Two major Scripture engagement projects finally took over two years

“We were greatly affected by COVID,” said Erick B., Manager for multiple translation teams in the Katavi Cluster Project in western Tanzania. “Many of our plans had to stop, but we were able to continue some things. Lately we have met challenges in our planning and preparations to complete the JESUS film in two local languages, Pimbwe and Bende-Tongwe.”

When the teams finally had scripts ready, adapted from their translations of Luke’s Gospel, they needed to develop a volunteer cast of voice actors from the communities. So both teams made visits to several villages. First, they faced one challenge they know very well…

“The road to our community is a rough one,” explained Kassanda, one of the Bende Translators, “with lots of mud when it rains. We thought it might be passable, but we came to a point where it had rained the night before. No way through — we had to go around.”

On the original road, the team would have gone about 50 kilometres to reach Kashagulu Village. Instead, they drove more than 500 km (just over 300 miles) to get there.

“In our villages we faced another challenge,” said Kalawa, one of the Pimbwe Translators. “It was hard to find quality actors.” Some of the better candidates they found in their search were followers of another major religion, who worried that being involved might compromise their faith.

“Also some people wanted payment,” added Shauritanga (another Pimbwe Translator), “for the days they would be away from their normal work for recording. Tax laws have made this difficult for us, but the local church did not have enough volunteers with the quality we needed for film actors. It was so challenging.”

In the end, both teams did fill their casts and record all the voices. Returning back to the translation office, they reported that Pimbwe and Bende community and church leaders were very happy about the film’s progress.

“But what about all the equipment?” one local leader asked. “He actually had many questions,” said Erick. “Not just about projectors and generators, but about sharing the film with all the denominations represented in the communities.” Erick encouraged the group that these were great questions to ask, and he did his best to answer them all.Bende Translator Mpalamba said, “One of them told me, ‘Our people have enjoyed watching the JESUS film [in Swahili]. At most public showings, many people are touched and receive salvation. Surely the Bende version will bring many more into God’s Kingdom.’ ”

This story was written for SIL Tanzania by:

Kenny Grindall (Communications Coordinator)

SIL International is a global leader 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.