It’s Only Happiness!

By Rachel Greco

The Vwanji people live in the rugged mountains of southwestern Tanzania, hoeing crops of bananas, maize, and potatoes on steep mountainsides—about as far away as you can go from the country’s famous savannas, where elephants and lions roam. 

The Vwanji translators worked alongside translators for twelve other projects at the SIL* office in Mbeya, Tanzania. Here, they received training and technical support—the latter supplied in part by JAARS—which helped their translations progress. The Vwanji team was one of the translation teams who benefited from a major network rewiring of the SIL office earlier this year. 

With help from people like you who give to our Technology Solutions, the Vwanji team completed their New Testament and dedicated it earlier this year! 

At the celebration, the Master of Ceremonies, Reverend Ahimidiwe Mahali, was the first Vwanji translator to receive SIL training. His heart soared as he watched the crowd gather, held one of the first copies of the New Testaments, and saw the enthusiasm at the book table as people bought more than 200 New Testaments! 

Carrying the New Testaments to the front of the church

Mahali’s best Bible translation memories were seeing the Scriptures impact the Vwanji communities. “In the beginning of this work,” he said, “we took pieces of the text [and] check[ed] them in the community. We went to the people one by one, or sometimes we read a portion in the church. You could see the difference our Vwanji language makes. You could see the Word touching people. You could really see it.”

Then more recently, as portions of Scripture were published, several pastors had asked Mahali, “When are we getting the [complete] New Testament?” 

Vwanji women dancing at the Scripture dedication

One pastor said, “I was preparing a sermon from the Swahili [the national language] Bible and I didn’t get [the meaning] well. I took my English Bible, and I didn’t get [the meaning] well. But when I took the book which you have translated into Vwanji, it was very clear.”

Another translator, Rev. Nahumu Mhalila, helped carry the box of Vwanji Scriptures up the aisle. “You can always tell a Vwanji song from Swahili,” Nahumu said. When people sang hymns in Vwanji at the dedication, the whole church was on its feet, dancing and jumping as they joined their voices in worshipping their Maker. 

The Vwanji New Testament was one of the approximately 32 completed Scriptures that JAARS commemorated at our annual Scripture Celebration in October. Another was the Pinyin New Testament. 

During the long translation process, JAARS-trained pilots often provided air service for the Pinyin translators and advisors when they needed to fly from their remote villages in Cameroon to the center in the city of Yaoundé for biblical and linguistic training. 

Even the pandemic couldn’t stand against the passion of the Pinyin language community to dedicate their New Testament. Church and village leaders braved political insecurity to travel about 400 km (249 miles) from their villages to the city of Yaoundé to welcome the living Word of God into their community. 

The dedication included both the printed New Testament and a YouVersion Bible app. All 63 Pinyin churches received a printed New Testament, a tablet containing the Bible app, and a speaker for group listening. 

One of the Pinyin translators said, “The community will welcome the New Testament in its language for their own transformation, to the glory of God. It’s only happiness because, finally, each Pinyin will hear God speak to him effectively in his heart’s language.” 

Join with us in celebrating how God is still moving by watching the Scripture celebration here

*A JAARS partner