September/October 2010 Prayer Letter

Dear Friends and Family in Christ Jesus,

Greetings in Jesus’ Name! Translation is making steady headway. By the grace of God, I was able to do the first draft of 20 chapters of Matthew. As I worked through this gospel, I was reminded again of the numerous mistranslations that existing Ukrainian versions have. Some of them are of no doctrinal significance but some are. Here are a few examples. In Ukrainian Bibles, many people in need, like the two blind men, or the woman of Canaan whose daughter was demon possessed, or the man whose son was a lunatic (Matthew 9:27; 15:22; 17:15), ask Jesus to “grant them pardon” (as if they are some sort of criminals), instead of “have mercy” on them. Even in the Beatitudes, the merciful are blessed because they will obtain “pardon”, instead of “mercy”. For those who “labour and are heavy laden” (Matthew 11:28), Jesus promises to “calm them down”, instead of “give them rest”. In the Sermon on the Mount, the disciples are instructed to “not be sad” about their life, what they will eat or drink (Matthew 6:25), instead of “not taking thought” for their life. But there are more serious mistranslations. In some Ukrainian translations, men do not “put their wives away” (Matthew 1:19; 5:32; 19: 3, 9) but simply “let them go”. Many Ukrainians believe Jesus was a Nazarite because in Matthew 2:23 He is made to be one. Perhaps the most significant mistranslation in Matthew that I have come across so far is when Jesus instructs His disciples not to “say extra or unnecessary words” when they pray, instead of not using “vain repetitions” (Matthew 6:7). This is most likely a deliberate mistranslation reflecting the Greek Orthodox Church’s agenda, which uses vain repetitions extensively. The list goes on and on. Although these corruptions are not as serious as those that teach salvation by works, God’s truth is still being distorted. Please continue to pray for a faithful Ukrainian Bible to be produced.

Our church leadership decided to have a small Bible institute for preachers both of our church and of those in villages in the Kyiv area. Since most of them work full time and many have to travel quite a distance, it was arranged to meet on Saturdays once a month. I was invited to teach the preacher’s class. Besides teaching the men how to prepare a sermon, I am putting emphasis on having them preach the Gospel in regular services. Having been “underground” for so long (when the only “visitors” they had were disguised KGB agents), most Baptist churches here are still not used to presenting the plan of salvation and giving invitations in their regular services. I hope that through this preacher’s class many preachers will be compelled to do their highest duty.

Preacher’s class

This fall our men’s choir was invited to visit two village churches for what is called here “Harvest Day”. On both occasions the services were evangelistically-geared and we were glad to see many visitors. In the village of Stepove, I had the privilege of conducting the service and was able to clearly present the Gospel, pointing to the “Bread of Life” who was broken on the cross of Calvary for our sins that through Him we may have eternal life. We also did a similar service in our own church in Kyiv on October 10th. God blessed the service and we saw three professions of faith!

For many years, Bible Baptist Church of Marysville, California, has served as our sending church. This past June, their pastor resigned and a new pastor was recently called. Since we have no plans of visiting the U.S. in the near future, we will have no opportunity of meeting Pastor Brown. Therefore, we believe that it is best for us to transfer our sponsorship to a church whose pastor knows us and our ministry personally and intimately. We deeply appreciate the years of faithful support and sponsorship of Bible Baptist Church. Pastor Brad Weniger of Central Baptist Church, Woodbridge, Virginia, has a keen interest in Bible translation work and has shown his full support of our ministry time and time again. We have discussed these things with both Pastor Brown and Pastor Weniger and both agree that this step would be the most beneficial choice to take. Central Baptist has unanimously voted to become our new sending church, effective immediately. Please make note of our new sending church name and address (see our letter head).

In our last prayer letters, I asked you to pray for my health issues. Well, for the past month and a half, I have had almost non-stop problems: a sinus infection, then an ear infection, then a sinus infection again. This of course slowed down my work. At the time of this writing, I am recovering from my last sinus infection. My doctor suggested having some immunity tests done to see if there is something wrong with my immune system. After I have this done, he will see what route we should take. Please keep my health in prayer.

Mama’s Corner (by Wendy)
It is has been a marathon couple of months for us! Praise the Lord, school is going well and the boys are on or ahead of schedule in every subject. A tremendous answer to prayer came in the form of a Ukrainian school teacher who is now tutoring Sashko and Yurko four days a week in three Ukrainian subjects. Olga Kostyatynivna is a lovely, Christian primary school teacher who just so happens to live right at the end of our street! The boys are doing well with their Ukrainian school work and having a tutor has made my load lighter. As far as all the tests and check-ups have shown, Baby Popchenko is growing and developing according to schedule. I am feeling well and thanking God for the energy to keep up with our current schedule.

Praises and prayer requests:
1. Pray for me to have wisdom and protection from the devil’s attacks, as I finish the first draft of Matthew.
2. Please keep praying for my lower back and recovery from recent illnesses.
3. Pray for us to find a larger reliable car for our growing family.
4. Thank you for continuing to pray for Wendy and the baby.
5. Keep praying for the health of our friend William. Even though his doctor says that he no longer has any signs of cancer, an achy numbness in his legs frequently causes him severe discomfort. The doctor says that it is a side effect of the chemotherapy, but William is concerned because by this time such symptoms should have gone away.

May God bless you for your faithful prayers and financial support. We pray regularly for your churches and ministries as well.

