Faith and Heritage

Rob Hilbert

About The Episode

Rob Hilbert is the Executive Director of Aramaic Bible Translation and missionary with Lutheran Bible Translators. He previously served as a missionary with LBT in Sierra Leone and Botswana.


00:02
Rob Hilbert
Translation, in my opinion, is the foundation of missions. 


00:14
Rich Rudowske
Welcome to the essentially translatable podcast brought. 


00:16
Rich Rudowske
To you by Lutheran Bible translators. I’m rich Rudowski. 


00:19
Emily Wilson
And I’m Emily Wilson. 


00:20
Rich Rudowske
Whether it’s on a podcast platform or on lbt.org, we’re happy you joined us. For those of you who like to subscribe to podcasts to get the latest, you can find us on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio or on audible to hear the latest and greatest. 


00:35
Emily Wilson
And we always love your feedback. So feel free to leave us a rating or reach out to us at. 


00:40
Rich Rudowske
Info@Lbt.Org so, Emily, can you imagine what. 


00:44
Rich Rudowske
It would be like if you only had half of your Bible? How would you feel? 


00:49
Emily Wilson
It’d be so hard to understand what’s know. There’s so many references I think that Jesus makes to the Old Testament and I don’t know, the psalms are just so beautiful. So it’s know, of course you want to hear the gospel, but I don’t want to give up on my psalms or just hearing the beauty of Genesis and what life was like before the fall. I don’t know. 


01:17
Rich Rudowske
Absolutely. It’s hard to imagine. 


01:20
Rich Rudowske
And the folks we’re going to talk with today work with Aramaic Bible translation. 


01:24
Rich Rudowske
And it’s really an interesting story because they’ve got ancient scriptures which they use, but they have more recently done new. 


01:33
Rich Rudowske
Translations, but only have the New Testament. 


01:35
Rich Rudowske
Done and have been working and struggling. 


01:37
Rich Rudowske
To finish the Bible. 


01:39
Rich Rudowske
So there’s a lot of stuff going on there. 


01:40
Rich Rudowske
And right now the access to, oh. 


01:43
Rich Rudowske
Now we understand scripture, but still only partial is kind of where they’re at right now. 


01:46
Emily Wilson
Right? And millions of aramaic speakers need God’s word. I mean, like you said, that it’s the partial and how language changes over the years. And so today’s episode, executive director of the Aramaic Bible Translators Organization and Lutheran Bible translators missionary Rob Hilbert. He shares the story of five aramaic language communities that need the full Bible. During the thousands of years that have passed, they’ve experienced persecution and separation from their homeland and their communities. But we really just have this amazing inspiration in these language communities that God’s word provides hope and a connection to their heritage and just really hope that you are inspired as you hear about the aramaic language communities and Rob Hilbert story. 


02:42
Rich Rudowske
Today. We welcome to the podcast Rob Hilbert, the executive director for Aramaic Bible translation and a Lutheran Bible translators missionary. Great to have you with us today, Rob. 


02:51
Rob Hilbert
Thank you, Rich. It’s wonderful to be here. 


02:53
Rich Rudowske
So we are going to learn some about you and abT. Tell us some about your background, what you did before you got involved in Bible translation ministry, how you got involved and with LBT, some of your other work. 


03:05
Rob Hilbert
Okay, great. Yeah. I grew up outside of Chicago, and I went to Valparaiso University indiana. After that, I joined the Peace Corps and had a desire to serve. And really, I don’t know why, but I just felt this inspiration to be involved in literacy. And I was sent there to work in natural resource management, but was hoping that I could be involved with teaching people to read because I knew that the literacy rate was very low in the country that I was headed to, which is Mali in West Africa. So I ended up living in a small village for a little over two years there. And I did end up getting involved with literacy through USAId. They had a program there. And so basically what we would do is just hold classes at night and use the materials that they provided to do that. 


