IVEP alum translates New Testament into Chhattisgarhi
By Rebecca Hendricks and Karen MoyerFranconia Conference
KORBA, India — The New Testament is now available in the Chhattisgarhi language — a feat that would have been improbable had a young Indian man not opened his heart while participating in a cultural exchange program decades ago.
Chhattisgarhi New Testaments are distributed Jan. 19 in Korba, India after a celebration marking completion of a nearly 20-year translation project. — Photo by Leon Moyer
Chhattisgarhi is spoken by about 15 million people.
The project, which took nearly 20 years, was celebrated Jan. 19 in the city of Korba by translator Tarun Gardia and 300 others, including a delegation from Rocky Ridge Mennonite Church in Quakertown, Pa., which supported the project financially.
The program featured praise music and Chhattisgarhi scripture songs led by several congregations’ worship choirs.
After the program, people flocked to the front to purchase copies of the New Testament. One young man purchased two.
“I got one for myself and one for my older brother,” he said. “All these years I have been reading the Bible in Hindi, but I want to tell others about God in a language they can comprehend. This will bring them strength.”
Decades in the making
The story of the connection between Gardia and families and churches in Franconia Conference of Mennonite Church USA is a drama of God’s leading to accomplish his purposes.
It began when Gardia came to the U.S. in 1987 with Mennonite Central Committee’s International Visitor Exchange Program. He lived with Wilbur and Becki Hendricks and worked as a classroom aide at Quakertown (Pa.) Christian School.
The Hendrickses encouraged Gardia to participate in a Bible memory program, which opened his eyes to see that a real relationship with God involved his heart.
odd Hendricks also attended the celebration in Korba, and he brought greetings from his parents.
Tarun gives a Chhattisgarhi New Testament to an office manager in India. The language is spoken by about 15 million people. — Photo by Leon Moyer
“The Christian love there touched my heart, and I gave my life to our Lord,” Gardia said. “They sent me to [a missions conference where] I heard a Wycliffe Bible Translator speak.”
They later visited the JAARS Center, a partner in Bible translation located in North Carolina.
“Visiting the Museum of Alphabets at JAARS was the key factor that finally led me to translation as God’s plan for my life,” he said. “While visiting the museum, I went to the Indian language section where I saw a hand-written verse in my own Chhattisgarhi language pasted on the wall. I was told that the Bible needs to be translated in that language.”
After his one-year IVEP assignment, Indian and American Christian friends supported Gardia to attend seminary in South India and then linguistic study at the Wycliffe center in Singapore.
He returned to North Carolina, where he received computer training, which greatly reduced translation time. During this time Rocky Ridge commissioned him to undertake the translation and took on his full financial support. He began the project in 1996.
“Sometimes I was discouraged as I was the only one working on the translation,” he said, “but two of my uncles would encourage me quite often to keep on going.”
Even when he was discouraged, he was committed to finishing the task because of his desire “for my people to be saved and have God’s Word in their own language, to speak to their own heart.”
Rocky Ridge invites continued prayer for the Gardia family in the next phase of their ministry as they seek to incorporate the translation into Chhattisgarhi speakers’ daily lives.