Community engagement fuels growing hunger for God’s Word

“I will tell everyone about this,” Batila promised.

Batila is a woman who lives in Tanga, on the Indian Ocean coast of eastern Tanzania. She recently crossed the country to visit Ludewa, the town where she grew up with her family.

Ludewa village is part of the Pangwa language community. In the Njombe Region of southern Tanzania, it’s about 375 kilometres (233 miles) from the Mbeya Region office where the Pangwa translation team works together. Often, they’re out working among the villages of their community.

Batila speaks Pangwa, and was amazed to see a printed wall calendar filled with writing in her language. “So she called me,” said Simon Kayombo.

Simon is part of the Pangwa translation project’s Literacy and Scripture Engagement team. He often shares his personal phone number when distributing materials in the local communities.

Batila asked him, “Have you any books written in Pangwa?”

Yes, Kayombo replied. “She asked me to please send or bring some translated books to her in Ludewa,” he said. “We were able to visit while she was still there, and she was very happy to see the books we have in her language.”

When she picked up the small book of Mark’s Gospel, Batila started reading and did not want to stop. So she purchased a copy to read at home with her family, along with several other books Simon had brought with him.

“She was so filled with joy,” said Kayombo. “I also gave her a free copy of the JESUS film in Pangwa language. And she promised to share about our work and these materials, with her family and other Pangwa speakers in Ludewa and Tanga.”

Kayombo was busy that month. “I also visited literacy teachers and church leaders in several villages,” he said, “to encourage them and make plans to have more activities in their areas, such as Bible studies and literacy workshops.” Simon had just led several in other villages.

Leaders at one church confessed that, when Kayombo had invited them to a workshop, they ignored it. “But then we heard your presentation,” they said. “Now we will participate in any activity concerning translation of Scripture into the Pangwa language!”

photo above: Batila, a woman who speaks Pangwa, saw a calendar in her language and called the translation team asking if books were available. When they visited her village to bring materials, she read Mark’s Gospel with joy. Before they left, she bought several books to take home, and promised to tell many of her Pangwa neighbors about them. (photo: Simon Kayombo, Literacy & Scripture Engagement team, SIL Tanzania)

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.