04:02
Rob Hilbert
And it was a lot of fun and really began my interest in teaching literacy in the local language, in particular in that region. It was a language called Bombara. And so I learned to value teaching and also then speaking the local language or the heart language of the people there. And that really made an impact on me and also helped me to live there and succeed in a foreign culture. So I came back after the Peace Corps to the Chicago area, and I just started working and had an office job, met my wife, Mikal, and we got married. I became a training specialist, so that was my profession before becoming a missionary. And were going to a church in the Tampa Bay area. So we’d moved to Tampa, Florida, not long after were married. 


05:03
Rob Hilbert
We were both living there, and I was working there, and our church had sponsored Paul and Ali Federwitz at one point, so were receiving their newsletter. And I was already familiar with Lutheran Bible translators a little bit before then because my wife, Mikhail’s dad, had served on the board, and he’s a pastor and a professor. And so he had talked about it a little bit with us. But it was really because of the Federowitz’s newsletters that I believed that we could actually be missionaries and that it might be really in an interesting way to serve and that we might have the capacity to serve overseas, because Mikal grew up as a missionary overseas, and I had my experience overseas, and we both felt like we could handle it. And it was something that appealed to us. 


05:56
Rob Hilbert
So we started pursuing it then and know just went through the process. We attended linguistics classes at the school that was then known as gial in Dallas. And so I studied linguistics and so did my wife. And then went to Sierra Leone for our first stop during our story. And our time in Sierra Leone was very know. It had a lot of highs and lows, actually, because when we arrived there, Ebola had been in active transmission. Actually, little did we know at the time, but it was actually there and was being transmitted from person to person. But it hadn’t been widely reported and hadn’t really been noticed by the medical community yet. So it just got out of control and out of hand. And we didn’t expect that to happen at all. 


06:56
Rob Hilbert
We thought it would be like what usually happens or happened in the past with Ebola was that it would just sort of peter out and not spread into the big cities, but it ended up actually doing that. So we did have some experience with isolating ourselves due to an epidemic prior to Covid. So we did experience that. We did isolate ourselves. We wouldn’t leave the house except for getting food and going to work and kept the kids indoors for the last month or so that were there. Eventually we just had to leave, primarily not because were afraid of getting Ebola, because it’s actually much more difficult to get. Even though it has a higher mortality rate than Covid, it’s harder to get it. You have to physically touch somebody to pass it on or touch something that’s contaminated with it. 


07:52
Rob Hilbert
But it was basically because the hospital system, the medical system had shut down and it was no longer functioning. So were on one of the last flights out before they had to have special diplomat flights that were very expensive. So we got one of the last planes and we’re not sure what were going to do after that. We just decided to go back to gial at that point in Texas and finish up our masters. And we decided together with LBT, after a lot of prayer and speaking with our family and others at LBT, that we would return if the medical system was back where it was before Ebola. And then also if we would have certain things that we needed, like we needed a schooling option for the kids. We needed decent Internet to be able to teach them. 


08:44
Rob Hilbert
And so we needed certain things to be in place. And it just wasn’t looking like that was going to happen anytime soon. So then eventually, I believe it was you who came and talked with us and suggested Botswana. And went and visited Botswana and made the decision with LBT to eventually become missionaries serving in Botswana. So were there for a little less than two years. And we really loved Botswana and especially the last place that were at, Mound, Botswana. That’s kind of when we hit our stride on the mission field and really enjoyed living there and enjoyed the work that were doing and the community. But my father had some health issues. He had a severe seizure and he’d already had a series of strokes. And my mom just couldn’t really handle the situation anymore. 


09:40
Rob Hilbert
And I wanted to come back and see him before he passed away. He kept going. He was put in a care facility and kept surviving despite a lot of setbacks. But eventually he passed away. And by that point, we had just realized that weren’t going to be able to return to the mission field because my family just needed us there in the US and they weren’t really open to us returning. And it would have been very difficult to turn our backs on that situation. So we ended up not going back and weren’t sure what was going to happen. But eventually LBT came up with another idea. I think it might have been David Snyder who had this idea, or at least it went through him. 


