“The Quechuas … did not only want half a Bible. They wanted the whole thing.”
When Rick and his wife Melanie moved to Peru in 1981 and started translating the Wanca Quechua New Testament, they couldn’t imagine that 25 years later, they would be celebrating its completion. After living in Peru for so long, Rick and Melanie then decided to move to California where he now teaches linguistics courses at Biola University. It would seem like the end of his translation story, right?
Not quite. In fact, Rick continues to work with the Quechua team via Skype on a translation of the Old Testament. And as time has passed, something amazing has begun to happen –– the team is growing! Today it includes students in Rick’s capstone course who are working with the Quechua team virtually to edit and translate text. The entire experience is powerful to watch unfold. “Students participating in this way, it’s the difference between reading a recipe and cooking and eating the banquet,” Rick said. Because of the project, some of Rick’s students have even taken time out of their schedules post-graduation and accompanied him to work with the translators in person — all the way in Peru!
For Rick and his team, the translation project is more than just a job. “There is a knowledge that comes to us as North American translators from afar that we might not have had, had we not had the interaction with the Quechuas,” he explained. One particular passage — the parable of the lost sheep — took Rick’s Quechua co-translator, Amador, by surprise.
“Nobody would just abandon all their sheep to search for the one that was lost,” Amador, said regarding the part where the shepherd had counted 99 sheep and noticed that one was missing. Amador explained that since sheep are the livelihood for his people, even his mother who is illiterate and cannot count would know if a sheep was missing from the flock.” Puzzled, Rick asked how this could be. Amador said that even though his mother cannot count, “she knows each and every sheep,” because she has an intimate knowledge of her flock.
The Quechua people taught Rick something new about God’s character through that famous parable. “Rather than being a numerical issue or a statistical issue with God [and the parable], it’s a relational issue,” Rick said. “[God] knows each and every one of us. … He knows us in ways that we can’t even imagine. But the Quechuas can.”
Rick was amazed by this newfound knowledge and view of God! “[We came] away with a perspective on the Scriptures and a perspective on [our] relationship with God that we did not expect.” And as he continues to work with the team, Rick is reminded that the work they do is important and life-changing, not just to those reading the finished translation, but to those translating too.
Story by Jennifer Stasak
Photo by Katie Kuykendall