The translation project for the Hutterites in North America started in 2007. The request already came to us in the summer of 2006 when we were still in PNG. At that time we did not know who the Hutterites were and had never even heard of them. But in the meantime we learned a few things about them and their unique way of life. When the Hutterites immigrated to North America in the 19th century, they settled in the prairie states where most of them still live today. The Hutterites divide into three groups, the Schmiedeleut, Dariusleut and Lehrerleut, and have their roots in the Anabaptist movement of the 16th century.
Back then people joined the Anabaptist movement out of deep spiritual conviction, often at great risk for their lives. They were severely persecuted by both churches, Catholic and Protestant, became refugees and many died a martyr’s death. Today the situation has changed, however, and many Hutterite communities face a similar problem to that of our state church in Germany. Usually people do not join the state church for spiritual convictions, but rather they are born into the system and their church affiliation gets recorded on their birth certificate. Seen from a spiritual point of view this leads to a type of “warm-body-syndrome” producing a lot of members that are not spiritually engaged, but merely follow the system by simply being “cultural” Christians who belong to the state church. Hutterite colonies face a similar challenge as our state church back in Germany. While there’s a large number of fine Christian believers among Hutterite communities, whose desire is to live a sanctified life by following Jesus, there are also those who could best be described as “cultural” Hutterites. Like all Hutterites* they became part of a colony when they were born and they are usually proud of their Hutterite heritage and enjoy community life, but they are spiritually not as engaged as others.
It is among the more spiritual minded Hutterites were we find support for a Bible translation into the Hutterite language which is a dialect of German. Unfortunately, however, there are some leaders, who are in strong opposition to our work. They even went so far as to banning our main translator from working with us. But we did find new people to work with and there are also a great number of ex-Hutterites who left the colonies for various reasons who are also a great resource for our work.
Because of these special circumstances we are working primarily towards the publication of an audio Bible for which it is easier to garner support than for a written version. We are currently working on finalizing the Bible App of the Hutterite New Testament and we are also polishing up the audio so it can be put on Megavoice devices. If things go as planned, we should probably be able to complete the project by the end of 2021 or beginning of 2022. If you would like to get a taste of the Hutterite NT, please download our App or follow the links on our Facebook page for more info and a PDF version of the text.
The MegaVoice device we plan to use is especially made for the audio Bibles. (The use and ownership of other electronic devices such as CD or mp3 players are often not permitted in the more conservative colonies.) The MegaVoice device, however, is different and is already being used in many countries for the distribution of audio Bibles. What is special about this device is that the audio files are burnt onto a chip which is soldered into the device and cannot be changed. In addition to that, the device has a solar panel on the back to recharge it and is even water proof to a certain degree.
* Not all are Hutterites by birth. There are some who joined later in life from the outside. But that number is very small.