10:32
Rob Hilbert
And so he had been serving on the board AbT and came to me and asked if I would help out with ABT. And he did not know at the time that I actually ethnically am Assyrian or I’m half Assyrian, which is one of the language groups that we work with. So my grandparents both spoke Assyrian and came from that region and they left during the genocide, which is a whole nother story. But, yeah, it was really a blessing to be asked. It was very surprising that this would be our next opportunity with LBT, since it’s so meaningful to me. And so I’ve been very blessed to be able to work with ABT from that point, really. 


11:20
Rich Rudowske
It sort of illustrates a couple of things, too, that at that point where you couldn’t go back to Botswana, there’s this feeling like there’s a mission field that we’re used to, that we can’t go back to. And then, as it turned out, there’s a mission field everywhere. Right? That’s true. There’s one here in the United States, too. And, yeah, David served on the board and connected me with their leadership at ABT. And we started talking and right off the bat, they were looking for a solution in their leadership and had some different ideas. And I said, well, listen, I can offer you a person that would have the skills and abilities to do what you’re looking to do here in your executive director role, or advise your executive director or whatever you’re wanting to do. 


12:01
Rich Rudowske
And again, there was quite a bit of conversation with them that was kind of an out of the box idea and it actually, to them seemed too good to be true because weren’t putting a price tag on it for them or anything. Right. So then it was so wonderful when I can remember the first time I talked with you about it and then, yeah, it was like that connection to your own family and heritage is just one of those moments where you sit back and say, wow, God is always at work and putting things together and it was amazing. All of that experience that you had that you’ve just described for the last few minutes all finds a connection point there in serving in this new way. So you now serve as the executive director of Aramaic Bible translation. 


12:42
Rich Rudowske
And tell us some about ABT, how long it’s been around, what kind of work? Just tell us a little bit about the organization. 


12:50
Rob Hilbert
Yeah, so ABT has been around as an idea since the 90s. Work actually began about a decade ago on the five language groups that we work in. We do use pseudonyms for the languages when we share the information. So yeah, we work with five different languages. Sir yo Maluli, Mardini, Assyrian and Chaldean. And so each of those five has a New Testament that has been published and they were all completed recently, within the last five years. Currently, each language group is working on the complete Bible and they actually have various other projects that they work on. Like they’ll take a break from the complete Bible project to finish project that they’ve been working on, like for sir yo. For example, we’re almost finished with the children’s Bible and it depends on when funding comes in. 


13:56
Rob Hilbert
So we recently received a gift to help complete the children’s Bible. And so then work began again on that. Another example would be these standalone copies of the psalms, which for the three syrian languages. There was a request from the local churches there. I think it was about a year and a half ago that we publish standalone copies of the psalms so that they could use those during their worship. So that’s another project that we pivoted. And then those language groups started working on the psalms because that’s a felt need that the community requested and the local churches requested. So yeah, the five language groups are working on the complete Bible translations. The projects, like I said, aren’t simply complete Bible translations. We do a lot of work with partners who are involved in scripture engagement. 


14:53
Rob Hilbert
ABT focuses on translation, but the copyrights for the translations are owned by ABT and we work with a lot of partners to use those translations in different scripture engagement products like the Jesus film or other films that you’ll see that you could see on Netflix, like the Gospel of Mark. You could watch. Well, I don’t know if in America we could watch it in chaldean, but those movies are available overseas using the translations that ABT has provided. So we work with partners to produce a lot of scripture engagement materials like that. 


