I recently took a trip to the not often visited, Tongwe people who live along the coast of Lake Tanganyika in far western Tanzania. We went for the purpose of having the communities test the writing system of their language. While reading some translated stories we came across a problem, “What is the Tongwe word for lake?”
We know that the huge lake (2nd deepest in the world at more than 1 mile deep) they live on is called “Itanganyika” but is that just its proper name? The answer becomes especially important when you realize the nation of Tanzania used to be called “Tanganyika” (named from the lake) and then was combined with the “Zanzibari” islands to receive the name “Tan + Zan + i + a” which takes the first syllable and second-to-last vowel from each word and alternates them to arrive at Tanzania.
The answers we were led to caused a lot of deep thinking by the wise elders of many villages (to whom we are very appreciative). We received several stories about the name, one which made the most sense to me. Here it is in short:
“Itanga” means body of still water because “monga” means body of moving water (river). “Nyika” carries the meaning of vast wilderness, forest, or prairie. So the name of the lake means, “Wilderness Lake.” Following from that, the word for any lake or still body of water would be “itanga.”
Is anyone still following? I didn’t think so… If so, thanks for reading!
Dear friends and family,
“God speaks our language!” This is the statement we hear so many times when people first encounter God’s Word in their mother tongue. Imagine the wonder that one feels when learning that God speaks and understands their prayers and worship in a language they understand best. It is encouraging that He created and loves each of our languages and communities, this is truly a revelation to many people here and all over the world.
Up until this point, we have mainly focused on assembling an excellent writing system and getting the first portions of scripture into the Pimbwe and Bende languages. Last week’s annual planning meetings represent the beginning of a new phase in the project. At our annual meeting with Wycliffe USA project funders, we began putting together plans to do reading workshops for pastors and community leaders and Bible story listening groups (oral Bible studies) for various communities. These events will pave the way for the book of Luke that will be published by the end of this year.
We are continuing with the linguistics and translation work in both languages but are now hoping to add new elements that will engage the communities with the Word of God as these texts are made available.
“It can be difficult to break into the Konongo community, but if you speak Konongo they will accept you without any trouble.” (This quote is from Pastor Hongo who lives in the Konongo region and joined our meeting last week.)
Last week at our planning meeting we also discussed the inclusion of two more languages in the project, Lwila and Konongo. To our knowledge, these people have never had anything written in their language or even had an orthography (symbol system ie: alphabet) designed for their language. Would you pray with us for these plans and developments in the Katavi Bible Translation Project?
We are celebrating:
- The recent visit by Jon’s parents for a month and their safe arrival back home.
- That a team of children’s workers have agreed to come and run a children’s program for all the children of the Uganda-Tanzania Branch as we meet for our annual retreat at the end of June. The previous team had to cancel at the last minute leaving a gap in our retreat plans. This is the only time throughout the year that many children in our branch are engaged in a formal Christian education program. It is a highlight for our children each year!
- That two other people have expressed interest in joining the Katavi Translation Project.
We are praying about:
- The work permits for those who have expressed interest in working in the Katavi Translation Project. To date, they have not yet been given permission to work in Tanzania but would be a great addition to the Bible translation project Jon is a part of.
We are exceedingly grateful for you, your prayers, gifts, and kindness to us!
Jon, Stephanie, Savannah, David, Sophia, and Isaiah Weiss
It was going to be a scalding hot day on the Sangu Plains in the Rift Valley of southern Tanzania. The new year had just come upon the Sangu people and a new day was beginning to dawn. The church leaders settled into their chairs in a shady spot and prepared to complete a community reviewer’s check of the Gospel of John in the Sangu language.
Prior to this time, the Sangu translation team had encountered some serious challenges. In our Bible study a few weeks ago, Albert from the Sangu translation team asked for prayer based on numerous difficulties his family had encountered. Albert and his wife had been mysteriously sick for 2-3 months limiting their ability to work. While returning from a trip to the Sangu area, they came within inches of a head on collision with a large touring bus.
One mother tongue speaker on the translation team named Mponzi had also encountered many difficulties. He is regularly targeted by the local witch doctors who slander his name among the community officials and try to injure his family with their magic. He has even spent 5 days in jail based on lies they spread about him. When I asked Mponzi about these experiences he said, “We are in a war. There are many places in the Sangu area without even a single church. People do not have access to the Word of God and so they are subject to these dark forces.”
