DIU Professor and Chair of the Center for Excellence in World Arts, Robin Harris, participated in the March 2024 Scripture Engagement and Ethnoarts Workshop for Bible Translators in Türkiye.

Organized by the Institute for Bible Translation (IBT), the workshop was originally planned as a small gathering of 15 Bible Translation (BT) workers. Yet it morphed into a gathering of 170 representatives of BT teams across the Russophone world, representing 40 language projects (33 of them from IBT).

The one-week workshop focused on giving working groups time to make plans for their projects using DIU Emeritus Professor Wayne Dye’s “Eight Conditions for Scripture Engagement”. As part of Dye’s Condition 3 (Accessible Forms), the teaching team was given a day and a half day to focus on how ethnoarts can make scripture come alive for people.  

DIU Engagement

For this ethnoarts portion, the workshop used the seven-step framework of Creating Local Arts Together (CLAT), a method of working with communities used widely across the ethnoarts world. This method was created by DIU Emeritus Professor and founder of the Center for Excellence in World Arts (CEWA) at DIU, Brian Schrag.

Dr. Harris gave a brief introduction to the method using a case study from the Sakha. Then, the ethnoarts training team gave detailed explanations of each step, followed by planning around the tables for each of the language groups.

The primary ethnoarts trainers were Dr. Julie Taylor (SIL Eurasia, teaches as an adjunct for CEWA), Justin Randolph (MA graduate of CEWA, lives in Chiang Mai), and Chris Troutman (PhD Candidate in World Arts, living in Tbilisi, Georgia). They did a great job of explaining the framework with appropriate examples, giving groups adequate time to discuss each step and make plans for their communities to engage with Scripture through their arts.  

Deep Connections

What Dr. Harris didn’t know ahead of time was that there would be a whole team there from the Sakha Republic, the community in Siberia where her family had served.

She had heard that the translation coordinator for Sakha language was coming—Sargylana Leonteva, a friend of hers for 30 years. But as it turned out, the coordinator brought three more people—Olga, Ruth, and Tanya—all key leaders in the evangelical Sakha church in the capital city of Yakutsk. The church is now led by a two-pastor team, one of them Olga’s husband.  

Dr. Harris sat at the “Sakha table” the whole time and had the immense privilege of watching and listening to them animatedly engage the material. She was struck by how much had changed in the last 30 years since she arrived in Yakutsk in 1995. The bi-cultural church she served in eventually launched a fully Sakha “daughter” church (Olokh Suola).

This church grew from a small, struggling church of mostly older people into a large, bustling church of 100 adults, bursting with young families and little children and eager to use their music and arts in worship and witness. Furthermore, there are churches all over the Sakha Republic who also function completely in their mother tongue. Many of them look to this church as a model. 

At the training event, the Sakha team made a list of Sakha art forms and projects to engage those arts that they believe will create a “breakthrough” experience for Sakha Christians across the Republic. They believed these plans were achievable, and they had great hopes for engaging both young and old people in their implementation.

Accessible Training

A high point for many at the conference was the textbook (Community Arts for God’s Purposes) that had been recently translated into Russian by DIU’s first World Arts PhD, Dr. Anya Ezhevskaya, and her husband Dr. Gregory Khasin. This important text (also available in seven other languages) explained the seven-step framework taught at the conference.

So many groups at the conference requested copies that Dr. Harris ended up wishing she had brought more! 

Worlds Meet

In the end, Dr. Harris realized that it was this “meeting of her worlds” that made this trip so deeply satisfying. For 20 years since her family left Siberia, she has worked hard with others in the Global Ethnodoxology Network (GEN) to publish two textbooks and eight translations of this condensed workshop textbook. In addition, she has invested the last 12 years of her life in training World Arts students at DIU’s Center for Excellence in World Arts (CEWA). But it was not until this gathering that those important parts of her life connected back to her fieldwork in the Sakha republic. Seeing Sakha believers with this book, learning from CEWA students and faculty, and using those ideas to make plans for their people was deeply moving.

Not A Waste  

Dr. Harris came away realizing that her years in Yakutia were certainly not a waste. Not all cross-cultural workers get to see their dreams for a community come true like she did, and she is deeply grateful for the opportunity to connect with her Sakha friends this way. Their plans for engaging Scripture in their communities through their Sakha art forms are incredibly exciting—a dream come true for her. And their experience at the conference was just a microcosm of all the learning that was happening in the other groups represented. Dr. Harris hopes that these kinds of Scripture Engagement and Ethnoarts workshops for Bible translators will increase, with the goal of God’s Word becoming accessible to people, not just in their own languages, but in accessible artistic forms that are meaningful and powerful for them. 

Dr. Harris and her colleagues use ethnoarts and Scripture engagement to make a difference in communities around the world through education. Want to see where a degree in world arts can take you? Explore our programs and find the right fit for you!

Academic Programs