15:38
Rich Rudowske
Yeah. So that’s pretty important that in the language communities you’re mentioning, there are churches involved and you’re working with them, or at least hearing from them their needs and then responding there and networking with other kind of specialized ministries that do certain things like the recordings and the movies and that sort of thing. Yeah. So I’m hearing you talk about the name of the organization is Aramaic Bible translation. You mentioned Chaldean, you mentioned Assyrian. The astute listeners may recognize some of these names from their Bible reading in the later part of, well, several different parts in the Old Testament you hear about. So are these the same people that we read about in the Bible? 


16:23
Rob Hilbert
Yeah. So Aramaic is language used in a few places in the Bible. There’s a large section of Daniel that uses Aramaic and it’s found in Ezra and a few other places. Sometimes it’s just referring to a name in Aramaic, but spread throughout the Bible. And it was the lingua franca, or language of wider communication for this resurrected neo Assyrian empire. That was around almost 3000 years ago, but the language persisted throughout the region and it became the language of wider communication. That’s why it was spoken widely and it was the language that Jesus spoke in and would have communicated in. So it has been around for a long time. The languages that we currently work in are descendants of that language. So when I refer to Chaldean, it’s called Chaldean neo Aramaic, and then, like Assyrian is technically Assyrian Neo Aramaic. 


17:32
Rob Hilbert
So they’re languages that are descended from Aramaic, but Aramaic itself is no longer spoken the language that Jesus spoke. But actually one of the languages we work in, I think it’s Maluli, is considered closest to the language that Jesus would have spoken, western Aramaic. 


17:53
Rich Rudowske
That’s fascinating. And so, yeah, of course our listeners may know that languages shift and it doesn’t really take that much time. So we’re talking about thousands of year old languages. Obviously there’s going to be a big thing. Anybody can just pick up an english book written like Dickens 200 years ago and it’s substantially different language. 


18:09
Rob Hilbert
Well, I was just going to say also these language groups were very isolated from each other. So people probably know already the history of the region. It was largely christian area, Orthodox Christian for a considerable amount of time. Eventually, the region was taken over by different empires that largely spoke Arabic. And it’s kind of a miracle that these groups survived for as long as they did or have. I mean, they’re still speaking these languages, still christian enclaves in this largely muslim region. But they became very isolated from each other for thousands of years. And so although they started out speaking Aramaic. Yeah. The languages had a chance to evolve on their own, partially because of that isolation, but also as a way of maintaining their culture, their heritage, their religion. 


19:05
Rob Hilbert
A lot of these groups continue to use their heart languages rather than using Arabic. Well, in a lot of cases, they do know both languages out of necessity, but it’s important to these groups to maintain their heritage and their language. 


19:20
Rich Rudowske
Yeah. And when I think about Assyrian or Chaldean, whether it’s the same or just kind of related, but there’s these prophecies in the Old Testament, Isaiah, particularly about them specifically becoming God’s people, which would have been unheard of. And here’s the fulfillment and even to the modern day. 


19:38
Rob Hilbert
Yeah, very true. Yeah. They were one of the first groups to develop a christian church, an official one. I think it’s back in the fourth century or fifth century that came about. And you’re exactly right, of course. The Syrians were kind of the bad guys in the Old Testament. 


20:00
Rich Rudowske
Talk a little bit about the history of some of the churches. 


20:03
Rob Hilbert
Okay, sure. So each language has its own kind of history. First, I’ll start with Maluli. A lot of these languages are centered around a big town or a region. And so this one, Maluli, is centered around a town located northeast of Damascus in Syria. The christian church is primarily syrian orthodox. And then also. So, you know, I find it very remarkable that they’ve retained their faith and culture despite being surrounded by all this turmoil and being the minority group within Syria. But part of the reason why they’ve been able to do it is because there’s two important monasteries there that are very ancient, and those have. We’ve connected with different monasteries related to these languages. And that’s kind of how we review the materials it’s using these monasteries. And so that’s how Malulis maintained the language and the culture and their faith. 


