Nyiha Scriptures: “Now I know how my ancestors talked about God”

August 15, 2013 in Wycliffe, Mark, Africa, Bible translation, Church, Front, Language, Mission, Swahili, Tanzania

Back in May I was privileged to spend a few days with the Nyiha language community in Mbozi District of Tanzania’s Mbeya Region. The Nyiha were the first community that I was involved in surveying in August and September 2004, and since then they have worked with experts from around the world to translate the books of Ruth, Jonah, Mark, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus and Revelation into their language.

The purpose of my recent visit was to see what impact these translated Scriptures are having among the community, and to see what lessons could be learned from the Nyiha that could be applied to translation projects in other communities throughout Tanzania. Read the rest of this entry →

Update on the Nyiha translation project, 6 years on…

December 21, 2010 in Prayer, Wycliffe, Africa, Bible translation, Language, Mission, Tanzania

Those of you who have been following our progress for a while may remember that back in 2004 (before Laura and I had even met…) I was involved in a sociolinguistic survey of the Nyiha and Nyika peoples of southwest Tanzania and northern Zambia and Malawi. My diary of the survey trip, which I look back at with some embarrassment from time to time, is in the archives

Several years later, after lots of reviewing by different people, the sociolinguistic report has been published on the SIL International website, along with reports from the Fipa and Sichela language surveys. (Again you can see my diary and some photos from our Fipa and Sichela research trips).

The Nyiha of Tanzania are part of a Bible translation program centered in the town of Mbeya, and have recently translated the first Bible portions in their language for almost 100 years! You can find out more about the Nyiha translation project and those involved here. Some of the other Nyiha and Nyika groups mentioned in the report may be able to adapt these Scriptures into their own languages at some point.

The main question that we were seeking to answer during the Nyiha survey was whether there were different dialects of Nyiha that were sufficiently diverse so as to require separate translations of the Bible. We were able to talk with many people in a variety of villages throughout the Nyiha-speaking area, listening to their opinions and comparing some of the words that they used. Our conclusion was that if the translators were chosen from some of the villages in the center of the area, and stuck to the language used there, then all the Nyiha should be able to understand the Bible well.

It’s exciting for me to see now that not only is the report now available to anyone who wants to know more about the Nyiha people and their language, but more importantly, the recommendations of the research are becoming a reality and the Nyiha are starting to produce Scriptures that can be used throughout the whole community.

Pastor and Retired Pastor reading the Nyiha alphabet chart, August 2004Two Nyiha Pastors reading the newly produced alphabet chart in August 2004

Tanzanian Pastor faces 6 months in prison after refusing to swear on Bible

February 7, 2009 in Mark, Africa, Church, Swahili, Tanzania

I’d always wondered how Jesus’ instructions to his followers not to swear on any thing, but to let their “yes be yes, and no be no” applied to swearing on the Bible in court. So I was fascinated to hear this tale of a Tanzanian pastor. It’s told by Kenneth Mwazembe, and is in Swahili, so the quoted text below is my translation:

Pastor of the EAGT [Evangelical Assemblies of God in Tanzania – a large Pentecostal denomination] church on Ichenjezya street in the town of Vwawa, Mbozi District of Mbeya Region, Simon Kitwike (48), yesterday found himself with a 6 month jail sentence for contempt of court after refusing to swear the witness oath because of his religious faith.

The Pastor who had had his house broken into at the end of last year and had some things stolen, arrived at Mbozi District court to give his witness but refused to swear, claiming that it would be wrong.

The District Judge Kajanja Nyasige commanded him to read the section of the Bible which tells him not to swear in court, so the Pastor opened the Bible and read Matthew 5:35, which is where his view comes from.

… Judge Nyasige continued to be patient with the Pastor in order that he have the chance to change his stance, by commanding him to read from the Bible again – from the letter of Paul to the Romans 13:1-5. The witness read this section in front of the court, but when he was asked if he had changed his stance, he replied that he was unable to change his stance from this verse, and insisted that his position was still the same.

Judge Nyasige was compelled to read him the judgement that he was guilty of contempt of court and so was sentenced to go to jail for 6 months, and also that he would be expected to give his testimony in the original case on March 2nd this year. read more

What would you have done were you the judge? The judge was quite right in saying that Paul tells the church in Romans 13:1-5 that they should submit to the government and those in authority, but what happens when the law of the country directly contradicts an instruction of Jesus?

It’s an interesting dilemma that could equally have happened in the UK (and maybe has done in the past?) and highlights the irony of laws that require witnesses to swear on a book which instructs people not to swear on anything but simply let their yes be yes and their no be no.

Maisha ni Vita

June 2, 2008 in Mark, Africa, Tanzania

Via a comment left on this blog, we recently discovered the blog of Kenneth Mwazembe from the town of Vwawa, Mbozi District of Mbeya Region, Tanzania. Kenneth is a journalist who has been blogging for a few months about various things happening in and around Mbozi District.

I was excited to see this blog, because Mbozi District of Mbeya Region was the first area that we surveyed when I was doing Language Survey in Tanzania back in August 2004. The District is home to many people groups and languages, but the main group in the District are the Nyiha, whose language we surveyed. (Other groups present include the Wanda and Sichela, and also Ndali, Nyakyusa, Safwa, Lambya and Nyamwanga (known as Namwanga in Zambia) and others whose main areas are in other Districts of Mbeya Region).

When we were in Mbozi District in 2004, there wasn’t a single internet cafe in the whole district, so it was a nice surprise for me to see Kenneth’s blog and to hear news from the area!

Kenneth’s blog is in Swahili, so those of you unfortunate enough not to know this wonderful language will have to make do with looking at the beautiful pictures! The title – Maisha ni Vita – is a Swahili saying meaning “life is war”.

(Special mention to my friend Richard who is also from Mbozi District – originally from the village of Nyimbili (I think… am I right Richard?) but more recently from the district capital of Vwawa).