Reading God’s word after 25 years

Tarun with his wife Suniti and daughter Tripti.
Tarun with his wife Suniti and daughter Tripti.

by Rebecca Hendricks and Karen Moyer, Rocky Ridge

January 19, 2013 was a day of celebration for a lifetime of work when a new translation of the New Testament in a people’s heart language was dedicated in Korba, India.  The story of the connection between the translator, Tarun Gardia, and families and churches in Franconia Conference is a divine drama of God’s amazing leading to accomplish his purposes.

It began when Tarun Gardia came to the USA in 1987 to live with Wilbur and Becki Hendricks as participants in the Mennonite International Visitor Exchange Program (IVEP) which sought to promote international understanding (he was assigned as a classroom aide to Quakertown Christian School.)

While Tarun was here, Hendricks encouraged him to participate in a Bible memory program, which opened Tarun’s eyes to see that a real relationship with the God of creation involved his heart.  He acknowledged the impact of this exercise, saying, “The Christian love there touched my heart and I gave my life to our Lord.  They sent me to [a missions conference where] I heard a Wycliffe Bible Translator speak….  Later they took me to North Carolina to the JAARS Center (a partner in Bible translation).  Visiting the Museum of Alphabets at JAARS was the key factor that finally led me to translation as God’s plan for my life.  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.”

Following his one-year IVEP assignment, Indian and American Christian friends found the necessary support for Tarun to attend seminary in South India and then linguistic study at the Wycliffe center in Singapore.  Tarun then returned to the JAARS center in North Carolina, where he received computer training, a skill which would greatly reduce translation time.  It was during this time that Rocky Ridge Mennonite Church (Quakertown, Pa.) commissioned him to do this translation and took on his full financial support.  Following a language survey, he began actual translation work in 1996.

NTs being distributed at dedication
The Chhattisgarhi New Testaments are distributed.

We marvel at the journey God planned for Tarun, a boy from a small village in India who trained to be a teacher.  God took this village school teacher out of his comfort zone to a foreign country where he lived with a family who loved God and then loved Tarun into God’s kingdom.  Those years convinced Tarun that not only he, but millions of others, needed God’s Word in their language so that they could become children of God and share this exciting life of purpose and value.

In January, a delegation of four individuals from Rocky Ridge congregation journeyed to India to participate in the ceremony celebrating the completion of Tarun’s New Testament translation.  The team flew to Raipur, a city of 1.3 million, where Tarun, his wife Suniti and daughter Tripti (18) live and worked on the translation.  The Chhattisgarhi language in this region is the purest spoken form; there are 15 million Chhattisgarhi speakers in the whole state.

On Friday, January 18, the team and the Gardias traveled four hours by train to the town of Korba where the dedication was held with three hundred people in attendance.  Entering the courtyard gates, we were overcome with emotion as we noticed the stacks of Bibles ready for blessing and distribution.

The program began with praise music and scripture songs in the Chhattisgarhi language led by several congregations’ worship choirs.  Representatives from Wycliffe Bible Translation India and the team from Rocky Ridge honored Tarun and Todd Hendricks brought greetings from his parents, Wilbur and Becki.

Following the program, people flocked to the front to purchase copies of the New Testament.  When Karen asked one young man why he was buying two Bibles, he replied, “I got one for myself and one for my older brother.  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.”

Pastor Ravi Baksh and Karen Moyer talk with a young man who purchased two New Testaments--one for himself and one for his brother.
John Kurian (Director-India, The Wycliffe Seed Company) and Karen Moyer talk with young man who purchased two New Testaments–one for himself and one for his brother.

That evening several of us sat with Tarun and asked questions about his journey to completing the New Testament. Tarun reflected, “ Sometimes I was discouraged as I was the only one working on the translation, but two of my uncles would encourage me quite often to keep on going.”

We were awed to experience God’s working in one man and his family’s life and their dedication to answer God’s call.  Even when he was discouraged, he was committed to finishing the task, he said, 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 congregation invites your continued prayer for Tarun and his family in the next phase of their ministry as they seek ways of incorporating this “heart-language” translation into the daily lives of the Chhattisgarhi speakers. Check out Rocky Ridge’s Facebook photo album.