This year we celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Bible being freely available in English in 1611. This is a story of Tanzania in 2011.
Three thousand people stood outside the church in the rural town of Gairo in Tanzania. Some had walked for hours. One farmer had walked 40km. Others had hitched lifts on lorries and tractors over rutted farmland.
They’d all come because finally, after years of waiting, the New Testament was available in their language. The Bible has long been available in the national language of Swahili, but it’s been a closed book to the Kikagulu. Why?
‘Most of us can’t read Swahili,’ they said ‘and only about half can speak it. So even hearing readings from the Bible in church has been mystifying to many of us.’
Not anymore. On 9th May last year, Bible Society arrived with the first 1,000 copies of the Kikagulu New Testament which were either given away, or sold at dramatically-reduced prices. So many people wanted a copy that the team returned the following weekend with more. The translators explained that the New Testament is important for the tribe, helping to maintain its language and culture, and giving people local pride as well as making the Bible understandable for the first time.
Services can now be held in Kikagulu for the first time. Local preachers are predicting church growth in an area where attendance is already high by UK standards. The small church in Gairo is regularly packed with several hundred people at least twice on Sunday.
For 33-year-old Revd Michael Nhonya, Kikagulu is his native tongue and he’s one of three people who spent years working on the New Testament. ‘This is great,’ he said avec cialis. ‘It feels like Jesus is speaking in the synagogue, only he’s speaking here.’