January/February 2012 Prayer Letter

Dear Friends and Family in Christ Jesus,

Greetings in Jesus’ Name from the Popchenko Family! Spring is right around the corner, a welcome relief after our long, hard winter. This year it was especially severe with very bitter temperatures and lots of snow, making driving very difficult, since snow is rarely plowed in this country. It’s nice to be able to drive on asphalt instead of rutted ice, a few inches thick.

The beautiful side of harsh winter.

The boys don't mind the snow at all

Translation work is steadily moving forward. By the grace of God, the first draft of 18 chapters of Acts is ready. At the same time, we are working on introducing minor corrections to the gospel of Mark based on the feedback we received from our survey. I have gathered all the critical comments from participants and, after I finish commenting on them, I will send them to my assistants for evaluation and their suggested changes. Also, we began to work on the final draft of the Gospel of Luke. One of my assistants has already checked it for consistency with Mark, as we try to make sure that parallel accounts are translated uniformly, provided they are identical in Greek. The same person is now checking the translation against the Greek text. Once this is done, I will send Luke to other assistants for their input on the Ukrainian used. On top of that, we are preparing the children’s edition of my translation of Luke, with illustrations by a Ukrainian artist. Our desire is to give children a ‘real Bible’ with illustrations, not just a storybook. The artist was already chosen and is working on the artwork. Please continue to pray for our team as we labor to provide our people with a trustworthy translation of the Bible in good Ukrainian.

Publishing the Bible or the New Testament is often considered to be the ultimate goal of Bible translation. While this is true in a sense, the actual ultimate goal is getting the Bible into the hands of the people because “the word of God is quick, and powerful” and contains the Gospel which is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth”. Bible translators, being preoccupied with the process of translating, may lose sight of this goal. Recently, I was reminded of this as I heard one of the most amazing testimonies of the power of the word of God to save sinners. An Iranian refugee who started a Farsi-speaking church in our city shared his life story at our church. Between the ages of 3 and 11, he lost most of his close relatives: mother, grandparents, aunts and uncles. As a result of his grief, he developed incredible depression and stuttered badly. His father took him to every doctor he could and they treated him with all different kinds of medicine, but to no avail. As a youth, he realized that his Muslim faith could not give him the answer and he began to look into other religions. For a year and a half he checked books out of a local library on Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. They could not help him. Then he remembered Christianity and the book called the Bible. Now, in Iran you can be put in prison simply for possessing a Bible and he knew that. So, he quietly asked the librarian, who happened to be a Christian and had been watching him all this time, if they had a Bible. The librarian pulled a Bible out from under his shirt and handed it to him. Late at night, the young man locked himself in his bedroom, turned on the dim desk light and began to read Romans. As soon as he opened the Book, he almost physically felt the light coming out of it. When he got though Romans 10, he understood two things: that he was a sinner and that God could forgive him. He prayed for God’s forgiveness and went to bed. The next morning he noticed two things: he had no depression whatsoever and did not stutter anymore. The change was so drastic and visible that everybody could not help but ask what had happened to him. Finally, he had to admit that he had become a Christian. His father was so furious that he was determined to do something about it. Not waiting to be charged with apostasy and executed, he fled for his life to Ukraine. The salvation of souls is what Bible translation is all about!

It’s been quite a while since we updated you on my health situation. Over the past year, I have experienced generally good health: no ear or sinus infections, virtually no colds or flu. We attribute it mostly to our move to this present, mold-free house and to my prolonged treatment with an immunologist. The last test in November showed that my immune system is now healthy. The treatment for my reflux that started back in November has not been as smooth and effective as we anticipated. One medication even caused ongoing heartburn which had not troubled me previously. The universally strongest, most advanced heartburn medicine could not completely take care of it. My doctor said that there was nothing else he could do for me and I stopped taking all medications. I also did a food intolerance test and apparently I am intolerant to some foods. Eliminating them helped me to some extent. Please continue to pray for full recovery.