Your fellow-servants for Jesus’ sake,
Yura, Wendy, Sashko, Yurko, and Andriy Popchenko

July/August 2010 Prayer letter

Dear Friends and Family in Christ Jesus,

Greetings in Jesus’ Name! The past summer was the hottest summer in recorded history of Ukraine. Since Ukraine’s climate is usually moderate, the vast majority of homes do not have air conditioners. As a result, the death rate doubled during those hot months because many people simply could not endure the heat. Thankfully, the place we rent has an air conditioner in the kitchen. This is where I resorted to for my translation work since it was simply unbearable to work in my office upstairs. Granted, I could not spend as much time there as in my office, but at least I was able to continue translating. After being without my computer for two months (I thought I would never get it back from the repair shop!), I am finally able to use it again. To assist the progress, I have decided to work simultaneously on the second draft of Romans and the first draft of Matthew. So far, five chapters of Matthew are ready.

I have exciting news to share: for the first time in the history of this Bible translation project, another person besides me translated a portion of Scripture. Anya was able to translate two chapters of the Gospel of Mark and I corrected her translation of Mark chapter one. After receiving my corrections, Anya realized that there is a lot that she does not know (or is not familiar with) in the translation process. Even though I intuitively understood the issues she raised, I was unable to answer all of her questions in linguistically precise definitions. One of them was about conveying an author’s style. A little research in the matter showed that the study of Biblical authors’ style is one of the most neglected areas of Biblical studies. As a result, there seems to be no consensus as to what biblical style involves. This prompted me to do some reading on the subject. However, the literature that I have at my disposal is nowhere near enough, so books were sought out and ordered on-line and I hope that within two months they will be here. This incident reminded me that no one ever wakes up one day knowing absolutely everything about the area in which he works. The same is true about Bible translation. It is an interdisciplinary work… probably more so that any other. It requires knowledge of languages, linguistics, translation theory, exegesis, theology, history, various aspects of culture (customs, eating habits, clothing, music, etc.), agriculture, botany, zoology, architecture and so on. As for myself, I am constantly in the process of reading on various subjects pertaining to translation.

We are happy to write that two more people are joining the work. Sergiy teaches exegetics at a Bible college in Donets, Ukraine, and he has agreed to be a consultant. I have not had a chance to work with him but hope it will be a productive collaboration. Victoria is a graduate of a seminary in Belgium with a masters’ degree in theology and teaches at a Bible college in Kyiv. In July, I had an opportunity to interview her to check her Greek. She needs more experience but is willing to try to improve her level of knowledge, so I spent some time with her explaining translation principles as well as supplied her with initial literature to read. Eventually, Victoria hopes to be able to do translation work but for now I would like to use her as one of my consultants.

Not long ago a brother with Pentecostal background joined our church and he asked me to explain to him the subject of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. After talking with him personally, I decided to preach a series of messages on the Holy Spirit. The commencement of the series coincided with “Trinity” – one of the three major Christian holidays observed in Ukraine by all Christians as well as being a national holiday celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. As usual, people’s interest is great and we are glad to see them grow in the knowledge of the word of God. In August, our men’s choir was invited to sing at a baptism service in the church of Dimer, a nearby town. Since churches here do not have baptisteries, baptism services are held outdoors, by rivers or lakes and include preaching and singing. This way passersby can hear the service and witness the baptism. We were glad to have unsaved people hear our gospel singing. Besides singing in the choir, I had the privilege of preaching at the service. Please pray for the salvation of the unsaved people who were present.

Singing at the baptism by the lake


Continuing at the church
Preaching on Believer’s Baptism


In our recent prayer letters, I asked you to pray for my health issues. For the past several months, I have been having lower back pain. Lately, it got so bad that sitting at my desk for two-three hours would make it uncomfortable to the point that I would need to take a break. Finally, I was able to get the answer: an MRI showed that I have two disc protrusions. My doctor prescribed some medication to reduce the inflammation, special exercises and swimming as a decompression technique. Failure to do that will lead to disc rupture. Fortunately, we have a swimming pool nearby and I plan to use it regularly. For exercises, I need to buy a piece of sports equipment. To make things even worse, in July I got a virus from my nephew which caused bronchitis and double sinusitis simultaneously that knocked me out for two weeks. The rest of the family got by comparatively easy. At the time of this writing we are on another round of colds and fevers, so please pray for our health.

Mama’s Corner (by Wendy)
Summer is past and school is back in session! Sashko is forging ahead in the third grade, while Yurko is eagerly working in his first grade books. (He is SO excited to finally be doing “real” school!) Even Andriy insists on being included, so he joins us at his little table with a coloring book and pencil. In August, we celebrated his 2nd birthday and what a little man he is becoming! He tries to keep up with his big brothers and is never happier than when they include him in their plans. We are thankful for his sunshiny personality and pray that he will shine for the Lord with a clean testimony and bold witness all of his life. I was also blessed with another birthday this summer. God has been very good to me and I thank Him for the life I have by His grace. Sashko and Yurko are enrolled in the local musical school this year which means 2 violin lessons, 1 music theory class, and 1 choir class each week. If all that were not enough to keep us busy, Yura’s cousin from the village (Sasha Savchenko, translation consultant) asked if his 16-year old son could live with us while attending a university in Kyiv. We welcomed Pasha to our home, but had to limit his stay to one semester because the next semester we have another relative coming to live with us: Baby Popchenko #4 is expected to arrive in late February or early March of next year. Everyone is looking forward to another little brother or sister to play with. Morning sickness is past (praise the Lord!) and I feel some energy returning… just in time for school. God’s timing is always right.

Diligent students
Celebrating Andriy’s Birthday at McDonald’s
I’m two now!

Prayer requests:
1. Wisdom, protection, and health for translation work.
2. General health for our family. Since our return to Ukraine, we seem to catch every virus that comes around. We try to eat as healthy as it is possible in this country and take quality vitamins but that does not seem to help a lot.
3. Yura’s back to recover quickly.
4. Baby’s development and Wendy to have strength through this pregnancy.

Your fellow-servants for Jesus’ sake,
Yura, Wendy, Sashko, Yurko and Andriy