Andrew and Misha are friends of ours who are working in Tanzania’s Mara Region to support local pastors as they translate the Bible into several languages there. Their blog is always interesting to follow, both to gain an insight into the kinds of issues that they encounter in their work and also to see what daily life is like for them in Mara.

Recently they have written a couple of posts about how some of the first parts of Scripture to be produced have been received in the various language communities. This is particularly interesting and exciting for me, as these were communities that I was involved in surveying back in 2005 and 2006 (and again in 2006) to evaluate their need for Bible translation and to help collect words for an initial alphabet creation workshop.

When Rukia, a translator into the Ikizu language, took part of the book of Genesis to her language area recently to test it amongst the community she had an interesting response…

They were quite surprised to learn that Scripture was being translated into the Ikizu language, but even more surprised to learn that their language could be written.

Rukia began reading and everyone listened very carefully. They were nodding and smiling, following along with the story. She continued reading all the way through the end of the chapter. But as soon as she finished, they suddenly asked her to go back and read the final paragraph again. Rukia immediately thought, “Oh no, what did I mess up in my translation?”

After hearing the final paragraph once more, one man in the group leaned back and said, “Thank you, Rukia, for repeating that part of the story. It was just such good Ikizu and so sweet to our ears to hear our language being read that we all wanted to hear it again! We’ve never heard Ikizu being read aloud before!” Read more…

Andrew and Misha were also able to attend the dedication of the book of Luke in the Ikoma language, where they met one of the first Ikoma believers.

This elderly man, pictured at the Ikoma Luke dedication, was one of the very first Ikoma believers.  The Ikoma people all followed their traditional religion, but this man and a few others heard about Jesus and believed.  He became a pastor with the Mennonite church and planted churches in several Ikoma villages.  For years he worked to reach his people with the gospel and to start local churches.

Eventually, all of the other first believers died.  This man is now the only remaining one from that original group.  When he arrived at the Ikoma Luke dedication, he was ushered to the front of the church to sit in an honored position (and a comfortable chair).

One of my (Misha’s) jobs during the dedication was to give copies of Ikoma Luke to the important guests sitting at the head table.  When I handed the bright blue copy of Luke to this elderly Ikoma man, I was sad that none of the other first believers had lived to see this moment.  But I was also happy that at least one of that group was there to see Scripture in his mother tongue.  After his years of work to preach the gospel among the Ikoma, I hope he was pleased to see God’s Word in the Ikoma language for the first time ever and think that now the churches he planted can read about God in Ikoma, and maybe they can reach even more people! Read more…

Praise God for faithful people like this man and his fellow believers who persevered, following Jesus in what must have been very difficult and discouraging times. Please join us in praying that the perseverance and testimony of those first believers would continue to bear fruit as the Ikoma people and other communities in Mara Region are finally able to hear parts of the Bible in their local languages.

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