A Translation for the Gypsies

gypsiesIt was a cool day in southern Brazil.  There were 14 of us sitting on the floor, since there was no furniture. One of the gypsies picked up his guitar and began to sing praise songs, first in Portuguese, then in Chibi, his language. That’s when everyone joined in.  The grandmother in the room began to cry, hearing Jesus praised in her own language.

We talked of Bible translation and the translator showed great interest in everything I had to say (even though he knew much of it already – nice guy!) His eyes shone with passion. I gave him my copy of Tradução Biblica and everyone clapped. This wasn’t strange; these people are so generous and welcoming.

We talked of the persecution the gypsies suffer. They buy no furniture because they know that any day they may have to pick up and flee again. We drank strong Brazilian coffee. When they found out that it was my birthday, they sang “Parabens” (“Happy Birthday”) in Portuguese.

Then the family chief came by, a professional gypsy musician. There were lots of discussions about variations in Chibi and Portuguese. Everyone said I speak continental Portuguese and that I spoke it well. (If you have ever been a language learner you know what that means!) I followed most of the conversations, but when they talked fast I got lost.

Three women had sneaked out and came back with a birthday cake and cokes and candles that said “63”. The chief led everyone in another round of “Parabens”; then as we ate he sang praise songs and some traditional gypsy songs. We all got up and danced, gypsy style. I had to bite my cheek to keep from crying from all the extreme hospitality and fervor these people have for Jesus, especially considering that there are churches that are not open to them because of who they are. They know that they are part of a small movement that is going to influence the 800,000+ Calon here (Chibi is the language, Calon is the people.) The Calon in Portugal and Spain have already heard of their project and are waiting for their translation.

When it was time to go everyone stood up and they had a time of preaching, asking me to go first. I choked up and could barely talk, but finally managed to express to them how grateful I was for their openness, accepting me as a brother, celebrating my birthday with me, the musical entertainment, their love for Christ. I couldn’t have had a better birthday.

The next day I flew to the north of the country and met the other translation team. They were just as warm and welcoming. After doing some translation work we went to the beach and ate a very large fried fish, while looking out over the blue waters of the southern Caribbean. Everywhere we went our driver was handing out tracts and telling people about Jesus.

The reason for my trip was to meet these people with whom I will be working for the next few years. They are drafting the Scriptures for the first time in their language, then reviewing, testing, correcting and finally doing a translation of their work back into Portuguese. They will then send it to me to provide a final consultant check. All of this is done almost entirely orally, using Render software.

These are incredible people. Among the 800,000 Calon, only a few hundred are Christians, but they see it as their job to reach this large group, and they see translation as a key strategy to do that. I’m overwhelmed that I get to come alongside them in this effort.

And I’m grateful to you for praying for and generously giving to our ministry, for the part you are now playing in doing this translation for the gypsies. Bless you.

In His service,


About Barb Heins

I'm with The Seed Company, an affiliate of Wycliffe Bible Translators, working to speed Bible translation in Nigeria and throughout Africa. I'm also wife to John, mom to Derek and Hannah, grandma to Michael and under renovation at Renovatus Church in Charlotte, NC.
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