High on Vwanji
United Republic of Tanzania
Different denominations discussing together
Lutheran Bishop Mbwilo is based in Magoye, in the Vwanji language area of Tanzania. This is a very remote area of highlands about 120 kms from Mbeya, at an elevation of 2,500 metres (8,125 ft.) above sea level. He was leading a series of meetings for four days with his clergy. The previous day he had read the second chapter of the book of Ruth for the first time ever in Vwanji.
We asked Bishop Mbwilo if the reading made an impact on those pastors. He said, "As I read, they just sat there with open mouths. They said, ‘We always had these books in Swahili, but we never understood so well. It encourages us to read more.'
"They said, ‘Is this new? It is so good! It sounds better than in English or Swahili.' They don't have the right word for ‘to rest' or ‘to glean' in Swahili, and so they have to write a whole sentence to translate those ideas. But there is just one word for each in Vwanji - in the Vwanji language area they build shelters to rest in when they are working in the fields."
He went on to say, "When I preach in the mother tongue the people wake up. But not if I preach in Swahili."
"We used to think people from other denominations were enemies. We would not even pray together even if we were in the same room. But now (since the churches have been working together in the translation project) we feel at home together. We are not thinking of differences any longer, we are thinking of being together, of being a united church.'