We are excited to announce the updating of our web site! Now it is so much easier and less time consuming for us to post our updates, plus we have a whole lot more options on top of a new look. You can post your comments about our news right on the same page. Be sure to check it out soon and subscribe for our updates. Our sincere thanks go to Joshua Steele, a good friend and missionary to Ukraine, who voluntarily built this site for us. To learn more about him and his ministry, please visit www.ofreport.com and www.euroteamoutreach.org

Mama’s Corner (by Wendy)

It has been a season of birthdays in our home lately. In January, Sashko turned 10 years old. He has been maturing in every way, but most importantly, he is growing spiritually. Just the other day he told me how much he likes Romans 8:38-39, because those verses say that nothing can separate him from the love of God. During our Bible reading, he displays great discernment and it is reflected in his attitudes toward us, his brothers and his responsibilities. Yura and I are enjoying the sweet, sweet fruit of a child that is ‘walking in truth’. There is nothing to compare with it.

Happy 10th birthday!

February 28th we celebrated Matviy’s first birthday. Of all of our babies, this one has been the most cheerful and easy going. During our school time in the mornings, he plays happily with Big Brother Andriy in the living room, allowing me to work with the older boys. Matviy is also never late for meals: as soon as Yura sits down at the table, a cute little boy is right there by his knee, looking up expectantly. We are so thankful for his sweet and sunny disposition. May the Lord draw Matviy to the cross at a young age and use this child to glorify Himself.

Happy 1st birthday!

Thank you for your continued prayers and financial support that help to make this ministry possible.

Your Fellow-servants for Jesus’ sake,

Yura, Wendy, Sashko, Yurko, Andriy, and Matviy Popchenko

November/December 2011 Prayer Letter

Dear Friends and Family in Christ Jesus,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! The end of the year 2011 was marked by significant progress in our Bible translation work. To start with, by God’s grace the first draft of the Gospel of Luke and eight chapters of the book of Acts are translated. Thus, 59% of the New Testament is ready in various stages. Also, we were able to print 1500 copies of the Gospel of Mark, distribute them and carry out a survey. The copies were distributed at two pastors’ conferences, in several churches, among the students of a correspondence Bible Institute, among the subscribers of a Ukrainian Christian magazine and among friends and relatives.

Family devotions in the newly printed Gospel of Mark

The results of the survey exceeded all of our expectations. First, we received a high percentage of responses from a wide variety of participants from all over Ukraine. Of these, 62% have a Bible teaching position in their churches: pastors, preachers, evangelists, Sunday school teachers, small group leaders, missionaries and prison and hospital ministries. Second, the responses were very favorable: 98% of the respondents liked the translation and 87% of them are likely (with various degrees of probability) to switch to it when the whole Bible is ready. The latter number is very encouraging considering the fact that almost half of the respondents mainly use the Russian Bible, so they would be switching not just to another translation but to a different language.

You may wonder what people meant when they said they “liked” the translation. In the questionnaire, they were asked to indicate what they liked the most. The three most common answers were “good Ukrainian”, “clarity” and “readability”. Let me explain the first one to you. Prior to the country’s independence in 1992, Ukrainian was limited in use. As a result, many speakers today have a narrow vocabulary, not always being sure what pure Ukrainian is. Further, because of the failure to employ standard Ukrainian, none of the existing Ukrainian versions have set the pattern of what the Bible in this language should sound like. They lack uniformity of biblical and common words, as well as contain awkward sentence structure. These issues posed a serious challenge for me in producing a new translation in “good Ukrainian”. From the very beginning, my aim in translating the Bible was to unify Biblical terminology and to use a language form that would be both true to the standard and satisfactory to the speakers of all Ukrainian dialects. The prevailing comments in the questionnaires like “good standard Ukrainian”, “pure Ukrainian”, etc. confirm that I was able to achieve my goal with God’s help.

Two other characteristics, “clarity” and “readability”, are more reasons for rejoicing. Let me explain these as well. The advocates of dynamic-equivalence translations argue that formal-equivalence translations can not possibly be clear and natural. Being convinced that this is not so, I strove to produce a translation that would be literal, while being clear and readable. Again, the frequent remarks in the questionnaires like “completely understandable”, “very readable”, etc. confirm that the Lord allowed me to attain my goal. Many people expressed their satisfaction with the translation in various forms but these three statements stand out: “A fine translation, distinguished by accuracy, clarity and good literary style”, “Among the available Ukrainian versions, this Gospel of Mark is the most clear in reading. It is a pleasure to read it” and “(It is) a translation understandable to children” (by a mother of six). One Sunday school teacher said she was going to use this Gospel of Mark in her class. Many people were excited about this translation and wished God’s blessing on the work.

