Each month, Christianity Today magazine e-mails its articles to editors for proofing—and sometimes, to be translated for other editions. Editors in Norway, South Korea, and Brazil decide whether to use CT content for their upcoming issues. And so does Javier Elizondo, editor of the Spanish-language Cristianismo Hoy, who works in Texas.
It's a unique challenge; while staff members on other editions have a month or so to select the articles, translate them, and edit once more for nuances, Javier is working on a tighter deadline. "It's more important for us to be on the same page because the same audience, the same churches, are reading both the English and Spanish editions. It's very important that we have both available as closely as we can to get it at the same time," Javier explained.
The online magazine launched last year, and has been praised by readers. On Javier's personal Facebook page, Margarita Chapa wrote: "The CT articles nurture our faith in God and in times like we live today, it helps us to grow in our relationship with God. Thank you, Christianity Today, for choosing to do a Spanish edition. It was a very good decision."
Javier echoes the readers' positive response: "I love being able to share these stories with the Hispanic community. It's a great affirmation of what CT is doing."
In this past year, Javier has tested out different types of articles to see what appeals to readers. The Testimony pieces do exceptionally well, and Javier includes one every other month: a few weeks ago, "Mormón no más" had the highest page views. Javier notes that the section's popularity is due to their human interest appeal and conversion itself being a "fresh" area to explore in the Hispanic community. And basically, what does well in Christianity Today, does well on Cristianismo Hoy: Rosaria Champagne Butterfield's "My Train Wreck Conversion," published in the January/February 2013 issue, continues to attract high numbers of readers on both sites.
Javier also selects articles and topics that will challenge the Hispanic community. One such article was the Wheaton College students protest of Butterfield. "I think they need to read that. It will push them to deal with some issues that they haven't necessarily dealt with and to look at both sides," said Javier. "That's the value I see in Christianity Today to the community. Anything we can do to move forward is good. The Hispanic church in America continues to grow and move forward, and they're understanding what it means to be a faithful follower of Christ."
However, not all of the articles have attracted readers. Articles on apologetics or movie reviews didn't receive much feedback. "We don't have movie reviews in Spanish from the Christian perspective," he explained. With something like "Philomena," he's not sure if the low response was due to the subject itself or because the review was published too late.
Another area that Javier tries to cover includes topics that might interest female readers, such as Butterfield's Testimony piece. "Breast-Feeding in the Back Pew" has been translated, but Javier has not edited it yet for publication—"I have to translate that headline very carefully so it doesn't offend," he said.
Translating presents its own challenges, although some of them are pretty funny. In our talk, Javier mentioned one article that did well on Facebook, and it was called something like "merchants of hope." The headline in English read "The Hope Dealers." "The word for 'dealers' in Spanish is the same as 'traffickers,'" he laughed. "So we didn't do it."
Christianity Today magazine is conservative, but Javier explains that for the most part, the Hispanic community is even more so. Javier is sensitive to the audience and has the ability to keep the tone true and consistent with that of Christianity Today.
It's a lot of work to balance in a short amount of time. Javier, who also works full-time at South Texas School of Christian Studies as dean of academic affairs, reads the whole magazine in order to select the articles for translation. "I love that. It keeps me up with everything that is going on with the magazine. I feel a lot more educated about everything that is going on in the Christian community."
And Javier isn't just reading the magazine; he does background research to make sure the meaning stays clear in translation, and keeps up his Spanish skills by reading Mexico City Daily every day.
It's enough work to exhaust anyone, but Javier loves it. "It's very exciting," he said. "I feel honored that Christianity Today asked me to do this, and I consider it a privilege. It's a joy to be able to have a part in this."
He pointed to a comment on his personal Facebook page from Victor Perez: "Reading the 'Like a Train Wreck Conversion' took me back to the time of my first love when I came face to face to the Jesus who lives.'"
"That makes it all worthwhile," said Javier. "You see that people are being changed or being formed by what we invite them to consider and read. That's very encouraging, very enjoyable."
So what's up in the next year for Cristianismo Hoy? The introduction of newsletters sparked immediate interest, and Javier hopes that will continue to grow. Javier also wants to further develop the Cristianismo Hoy webpage by publishing more original writing, created specifically for the Hispanic audience. Ideally, there would be a gradual shift to producing two translated articles and one original article every month. Original writing involves a lot more time, sometimes doubling Javier's workload. But he looks forward to that next important step for Cristianismo Hoy.
Elissa Cooper is assistant editor of Christianity Todaymagazine.