This article was originally published in the July 2016 edition of ITMI Monthly.
ITMI was founded by Bill and Harriett Bathman 35 years ago as a link between believers in America and the persecuted church behind the Iron Curtain. In doing this, we discovered how effective national believers were at reaching the people around them.
That’s where you came in. At one time or another, you responded with a gift that empowered a national to make a huge impact. It’s that impact we’re celebrating.
You’ve put Bibles in people’s hands, bikes under evangelists and pastors, medical supplies and relief in skilled hands, cared for the orphaned, widowed, elderly, poor and forgotten, equipped pastors, planted churches and shared the Good News around the world!
ITMI Founders, Bill and Harriett Bathman, circa 1987.
God has allowed us to do so many exciting things over the years. One of the biggest projects we have poured into is Piotr Zaremba’s Polish Bible Translation Project.
Why have we allocated this level of time and resources to this project?
Three of the greatest achievements of the Reformation Era were: The translation of the Bible into languages of the people of Europe; mass publication of the Bible; and the spread of literacy through reading the Bible. These achievements changed individuals and nations, indeed, all of Western Civilization.
Martin Luther, the Father of the Reformation himself, worked in vain to gain God’s approval for years. But it was only when he got a red leather-bound copy of God’s Word in his hands that he understood the truth of justification by faith alone. Empowered by God’s Word, Martin Luther changed the world through the Reformation.
We envisioned, with long-time ITMI partner, Dr. Piotr Zaremba, a day when another great event like these would happen in our lifetime. It was this vision that led us to invest in this God-sized project.
Dr. Piotr Zaremba of Poznan, Poland, has recently finished the first ever modern translation of the Bible into Polish by evangelical churches. The actual translation was completed December 31, 2014.
Piotr and his team have spent the last year proofreading it and laying it out. ITMI’s partner in Poland worked from the original Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic languages to give the people of his country an accurate and readable translation. And by using such an accessible version of the Word of God, many people can be evangelized, then discipled thoroughly and made biblically literate.
ITMI partner, Dr. Piotr Zaremba
Discipleship on a large scale will change Poland.
The latest protestant translation of the Bible was the Warsaw Bible in 1975, 40 years ago. Several Polish versions have been translated for Catholics during the past 50 years, which were not acceptable to Protestants.
Piotr’s work has been a 16-year labor of love. A gift for the Polish people, who world-wide comprise approximately 40 million citizens. Piotr trains and encourages Polish church leadership as ITMI’s European Director, and all related ministries are growing.
But the people he works with struggle to read the 400-year-old translation. They have a hard time learning the Bible because it has a centuries-old vocabulary and sentence structure, making it difficult for them to understand.
As the months and years crept by it seemed as if the project would never be finished, but Piotr and his translation team pressed on with prayer and diligence. In the midst of fatigue and discouragement, Piotr was reminded of God’s encouragement to all believers facing great tasks, “I am with you always.”
Piotr announced the completion of the Modern Polish New Testament Translation in 2007.
“Beloved, our next dream came true! Polish-English New Testament! What an important step — for many reasons. Let me name just three: Polish people usually speak Polish. But they want to be a part of an international missional community where most of the people speak English.
Our edition of the bi-lingual New Testament promotes the understanding of God’s message in both languages: the language of Polish heart, and the language of international missions. English-speaking Christians meet Poles everywhere, even in the USA! What an evangelistic tool we’ve prepared! Now you can evangelize Polish people with your English Bible!”
As many people celebrated the completion of the New Testament, Piotr had a surprise for everyone. While supporters were awaiting the printing of the New Testament, he had also made great progress on several Old Testament books: Joel, Amos, Hosea and Daniel.
“I just want to report that I keep translating at the speed of one chapter a day. I am totally surprised with it. Thank you for your prayers. This is just common knowledge that your part in our quest for the Great Commission is as important as ours. Please, let us continue to struggle together to give the whole Bible to the whole nation.”
Three months later he was working on Isaiah 51. Most days he would work 18 hours per day. In one note he said, “So consumed by the desire to see the Bible translated ASAP, I ... stay nailed to my desk.”
He was doing much more than translating words for a single translation. He was working on two.
“I keep translating one chapter a day from … Hebrew raw material to two Polish translations: literal (ESV) and literary (easier reading) with footnotes and cross references. This speed is surprising to me. But it also takes hours. On the other hand, it also brings our project to its final conclusion quite fast. I hardly do anything else during the day, except going to gym or to a swimming pool, and running some really necessary family and pastoral business. Sometimes I don’t even go to gym, swim or run, because I am too tired or chapters are too complex. As much as possible I get up at 4 a.m. and continue till 10 p.m.”
By December of the same year, the team was able to complete the translation of a large part of the Old Testament: Genesis, Ruth, Ezra and Malachi. Piotr never forgot his source of strength and Who sustained him.
“Knowing that every day of our lives depends on our Sovereign Lord, that every hour is a miracle of His grace, and that every breath we take is a surprise of His generosity, I already dare to look ahead, I keep dreaming of us celebrating the conclusion of this historic project. Please, let us continue to pray for this one-chapter-a-day rhythm. Oh, that nothing would interrupt it. How could we do without your prayers? How could we do without Him answering them?”
Piotr baptizing new believers, saved through the disciple-making efforts of Piotr's church and ITMI Poland workers.
Piotr kept grinding away at the massive project, enduring fatigue and lack of rest. But being concerned for his flock of believers, he added even more to his workload. He wrote, “I keep translating one chapter a day, although I had to get back to my disciple-making, preaching and teaching routines. … God can really do a lot through fragile men and women when they are united in prayer. Thank you. … I do hope to have a bit more rest at times.”
Meanwhile, 50,000 copies of the New Testament and 5,000 copies of the New Testament and Psalms in Polish were then being published and distributed. The 5N Church plant of 200 people was growing in spiritual maturity. All of ITMI-Europe’s various ministries experienced steady growth.
Various forms and parts of Piotr's Polish Bible Translation.
A discipleship course with 25 new disciples from Poznan, Gniezno and other fellowships of northern Poland was started. And the Gniezno Baptist church building project was finally finished.
“We are getting closer and closer to the day of publication of our entire Bible translated from Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek to modern Polish,” Piotr wrote.
Then the long-awaited day finally came. The last chapter of the last book of the Bible was translated on the last day of the year, December 31, 2013. What a way to end the year!
The printed Bibles are scheduled to be delivered July 4, 2016!
Before: It’s just plain paper without God’s Word printed and applied.
Bible after bible speeds through the printer and on its way into Polish hands.
After: Printed Bibles ready to be compiled.
Finally, the Polish people will have a modern translation of the Bible in their own language done by evangelicals. Maybe God will fan this small spark into a flame of revival and a second Reformation in Europe.
If you have already participated in this progress through prayer, financial or other support, this is our big “Thank You!” to you. You made this possible. You fueled a project that is poised to revive a nation.
If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to participate in this project, you still have a chance to partner with Piotr to give Poland the gift of God’s truth.
Piotr and his team will continue working to get this translation into the hands of more and more people. Some future endeavors will be study Bibles for specific audiences, such as Men, Women and Youth. When complete, Piotr will still need to fund the printing of these versions.
Steve Lee is a long-time friend of Steve and Darlene Evers. Steve runs a small business in Prescott, Arizona where he also serves his church as a deacon. He is passionate about missions and telling ITMI partners’ stories.
On his first trip to Africa, Steve almost tipped over in a canoe on the Zambezi River and amazed his traveling partners with his ability to handle African food! With his ability to easily engage and make friends, he was a great asset to the team.