The Roma people in the Lafi e Devleso Cluster make much of God’s work.
Big milestones are worth celebrating. We love to gather for important birthdays, graduation ceremonies, and significant anniversaries.
In Bible translation, we often rally around celebrating a completed New Testament or a full Bible, but it’s also good to remember the smaller steps taken to get there. Just one book of the Bible, or even a single passage or verse, can transform a life.
In the Lafi e Devleso Cluster, four of the five related Roma language communities (located throughout Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro) gathered on September of 2021 to dedicate a small but powerful milestone: the completion of the Gospel of Luke and 50 additional Bible stories. Though the dedications of these New Testaments happened two years ago, God’s living Word is still active today and continues to change lives.
Distributing the Fruit
In the days leading up to the dedications held in Serbia and Croatia, project coordinator Todd Price and several translators shared approximately 1,500 copies of printed Scripture materials, including the full-color, beautifully illustrated 700-page book of 50 Bible stories. The stories cover the entire narrative of Scripture, from creation to the second coming of Christ.
The recipients included mostly other translators and pastors who were all eager to distribute the content within their communities. They were also trained by Todd and his team on how to access the resources through their mobile phones. Arli, Bayash, Chergash, and Gurbet speakers can now read or listen to Scripture through a specific Roma Bible website or through audio files posted on YouTube.
The Fifth Language
What about the fifth language in this cluster project?
Ludari people have never written their language in a systematic way, so naturally, the translators experienced unique challenges like deciding on consistent spelling rules. This delayed their progress; when the 2021 dedication celebrations rolled around, they were still working hard to complete their Gospel of Luke and 50 Bible stories. But as of February 2022, they now have access to the same resources as their Arli, Bayash, Chergash, and Gurbet friends.
The Impact of the Word
This new access to God’s Word has blessed the people. One translator, Goran, began posting on social media some Bible verses in Gurbet and other Roma languages. Before long, a German woman married to a Roma man contacted him, explaining how much the verses encouraged her as she strove to learn her husband’s language.
Another translator, Sasha, distributed Arli Scripture materials among his neighbors, including non-Christians and a Muslim woman who began to read the material provided. Though her intention was to find errors in the translation, Sasha was encouraged that she had read the Word so closely.
And Djena, a third translator, told us about a man in the Bayash community. He’d been in the church for almost a decade but struggled to internalize the message he was hearing. When he finally listened to audio recordings of Scripture in his heart language, he shouted with delight! This man who once answered follow-up questions with silence now began summarizing and repeating Bible stories back to Djena.
Future Plans and New Setbacks
For now, only the Arli, Gurbet and Chergash languages have continued translation work to complete the New Testament. Changes to the remaining teams’ structures and expectations have led them to pull back for now. We remain hopeful that the Bayash and Ludari teams will continue translation work in the near future.
As we have written about before, the Roma people tend to face harsh discrimination. We ask that you pray with us for the people of the Lafi e Devleso cluster.
Father, be with the Roma. Open their eyes to your love for them. We ask that you bless the efforts of the Arli, Gurbet, and Chergash teams as they press on toward the goal of complete New Testament translations. Thank you for your Word that has already gone forth among them, as well as in the Bayash and Ludari communities. Raise up teams to continue the work in those languages. Please use heart language Scripture to continue blessing them, reminding them of their great worth in your eyes. Amen.