Three unexpected guests arrived in our Mbeya office this morning, asking to talk with the project manager. They were speakers of the Ndali language, and had traveled from the north of Malawi, having heard that we are translating parts of the Bible into the Tanzanian dialect of Ndali.

After introducing themselves they presented a letter, asking that they be kept informed of the progress of the project, attend advisory meetings, and have access to the books that are being distributed. Their desire for Ndali books was obvious, as they explained how they use Scriptures from the neighbouring Ngonde language in church, despite it being difficult for them to understand.

Seeing some of the Bible books that our office has produced in Ndali, their eyes lit up with excitement! They pleaded that they should at least be able to take home a sample of the books, as they think through how to build a sustainable distribution network. “The people back home will not believe that these books really exist!” they exclaimed, “except there are three of us, so they’ll have to believe us!” They continued,

“When Noah sent out the dove from the ark, it returned with a small leaf in its mouth. When we go back home, we want to take with us at least a small leaf so we can show people that this work is happening!”

After discussing how the church leaders could potentially become part of the Advisory Committee for the project, and how Ndali literacy teachers from Tanzania could train their cousins in Malawi, we arranged for these men to take 20 copies of each Bible book that we have printed in Mbeya. They were overjoyed, planning to sell the books in Malawi and return with money to buy more copies and set up a network to distribute the books among the churches of northern Malawi.

As they were preparing to start their journey back home, one of the men turned to me and said, “I am old, like Simeon in the Bible. Simeon had been waiting for many years to see God save his people, and was overjoyed when he finally saw Jesus when he was a very old man. I tried to start the work of translation many years ago, and now I feel like Simeon, that I have finally seen what I have been waiting for all these years!”

Baraka, Team Manager Mwaikokesya, the three visitors and myself

Baraka, Team Manager Mwaikokesya, the three visitors and myself

  1. Toni Kim says:

    Reading this beautiful story at the end of a long day brings tears to my eyes! Thank you, Mark, for “translating” your encounter with these men so clearly.

  2. James Myers says:

    Mark, I am so glad to see what wonderful progress you are and have been making over the last 11 + years since we first met at language school in Morogoro. I have a few quick questions for you, if you have a moment:
    1.) What parts of the Ndali Bible have you now translated and have been finalized?
    2.) Do you have plans to continue with translating the entire BIble?
    3.) IF you do…and you have already begun…what more have you been able to do and how much longer before those other portions are done?
    4.) IS there a projected date for completion of the entire project?
    5. How many people are working on teh project?

    Please do feel like you need to spend a lot of time on answering…I am mostly just curious.


    • Mark says:

      Hi James, sorry – I only just saw your comment. Yes, it’s been a while since we were in Morogoro!

      Our hope is that the Ndali New Testament will be finished around 2018. After that, any ongoing translation depends on funding being available, either from within the community or internationally, or a combination, so we’re looking into the possibilities at the moment. The current funding agreement is for the New Testament, so that is the priority initially.

      Right now there are three Ndali translators in the Mbeya office, who are working together with translators from 8 other languages, together with translation advisors and consultants, and other colleagues working on language development and literacy. So in total there are around 60 staff in the Mbeya office and in the surrounding area.

      I hope that helps to give a bit more of a picture of what is happening – we’re excited to see how things are developing!

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