21:08
Rob Hilbert
It’s through these important institutions that are there, the church and the monasteries. They form their community based on their faith there. And then there’s Mardini, that’s based in southeast Turkey and northern Syria. A little more spread out than Maluli. There’s the Morgabriel monastery, which is kind of its epicenter. We also do a lot of work with them, and we have translators throughout that area that help us with our translations. There’s also a lot of Armenian and Assyrian spoken in that region. So there are quite a few Christians in southeastern Turkey, and they’re home to the oldest syriac orthodox monastery in the world, still functional. And then there’s Suryoyo, that’s in southeast Turkey, northern Syria. It’s also sometimes called central neo Aramaic, and that one predominantly has eastern Christians and the Syriac Orthodox Church speaking that language or using it predominantly. 


22:17
Rob Hilbert
That language evolved from eastern Aramaic in the Tur Abden region in southeastern Turkey. And there’s quite a few speakers of sir yo. A lot of them joined the syrian diaspora during the war. Actually, that accelerated. It was kind of a typical thing for christians to leave the region and go to Europe, but the war in Syria accelerated that. It’s widely spoken in the region. Despite that, it has many distinct dialogues, but it has about 20,000 speakers. And I think of the syrian languages, that one’s probably the biggest, but it’s widely spoken throughout the world, probably has 40,000 to 100,000 speakers, some of whom speak it as a second language, but still very widely spoken in the diaspora. And then there’s Chaldean, also known as Chaldean, Neo Aramaic. And that one is related to Assyrian, not as related to the Aramaic or the syrian languages. 


23:28
Rob Hilbert
But some scholars consider Assyrian and Chaldean to be the same language, just dialects of the same language, but they’re really not mutually intelligible. And our translators would obviously very much. 


23:41
Rich Rudowske
I’m sure they’ll have something to say about that. 


23:44
Rob Hilbert
But Chaldean is spoken primarily in northern Iraq and southeast Turkey. And so the Assyrians living in northern Iraq have a lot of autonomy, so they actually have it guaranteed in the new constitution since 2005. They call it Syriac in the constitution, but it’s guaranteed as an official language in the constitution, and it is mandated that it’s used in schools in northern Iraq. So that language could be. You could be speaking Assyrian and say, I’m speaking assyriac language, or you could be speaking chaldean. It depends on the town that you’re living in, really, in northern Iraq. But, yeah, those languages are protected and have over a million speakers. And the church is evolved from the Church of the east. Historically, that was the name, I think, and now it’s kind of divided into different groups, different churches, there’s the Assyrian Church of the east. 


24:49
Rob Hilbert
That’s pretty prominent there. I think it has close to half a million members. And then my grandparents became Presbyterians thanks to missionaries. My grandmother was kind of from the Armenia area. It was all kind of crumbling at the time. The empires weren’t really existent like they used to be, so it’s hard to describe where they were living, but they were around this town called Ermia, and that’s where my grandfather lived. And today that’s in modern day Iran, actually. But all of these groups were targeted in the early 20th century during the genocide, which occurred during the aftermath of World War I. And so huge groups of people were massacred and had to flee the area. I’ve heard stories my whole life about family members who were lost, and I won’t go into that now. They’re long. 


25:48
Rob Hilbert
Eventually, you know, my own grandparents ended up coming to the United States and how so they ended up meeting in Chicago, but had long journeys to get there and find each other. But unfortunately, they had kind of this outlook on their language, where they didn’t think very highly of it, and maybe because there weren’t very many assyrian speakers in Chicago at the time, but they didn’t think highly of their culture. They kind of felt really down on their culture at the time, which is really sad. I think it’s a consequence of having to leave and almost being wiped out completely. So they did not emphasize it to my mom or to my. And so neither one of them can speak it, unfortunately. 


26:38
Rob Hilbert
But, yeah, not unlike other cultures, like people coming from Greece or Italy or Germany, who might have made their children learn the language and spoke it within their house in the United States, even didn’t happen for my family, unfortunately, which is too bad, because I would have loved to have been able to speak. 


