Exploring our new world


A sunflower grows through a crack in the concrete in our backyard.

What is the most forbidding power in our world today? It is death. Everyone is naturally a slave to it, they always have been. We fear it above all else. Millions of dollars are made every day by playing to people’s fear of death.

But what if someone could defeat death? Would we believe it? Would it open up a new world to us? This is in fact the claim of Christianity. Jesus spoke of a new kingdom that was imminent. In order to claim to rule a kingdom, a person must conquer an existing one, however. So what did Jesus conquer? He conquered death.

Sin had made everyone it’s slave. Sin paid it’s slaves in the currency of death (Rom 6:23). Sin was ruling the world until death was defeated. Then the old world began it’s decline and the new world began to sprout. Two kingdoms moving in opposite directions. One was well populated but dying while the other was small but growing through hidden but incredibly powerful principles.

Today, this is still the case. We have the secular world that is convulsing in the throes of death on every side. But we also have a budding new world that is quietly, unassumedly taking over from the old, dying creation. Our obvious, natural inclination is to make the best of the old dying world that is presented to us each day. But contrary to our first inclinations another option is available to us. This is an option to invest in the lesser known but potential-filled new world.

This new creation is driven by self-giving, group-oriented, collaborative (not so competitive) people who see immense latent value in transformed humanity and it’s potential to renovate the world we live in. Of course, left without a leader who has embodied (and even created) this new order, we are hopelessly powerless. But because, when we stretch out a selfless hand, we find a strange renewed energy we have hope that this new order will continue to thrive despite the apparent challenges ahead.

The question left to us is one of economics. Where do I invest my resources? In a mature stock whose value has peaked or a lesser known stock that sees business from a completely different angle?

Can David defeat Goliath? Can Esther really save her people? Will Ruth really stick with her mother-in-law against all odds? Can the capital of the evil Assyrian empire, Nineveh, really turn around with only the advice of Jonah’s 7 words? Will the younger brother, Joseph, really survive being sold into slavery to the Egyptians? Will Daniel be able to survive his capture in a foreign land? Will a die-hard Pharisee who is trained by the greatest teacher of his pharisaic tradition really change his name from the kingly Israelite name of Saul to the pagan name Paul, meaning little? Can a Hebrew peasant really go against the powers of Rome and out last them? Can a poor, wandering teacher actually expect his teachings to have a significant impact? Can one who dies really find life again? Can we really explore this new world? Just ask William Wilberforce or Martin Luther King or **Desmond Tutu or Mother Theresa. They will each speak to you with a single answer from beyond death.

** Desmond Tutu is still alive.

Six Months of Pictures

The Naming of a Nation: Tanzania

Tanganyika beach effects

6:30 a.m. on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, village of Kashagulu

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!

God’s Grandeur

God’s Grandeur

written by Gerard Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

“God Speaks Our Language!”: Weiss May 2018 Update

Dear friends and family,

End of World

David enjoys our trip to “The End of the World Overlook.” It is part of the Great Rift Valley which extends from Israel to the tip of South Africa.

“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.

Community Pic

At the conclusion of the annual planning meetings, we took a picture all the Bende and Pimbwe community participants along with Jon and Katherine who is a literacy and scripture engagement worker.

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?

Wes Cindy

In April, we enjoyed a month long visit from Jon’s parents. (Left to right: neighborhood children, Stephanie, Wes, Cindy)

In Prayer

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.
Church Children

The children enjoy time together at church after the Sunday service.

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

Weiss Update – February 2018


Powerful Encounters

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.


(Left to right) The bride’s maid, bride, groom, and Jon wait outside the church for the wedding to begin.

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.

Gift of Calendar II

Shauritanga gives the Pimbwe community the first Jonah calendar. This is the first biblical book 
that has ever been translated into Pimbwe and distributed to the community.

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.

Reading Jonah Calendar

One man read aloud from the story of Jonah as others listened and discussed the story, a spontaneous Bible study broke out!

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.


During the post-wedding festivities a mother put her daughter on Jon’s lap and started taking pictures.

In Prayer

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

Instructions to Build a Bende House

Blue Flowers

Jon stands in front of a fence made of tree branches with a flowering vine growing on the fence. The fence borders an orange, mud brick home with a grass, thatched roof in the back ground. This scene is captured in a Bende village in the mountains 20 miles from Lake Tanganyika.

Bende Instructions

English Translation

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.

Back to Work In Tanzania

Dear friend,
     Flying at several hundred miles per hour, the plane creeps lower to the ground. Out the window our eyes again feast on the verdant green landscape, the beautiful, small farm fields and majestic mountains that cover the Southern Tanzania Highlands.
     Beautiful, hard working people are turning fertile soil into much needed food as they work with hoes in their hands and sweat on their brows. There is something magical about how the hard work of planting seeds turns into delicious fruit and vegetables in just a few months time.
Peter and Jon.jpg

Peter and Jon stand under the banana plants behind our house. Peter makes magic with his hoe and shares the goods with us.

     After four months in the U.S. that were delightful if a bit frenetic, we have returned to our life and work in Mbeya, Tanzania. We were greeted by friendly, generous, smiling colleagues both at the airport and when we arrived at our home. It is a true gift to live in community, especially when that community is healthy and pursuing unity.
Snowy day.jpg

Savannah, David, Isaiah, and Sophia enjoy a walk at the nature center in Springfield, Missouri just after a fresh snow has fallen to the earth.

     During the final week of our departure friends from all walks of life helped us as we cleaned and packed our U.S. apartment. We are continually in awe of the fact that we cannot do this work alone. Those of you who surround us with your love make the work of Bible translation possible and give us, what may be, the most fulfilling years of our lives.
isaiah and Building.jpg

Downtown Doha, Qatar is fancy! We enjoyed a 15 hour layover and free hotel stay provided by our airline. Isaiah is standing in front of the hotel.

     Next week we receive our first visitors since being back! Six friends from our sending church are coming to visit for a few days. We look forward to showing them a bit of our life.

David and Sophia stand in front of some ornate Arabian style doors during our complementary hotel stay in Qatar.

     Sadly, we didn’t get to see everyone we were hoping to see while in North America. And those we did get to see, we weren’t able to enjoy as much time with as we would have liked. But as you well know, this is life, especially during the holiday season.
In Prayer:
We are asking that our family would begin to adjust to the nine hour time change, and settle back into Tanzanian life.
Many blessings to you in the new year!
The Weiss family (Jon, Stephanie, Savannah, David, Sophia, and Isaiah)

I Give You This


Isaiah enjoys the sand as it slips through his fingers at the beach.

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.”

“The Objective”

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.”

Merry Christmas…