Stuck with Cement

By Rachel Greco

Surrounded by jewel-bright parrots and perfume-sweet flowers, two South Americans, Julia* and Bernardo*, serve the remote people of this beautiful continent. They run a local Bible translation and literacy organization out of their home, where JAARS recently provided logistical assistance. They oversee six Bible translation projects. Each of these language projects has finished translating Luke and Acts and is working through the pastoral epistles and James.

According to Larry, a U.S.-based translation consultant for two of these projects, “Every time that we finish a portion of Scripture, they take it right out to the communities, and people are excited.”

Just a week after Larry had finished checking the Puka* team’s translation of the script for the JESUS film (which is based largely on the book of Luke), the team recorded it with Cru’s help and were able to take it home to their communities. Over Christmas, the team members went into their communities and started showing it in different villages. “We got lots of reports of people getting saved from watching the JESUS film,” Larry said.

Locals gather to watch the JESUS film.

To continue to translate Scripture into the languages of the people, translation consultants are needed. Although Larry is available now, he might not always be, and there are not enough consultants to go around: “In South America, we have a great shortage of translation consultants,” Larry explained. “We [ex-pat] consultants can’t meet the demand for all the translation work that needs to be done. There are a lot of languages in South America that have had New Testaments finished and are now asking for Old Testament work, and we just can’t do them all.”

These are some of the reasons that Larry is training Julia to be a consultant for the Puka people as well as hopefully other South American languages. But because Julia helps run the Bible translation organization out of her home, it can be difficult for her to get away to work on translations. “Sometimes when I’ve had meetings with Julia over Zoom or Skype,” Larry recalled, “she’s in her bedroom. And she’s told me that it’s always difficult to find space where she can get away from all the activity in the house.”

Julia and Bernardo constantly have people arriving asking for help. Sometimes, when all the teams come to the house, there can be up to 20 people inside.

So Julia and Bernardo decided to build extra office space and meeting rooms atop their house. This will not only provide Julia with her own office space where she can escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life below, but also provide extra room and better workspace for the teams. The Puka already worked upstairs, when it was an open area with a roof. But the renovations will enable them to leave their equipment there and focus better.

“The offices, specifically Julia’s, are really important for her future as a consultant in training,” Larry said. “It will help her make that transition into actually doing consulting work.”

Last year, Bernardo and Julia began the construction of what would be the offices and meeting rooms. “Thanks to our God’s help and many brothers, we were able to build the greatest part of the building,” Bernardo said.

But when the construction was about 80% complete, they had to stop because of a lack of resources. “We [were] at the point of losing 70 bags of cement that we had acquired three months ago. They [were] already significantly hardened,” Bernardo said. “So, to not lose this investment, we needed to continue with construction as soon as possible.”

Bags of cement waiting to be used.

Thankfully, JAARS was able to provide the funds they needed and help the organization finish construction. It is almost complete. Hopefully, these spaces will allow the teams to work quickly on the Scripture so more people in the area can join with one of the translators, who sang with joy, “The Word of God has arrived!”

The lights in the translation offices in the newly renovated upstairs of Julia and Bernardo’s home shine brightly in the night.

Join with us in praying that God would prepare the hearts of the people in this area to receive the Word of God. Pray for the translators’ protection from the enemy.

*Name changed for security reasons