Alaska celebrates Yupik Bible recording

Paul Marlow, an Arctic Mission volunteer, prays during the dedication of the translated Yupik New Testament.

In 1959, Wycliffe Bible Translators sent two young linguists, David and Mitzi Shinen, to Gambell, Alaska. There they spent a few years learning the Yupik language and then started translating the New Testament. A careful and accurate translation from the original Greek New Testament, from Matthew to Revelation, took translators 59 years to complete.

And then, audio recordings this year made those Scriptures even more accessible.

Gambell is a small city on the north coast of St. Lawrence Island, just 58 km from Russia. Ninety-five percent of this isolated island’s residents are the indigenous Yupik people. Faith Comes By Hearing representatives traveled to Gambell in February 2018 to record Yupik speakers reading the New Testament. The process took two months — from the end of February through mid-April. Shortly thereafter, the translation became available on MP3, CDs, as an Android app, in the app and on the FCBH website.

In September, the Yukon’s executive presbyter, Curt Karns, organized dedication services for the completed work, with the theme “All for the Glory of God.” The first service was held Sept. 16 in Gambell. Participants then went to Savoonga, the island’s other city, for a service the next day, and finally to Nome for a service on the 19th. Attendees sung hymns in both English and Yupik, and four people read from the Bible. The translators were recognized, and the Shinens spoke to the gathering via video. The current lead translator spoke about her work, and then everyone prayed to dedicate the New Testaments.

At each stop, the service included a chance for local Adventist members to participate. In Gambell, Arctic Mission volunteer Paul Marlow prayed during the Bible dedication. In Savoonga, it was church elder Chester Noongwook, and in Nome, Pastor Leon Ringering led the opening prayer.

Noongwook read several verses in Yupik, including Revelation 14:6 — “Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue and people.” (NKJV)

This article is based on an article by Chris Koonooka from the Gambell Church and originally published by North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC) at Gleaner/ It is adapted here with permission.