by Daisy Kilel
Surrounded by the waters of Lake Victoria sits an Island, only accessible by canoes, a ferry, speed boats and a water bus. As you alight from either one of these means, you quickly experience the vibrancy of life on this Island, at the shores of the Lake, women are cleaning their utensils, fish mongering, some doing laundry and the majority, especially the men are packaging the fish caught in the night for sale.
This is Mfangano Island in Homa Bay County, the home of the Suba people. The Suba people hold in high regard the light that Bible translation has brought to this Island, an aspect that began over 20 years ago. Recently the BTL team travelled to the Island in order to launch and dedicate the completed Old Testament book of Exodus. The event was held on March 17, 2023, at the PEFA Church, Mfangano. You could sense and feel the excitement of this community as they received this Scripture portion which was a build-up to the New Testament which was launched in the community in 2011. As speaker after speaker rose and spoke, they all talked about the light that was now shining brightly in what was once a ‘dark’ Island. “In the year 1995, because of the word of God coming to our land, the Suba region, which includes; Mfangano Island, Rusinga Island, Gembe, Kaksingiri and Gwassi was made a District.” One of the elders said. “Last year, 2022, we were allocated a Sub County. BTL is like a light as the Bible says in Luke 8:16-NLT, ‘No one lights a lamp and then covers it with a bowl or hides it under a bed. A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house.” He added.
Bishop Tom Oguta excitedly shared the impact of the Scriptures in the Suba Church. “We hold three services in our church and the first service is conducted in our Suba language. Through the translation of the Scriptures into our language, we have seen the body of Christ come together, churches being planted, and our people coming to Salvation. God has visited our land, and we know that He is going to do more. The work of BTL has not been in vain.” “The light through God’s Word is shining brightest on the Island.” Madam Nereah Mattah added. “There is light on the mountain tops, on the shores because the word of God has come to us. We celebrate the Bread of life, and we are ‘eating’ it as the Suba people, and we are being transformed.”
One of the translators, Mr. Samwel Nyangweso, in an almost poetic way expressed the revolution in his community;
- Once upon a time, the word of God wasn’t available in the Suba people’s heart language. Now the Suba New Testament and other Scripture use materials are being used in churches, homes and the community and lives are being transformed by the grace of God. We have shunned evil and embraced the light that is in the Word.
- Once, there was no road on the Island; people walked on narrow and bushy paths. Today, there is a ring road on Mfangano Island.
- Once, there was no electricity on the Island; now there is a Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) power substation on Mfangano Island.
- Once, people used engine boats to cross over to the mainland. Now we enjoy the luxury and comfort of the waterbus for water transport. Because of the word of God, churches in Suba land have embraced unity, tolerance, cordial relationships and partnership.
The work of Bible translation in Suba land has not been in vain. There is a transformation that we all can hear and see. Praise God for His Word which is so powerful to transform. The Suba translation team is working on concluding the entire Bible in the next three years. Pray that the scheduled timelines will be met. Pray too for the community as they make use of the book of Exodus which is now in their hands.