Ukraine crisis won’t stop Bible translation

By March 1, 2022

[EDITOR’S NOTE: MNN is monitoring the unfolding situation in Ukraine. The article below will be periodically updated. Please keep checking back for new stories as our partners release details from the field.]

Ukraine (MNN) — Nearly 75-percent of the combat troops Russia deployed are now inside Ukraine. A United States official says Russian efforts to secure Ukraine’s second-largest city could sever eastern Ukraine from the rest of the country.

See Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in six graphics.

“Arne” oversees a large-scale Bible translation project for unfoldingWord. Russia’s invasion is directly affecting his teammates in the region. “One of our project team members is inside Ukraine, and the other one’s across the border in Russia; his city is also close to the border,” Arne says.

Consequences of shelling during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Chernihiv Oblast, 28 February 2022.
(Wikimedia Commons)

“Movement is impossible. They can hear bombings in the distance; they can’t leave. Parts of the city have no water right now. It’s a dicey situation.”

Believers in eastern Ukraine continue to shelter in place. Translators on both sides of the border have stocked up on essentials. “They’ve procured the necessary things to kind of ‘ride this out’ – water, matches, food, medical supplies, and so forth. They extracted money from the bank accounts,” Arne says.

“They should be able to live for a while in these conditions.”

As the local economy crashes and the ruble loses value, families will soon be unable to restock necessary items. Some families may have to relocate to another country. Believers tell unfoldingWord:

“We all pray, cry, and hope. Everyone here understands that we are one minute away from nuclear war at any single moment. But our souls are deposited in the best Vault!”

Pray the Lord will protect these Gospel workers from harm. “Civilians are always in danger of suffering the same consequences as military when wars take place,” Arne says.

Pray also for a quick resolution to the current crisis.

“Their (believers’) ability to weather this depends on a relatively short timeframe. If it extends for any length of time, that’s going to put a lot of pressure on the project team.”

Russian Gateway Language Project

As long as believers have the supplies they need to sustain life, they plan to keep working on the Bible translation. “They’re doing a combination of Open Bible Stories, and the first attempt at Scripture translation” in their heart language, Arne says. The Open Bible Stories are comprised of 50 Bible stories spanning Genesis to Revelation.

“unfoldingWord is focused on equipping church networks to do their own translation projects. We train in all aspects of the roles required to perform this kind of work.”

With help from unfoldingWord, local believers plan to produce four audio packages and reach more than 75,000 people.

This is one of many steps in the overarching Russian Gateway Language project. Through this initiative, believers in Russia and the former Soviet Union will gain the tools needed to reach 161 million people in 540 languages. More about that here.

“Over time, we hope believers can increase in their understanding of complex translational issues and be able to do more of the complicated books in Scripture,” Arne says.

The Ruska Roma people in and around Ukraine gained Scripture in their language for the first time last year through this endeavor. Read about it here.



Header image depicts the Ukrainian flag at an anti-war protest in Stockholm on February 25, 2022. (Wikimedia Commons)

Help us get the word out: