The gospel of Luke in the Kabwa language

December 15, 2011 in Wycliffe, Mark, Africa, Bible translation, Front, Language, Tanzania

Last month another of the language groups in Tanzania’s Mara Region, the Kabwa, celebrated the completion and publication of the gospel of Luke in their language. The Kabwa are a relatively small language community that the language survey team that I was part of visited back in 2005, living mainly in just two villages to the south of Musoma town. Despite being a small group the Kabwa are very proud of their language and were eager to translate the Bible so that they could understand it better and pass it on to future generations.

Our colleague Michael Nicholls has again taken some excellent photos of the dedication event last month, some of which are below: Read the rest of this entry →

Ikizu Bible translation: Hopes and Challenges in northern Tanzania

March 4, 2011 in Prayer, Wycliffe, Africa, Bible translation, Language, Tanzania

Our friends Andrew and Michelle are working alongside translators and literacy workers from nine language groups in Tanzania’s Mara Region, an area that I was involved in a linguistic survey of back in 2005 and 2006. Since I was there the languages have been analysed, alphabets developed, and the first parts of Scripture published in many of these communities.

Andrew and Michelle have begin a series of blog posts focusing on each language group in turn in order to help people around the world to pray for the communities and for the needs of their staff in the translation project. They have started with the Ikizu and Sizaki peoples, who speak languages that are close enough to be able to use the same written materials.


There are about 132,000 Ikizu and Sizaki people, a few of whom are pictured here. While Ikizu and Sizaki people consider themselves to be different people groups, their languages are very closely related, and Sizaki is considered a dialect of Ikizu. There are a few minor pronunciation differences, but their vocabulary and grammar is essentially the same. The groups get along well, and the Sizaki (who are significantly fewer than the Ikizu) seem happy to accept the Ikizu writing system and Bible translation as their own.

As with all the groups in Mara (Mara is a region of Tanzania), there are Christians, Muslims, and people who practice traditional religion. Roman Catholic is the largest denomination, followed by Seventh Day Adventist. There are also Mennonite, Anglican, and a variety of small Pentecostal churches. Some villages have no churches at all and people have to travel to another village on Sunday if they wish to attend. In the traditional Ikizu religion, the sun is the main god, and deceased ancestors play an important role. There are various taboos to follow and special places to worship, such as groves of trees.

When the translation project began, there were two Ikizu translators. One of them has recently moved away and we are not able to hire another one right now. Rukia, the lone Ikizu translator at this point, is pictured above. Unfortunately, she has recently been plagued by health problems. Medical care in Musoma is a bit lacking, so Rukia really needs prayers for her health.

The Ikizu translation of Luke is almost ready for beginning the publication process. There are just a few final checks that need to be done. Unfortunately, with there being only one ill translator working on the project, these steps might take longer than planned. The book of Ruth and some tracts are also in process. A committee of Scripture reviewers and a language committee have recently been formed, each having their first meeting in February. Read more

Please pray for the Ikizu and Sizaki peoples, and follow Andrew and Michelle’s blog for upcoming profiles on other language communities in Mara Region and the challenges they face.

“The Words were Burning in our Hearts”

September 1, 2010 in Prayer, Wycliffe, Bible translation, Tanzania

The goal of Bible translation is never simply to have written words on a page, but for the Holy Spirit to use the message to speak to people’s hearts, leading to transformed lives and communities. While much of the work of Wycliffe members focuses on rather mundane linguistic, translation and other office work, it is good to be reminded that God is speaking through his word, which is

… alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. (Hebrews 4:12)

Recently our friend and colleague Michelle, who works as a translation adviser to various language communities in northern Tanzania, heard of how some draft sections of Scripture were received when tested in a Zanaki village. She writes:

Shem, one of the translators, sat down and started reading a chapter from Luke (I actually don’t know which one; it was either 10 or 11). After the first passage he looked up and was surprised to see everyone in the group frowning. He thought, “There must be something wrong with the Zanaki words we’ve used!”

Worridly, he continued reading. After another section he glanced at his audience again and saw them looking down at the ground and grimacing! Unable to wait, he asked them, “What do you think of this translation? Please, all feedback is helpful, even if it is negative. How is our word choice, our dialect in this?”

“It’s fine, going on reading,” they said, not offering much insight into their facial expressions. He continued with the chapter, and they still had grimaces, to his consternation.

He started asking them questions to see which things in the translation weren’t clear, and they contributed their thoughts and were helpful. However, about half of them said, “Oh, we’re not Christians, we don’t understand religion well, so maybe you don’t want our answers.”

Shem hastily encouraged them to participate, since answers from people who don’t know the Bible are often the most helpful. He assured them that this was not a test of knowledge, but him looking for help with the language. They stayed and listened to the chapters and gave their feedback about the translation.

At the end, he asked again why it was that they looked so serious when he was reading. This time, they answered him. Both the Christians and the non-Christians told him, “Those words of Jesus were convicting us! They burned our hearts as we listened; we know that just like the people in the parables, we need to repent from our sins. How could we smile when we are thinking about our sins and how we are not right with God?”

Some children in (or near to) the Zanaki-speaking area when we surveyed the Zanaki language back in 2005