Language is Fun

Maa (the language of the Maasai people) is delightfully reflexive.  For any of our friends who are language nerds, here’s a grammatical excursus.

Where English has simply “of“, Maa has six different prepositions.
o
e
lo
le
oo
loo
So “o” indicates that what follows is grammatically masculine, “e” indicates that what follows is grammatically feminine, “oo” indicates that what follows is plural (without reference to grammatical gender), the prefix “L” indicates that what precedes is grammatically masculine, and the absence of the prefix “L” indicates that what precedes is grammatically feminine.

Are you confused yet?

Here are a few examples.
entito (daughter, girl) and enkitok (women, wives) are, naturally, grammatically feminine. (The plural forms are, respectively, intoyie and inkituaak.)  Note that the initial vowels will be dropped when following one of the prepositions for “of.” Thus
entito e nkitok (the daughter of the woman)
intoyie e nkitok (the daughters of the woman)
entito oo nkituaak (the girl of the women)
intoyie oo nkituaak (the daughters of the women).

olayioni (boy, son) and olpayian (man, elder, husband) are, of course, grammatically masculine. (The plural forms are, respectively, ilayiok and ilpayiani.)  Thus
olayioni lo lpayian (the son of the man)
ilayiok lo lpayian (the sons of the man)
olayioni loo lpayiani (the boy of the men)
ilayiok loo lpayiani (the sons of the men)
entito o lpayian (the daughter of the man)
intoyie o lpayian (the daughters of the man)
intoyie oo lpayiani (the girls of the men)
olayioni le nkitok (the son of the woman)
ilayiok le nkitok (the sons of the woman)
olayioni loo nkituaak (the boy of the women)
ilayiok loo nkituaak (the sons of the women)

It’s actually quite logical and therefore simpler than you may think.

But here’s something that threw me for a loop back in 2007 when we were just learning.

Followers of Jesus” is ilasujak le Yesu. “Followers of the Lord” is ilasujak lo Laitoriani. Again, the “le” and “lo” are equivalent to the English preposition “of.”

To review:
LO” and “LE” —
• the -L- indicates that what precedes (in this case ilasujak / followers) is grammatically masculine (the absence of this consonant indicates that what precedes is grammatically feminine — thus “inkasujak e Yesu” is “the [female] followers of Jesus“);
• the -O- indicates that what follows (in this case Olaitoriani / the Lord; the initial -o- of the noun drops off for linguistic reasons) is grammatically masculine; and
• the -E- indicates that what follows (in this case Yesu / Jesus) is grammatically feminine.

Wait.  What?  Jesus is feminine, a woman?!

Nope, of course not.

But the Maa word for “name” — enkarna — is grammatically feminine. Thus as a class, in Maa *all personal names* are *grammatically* feminine, even though there is no confusion in the language between male and female names. (For example: Nashipai is a female name, Enchipai is the male equivalent; Lemayian is a male name, Namayian is the female counterpart.)

Both male names and female names are *grammatically* feminine.  Thus “ilasujak lo Yesu” (or for that matter, “illasujak lo Joshua“) is just grammatical nonsense.  It must be “ilasujak le Yesu” (or “le Joshua“) to be correct.  No Maasai thinks that Jesus is a female or feminine, just as I am male and masculine.

Thus while I am an olpayian, my children (inkera) could be referred to as either:
inkera o lpayian (the son of the man), OR as
inkera e Lemayian (the children of Lemayian).

(Lemayian, “the one of blessing,” is my Maasai name.)

This was a great puzzlement for me before I figured out what was going on. Because enkarna (name) happens to be grammatically feminine, all personal names are grammatically feminine, irrespective of the masculinity or femininity of the subject of the name.

Karibuni

30 June 2019

Karibuni! “Welcome back!”

We arrived back in Kenya at the end of April and began to get settled the beginning of May.  We’ve overcome some unexpected challenges in re-acquiring our vehicle (which we’ve now paid for twice) and applying for new work permits.  We’ve dived into to language learning (as we’re needing to add Swahili to our Maa and Samburu).  We’ve been delighted to host guests — some of the Hausers, our good friends who serve as missionaries in Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire, and the Sapps, representing our support partner Crossroads Christian Church.  We’ve also hosted a number of our Maasai friends and co-workers, working together on curriculum development and planning meetings for CCBTI and DTI. 

More than anything else, we’ve been struck by the warmth, or even intensity, of the homecoming welcome that has been extended to us these first two months of our fourth term.  To read more (and for pictures), read our June newsletter(Note that the pdf is optimized for viewing online; if you would like a higher resolution copy for printing, just ask!)

We also posted a small photo album from last month.  If you missed it, check out our May 2019 photos.

 

Francis Yenko and Joshua work on editing Joshua’s next Maa language book.

It makes the verb happy

We are always continuing to learn and study the Maa language and culture of the Maasai.  And so back in September, I was very happy to learn a new proverb — 

Ekébikóo intókitin póoki náaramát ilóopêny

It means all things which their owners carefully tend last a long time.  I was very happy to find this proverb to add to our lessons on stewardship.  Whereas typical American teaching says “that stuff you think you own?  Well, it is not really yours, it is only God’s, only God is the owner, and that is why you should take especial care of it,” we teach that ownership is what makes stewardship possible.  (Of course, each of these approaches represent part of the Biblical teaching on stewardship — in one sense everything IS God’s and we are only his stewards, but in another sense because we are God’s children, God has given us resources that we manage as our own property — just like Maasai parents give animals even to their young children.)  So when we use the proverb that says, “the cow says, don’t give me, lend me,” we can reinforce the meaning of the teaching by next reminding that the Maasai also say, “Ekébikóo intókitin póoki náaramát ilóopêny.”  (To read more on how we teach Christian stewardship, read our My Father Is Alive post.)

