A decade-long Scripture translation project has culminated in the publication of the New Testament in the Nyakyusa language. The launch event happened in Kyela Town, Mbeya Region, Tanzania, on 11 May. Despite steady rains and localised flooding, people came from throughout the Mbeya Region and abroad for a day of celebration.

The impact of having the Scriptures in the language that speaks to you best cannot be underestimated. As Andrew Mwamatandala, Senior Translator on the Nyakyusa translation team, commented: ‘I saw pastors speaking Nyakyusa at this event. When they hear a preacher use our language, they get very happy. They long for Nyakyusa to be used again in their church services.’

This was backed up by other comments on the day, such as ‘Even our children can understand this Scripture’, ‘Now we will be able to know God better’, and ‘Your New Testament has come at the right time.’

The day’s ceremonies kicked off with a procession, with local dignitaries and other honoured guests following a woman carrying a large box of New Testaments on her head. The celebration continued in a local church for several hours, with music alternating with sermons and speeches. When the box of New Testaments was opened and one leader triumphantly held up a copy, the crowd erupted in joyful cheers and ululation.

Afterwards, many Nyakyusa language resources were available for purchase, including teaching materials, story booklets, and the printed New Testament. The first items to sell out were flash drives and memory cards containing not only the New Testament in text and audio recordings, but also the JESUS Film in Nyakyusa.

The Nyakyusa translation team is part of the Mbeya Cluster Project, a project of Wycliffe’s partner organisation SIL. The project works with over a dozen language communities in the area. Estimated at nearly one million strong, the Nyakyusa language community spreads across western Tanzania and northern Malawi.

While ten years to translate a New Testament may seem a long time, in fact it’s been relatively quick. ‘The Nyakyusa translation was the last team to begin in the Mbeya Cluster Project,’ says Pastor Edwin Kanyiki, one of the two Nyakyusa translators. ‘But we worked hard and long, sometimes even at night. Now we are the first team in Mbeya to finish the New Testament!’

The translation process has had benefits, even before the final publication. Kanyiki recalls: ‘I knew nothing about translation when I began. It was even a big challenge for me just to learn to use the computer and other tools, because I did not get that in school. But since then, my translation work has helped me more and more, to preach and teach in my church.’

‘One of the translators told me about experiencing God in his work,’ says Ahimidiwe Mahali, the team’s Translation Coordinator. ‘Whether we get the New Testament or not, he told me, we have been getting the message. Understanding the Scriptures, as they translate verse by verse, is helping them serve in their community.’

Notes to editors:

1. For further information, call Jeremy Weightman on the Wycliffe Communications Team on 0300 303 1111.

2. Wycliffe Bible Translators seeks to enable all peoples to engage with the Bible in a language that speaks to them best. It does this through a range of activities, including Bible translation, literacy and Scripture use initiatives. Currently, Wycliffe has 363 people from the UK and Ireland serving 486 million people who speak 368 languages in 71 countries. Of the 7,000 languages spoken worldwide today, only about 700 have the Bible. Around 1.5 billion people (one in every five people) do not have the Bible in their language. As a result, translation of the Bible into people’s languages is one of the critical needs in world mission, to enable the growth of evangelism and discipleship ministries.

3.Images. You can download the following images to accompany the press release, by clicking on the ‘Image’ link:

Image 1 – Two women hold their Nyakyusa New Testaments

Image 2 – Woman holds her Nyakyusa New Testament

Image 3 – Holding up the Nyakyusa New Testament

Image 4 – Holding up the Nyakyusa New Testament 2

Image 5 – Reading from the Nyakyusa New Testament

Image 6 – Reading from the Nyakyusa New Testament

Image 7 – Reading from the Nyakyusa New Testament

Image 8 – A girl reads from the Nyakyusa New Testament

Image 9 – Dancing at the launch event

Image 10 – Nyakyusa New Testaments

Image 11 – Nyakyusa New Testaments and resources

Image 12 – Boxes of Nyakyusa New Testaments

Image 13 – Dance of celebration at the launch event