Excitement and anticipation filled the air as hundreds of people gathered outdoors in an open area of a central Tanzanian community. It was time to celebrate and dedicate their New Testament!
At the high point of the celebration, a procession of people arrived, singing and dancing. They carried a box into the center of the gathering and, amid the cheers of the crowd, local church leaders and Bible translators opened the box to reveal the sweetest treasure the Burunge people could ever hope for — the New Testament in their language!
Wycliffe Bible Translators USA and other partner organizations are eager to see this kind of scene in other areas of Tanzania. We long for the day that everyone has access to the Word of God in a language they clearly understand. But for this to become a reality, a new strategy has to emerge.
Forming a New Strategy
Today, as many as 42 people groups in Tanzania still need a Bible translation to begin. Lugha Zinazobaki (Loo-ga Zee-nah-zo-baa-key) means “remaining languages” in Swahili, and it’s an appropriate name for this project that aims to see work started among the remaining languages of Tanzania. So how will this be accomplished? The answer is in the strategy to catalyze community-owned Bible translation programs.
Since local churches represent the ultimate stakeholders of Bible translation, we will focus on empowering church leaders by engaging them in the vision and equipping them to lead the work. Staff will also provide training and assistance to people in language groups that have an interest in and commitment to the work of Bible translation.
Meanwhile SIL Tanzania* will establish a Tanzanian board of trustees and continue their efforts to develop local staff for leadership and technical roles. Through partnerships with church leaders, Lugha Zinazobaki will help lay a strong foundation for locally-owned, sustainable translation projects.
Local Ownership is Key
A project adviser explained: “Tanzanian people bring deep knowledge and understanding of the local context and long-term presence necessary to ensure the success of Bible translation and Scripture engagement over the long haul.
“The expected impact is a flourishing, locally-owned Bible translation movement in as many Tanzanian communities as possible. As these communities take ownership of initiatives in their languages, we hope to see people fully invested in the process of translation — and communities transformed by translated Scripture.”
God’s Word is Changing Lives
When God’s Word is available in a language that people clearly understand, the Holy Spirit uses it to draw people to Christ and transform their lives. That’s what happened for one man in Tanzania when the “JESUS” film was translated into his language of Ikizu.
“Through the film, Jesus Christ confronted me in my own language about many aspects of my life that have to change,” he said. “… I am leaving all those things behind, and I am ready to accept Jesus in my life.”
Wycliffe’s vision is for people from every language to understand the Bible and be transformed. Through the Lugha Zinazobaki project, we can lay the foundation for accomplishing this in Tanzania.