But with this proverb I had a question about a bit of the language I didn’t quite understand.  I knew that <ekébikóo> comes from the verb <ABIKÓO>, “to endure, to last a long time, to remain a long time, to last forever” (coming in turn from <ABIK>, “to remain, to abide, to stay”).  But Maa verbal prefixes are tricky, and I wasn’t sure what the eké- prefix was doing.  So I asked our good friend and colleague Ntinga Sam Tome, who is trilingual in Maa, kiSwahili, and English.

It makes the verb happy and brings out the meaning.

“It makes the verb happy.”  Of course it does!  But why?  We laughed together.

first graduation! (Ewaso Ng’iro)

On 30 November we reported the beginning of our CCBTI graduation season in Maasai Land, as the first cohort of pastors from Kajiado County celebrated completion of the CCBTI program. This past weekend saw the graduations of the smaller cohort from Narok County at CCC’s training center in Ewaso Ng’iro, on 8 December.

Join us in celebrating with Peter Otuma Nanteya, Walton Tumate Nkowua, Peter Lerionka Pion, Wilson Ntinana Kuyoni, Maina ole Salenoi, Peter Talata Parkesui, and their congregations!  Ntinga Sam Tome (on the right in the first picture) attended both graduations.

 

first graduation! (CCBTI – Kajiado)

Sometimes you plant carrots.  In two to four months, you get a harvest.  Sometimes you plant avocado trees.  Tend it diligently, and you’ll start to get repeated harvests each year — but not right away.  There will be a few years with nothing to show for your labors.  But slow, steady growth will be occurring nonetheless.

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Ministry & discipleship is often more like growing trees than growing carrots.  Results don’t always come overnight.  Patience is required.  Some of you may remember that we returned from our first home assignment for our second term in 2010 to discover that the Maasai Discipleship Training School had not had any sessions while we in the States.  It had a five year drought before we were able to help Francis Yenko and the CCC relaunch it in 2014 at a new campus, during our third term.  Then in 2016 the newly rechristened Discipleship Training Institute (DTI) went mobile, reaching new areas of Maasai land.  Since we began in 2010 to work to reestablish this ministry, the harvest has been tremendous.  But we had to wait longer than for carrots.
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There was a similar story of a slow wait and long work for the establishment of and harvest from the Community Christian Bible Training Institute (CCBTI).  First the Turkana Bible Training Institute (TBTI) was transformed into the initial campus of CCBTI.  Then in 2016 we were able to help the Community Christian Churches (CCC) to successfully establish two branch campuses of CCBTI in Maasai Land.  This year sees the first graduations of the Maasai branches of CCBTI.  Today, 30 November 2018, believers gathered from miles around in Ng’atataek in Kajiado County to celebrate the CCBTI graduation of a group of Kenyan and Tanzania Maasai pastors.  The CCBTI graduation for the Ewaso Ng’iro campus is scheduled for 8 December 2018.

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Here are some pictures from today’s graduation in Ng’atataek.  Those who are kneeling are the graduating pastor-students being ordained.  The washing of feet was a public demonstration of the nature of servant leadership.  As we are still abroad in America, Ntinga Sam Tome, our colleague and the administrator of the two Maasai CCBTI campuses, sent us these pictures.

EDIT (28 January 2019):  I just realized that I forgot to include the names of the ten graduates.  They are:  Joshua Papa Kimeshwa, Joshua Sinkira Lekoke, Nchoke Kakeu Naipenyu, Jackson Moikan Laisa, Moses Ntete Laisa, Leimaduk ole Solonka, Philipo Naisango koole, Jackson Kapaito Mayiasek, Noah Ikayo Nkoye, and Musanka Sakaya Korema.

2013–2017: An Overview

Successes and failures and ongoing challenges. During our first eleven years in Kenya, we’ve seen our share in each of these categories. In this update, we want to share with you some of our key successes from our third term (2014-2017) as we continue to work with our support partners in the work of expanding Christ’s Kingdom in Kenya.

To learn more, read our August 2018 update here.

new church plant: Oltarakwai CCC

new church plant:  Oltarakwai CCC — 2018 June 10th
photo credit: Thomas ole Pesi

expanding influence

Most of you know that our Eating the Word of God curriculum has been published in three languages:

Enkinosata Ororei le Nkai (in Maa)
Kujilisha kwa Neno La Mungu (in KiSwahili)
Akinyam Akiroit a Akuj (in NgaTurkana)

(Maa, the language of the Maasai, is spoken in Kenya and Tanzania.  KiSwahili is the primary second language of most Kenyans and Tanzanians, and is spoken across East Africa.  NgaTurkana is the language of the Turkana people, who live primarily in Kenya’s northwest, between Lake Turkana and Uganda.)

Just to remind you, this is the textbook for the Eating the Word of God course of the Community Christian Bible Training Institute (CCBTI; there are three branch campuses).  The highfalutin academic title would be “Equipping Congregations for Biblical Understanding,” but we keep it simple.  The books are also used for teaching grass-roots level seminars.

Today some missionaries to the Tonga in Zambia (in Southern Africa) have asked if they can adapt our materials for the Tonga churches.  (We said “yes,” of course.)

CCBTI update

We may be in America, but we continue to be engaged with our ministry in Kenya, mostly behind the scenes.  The two CCBTI branch campuses in Maasai Land are still going well.  Last month (June 2018), Sam Ntinga Tome was in Ewaso Ng’iro to teach Life of Christ and Gospel of Mark.  Here are a couple of pictures.