Friday, June 01, 2018

"What is a taranta?"

     "What is a taranta?" my Tanzanian friend asked me the other night. We were speaking in Swahili.
     "I don't know. Is it English or Swahili?" I replied. Swahili, he told me. I laughed, "Why do you think I might know it if you don't?"
     "Well, this radio preacher keeps using this word and I don't know what it means. Since you know more about the Bible than I do I thought you might know."
     I thought for a minute. Tanzanians often mix up R's and L's. Talanta? Ah, I clued in! "Is it from a parable of Jesus?" I asked. He said it was. Success! I explained that a 'talanta' was simply a measure of money - a lot of money - by the Jews in the Bible. And then we discussed the parable of the talents and what it meant.
     "Oh!" he said. "Now I understand. That makes more sense than what the radio preacher was trying to say. And I can explain it to others now too." My friend is a pastor of a small church.

To me this highlights two big challenges over here to Biblical understanding. One is good teaching. It's great to have radio preaching - Tanzanians listen to the radio a lot - but in this case it was confusing. Perhaps the preacher didn't have good teaching himself. I know missionaries here who are starting small Bible schools, and praise God, because this is a huge need. Though my friend and I discussed the difficulty in taking the time away from earning a wage or raising a crop to go to a Bible school, even if it was free.

A second challenge is good translation. Most Tanzanians are not going to be able to simply read the parable of the talents and know what a talent is. Over in America we underestimate the good teaching and preaching we've received, English resources available to us, and simply an inherited understanding of Biblical things from our culture. 

Translating the Bible in a way that communicates well is hard. I don't want to just use 'shillings' instead of 'talents', because Jesus wasn't Tanzanian (I mentioned this to my friend and he laughed); I need to be faithful to the original text. But I want to do something to help it communicate well. Maybe insert a short phrase of explanation, maybe a footnote (though most Tanzanians aren't familiar with those either), maybe a more generic word for a large sum of money. Or maybe in the end it just needs to be 'talanta' and we depend on preaching and teaching to expound. In any case, I welcome these challenges; they intrigue me. It's another reason I want to be a Bible translator. But it's a huge responsibility, and we need the Holy Spirit to guide us.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Moving Forward in 2018 (video)

Dear partners:
We hope you are enjoying your February! We hear from many of you, and hear how you are looking forward to spring and warmer weather. Here in Tabora Tanzania, we've been enjoying cooler weather too, although not as chilly as yours!  We're grateful for the rains, and the farmers here sure are too!

In our video today, we bring to you a need we have, a request so that we can start our Bible translation project for the Nyamwezi people of Northwestern Tanzania.

Thanks for watching our video. As we said, we have seen the need for the Nyamwezi Bible Translation project to have a reliable vehicle. Would you consider partnering with us for this vehicle fund? This would play a huge role in getting the Bible into the hands of the Nyamwezi people! Our aim is to have the $25,000 for the Toyota Hilux by the end of May this year, because it will likely take a couple months after that to actually get the vehicle, so that we can fulfill our goal of starting the project this summer. 

Thank you so much! We couldn't do this without you!

Jenneka and James

Instructions for Giving: 

For Canadians: Please go to for complete instructions on how to give. Please include a note with your donation that it is for Project IP-5 Vehicle Fund. (If you attend Forest Baptist Church, you can give cheques through the offering with attached note communicating that it is for the Lundeens, Pioneer Bible Translators, vehicle fund, just don't include our names on any cheques as usual.)

For USAians: Please go to for complete instructions on how to give. Let us know if you send a gift and wish it to go to the vehicle fund, otherwise we will consider gifts outside of regular giving as for the vehicle.

*For legal and tax purposes, all funds must go to Pioneer Bible Translators and not us personally, and our salaries and ministry expenses are paid by PBT Canada or PBT USA. Approximately 10% is deducted from all donations for organization processing fees.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Mikumi National Park: favorite photos

Dec. 7. 2017

At last, a chance to post some more photos! Taking pictures in Tanzania has been challenging for me. I had aspirations to take National Geographic style portraits, but I haven't for a couple reasons (besides the obvious, I'm not a NG-caliber photographer). First, it's culturally inappropriate to take unsolicited pictures of Tanzanians, and second, I'm too shy to ask (and probably pay) to do so, which also ruins the candidness of it. However, here we are in Mikumi National Park, where animals don't care!

Two of the stranger animals in the park
Mikumi is a large preserve near Morogoro, where our Pioneer Bible Translators branch is based. We had an opportunity to join some friends on a safari after our branch meeting a couple months ago, and we were blessed with a perfect overcast day, so the animals weren't all hiding from the sun. So we had some amazing views. I've posted my favorite photos below, but here is a link to the full set. A few of the full set are atrociously out of focus (I have some more learning to do on my new camera), so they aren't here in my favorites, but I still included them because of the cool subjects they captured.

There were eight of us riding up in the back of a rugged safari-truck in the open air, but for a tarp-like covering to protect us from sun. The open format gave us great panoramic views without being confined to windows. By the way, safari is simply the Swahili word for 'trip' or 'journey', but as you know, English has adopted it to mean a specific kind of trip.

Without further ado, the photos, and as a bonus, learn some swahili animal terms!

Aw, cute little warthog (ngiri) babies!

