Community response to translated Scripture encourages teams…

Mara Region, Tanzania —

A busy season in several local communities has language project teams feeling freshly inspired to their work…

Kwaya translators met again recently with a group of trained reviewers. One of them, a pastor named Magwire, thanked them for Scripture portions which have already been published in the Kwaya language, including Luke’s Gospel, John’s letters, and the book of Jonah. “Many people in the community are reading these books,” he said, “and they enjoy them very much.”

Paulinus Kitende, an Assistant Translation Coordinator with the Mara Cluster Project, spoke further with Pastor Magwire about the impact of translated Scriptures. “He told me,” said Kitende, “how they also value the audio recordings we put on small solar playback devices. He plays them in his church. He says this leads the congregation into lively discussions about the meaning of what they hear.”

The people understand more this way, Magwire told Kitende, than when listening to Swahili sermons. Another pastor in the Kwaya reviewers group, named Meshack, reports similar response to the JESUS film. “Every time they play it,” says Kitende, “it draws a curious crowd. Often several people commit their lives to Christ.”

Meanwhile, the Ikoma team also met with a group of reviewers who had been reading their draft translations of eight books, including 1 Corinthians, John’s letters, and James. One challenge they faced together was translating the word shepherd.

Their search for the right word was especially in connection to 1 Peter 5:2, Be shepherds of Godʼs flock that is under your care… The translators and reviewers found four possible candidates: abhakangati (leaders), abhachongi (guards), abhangareri (supervisors) and abhariishi (shepherds). “In the end they chose abhariishi,” said Ikoma translator Mussa Thobias, “although it is not without challenges.”

This Ikoma word can mean more than just shepherd. It can refer also to a person who has not yet been circumcised, or to a person who has not yet received instruction and teaching on the customs and traditions of his people. “The group decided that in most Scripture verses,” Thobias said, “the context will be clear enough to understand which sense is meant.”

Nearby, in the Jita language area, another team was testing their translation of Matthew and Romans. In one village, a man offered to let them meet in his living room. ”Every place we go,” said Magesa Kejire, a Jita translator, “the people say we are using good Jita. They say they understand the translation very well.”

In each village, people begged the team to leave behind copies of the freshly translated Scriptures. “They are so excited,” said Kejire, “to have God’s Word in their language. They are always asking us, ‘When will the Bible be finished?’ The older ones are especially eager to have the whole Bible in Jita before they die.”

“The people all agree to pray for us,” said Neema Ndaro, another Jita translator. “They recognize that Bible translation has many challenges, so they encourage us very much. They say, ‘We know the work is hard—but keep going and finish the Bible!’ “

This story was written for SIL Tanzania by:

Kenny Grindall (Communications Coordinator)

SIL International is a global partner among academic and professional organisations which offer language development services. SIL works alongside speakers of more than 1,700 languages in over 100 countries. Active in Tanzania since 1989, the organization makes its services available to all without regard to religious belief, political ideology, gender, race or ethnolinguistic background.