26:57
Rich Rudowske
So, yeah, and I imagine there’s some amount of trauma that comes with the way everybody got here. So you mentioned several kind of Middle Eastern locations, yet the work of ABT is largely carried outside of that region. So tell us a little bit about that. Right. 


27:13
Rob Hilbert
So we work with translators. The head translators of the projects are based in the United States. Many of them have phds and have worked in the past or currently work with universities. So they are based in the US, but travel back to the Middle east quite a bit for community testing and then also to work with translators there. So because of the Internet and Skype and the ability to carry on virtually, we’re able to do it over many, despite the separation geographically. But unfortunately, due to Covid the community testing did not take place last year. So that’s one of the biggest challenges that we’re facing right now, is trying to maintain contact and a relationship with those communities despite not being able to visit. So usually for the syrian languages, one individual travels there twice a year and meets with those community members. 


28:18
Rob Hilbert
This individual already has a lot of connections there, knows a lot of people, and visits the different monasteries that I mentioned and works with them on community testing and translation. So the translators themselves actually reside in Syria. And then that individual is the head translator and also does translation and kind of divides up the work amongst them. And then there’s the Mardini translator is also based in the US, the head translator. And then the Maluli head translator is based in Syria. And then for Assyrian. And, well, for Assyrian, we have a large diaspora of Assyrians in California and that is where the two translators for that project are based. And so they do community testing within the diaspora in California and then also work with others in the US. 


29:14
Rob Hilbert
And Chaldean then is based in the Detroit area where there’s also a large diaspora of chaldean speakers. 


29:19
Rich Rudowske
Yeah. So for these different language communities, there are church bodies or consumers of the products of the translation, both in the Middle east and in the United States as. 


29:28
Rob Hilbert
Definitely. 


29:28
Rich Rudowske
Yep. 


29:29
Rob Hilbert
A lot of support comes from churches in the United States through prayer and some finances. But when the products are the scripture engagement products and the Bibles are published and distributed, they’re used throughout the world. And actually, because Abt owns the copyright, one thing that we have pledged to do with the translated scripture is put it online for free. So you can go to a website like scripture Earth and it can be accessed there. Or, you know, the Bible app that everybody has on their phones, you can find the assyrian translation on that. I think there’s some issues with the font, so it’s not perfect right now, but it can be viewed there and read to you so you can access an audio version on your phone, which is amazing for reaching people throughout the diaspora and throughout the world. 


30:24
Rich Rudowske
Yeah. So these are all language communities with long standing christian churches and I assume some sort of scripture they’ve used before. What is Abt and the language communities hoping to accomplish with updated translations? 


30:39
Rob Hilbert
Right. So as I was describing these languages, I called a lot of the neo Aramaics. So these are considered newer languages and they’re not mutually intelligible with the older versions of the languages. So people can’t really understand the scripture that would have existed way in the past. So what we’re trying to do now is to translate the complete Bible and other books that can help to reach people. 


31:10
Rich Rudowske
This is sort of like a King James English type of thing. Sort of similar to that. 


31:15
Rob Hilbert
I think it’s similar to that. Maybe even more dramatic than that. Not being a speaker, I couldn’t tell you, really, but I think it’s harder to understand than that. It’s almost like it’s a dead language used within the church, kind of like Latin would be. 


31:31
Rich Rudowske
Okay. Wow. 


31:32
Rob Hilbert
Church isn’t widely understood except in the church setting. Now, I don’t know that it’s that extreme, but I think it’s kind of similar to that situation. So, yeah. The Assyrian that my grandparents would have been exposed to would have been different from the Assyrian spoken today in the region. And they even had an older Bible translation, which would have come from the 19th century, which is not really usable today. So we’re trying to update it, and it’s starting from scratch. It’s a new translation which will be able to be understood by people who currently speak these languages. 