As the meeting got started, the leader began to read John 1:1, “In the beginning…”
They all sat patiently reading and reviewing the text for 9 days. They listened as deep understanding of the story slowly flowed over them for the first time in their lives. By the end of the story of Jesus giving sight to the blind man in chapter 9, the unthinkable happened. One bishop began to laugh. He continued laughing until tears ran down his face. He had never understood John’s Gospel like this before. (In Tanzanian culture public display of emotions such as these are much more rare than in North America. This was truly a powerful moment.)
The vivid creation theme in John’s Gospel, the willingness of Jesus to heal a blind man knowing he was breaking the Sabbath law, the whole picture overwhelmed him until joyful tears flowed from his wizened eyes. Today, the bishop was basking in the cool waters of the beloved disciple’s Gospel in the language he understood best, Sangu, and that made all the difference.
In another village, just a few days later a wedding was taking place. This one was happening among the Pimbwe people. There was no electricity or running water in this village, but the crowd was electric.
Kalawa, Shauritanga, and Jon (the Pimbwe translation team) enjoyed the day long wedding celebration. As part of the festivities, there was much dancing and giving of gifts. But one gift in particular, caught the attention of the crowd.
The first biblical text ever published in the Pimbwe language was given as a gift to the community. The 2018 calendar that contains the whole book of Jonah had arrived and the people celebrated with singing, dancing, and laughing along with much reading and discussion of this ancient story.
Our first six weeks back in Tanzania have been full of excitement, travel, reuniting with friends, and settling into our life again in Tanzania. Savannah continues with her enjoyment of creative projects such as knitting, drawing, and painting. Stephanie teaches art classes at the learning center. David, Sophia, and Isaiah have taken up the hobby of climbing trees. Jon has traveled for a week and continues to work with the Bende and Pimbwe translation teams.
We are thanking God for:
- neighborhood friends that stopped by this week to spend time with Savannah.
- safe travels to and from the Katavi region for Jon.
- the excitement of the Pimbwe people to receive the Jonah calendars in their language.
- health and settling in at home.
We are praying for:
- the American missionary pilot and his family that had to move home from Tanzania before they started the work of air transport to Katavi that Jon would have benefited from.
- another Bende mother tongue speaker to join the Bende Bible translation project.
- two potential additional translation projects (Ruwila and Konongo) in Katavi that Jon might have a chance to take part in.
- the children’s center at our church (under construction) that is in the planning stages.
- The work of our Lord among the Sangu.
We thank you for continued prayers on our behalf.
Jon, Stephanie, Savannah, David, Sophia, and Isaiah Weiss
Bhantu bhonse bhabhende mukubha bhalikuhensa kughubhaka nyumba, hali fintu
For all Bende people that are wanting to build a house, there are things
fyobhakabhele tebhakunga. Kusumbula, sintu sya nyinambele ni, “mansi ghali habhwihi?”
to look for. To begin, the first thing is, “Is water close by?”
Sindi sintu ni, “Mabhala ghali habhwihi?” Haho hakughabaka nyumba ni munsila jya mansi
Another thing is, “Is farmland close by?” There where you build a house, is it in the path of water
kubha umonga ghwabhu mbika? Kughubhaha kujela na mansi kusogho, sindi sintu
during the rainy season? It will threaten to flow with water during the rainy season, another thing
ni, “Fiti fili habhwihi?” Kubha bhakwisya kukunga fyonse fyefi fyonse kundilo
is, “Are trees near?” If they are all finished being seen there, then
bhahensa sihelo sikale hahe no nyumba, jyakaghubhakwanga, kufutatila musagha
they should search for a plot with a house that, when it is built, will block the wind
kobhe luhehi ghukofumulila koku. Akukabha nyumba jyafutatila ku-musagha, kundi
that comes during the beginning of the dry season. So the house will block the wind,
bhahanda ha-sihelo, kundi bhabhuka kuja mu-isala mukuhensa fiti. Fiti fikabhele
Then they should weed the plot, then they should go to the forest to look for trees. Trees should be
kobhe npituka itanu, mahanda, mighamba, mabhuliti, nonge ao bhusokoso bhwa
of five types, columns, beams, bolts, foundation or feet to
kukolola mwifo no mu-lughamba, nonge ao bhusokoso bhwa kufimpila. Kundi
tie together at the bottom and on top, and for roofing. Then
bhaja mukuhensa nkusa, bhaja mkusesa bhwasi bhwa kufimpa. Kubha bhakwisya
they should go to look for rope, they should then go for grass for the roof. Once they have finished
kukomenkanya fyonse vilonsyo kundi bhaja kusima mena kulingana no siheho.
gathering all the tools then they should go to dig holes at the plot.
mena malehe kobhe kulingila mu-ijungo ao kusumba mwa kusimika ghalya mahanda.