Impala is swala

pundamilia literally means something like 'striped donkey'

Tembo na mtoto wao (Elephants and their baby)

See the full set (link above) for closer pics of this simba, as well as a cub hiding in a bush. The focus was wrong on those. You don't see lions (especially cubs) every visit to the park, so we were pretty grateful.

The lion above was wounded, and this lone wildebeest (nyumbu) seemed to be standing sentry, eyeing the lion yonder. We wonder what had happened.

I don't know what kind of ndege (bird) this is, but I like his eyes

one kiboko, many viboko

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Getting a Tanzanian drivers license

Oct. 31, 2017

Back in the US we complain about the DMV - how long it takes, how indifferent the employees are to our suffering and impatience, the short office hours, and so on. Well, maybe our experience getting a Tanzanian drivers license back in Morogoro will help you appreciate the ease and convenience of the American DMV.

Learn Swahili: 'drivers license' is leseni ya dereva

Day One: Our friend Rich is helping us get set up in Tanzania, and we all head down to TRA (Tanzanian Revenue Authority). Among other things, TRA handles issuing licenses. We make sure not to go between 12:30 and 2:00, during which time workers are likely to be at lunch. We fill out our applications for licenses and wait in line a while, only to find that the mtandau (network) isn't working. Come back tomorrow.

Learn Swahili: 'network' or 'internet' is mtandau

Day Two: At TRA we wait in line again, only about 20 minutes. Mtandau is working, so we get our applications processed, with requested endorsements for large cars, small cars, pikipikis (motorcycles) and - why not - bajajis (small 3-wheeled taxis). We are asked to go to the bank next door to pay the fees for those endorsements. For security (and possibly corruption) concerns, TRA doesn't handle money itself.

Learn Swahili: 'car' is gari and 'motorcycle' is pikipiki

We wait in line at the bank next door for 15-20 minutes, and pay six separate transactions of 5000 shillings (about $2.20) each to TRA's account. Returning to TRA with our receipts and after waiting in line, they continue to process our application. We are then asked to return to the bank and pay for our drivers tests. This test will be for road sign comprehension, not for actual driving skills. Apparently our ability to pay for endorsements confirms our ability to perform the skills. We wait in line at the bank again for 25 minutes, pay our test fees of about 20,000 shillings each (~$9.00). Returning to TRA they waive us to the front of the line this time, note our receipts and direct us to the police station down the road to take our tests.

Upon reaching the police station we are told that their mtandau isn't working. Come back tomorrow. No problem, we'd like to brush up on our road signs first anyway.

At home we find a picture online of all the road signs and symbols. Many look the same as in America (see picture below), and some don't. The majority I haven't seen once yet in Tanzania anyway, so I'm not concerning myself with the strange ones.

Learn Swahili:  'road signs' are alama za barabarani

Day Three: We arrive at the police station to find the mtandau still isn't working. Come back tomorrow. This time I get a phone number so I can call first.

Day Four: I call the police station and they say the mtandau is indeed working. So we three (Rich, Jenneka and I) head down. After waiting in line for a while we are let into a small office where a policeman is ready to quiz us on the road signs and symbols from a poster on the wall.

The same poster as the one we were tested on

I'm first, and he points to a sign. Of course it's one I have never seen before, so I have no idea. He smiles and points to another. I'm not sure, but I take a stab at it in my limited Swahili. He laughs. It goes like this and he's obviously showing me the hardest ones that I'm not sure even exist on actual roads in Tanzania. But I'm having a 50/50 success rate and he's enjoying my attempts at Swahili. And he's pitching a few questions at Rich and Jenneka too. Soon he says okay, approve their licenses. After seeing my floundering Jenneka tells me she's not ready to take her turn today, but I point out we're both getting licenses. Apparently my shaky quiz answers were good enough for both of us.

So we take our papers back to TRA to get our licenses. After waiting in line we find out that the machine that makes the licenses is broken. Should we come back tomorrow, I ask? No, it'll be a couple weeks.

Day [much later]: A couple weeks later we head down to TRA and find out the machine is still not fixed. Try back in another week or two. Over a month later I actually get a text saying my license will be ready on Monday. Wow, proactivity feels good! As it turns out, that Monday is the day we are moving to Tabora, and we are able to stop by first thing in the morning and pick up our licenses on the way out of town!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Our first aid kit

I’ve always liked first aid kits, ever since I was a kid. I remember putting together first aid kits for my family when I was very young based on lists I would find somewhere, even though I had very little clue how to use one. Fast forward to a couple years ago, as we were preparing to come to Tanzania. We took a 9-day medical class in Dallas, which I loved, and which I felt prepared us not only for knowing what supplies to have on hand, but how to use them. So I delightedly put together an African medical kit. It felt like the awakening of a childhood dream!

Fast forward to several weeks ago, when I had a motorcycle accident on an overnight trip in the mountains here in Tanzania with some friends. Fortunately my injuries were not severe, but treating them got me thinking more about what I would do in the advent of a very serious injury. I resolved to do more research, beef up my kit a little, and learn better how to use everything in the kit.

I ordered a high quality pack to contain my first aid kit, and made sure it was large enough to provide treatment for multiple people. It will accompany us on car and motorcycle rides. Check out my video below if you’d like to know what it looks like and see what’s in it. It’s not meant to be a detailed recommendation of what needs to be in such a kit (there are plenty of videos and websites for that by more qualified people) but rather an overview of what’s in mine.

That child who was inexplicably drawn to first aid kits at an early age would be so proud of his adult self!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

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