32:14
Rich Rudowske
So you mentioned some of the challenges from COVID What other challenges are you facing at ABT or how else has Covid been disruptive? 


32:23
Rob Hilbert
Well, yeah, Covid has prevented us from being able to go to the communities and travel in person, so that’s the primary issue. But because of technology like Zoom, Skype and paratext, the translation software that we use, the translations have not stopped. They’re still taking place, and the translators are very committed to these projects, so they have been able to continue with their work. So that hasn’t really affected it. Though. ABT has experienced some funding issues, there’s been some turmoil with regards to that, and so we appreciate any prayer for that specifically. That would be very helpful for us, but that’s our biggest challenge right now, is overcoming that. 


33:13
Rich Rudowske
Yeah. And here at Lutheran Bible translators, we’re proud to be partnering with ABT on the work here. And I think one of the reasons for that is it’s a good opportunity for american Christians to embrace that the mission field is all over the world, but it is here in our land as well, and gives us the opportunity to work right here at home and to really look at mission more from a collegial perspective than the romantic view of missions. You mentioned these folks have phds and things, so this whole idea of going to help the poor people that can’t or need our help is not really in play with what you’re doing. Talk a little bit about that. 


33:57
Rob Hilbert
Yeah. So the work that we do, it can be done remotely. But also we do need to have an impact in the local communities. It is a little challenging not having the classic mission experience with these projects. 


34:14
Rich Rudowske
Okay. 


34:15
Rob Hilbert
But I think that involving the communities in the translation itself and working with translators overseas has helped us to overcome that. But yeah, we still do have that challenge of not being in the field and able to experience those felt needs firsthand and then have an impact in the culture. But we’re thankful that we work with individuals who grew up in those settings and currently reside in the US. So when I say the head translator has a phd and has studied these languages, they’ve actually been speaking, they are a part of the community that they work in their heart language. So, yeah, it is more meaningful in that sense to them. And I think that’s very impactful also. 


35:10
Rich Rudowske
Right. Thinking about most of our listeners, actually, it’s kind of expanding some, but quite a few of our listeners are western christians. What do you think that we can learn from the communities that make up the folks in ABT and their experience of christian faith and so forth? 


35:30
Rob Hilbert
Well, our project’s goal is to bring people to faith, and there’s many ways to partner with Abt through prayer and just offering support, I think, or communicating with us. It really helps us to improve morale. But, yeah, our goal is, like many, maybe all, I guess, missions, organizations, we’re striving to bring people to faith. Translation, in my opinion, is the foundation of missions. And by supporting translation, you’re not just supporting the Bible translation projects, you’re also supporting future missions, organizations that will use the. So, like producing movies like you would have something like the Jesus film, it requires a Bible translation project before it can be made. So, yes, by supporting a Bible translation project such as ABT, you’re also supporting additional scripture engagement projects. So, yeah, it’s definitely a worthwhile cause, in my opinion. 


36:38
Rob Hilbert
And rather than going overseas, like you mentioned, the mission field is throughout the United States. And while we can see, I remember when I went to church in Tampa, our church had a sign up that would say, you are now entering the mission field when we would leave the parking lot. And I think know that’s very true. So not only do Americans have this opportunity to support overseas missions themselves in many different ways, but there is the diaspora in the United States itself and refugees all over Europe who are coming from these areas that can be supported by prayer and financial support for ABT, it makes an impact throughout the world. 


37:28
Rich Rudowske
So you’ve been on quite a journey. At the beginning, you described that first role with the Peace Corps and then some other stops in Africa along the way, and now here. What gives you joy in your work as you reflect on what you’re able to do and the task that God sets before you? 


