Last Thursday I decided to take on the (highly impossible) task of reviewing 5,000 years of history during just one class period. By the end of the class, I was in tears, much to the embarrassment of both boys, who are very young teenagers and still trying to figure out what to do about emotions.
Now you might think that it was 5,000 years’ worth of history that brought me to tears, but I’ve discovered that I like history MUCH more than I like math, so the review of 5 millennia wasn’t the problem.
Instead, it was a story that I recalled as we reviewed a short history of Bible translation. The information we looked up about the Latin Vulgate and its translator prompted me to tell the boys the following account, which I will now share with you…
Devoted to Translation
Yepo was a newly-married young man when he took a vow to dance with the Huanquillas for seven years in honor of St. Jerome. Yepo had heard that Jerome was a doctor, and that devotion to him would help the traditional Andean Huanquilla dancers get into heaven.
Three years into Yepo’s commitment to the dance troupe, he met a missionary and heard the gospel for the first time. Yepo wanted to believe the message, but was worried about switching his allegiance from St. Jerome to Jesus. During his fourth year of dancing for the patron saint, Yepo finally gave his heart wholly to God, breaking his vows to Jerome, and greatly upsetting his wife and both of their mothers.
The women’s concern deepened when Yepo was introduced to Wycliffe missionaries and they invited him to get involved in the Bible translation program for the Huaylas Quechua language.
He began helping with the translation of the book of Luke, and quickly discovered the advantage of having the Word of God in Huaylas Quechua instead of just in Spanish. “Before having the translation,” he said, “the Word was in my mind. But it went into my heart when I heard it in my language.”
Yepo began reading the translated book of Luke to his wife and both of their mothers, who were still very much against his new-found faith. When they finally heard the message of the gospel in their own language, however, it wasn’t long until each of the the three women also gave her heart to God.
While working on the New Testament translation, missionary linguists spent time teaching Yepo and the other translators (Timoteo& Pushpi ) about the history of Bible translation.
Imagine Yepo’s surprise when he learned that the very same St. Jerome to whom he had once devoted his life in hopes of getting into heaven, is actually remembered for being one of the first translators of the Bible!
Yepo himself has now been a dedicated Bible translator for over 30 years. During those 3 decades Yepo gave up opportunities for other types of work, but this Quechua man who has devoted his life to translation said, “It’s not in vain that we gave everything up. When we finish, I know it will be a great joy for all of us to put the completed Bible in the hands of the Quechua people.”
Yepo had the privilege of seeing the Huaylas Quechua New Testament be presented to his people in 2007, and finally the dedication of the entire Bible in August, 2019!
Perhaps now you can see why I was crying by the time I finished telling this story to Danny and Luis. It’s just so beautiful to see how God brought Yepo’s devotion to the first Bible translator full-circle, giving him the privilege of translating God’s Word for his own people!
I am thankful to have the privilege of knowing and working alongside this humble and faithful man. I am even more grateful that my children know and respect him, not just as a Bible translator, but also as a friend.