“To tell you the truth, I’m not a professional ‘man of letters’. But one day I got an ardent feeling, which turned into a burning question in my mind: why doesn’t my native people have its own writing system?”
This is how Elisha (we’ll use this Biblical pseudonym for him) started the story of how he joined one of the Bible translation projects in the Caucasus. In our conversation, Elisha struck me as very eager to help, but equally reluctant to talk. His affability struggled with his firm determination to remain incognito, and only after my assurance that his name would not be revealed did Elisha start speaking at ease. His words proved to be a heartfelt testimony to the sense of responsibility and generosity so typical of the Caucasian cultures. During our half-hour interview, I was a total stranger who needed Elisha’s help, and he showed himself to be a most hospitable host who introduced me to the very best of his culture...
...Neither Alim nor any of his relatives believed that his life could be restored. All that followed resembled the story of the prodigal son. Alim’s liberation from the abyss of sin and despair, subsequent reconciliation with his family, and total restoration occurred in several stages, but the very first glimpse of hope was given to him by another native speaker of Balkar, one of the few existing Balkar Christians, who by God’s providence visited Alim’s prison in the early 1990s and addressed him in his mother tongue...
Galina, a member of IBT’s Khakas Bible translation and audio recording team began her story: “In the past, this is how the Khakas funerals looked. The body of the deceased relative stayed at home, and his relatives called for a khaidzhi (singer of heroic ballads). The khaidzhi accompanied himself on a seven-stringed national musical instrument, called the chatkhan.
When a guest comes into a Kurdish home, the hosts normally say, “You have come to step on my head.” Such were the words of our Kurdish translator in the Moscow IBT office when we asked him about the Kurdish national tradition of receiving guests. To say that we were shocked is an understatement!
“The Gospel of Luke has been translated into the Chukchi language. The translation team includes experts and native speakers from the indigenous people group. Their purpose is to make sure that the translation is clear and intelligible to readers, and what is even more important, that the proper meaning, power, and spirit is conveyed by the text.”
These words were spoken on the local TV newsbroadcast in Anadyr, the capital of Chukotka. But these simple words of a short TV report do not give us the full picture of what strenuous creative efforts and what intellectual agony the task demanded. It does not show how many months and years first the translation and then the revision of a relatively small text of the Gospel of Luke actually required.