As a family, we’re making progress learning Swahili, which is becoming increasingly important to our ministry, in addition to Maa. Today’s word is kutoka. It means to go out, to leave, to exit or to be from a place. So we might say “Tunatoka Marekani” — we are from America.
But as we are having to focus on the office work side of curriculum development and ongoing language learning due to the current pandemic, and as the children’s HomeSchool co-op is not able to meet due to temporary government restrictions, we’re all thinking “ninataka kutoka!” — I want to go out!
Kutaka is the other word in today’s phrase. It means to want. A similarly sounding word is takataka — trash or garbage. Unataka takataka? Sitaki takataka!Do you want garbage? I don’t want garbage! It’s interesting how much kutaka (to want) sounds like takataka (garbage, is generally not wanted by anybody).
Our twelve year old’s favorite sentence in Swahili? So far, it’s Baba ni bata! — Daddy is a duck! Hmmm. Whence do you think she got that silliness?
Last month (in February), I (Joshua) was able to spend a week in Olepishet, teaching my History of Christian Mission course at a missionary training school founded and run by our Maasai friend and colleague, James ole Sinkua. Last year, we all visited Olepishet as a family as Ruth and I had a planning and curriculum development meeting with James (for more, see our November newsletter).
As usual, when I teach I have just as much of a learning opportunity as my students. Besides learning new Maa vocabulary, my students taught me this wonderful song, Irriwayioki ! (or “Send me!”). In the Maa Bible, in Isaiah 6:8, the prophet answers God’s call: “Irriwayioki!Send me!” While this hymn has innumerable verses, I learned five of them plus the chorus.
The first verse is especially powerful: Send me to our Maasai people, Send me even to the Agĩkũyũ … . The first phrase is a call to evangelize and disciple one’s neighbors, kinfolk, and fellow countrymen. But the second phrase asks God to send the singer to the Kikuyu! This is significant because traditionally the Kikuyu and the Maasai are tribal rivals.
(Properly speaking, Agĩkũyũ is the name of the people and Gĩkũyũ is the name of the language. In Swahili, Kikuyu is the name of the Gĩkũyũ language spoken by the Agĩkũyũ. From this Swahili usage, “Kikuyu” is commonly used in English to refer to the Gĩkũyũ language and “the Kikuyu” is used to refer to the Agĩkũyũ people.)
While the two tribes sometimes intermarry, often the Maasai and the Agĩkũyũ are about as affectionate toward each other as are supporters of rival political factions in America. This song is a radical invitation, asking God to send us that we might join God in God’s mission in the world — not only to our friends but also even to our enemies.
Give it a listen, and scroll down for the lyrics and translation:
To those of you who saw our “Sing or Dance?” post from last month (20 February), accept my apologies for only having an audio file instead of a video file.
This recording has six verses. Here is the Maa translation, with English translation, of five of the verses plus the chorus. (When my students sang it for me to record, they added what is the fifth verse here, and for the life of me there are a couple of words that I just can’t hear. I didn’t have a chance to ask them to transcribe that verse for me. When I figure out that verse, I’ll edit this post.)