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Vitaly Voinov – Live Deeply

I’m CSPC missions partner Vitaly Voinov. I’m a translation consultant for (and, until very recently, was director of) The Institute for Bible Translation (IBT) in Russia. IBT has 48 projects going in different languages of non-Slavic people living in Russia and outlying countries. We focus on Scripture production (full Bibles, New Testaments, Gospels, children’s books, even a sign language project). This is how I’m living deeply. 

There’s nothing like seeing someone encounter Jesus for the first time. In October, I was part of a work session on a translation of the Gospel of John for a small language community. There are probably around 25,000 speakers of this language- half in Dagestan, half in Azerbaijan. I was working with their team in the Georgian city of Tblisi. The translators for this project aren’t Christians- they’re Muslims, but they’re the kind of Muslims who say, ‘We want Scripture in our language. We value it. We want our people to have access to this.’ (Yes, you can find those people, by God’s grace!) So we’re working with the translator and with his wife as the uninitiated native speaker. Here’s what that basically means: the translator knows the text back and forth because he’s worked on it, but his wife has never seen this text before in her life. She’s never read the Gospel of John in any language, never heard this story. Her role comes during our consultant checking session. She translates what she’s reading on the page back into Russian to see how it affects her; what she understands it to mean. Well, we get to John 14: 27. This is where Jesus says, ‘I leave you my peace, not as the world gives it to you- I give it to you.’ But the wife of the translator reads, ‘I give you my joy, not as the world gives it to you- I leave you my joy.’ I’m like, ‘Hold on, is that really what it means in your text- joy?’ Yeah, they say- that’s what it means. I asked the team -the translator and the exegetical advisor- ‘Why did you translate it joy? That’s not what that Greek text says.’ They say, ‘We have no word for peace in our language. We have the concept of peace as the absence of war, but we don’t have the kind of peace Jesus is talking about.’  

So we stay in the room, struggling for at least 45 minutes to find the right word or phrase to use here. Eventually we decide upon the best translation: ‘I take away your all-consuming thoughts. The world can’t do this for you.’ The translator’s wife responds, ‘Yes! Those are the thoughts I have at night when I can’t sleep. I’m worried about the next day and the day after.’ This is the first time she’s really understood the passage- she’s totally gotten it! Finally, when we’re all done with the consultant checking session of John, she says, completely unprompted, ‘Jesus deals so differently with different people. Some people come to Him and they believe Him. Some people don’t believe Him. Some people start believing Him and then turn away from Him. He is so multifaceted. This is such an important book.’ That’s the type of effect we want for the whole people group we’re working with! When you hear one reaction like that from a person who has just seen the face of Jesus –in the Gospel of John, for the first time, as He really is- you say, ‘I want the rest of this people and other surrounding peoples to have this priceless gift.’ THAT’s why we do it! The exegete in this project, who’s been working on it for many years now, looks at me and says, ‘You know, Vitaly, even if no one else from this people group gets access to this book eventually, I’m willing to continue working on it just for this family that’s doing the translating.’ He’s right- The Holy Spirit is the One who brings people to want it. We just have to do our best to provide the most clear, accurate translation for those people in these areas who’ve never had it before, but desperately need it as much as you and I do.  

Here are some ways you can pray for the work of IBT: First, there’s one Bible that we recently published in a language spoken in Uzbekistan. It’s called the Karakalpak Bible. But we’re not allowed to import it into Uzbekistan because of a conflict between the Karakalpaks and the Uzbeks last summer. The government has told us it’s highly unlikely we’ll be able to import this book into the country within the next several years. So please pray for the Lord to soften hearts there. 

Second, please also pray for IBT workers who’ve been dispersed around the world or have faced tragedy because of the war in Ukraine- pray life wouldn’t happen to them in such a way that stops them from working. Some have had to rebuild their lives from scratch as new immigrants, and that’s tremendously hard. Everyone needs money, everyone needs health care, everyone needs a place to live.  Several of our translators who live in outlying regions of Russia had sons who didn’t return alive from the Ukraine conflict. Yet none of our 48 projects have stopped because of this war. That’s amazing, because Bible translation isn’t just about computers and Bibles. It’s about people. If a person shuts down because of anything going on around him, then the project gets shut down. But that hasn’t happened. We’re doing everything we can to keep our people going through the difficult times. It means making sure that if a person is supposed to do some work but you know they’ve had a tragedy in their life, you give grace: ‘I understand you’ve had a significant tragedy in your life. It’s all right if your contract isn’t fulfilled. We’ll do an extra contract to extend your time for a year on this book.’ So it means commiserating with people, being sympathetic to them in a very practical way. It means not putting extra pressure on them in addition to the horrible cataclysm that has just crashed down upon their lives. Pray for their resolve to continue serving the Lord. Finally, pray for my own family (I, my wife, and children just moved from Russia last year) as we get readjusted to life in the United States. Over the past year we’ve been here and there across the globe, from Finland to the nation of Georgia. It’s sort of like nowhere is home, so wherever you are, it’s no less home than everywhere else. God’s used that to prevent reentry shock as we begin to make our new long-term home in America, yet all the while continuing to be part of IBT’s vital work. Would you pray that our adjustment would continue to go well? Thank you, CSPC family. 


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