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Feb 9, 2007

A Glimpse of Heaven?

mara.word_collectionCollecting words in small groups
(Mara Cluster - Tanzania)
It's 8:00 pm and we're sitting in a small room in the hills northeast of Musoma, Tanzania. The only light comes from a single homemade kerosene lamp on the table. We hear bats shrieking underneath the iron roof while the crickets outside chirp tirelessly. About 16 people are seated around two small tables. We sit on small wooden benches and low traditional stools. The cassava porridge and beans have been cleared away and the last traces of the watermelon wiped away.

A leader of the Mennonite Church begins a worship song in Swahili, and others join him. The leader sings a few lines after which everybody else answers with a simple lines, repeated again and again. The song ends and the Anglican pastor starts another. After this my colleague Richard stands up and starts a new song, "Hakuna Mungu kama wewe, Bwana (There is no God like you, Lord)." Over and over, again and again, a song ends and another is begun.  

After a while the pastor of another Pentecostal church starts to pray and everybody joins in an open time of prayer. I feel like I am seeing a very precious glimpse of heaven. "After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb." (Revelation 7:9). Here we are, people from different countries, cultures, and denominations, in a small and relatively unimportant little village worshiping our Lord together. What an important happening! Around 10:00 pm I crawl onto my mattress on the back of our survey vehicle. Tomorrow the last of our village workshops will end. What a month it was that now lay behind us!

mara.certificate_presentationParticipants are presented with their certificates
(Mara Cluster - Tanzania)
Bible Translation doesn't start with sitting down with open Bibles, paper and a pen, writing down phrases in a new language. It starts with people, and then with words. Since the start of this cluster project in the Mara Region in northern Tanzania, a lot of people have been involved in planning and preparing the first steps. An advisory committee has been formed by a number of leaders of various denominations in the area. Initial surveys have been conducted to collect vital information for the start-up phase. Four languages have been chosen in which to start Bible translation. But now it is the words that need our attention. Our objective was to collect 2000 words in each of the four languages. The words are needed for phonological analysis which is the basis for orthography (writing system) development, because these langauges are without a standard orthography. So we spent about five days conducting workshops in each of the four language areas.

It was a privilege to be part of these workshops. We worked with between 11 and 20 participants in each workshop, hosted by local church leaders. The mother tongue speakers produced as many words as possible in their own language and wrote them on small homemade blackboards. The team then wrote the words on a word list and later on typed them into the computer. We all spent a lot of time together, not just working but sharing food, jokes, and times of worship. It was very special.

The highlight was the spontaneous worship night described above. But there were others. In another village, two participants had walked for two days to attend the workshop. Lucky for them, we drove them most of the way back home. In the same village all of the participants decided not to go to the monthly regional market - a very important social event in this area - but came to finish the workshop. We were humbled by their desire for the Word of God and their willingness to sacrifice in order to contribute to the huge task of Bible translation. I learned a lot throughout these weeks again about the importance of the Word of God and what it means to put God's work first - and everything else will be given unto us.

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