Makushi New Testament

  • Location: Brazil
  • New Testament Completion Date: 1981

The Makushi tribe lives in Brazil and numbers over 15,000 people. Until about 40 years ago, the Makushi possessed no Scriptures in their language. In the early 1970s, young missionaries Ross and Cathy Hodsdon followed God’s calling to Bible translation work and eagerly traveled to Brazil to find people who desperately needed the Bible. However, as they had arrived during the English flu scare, their mission board informed the Hodsdons that they would have to find a people group to work with on their own. Undaunted, the young couple began ministering in a group house in Manaus and researching potential tribes in need of translation work. After becoming interested in one tribe, God closed the door to that opportunity when the tribe massacred a group of Indian government officials, so the Hodsdons continued their search. Finally, God led them to meet Baptist Mid-Missions missionaries Harold and Miriam Burns, who lived in Roraima and worked with the Makushi tribe. After prayerful consideration, Ross completed a survey during which the Indians begged him to come and give them the Bible. Ross began orthography and linguistic work with the Makushi while building a mud home in Pacú for his family, then during their first furlough, the Hodsdons joined Baptist Mid-Missions before returning to Brazil to continue the work.

On a typewriter they brought with them, the Hodsdons typed the Scripture text as their Makushi language helpers translated it. They made corrections using the original “cut and paste” method by gluing the revised portions over the original manuscript. Cathy received additional training to accurately check the text and conducted most of the checking along with Dr. Henry Osborn and a seminary professor. In this manner, God enabled them to complete the translation work in eight years.

Along with the next step in the process came a new challenge for the translation team. Although they had completed the text, the Hodsdons could not find a printer willing to print the manuscript. Most of the Bible printers at that time insisted on a word-for-word translation, which proved impossible, as the Makushi language contained no exact word replacements for many biblical terms, including “love.” Eventually, a print house in California agreed to do the typesetting, printing, and binding, but only during downtimes for the high cost of $30 per copy. When the time came for proofreading the typeset text, since no known Makushi resided in North America, and the Hodsdons were unable to return to Brazil due to visa issues, non-language speakers from a Bible college in Canada graciously read and checked the text character by character. Newly-formed Bibles International raised the funds for printing, and after three years of post-translation work, 1,000 copies of the Makushi New Testament arrived in Brazil, becoming the first BI translation ever published.