Deep holes that should go to the knees or deeper to bury the columns
ghalinganene na mena. Kundi bhaja kukolola mwifo no mu-lughamba. Kubha
that go with the holes. Then they should make the bottom and the top. Then
bhakwisya kukolola syakulonda ni kufimpa bhwasi.
they should finish doing that which follows which is laying the grass.
Well the peak of the year is upon us. It is that time when everything speeds up in our lives. The lights get brighter, people seem to multiply, time gets scarce. We enter a dizzying merry go round that spins ever faster.
This poem portrays it well. Wendell Berry’s voice resonates as he reads “The Objective.”
I hope you enjoy his deep, peaceful voice. I have included the poem below in written form as well but highly recommend listening and watching the clip linked HERE. It is 2 minutes and 30 seconds. The whole movie is good too. It is called, “Look and See.”
By Wendell Berry
“Even while I dreamed I prayed that what I saw was only fear and no foretelling,
for I saw the last known landscape destroyed for the sake
of the objective, the soil bludgeoned, the rock blasted.
Those who had wanted to go home would never get there now.
I visited the offices where for the sake of the objective the planners planned
at blank desks set in rows. I visited the loud factories
where the machines were made that would drive ever forward
toward the objective. I saw the forest reduced to stumps and gullies; I saw
the poisoned river, the mountain cast into the valley;
I came to the city that nobody recognized because it looked like every other city.
I saw the passages worn by the unnumbered
footfalls of those whose eyes were fixed upon the objective.
Their passing had obliterated the graves and the monuments
of those who had died in pursuit of the objective
and who had long ago forever been forgotten, according
to the inevitable rule that those who have forgotten forget
that they have forgotten. Men, women, and children now pursued the objective
as if nobody ever had pursued it before.
The races and the sexes now intermingled perfectly in pursuit of the objective.
the once-enslaved, the once-oppressed were now free
to sell themselves to the highest bidder
and to enter the best paying prisons
in pursuit of the objective, which was the destruction of all enemies,
which was the destruction of all obstacles, which was the destruction of all objects,
which was to clear the way to victory, which was to clear the way to promotion, to salvation, to progress,
to the completed sale, to the signature
on the contract, which was to clear the way
to self-realization, to self-creation, from which nobody who ever wanted to go home
would ever get there now, for every remembered place
had been displaced; the signposts had been bent to the ground and covered over.
Every place had been displaced, every love
unloved, every vow unsworn, every word unmeant
to make way for the passage of the crowd
of the individuated, the autonomous, the self-actuated, the homeless
with their many eyes opened toward the objective
which they did not yet perceive in the far distance,
having never known where they were going,
having never known where they came from.”
As we have now been in the United States for one month I thought it might be fun to note some of the differences we have noticed between Tanzania and the U.S. Hopefully, this will illustrate just how big the world is and how different other people’s lives can be in comparison to ours.
- Imagine I live in a certain village of southwest Tanzania and I own a car. Everyone in that village will say they own a car. Why? Because mine is assumed to be available for their use. The community shares everything.
- I was asked how white people drink out of a glass. When I asked why, the person said because our noses are so long and pointy, surely our nose goes into the drink along with our mouth.
- As we were traveling by bus in the mountains, the bus driver hit a rabbit. He, then stopped the bus. We were thinking, “Wow, maybe they are going to try to revive or care for the poor bunny.” Instead, one guy took the rabbit and stuck it in his backpack. When he got back on the bus he said, “My mouth is watering, I am going to eat well tonight!”
- In the coastal city of Dar Es Salaam, there are many herds of goats wandering the streets while poor people have nothing to eat. Sadly, it is believed that certain herds of goats were given “genies” that will kill you if you try to eat it.
- The Tanzanian clock starts at sunrise. 6 am our time is “saa kumi na mbili” or twelve o’clock in the morning. 2 o’clock in the afternoon according to our time system equals 8 o’clock in the afternoon in their system because the sun has been shining for 8 hours. Try learning a new language and keeping the time thing straight, aaaagh!
- While I was in Usevya, a Pimbwe village in the Katavi region, we woke in the morning to hear news of a 4 year old girl passing in her sleep. That day everyone in her clan was expected to attend the funeral. The elders were looking for people who did not attend in order to fine them. After the funeral, everyone customarily eats ugali together. I said, “No, thank you” as they passed the food to me. I was then told eating was not an option because I also would receive a fine if I didn’t eat what was offered. Then my friend said, “Look, the elders are watching you.” And he was right!
Enjoy your familiar corner of the world!