We definitely appreciate the critical comments we received. Suggestions included: using a different word for the one utilized in the text, hyphenation, punctuation, one typo, the spelling of biblical names (one of the biggest difficulties in Ukrainian) and an instance of ambiguity. A number of remarks had to do with some textual and translational differences of this translation compared with the existing ones. In many cases I was able to contact people by e-mail and explain my translation choices, as well as which underlying Greek text was used and why. My assistants and I will discuss the most common suggestions and will decide where corrections should be introduced.

As with the text, 98% of the respondents liked the design and printing quality. We took great pains with choosing the right font and were pleased with the results: quite a few people indicated that they liked the font and many of them commented on how readable it is. People also appreciated the “convenient and detailed cross references”, “appropriate and clear footnotes”, “good section headings with cross references to parallel accounts” and “convenient arrangement of the text”. I believe the time and effort we spent on the design was well worth it.

One of the most exciting results of the survey is that one person expressed a desire to assist with this project. Svetlana has an undergraduate degree in Ukrainian and a PhD in history. She is an active member of her church and teaches at a secular university. I hope that a fruitful partnership awaits us. Also, she asked for more copies of the Gospel of Mark to give to her students. Please pray that the living word of God touches their hearts and that many of them would come to the saving knowledge of Christ. Thus, we were able to achieve all three of our goals for this survey: raise awareness of this new translation, get feedback from a wider audience and find more people who are qualified to assist with the project. To God be the glory, great things He hath done!

Mama’s Corner (by Wendy)
Life with boys is always exciting… sometimes in a good way, sometimes not. In the past few months it seems like we’ve had one calamity after another. Andriy fell off the jungle gym and cut the top of his head. Sashko got hit in the forehead with a broom handle. A quick trip to the surgeon’s office and 3 stitches later he was all patched up. Not to be outdone by his brothers, Yurko managed to get a long, nasty thorn stuck in his shin… right through his snow pants. Matviy is ‘all-boy’ and at age 9 months he gave himself a black eye, falling against a metal pole. Andriy went for ‘seconds’, taking a nose-dive off of his tricycle and busting his lip on the sidewalk (the trike did not survive the spill). The fun just never ends around here!

For a Thanksgiving project this year, I challenged the older boys to each memorize a parable. Sashko learned the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1-20) and Yurko memorized the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). We were very pleased at their diligence in studying such long passages and I think they were surprised at how much they could learn in just a few weeks. Music is heard almost all the time at our house. Guitar music has been predominate lately since Sashko has upgraded to a ¾ size guitar. Yurko inherited Sashko’s ½ size one and even Andriy has joined our group of guitarists with Yurko’s old ¼ size guitar. Yura leads the group on his guitar as they play together. The big boys are doing well at learning the chords for a variety of hymns and carols, while Andriy strums along, mumbling the words and trying to copying his brothers’ technique (it is just a little too cute).

Guitar quartet

Speaking of Andriy, we have a need. At age 3½, he has really outgrown his car seat; however we have not been able to find basic booster seats over here. If anyone has a booster seat that your child has outgrown and would like to ship it to us directly here in Ukraine, please contact us at [email protected] for the Ukrainian shipping address (and to confirm that the need has not already been met). Thank you!

My new assistant on his first day of work

Prayer requests and praises:
1. Praise the Lord for a good response to the Gospel of Mark.
2. Keep praying for more laborers to help with different aspects of the translation ministry.
3. Praise the Lord, we all have enjoyed comparatively good health for the past year. Please pray for Yura’s reflux treatment to be effective.

May the Lord bless you all with a wonderful 2012. We pray for your families, churches and ministries regularly and trust that the goodness of God will be seen in your lives more than ever before in the coming year.
Your Fellow-servants for Jesus’ sake,
Yura, Wendy, Sashko, Yurko, Andriy, and Matviy Popchenko