As some of you know I was gone the whole month of August, back in Tanzania, doing some research in preparation for our return to Tanzania next year. We are intending on going back next year around April or May to help begin a new Bible translation and language development project in the far west of the country.
Before beginning Bible translation in any particular language there is certain ground work which has to take place. The vast majority of the languages that we work with do not have anything written so the first thing we do is help them to come up with an alphabet. This is what we call orthography development.
But before we can do orthography development another thing which has to be done is to ascertain a languages vitality, diversity and need for development and translation. This is what I was involved in last month. We traveled out to one of the least developed areas of the country, to basically see who spoke what where and how they thought about the languages they spoke. What they thought about the neighboring languages (could they understand them). Additionally, we sought out various partners (church leaders and government officials) to see what they thought about mother-tongue Bible translation and what sort of language needs they had in their congregations. Obviously, we want to be as helpful as we can to the churches there; we want to come along side the churches to assist them with mother tongue translation to help them in their ministry. There is already Swahili bible(s) which they currently use, but in many cases that language (which is the trade language) is not as effective in ministry as having scriptures available in the peoples mother tongues.
We looked at several different languages in the area, through group interviews and conversations with church leaders and government officials. We found out several interesting things. Of the 5 languages we did interviews and collected data on we found that 1 of them is dieing and in a state beyond help. Basically it is spoken only by the very old and have not been passed on to their children. We will not be working in this language, except in perhaps some documentation capacity to get a glimpse at the language before it dies. We found that one language is definitely dieing but may not be too far gone, we may begin some basic work here and see what happens. We found that several of the vital languages are understandable between each other, and thus could possibly work together in language development and translation with some adaptation. These languages that we hope to be specifically translating the Bible into are Bende and Pimbwe. And then those can probably adapted into Tongwe and Rungwa. We also encountered a language which we had not known about before, but it too is dieing and beyond help. We also encountered several language communities in the area who are quite large, yet not native to the area, either being refugees or moving there for commerce and land. In both cases these languages have scriptures (though quite old translations) but virtually no access to those scriptures and little work has been done in literacy and use of these bibles by anyone. We may be able to get involved doing literacy and scripture use work in those languages. All these findings are preliminary and will be checked and we’ll see actually how the project shapes up.
We truly saw the LORD’s provision in this trip. Not only did our whole team have good health and safety and the cars didn’t break down to badly, but we had great conversations with the church leaders in the area.
There are 8 different denominations in the area, all of which we talked to. They are all eager to see this project get off the ground. The sticky bit for them was that despite their close proximity for years, they had never worked together and were kind of wary of each other. There are Roman catholics to pentecostals to mission churches (AIM/AICT) to Lutherans and other all represented in this region, so there are differences. But God truly worked a miracle in bringing them all together at the very end of our time out in Mpanda for a meeting to discuss our findings and ask if they wanted start something. All 8 enthusiastically said yes!
It was great to be where we are going to live, to see the town, to see what amenities there are, to meet the people and greet them.
Thank you, to all you who prayed for me and my team as we were out there. We definitely felt the spiritual warfare going on especially in a few specific villages where it seems that Satan really has a stronghold over them through animism and witch doctors. The oppression was so heavy we could feel it.But also knew that there were many who were praying.
Please praise God with us that he is bringing the churches together and that they have agreed to work towards starting this new work next year! Praise God for our traveling safety and health and for the favor we found there with the government officials.
Please pray for the continuing relationship of the church leaders. Pray for provision of several suitable houses for our team as we move out there next year. Pray for the provision of an office. Pray for our continuing spiritual, mental and physical preparation to move out there.
Below are some more pics from the trip.