It’s all Greek to me – Missionaries learning how to translate Greek characters

Elder Wayne Boucher explains details of the Greek alphabet to missionaries serving in the Monroe ROC Center June 17, in Monroe

MONROE — Local missionaries and volunteers are learning the Greek alphabet.  

The Monroe Utah Remote Operations Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is working on a project involving translating records from the Greek language. 

“It’s a huge project,” said Wayne Boucher. He and his wife, Ann, are serving a mission at the center, known as the Monroe ROC, which is part of the LDS church’s service missionary system. The ROC operates under the leadership of the Family History Department. 

The mission shares computer facilities with the family history center in Monroe, and is usually engaged in quality control of genealogical records sent to them from the Granite Mountain Records Vault in Little Cottonwood Canyon east of Salt Lake City, Boucher said.  

“The Greek Refugee Indexing project has been an exciting thing to be a part of,” Boucher said. “It’s a lot of fun.” 

During many decades, families of Greek extraction had been living in the Mediterranean area of Asia Minor now known as Turkey. It was then part of the Ottoman Empire, which collapsed following World War I.

At the time, there was persecution toward the Turkish-dwelling Greek people in the early part of the Twentieth Century as Muslim Turks resented the presence in their country of Greek peoples who were traditionally Christian. 

To avoid a potential genocidal situation, as part of the war settlements, the League of Nations helped broker a policy of forced repatriation of the Ottoman Greeks back to their own country, Boucher said. 

“It was a difficult time for many of the families as they were forced to leave homes and occupations and start over again in another land,” Boucher said. “However, the Greek civil authorities carefully recorded the names and former dwelling areas of their new citizens and it is these lists of names and places that the Monroe group of missionaries have been given to translate from the Greek language into English.”

Former director David Mower previously served a one-year church mission in Greece and is largely why the Monroe center was selected to head up the translation of this extensive collection, according to Boucher. 

In all, there were more than 400,000 resettlements of Greek people. 

“The elders and sisters serving in the center realize the challenge of the new assignment, but are finding it exciting and not as difficult as it first seemed as they are becoming more familiar with the Greek alphabet,” Boucher said. 

Using a chart, missionaries are able to translate Greek letters to the Latin alphabet used by English speakers.

“They translate each character, and then a name comes out,” Boucher said. “We’re not learning the language, just translating the names of people and places to something that can be read by someone who speaks English.”

He said many of the names have biblical origins, reflecting the Christian ties many of the Greek people had — as opposed to those from Turkey, which has stronger ties to the Muslim faith, Boucher said. 

“Any church members from Monroe, Richfield and Salina stakes thinking of serving a part-time local mission are welcome to stop by the center and see if it’s something they might want to become involved in,” Boucher said. The mission is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 260 East Center Street in Monroe.

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