The launch of the Kabwa New Testament in Tanzania in March was a historic day for the Kabwa community – and they were going to be there whatever the weather!
This was a very big, very historic event for our Kabwa community!’ says John Miriro, one of the Kabwa Bible translation team.
Despite heavy storms throughout the early morning, the Kabwa people came from far and wide, from the shores of Lake Victoria to the plains of the Serengeti. ‘I was very impressed by the response of the Kabwa people,’ continues Miriro. ‘They gathered from many villages to witness this launch of the New Testament in the Kabwa language.’
From the moment the project to translate the New Testament started in 2009, the Kabwa people have recognised the importance of the Scriptures in transforming their community. When the project began the community worked with Wycliffe and its main partner organisation, with the aim not just of translating the Scriptures but also of putting in the literacy and Scripture engagement groundwork to prepare the community for the arrival of God’s word in their language.
Now, at the launch event all these years later, the rich fruit of that work was easy to see.
The anticipation had been growing – not just for the launch itself, but for what having the Kabwa New Testament means for the community. As Emmanuel Makingi, one of the Scripture engagement workers, says,
‘The joy we have now is to use the New Testament in the Kabwa language, and to see our community understand God’s word directly for themselves.’
That desire to have God’s word in Kabwa and to see transformation across the community has been present throughout the project.
I have been translating the Kabwa New Testament since the work began,’ reflects John Masige, another of the translators. ‘But many others have also been greatly involved. They have given their time, such as being part of the language committee for more than 12 years. They have given their work, such as contributing many ideas when we do translation checks. They have given even of their own resources as they are able – money and other gifts to support the work.’
On the day itself, the clouds drifted away and the sun came out in time for the event. The people fully engaged with all the activities – from the boisterous street parade to the speeches and presentations where shouts of affirmation rang out, from the lively praise times in the church to the formal ceremony declaring that the Kabwa New Testament now belonged to the Kabwa people, from the festive procession carrying the New Testament copies to the rapturous applause at the opening of the box and the holding up of the first copy.
Then came the opportunity for people to obtain their own copies of God’s word in their language. Boxes and boxes of New Testaments had been ordered and paid for in advance by churches and other groups in the community. Many others came ready to buy their copy on the day.
‘We sold many New Testaments on that first day,’ says Kitajo Nyemaga, a member of the Kabwa language committee. ‘Our churches were well prepared to receive the New Testament, so they bought more than 380 copies at the celebration.’ The hunger of the Kabwa people for their New Testament was clear.
With Scriptures now in hand, a young man took the lectern and read a passage in Kabwa to joyful acclaim. Then one of the local pastors shared a brief word to encourage everyone in their new journey as God speaks to each of them when they read or listen to them in Kabwa.
The Kabwa New Testament is launched; the people have their copies. Now comes the excitement of seeing the community transformed as they read, listen to, and speak the Scriptures in their own language in their churches, and as they carry the word of God with them as they go about their daily lives.
Based on an original article by Kenny Grindall and published by SIL Tanzania.