May/June 2012 Prayer Letter

Dear Friends and Family in Christ Jesus,

Greetings in Jesus’ Name! God continues to allow me to make further progress in translation. By the grace of God, the first draft of the entire book of Acts and 5 chapters of 1 Corinthians is ready. The most unique feature of Acts is that it is the only book of the Bible that contains examples of apostolic preaching. It has several sermons and speeches by the apostles Peter, Paul, James and the first martyr Stephen, plus Paul’s own summary of his evangelistic preaching (Acts 20:20-21). While the epistles give the apostles’ teaching of the Gospel, the books of Acts records what they actually said when they preached it. Depending on the audience (Jewish or gentile) and the circumstances, each of their sermons includes a combination of the following key elements:

1) there is only one Creator, God (Acts 14:15-17; 17:22-29);

2) Jesus died and was raised from the dead as a fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies and the apostles and others witnessed these things (Acts 2:23-39; 3:13-15, 18, 22-26; 4:10, 20; 5:30-32; 7:52; 10:39-41; 13:27-37; 17:31; 26:23);

3) Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the Lord and only Savior (Acts 2:36; 4:12; 10:36; 13:23);

4) forgiveness of sins, justification and salvation is by grace and by faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 10:43; 13:38-39; 15:9, 11);

5) the Gospel has moral implications (Acts 24:24-25; 26:20);

6) one must respond to the Gospel by repenting, turning away from sin toward God, believing and calling upon the Lord (Acts 2:21, 38; 3:19, 26; 20:21; 26:18, 20);

7) there will be final judgment and those who did not respond to the Gospel will be condemned (10:42; 13:40-41; Act 17:31).

Praise God for recording the apostle’s preaching in the Bible so that we can have a clear understanding of what a presentation of the Gospel should include.

In between working on Acts and 1 Corinthians, our team has continued working on the final draft of the gospel of Luke. Speaking of our team, I would ask you to pray especially for two of my assistants. Due to some problems they experience, their involvement in translation work has been limited for some time now. Irina’s son has hemophilia and is in constant need of expensive medicine. It has become increasingly difficult for hemophiliacs here to obtain it. In order to address this issue, Irina headed up an organization of hemophiliacs’ mothers and this work takes up much of her time and energy. Please pray that hemophiliac children can continue receiving necessary care. Sasha’s work has been quite demanding for a while, leaving him very little time for translation work. Please pray that he would have more time available for this important project.  Pray also for his wife Lyuba as she has many serious health problems.

The Lord graciously blessed me with another birthday in June. We went on a picnic to the Botanical Garden in Kyiv and spent a nice day as a family. Thank you all for the cards and tokens of love. I deeply appreciate your kindness. [Since delivery service to Ukraine is better than it used to be, please feel free to send any letters directly to us on the field. This would streamline the shipping process, as well as lighten the load a bit for those who deal with our correspondence. Thank you.]

At the Botanical Garden

Matviy is finally walking, but we noticed that something is not quite right with his legs. We took him to an orthopedic specialist and the doctor said he has some form of rickets. Wendy and Matviy will need to spend a few days at their clinic for him to have a thorough examination done. They will run various tests to determine what type of rickets he has, what treatment is needed, and to check for other problems. Please pray for a correct diagnosis and effective treatment.

Mama’s Corner (by Wendy)

The older boys finished the school year well, particularly in music. At their recital, both boys received top marks and awards for high achievements during the year. Yurko surprised us all by composing a harmony part to a piece that Sashko was learning. When their teacher heard it, she decided that they would play it as a duet for the recital. She then called in the music theory teacher, who promptly offered to take Yurko as a pupil in her composition class! We rejoice in the progress they made this year and how they are already learning hymns that can be played to praise the Lord and encourage the saints.

Playing their duet

With their teacher and awards

Sashko opened a lawn-mowing business in June. In Ukraine, it is highly unusual for young people to do any work (lemonade stands, paper boys, babysitting, etc. are unheard of), so we were pleased that he received several calls and already has one steady customer for whom he has mowed twice. With his first two “pay checks”, he bought himself a weed-eater. “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.” (Lamentations 3:27)

Mowing for his first client

Trying out his first weed-eater

Yurko celebrated his 8th birthday in the village of Bakymivka where he has been visiting Yura’s relatives. Along with his cousins, Yurko has been experiencing the joys of farm life: rising at daybreak to water parched crops, pulling countless weeds in the hot sun, and doing a dozen other jobs that left him eating massive quantities of food, taking naps (!), and learning the value of hard work.

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