37:45
Rob Hilbert
Well, for the role that I have now as executive director, I find joy in just being provided the chance to contribute in a small way to the projects, to projects that my ancestors may have held dear and I still hold dear today because of that. But just being able to contribute in my small way as a servant to the organization, brings me joy. But in the past, my true joy was from when were living overseas, was experiencing other cultures. It was just exciting being able to go off on trips and speak with people and hopefully make an impact in people’s lives, but primarily just getting to know them, getting to know their culture. I love living in other cultures. It’s something that’s really exciting for me. 


38:42
Rob Hilbert
And I think my kids, my family really enjoyed their time in Mount and living in mound, Botswana in particular. That area was really a wonderful place to raise a family and to live because we had a great culture that were immersed in. But we also had these interesting things we could do on the weekend. We could just drive off and go on safari, essentially. 


39:10
Rich Rudowske
Yeah. It’s wonderful to be able to see and experience God’s creation, both the wildlife and so forth, but more importantly, the great diversity of people and backgrounds and cultures and languages and expressions of faith, and to see how God is at work in so many unexpected ways. It really is a privilege to have that kind of experience. 


39:34
Rob Hilbert
Yes, definitely. 


39:35
Rich Rudowske
All right. Well, Rob, I want to thank you for your time today. We’ve been talking with Rob Hilbert, the executive director of Aramaic Bible translation and a missionary with Lutheran Bible translators. We’re again privileged to be in partnership with you and look forward to fruitful ministry and for God’s word to go out mightily in the abt communities. 


39:55
Rob Hilbert
Thank you very much, rich, for this opportunity to speak with you, and it was my pleasure for being here. 


40:03
Rich Rudowske
It’s always amazing to see how God is at work in orchestrating things and putting them together. So here you have these languages. Some of the names of the languages are names that you even read in. 


40:13
Rich Rudowske
The Bible, and these are descendants of. 


40:15
Rich Rudowske
Folks that you hear about in the Old Testament. And now, thousands of years later, also. 


40:21
Rich Rudowske
A long time ago, some of the. 


40:23
Rich Rudowske
Earliest christians, but now a couple thousand years later, renewing their interest in God’s word and then for a little bit, sort of drifting along and looking for a new leader, Aramaic Bible translation comes to LBT and says, can you help us out with this? I said, you know, I’ve got this guy Rob, he’s transitioning out of some work. Bring him in and talk a little bit about it. And these are the people that he comes from. 


40:47
Rich Rudowske
There is people. 


40:48
Rich Rudowske
And it’s just amazing how God orchestrates those things and just shows me evidence in any ways that God is at work in mission and bringing all things together. 


40:58
Emily Wilson
Yeah. And I’m just so encouraged to hear about how passionate the teams are to translate the Bible into their languages. It’s just really exciting to see how God is at work and there are exciting things on the horizon for abt Aramaic Bible translators for those of you out there who are not connected, you can learn how you can put God’s word in their hands when you visit lbt.org Slash Aramaic thank you for listening. 


41:25
Rich Rudowske
To the centrally translatable podcast brought to you by Lutheran Bible translators. You can find past episodes of the podcast@lbt.org Slash podcast or subscribe on audible, Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. Follow lutheran Bible translators social media channels on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Or go to lbt.org to find out. 


41:49
Rich Rudowske
How you can get involved in the. 


41:50
Rich Rudowske
Bible translation movement and put God’s word in their hands. The essentially translatable podcast is produced and edited by Andrew Olson and distributed by Sarah Lyons. Executive producer is Emily Wilson. Podcast artwork was designed by Caleb Rotelwald. Music written and performed by Rob Weit. I’m Rich Radowski. So long for now. 

Highlights:

  • β€œIt was the language that Jesus spoke in and would have communicated in. So, it has been around for a long time. The [Aramaic] languages we currently work in are descendants of that language.” – Rob Hilbert
  • Aramaic Bible Translation (ABT) is working on translating the complete Bible into five Aramaic languages: Maluli, Mardini, Assyrian, Chaldean, and Suryoyo.
  • Rob Hilbert, has a background in teaching literacy and has a passion for translation and language preservation

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