Thank you for praying for my recent trip to Serbia. I met with the three Roma Bible translation teams I consult, and a new team starting on a Bible translation for Roma in Albania, and taught them a course on “Biblical Exegesis”. Exegesis is the process of studying and discovering the meaning of a text, in this case the meaning of the original Greek text of the New Testament, and communicating that meaning to others through our translation and teaching.
We met at a church campsite up in the hills of Jagodina, Serbia. Each morning we met for devotions and worship. Then for three hours each day I lectured on exegesis, and another teacher taught the students semantics (the study of meaning) for three hours (he and I took turns in the order of class sessions, starting around 9 a.m. and ending around 6 p.m. with breaks in between). We had all our meals together and one evening went walking in the nearby city.
Jet lag and a head cold took a lot out of me, but God was merciful and we were able to complete the class. It was good to be with my Roma friends in person; we see each other weekly on Zoom, but being face-to-face is always better. It was also encouraging to meet the believers from Albania and hear their testimonies.
In the US we no longer hear much about it in the news, but for years there has been tension between Albanians and Serbs over the conflict in Kosovo. It was a joy to see one of the Roma believers from Serbia bring this up in devotions, apologize that he and other Roma from Serbia were forced to fight Albanians, ask forgiveness and tell them how much he loved them in Christ. The fact that these believers from “enemy countries” became immediate friends and enjoyed close comradery from the beginning, is a powerful testimony to the Gospel.
I was also reminded of how Albania used to be closed to the gospel. It was the first nation in the world to proclaim itself an atheist country, and I remember a great prayer emphasis in the late 80s and early 90s, praying that it would open up for the Gospel. One of the men from the Albanian team shared his testimony and mentioned how he became a believer when one of these new missionaries that came to Albania from the US in the 90s in answer to these prayers shared a Bible verse with him. (People had been working on translating the Bible into Albanian for years so it would be ready for the time for when the doors opened politically.)
My classes went well. I loved hearing some of the “aha” moments as we talked about various aspects of exegesis and practiced together on many verses in James (which we had recently translated together) and the Gospel of John (which we are currently translating together). It was also helpful that I could share with them about some reference materials and Bible translation tools they did not know before how to use, and other books they did not know they could get access to. At the end they told me, “I wish I had had this class a long time ago!”
Below are more pictures from my trip there. Thank you again for your faithful prayers and financial support!