugoslavia—Arli, Bayash, Chergash, and Gurbet.

At the dedications held in Serbia and Croatia, the Roma translators, our project coordinator and I distributed some 1,500 printed Scripture materials! Recipients of those materials—other translators and pastors—were eager to distribute them into the waiting hands of their communities. The 50 Bible stories—encompassing creation to the return of Christ—are bound in a 700-page, full-color illustrated book made specifically for Roma. I also showed the Roma how to access the stories and Luke’s Gospel through recordings on their phones. The audio files are on both YouTube and a special website for Roma Bible translation. In this way, expectant Arli, Bayash, Chergash, and Gurbet speakers can read, and hear, what God has to say!

“There was a lot of excitement, not just for the translators seeing their work in print, but for the community to have in their hands what we have been talking about for a long time.

The Ludari team, representing the fifth language in this cluster, is still working hard to see the same result within their community. We completed a consultant check for Luke’s Gospel, logging 199 hours on Zoom over a 10-month period of virtual meetings in the US and Croatia. We plan to have this book and the 50 Bible stories completed by the end of March 2022.

In the meantime, I’m also preparing for a shift away from being the project coordinator to becoming the translation consultant. More of the New Testament will be translated into some of these Roma languages, which means more opportunity for them to understand that their people, their language, and their culture are not dejected. They are learning that they matter to God, and that changes everything. 

Let me close with one story: After spending the night in a small town in Serbia, we crossed into Croatia one Sunday morning. There we spent more time with the translators, discussing changes and improvements we will be making to speed up the next phase of this Bible translation project and to get more translators and more churches involved.

From there, we went to Djena and Biljana’s church. Though Djena and Biljana are Chergash speakers, most of the Roma in their church are speakers of two other, very different Roma languages, Bayash and Ludari. As I mentioned, we don’t have Ludari done yet, but it was a great joy to share with them printed and audio versions in Bayash, which some of them speak. I played the audio version of the prodigal son parable in the Bayash language. Everyone was very attentive and listened well.

At the end of the service, Biljana told me about a man in their church who cannot read and who has been attending their church for probably 10 years. They rarely get much of a response from him when they ask if he has understood what they have been preaching or teaching. But when he heard the story in Bayash played over the speaker, he got so excited. He told Biljana that he understood every word, and he started summarizing the story back to her in Croatian. This is the most he has ever responded to them in church. Praise God!

So, rejoice with us in the recent completion of the Gospel of Luke and 50 Bible stories, and please pray fervently for the Lord’s enablement to finish the rest of the Bible for these Roma languages.

Leave a Reply Cancel reply