The Sangu New Testament with Genesis was launched in the village of Utengele in Tanzania on 24 November. The launch event was held on the village’s market day to maximise the interaction with the local community, and attended by a number of those serving with Wycliffe Bible Translators who have helped in the translation work.
When asked what it meant to have the Sangu New Testament, one Sangu woman said ‘I feel joy deep in my heart’, while a Sangu man was overjoyed, saying it was like the ‘key to entering heaven’ as now the Scriptures and the salvation message are much more accessible.
The inclusion of Genesis with the New Testament was considered vital by the Sangu translation team. Islam came to the Sangu in the 19th century, a few decades before Christianity. The Sangu translation team decided that including the book of Genesis would be a good way to engage with the Muslim section of the Sangu community, as many of the characters in Genesis are familiar to them from their own holy writings. Also, as the Sangu don’t have the Old Testament the translation team wanted readers to have a clear understanding of the story of sin and the fall when they read about Jesus.
The launch was deliberately held on market day, so that local Sangu people who were doing their shopping could hear the celebrations, come and find out what was happening, and even join in. It also meant those who would never normally enter a church were able to hear God’s word being spoken and celebrated.
Hazel Gray, who serves with Wycliffe in Tanzania, comments: ‘The Sangu team has always wanted to reach as many people as possible with the gospel. The Sangu area is so large, and people so spread out, that holding the event on market day was the best way to achieve this. The team has been working closely with a specialist in the appropriate use of indigenous artistic expressions about communicating the message of the Bible through local art forms, such as music and drama. They want as many Sangu as possible to be impacted by the life-giving gospel message, whether through the New Testament message, Genesis, audio Scriptures, or the arts.’
The event was attended by pastors, government officials, and staff from Wycliffe and its partner organisations. There were even guests who had been involved in the start of the translation project back in 2003. The launch included exuberant singing and dancing led by a number of choirs, speeches (some in Swahili, some in Sangu – the latter drawing a much greater response), a sermon, readings from the newly opened New Testament, and plenty of food. The highlight was the procession of a box of New Testaments, which was unwrapped and then held aloft to much applause and cheering.
Helen Eaton, who serves with Wycliffe in Tanzania and worked as a linguistics consultant on the Sangu New Testament, says: ‘It’s always great to see people express their joy at having God’s word in their own language. I pray that the launch event is just the end of the beginning, and that the Sangu can continue to translate the Old Testament and also make sure the community uses their New Testament, so God’s life-transforming word can do its work.’
Now that the New Testament with Genesis has been published, the Sangu team will focus all their efforts on encouraging the Sangu people to engage with the translated Scriptures. Yoram Chapaulinge and Abdy Mponzi, who served on the translation team, together with Prisca Malewa, who has already been doing Scripture engagement and literacy work in the area for 10 years, will continue the work of teaching people to read, holding Bible study groups (using print and audio Scriptures) and teaching in churches. With Genesis being available, there are also plans to work with the Sangu community to create a production of the story of Joseph, using local art forms and drama, to help address some of the family issues that the community has identified as being a problem in their area.
The Sangu people number about 208,000 and live mainly in the Mbeya region of Tanzania. About 25% of Sangu are Christian, about 25% Muslim, and about 50% follow traditional Sangu religions. However, Sangu traditional religions are practised even by Christians and Muslims.
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 360 people from the UK and Ireland serving 530 million people who speak 360 languages in 71 countries. Of the 7,360 languages spoken worldwide today, only 704 have the Bible. Around 1.5 billion people (1 in every 5 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. Wycliffe Bible Translators and its partner organisations are currently involved in about three-quarters of global Bible translation efforts.
4. Images. You can download the following images to accompany the press release, by clicking on the ‘Image’ link and then saving to your desktop. All images should be credited as follows: © 2020 Wycliffe Bible Translators.