Recently Marjan and Goran from Serbia found themselves adding the role of Community Checker to their long list of responsibilities as Roma Bible Translators. At first, it was challenging for them to fit it in, but they found that as they went from home to home meeting people, reading the Scriptures to them in Romani and seeing God stir interest and faith within people’s hearts, it became a substantial blessing to them. Community checking is an essential part of the heart-language translation process, with a portion of Scripture usually being tested by hundreds of people before it is published. Feedback from the community ensures that the translations are as accurate and natural as possible, enabling the publication of the Scriptures at the end of the process to be fully accepted by the community.
In today’s blog, we want to share with you the encouragement of the testimonies from the community checking happening in three Roma dialects - Arli, Gurbet and Chergash. When the translator or community checker visits the community in their homes, it usually takes about an hour as they all sit together in the living room, and the Checker will read the Scripture portion to them in their heart language. The people listening are often not Christians, so their responses vary significantly. If the Checker has to travel out to more remote villages, then it can take up to three hours. The Checker reads to the people, who then give their thoughts about the translation. They talk about words, the meanings of words, and what the people feel when they hear the translation - does it seem natural to them? As you will see in the stories below, there is much more to it, because sharing God’s Word with people often means that they are hearing the Gospel for the first time, and so the Community Checker is also acting as an evangelist and an ambassador for Christ.
At one of the community checking sessions for the Arli language, a young man named Denis attended. He was not a believer, but when a passage from 2 Tim 3:14-15b was read in Romani, he was deeply moved. He remembered his childhood when his mother used to take him to church and taught him Bible stories. He felt overcome by the realisation that God had been with him all his life, even though he had walked through difficult times – having been involved in drugs, crime and served time in prison. At the end of the session, he decided to put his faith in Jesus Christ! The Community Checker began to disciple him and help him grow in his new faith. Now, he is part of the local church and shares his story with many others from his community.
Also in the Arli community, one of the translators shared that it can be challenging to do community checking of Scripture. In a village in Serbia, a Community Checker has a group of young people with whom he regularly checks the translations. Sadly, these young people faced persecution from both the locals and the police, as well as the center for social work which forbade and threatened them not to go to any meetings organised by the Community Checker. The young people did not want to stop going to those meetings, and so they made alternative plans to keep going. When they were reading the verses from the second chapter of Acts they were greatly encouraged by the work of the Holy Spirit. They believed that the Holy Spirit would strengthen and help them to face any persecution that came their way.
In the Gurbet language community, they had checking sessions with a family who were all non-Christians. The Scripture they were checking together was from Mark 7 – the story of how Jesus healed the deaf and the mute. One of the sons had suffered from hearing problems since he was a child, and so his parents became especially fascinated with this story. They wanted to hear it earnestly, and even wanted to take it and read it carefully by themselves. In the end, they were all encouraged that the Lord had in His providence orchestrated it so that it would be this family checking this portion of Scripture! They were deeply moved and said that they were changing their opinion on faith and God in general. They said they had never heard such a clear message as this before. The Community Checkers were so blessed that they, as unbelievers, actually liked their translation work, but even more so, that they had discovered God in those Scriptures and that He is all-powerful and can bring light to their lives!
Sometimes the Checkers encounter really difficult situations as they engage with the community. In the Chergash language community, there is a family who lost a child in a fire and has since received help to rebuild their home and lives after losing so much. Praise the Lord that the Checker was able to help and be a support until that home was complete. In addition, there is a family of a mom and her two young daughters who lost their husband/dad. They have been trying to survive on $100 a month without bedrooms, food or clothes for the little ones. The mom is afraid that the roof they are living under will cave in on them. Additionally, the local community has no pastor to lead them, and the main building where they meet has lost part of its roof. Please join us in praying for the Community Checker who visits this community, and pray for the Kikida Roma Church that the Chergari would hold on to their faith in this time of trial and testing.
In a way, being a heart-language Bible translator and/or a Community Checker is like being on the front lines of the Great Commission. The global Body of Christ can make all the difference in supporting and praying for these courageous brothers and sisters. If you feel moved to join the exploding global heart-language Bible translation movement, you can plant a “Verse Seed” to support this Kingdom work.