History of Soma Biblia
The history of the merging of Scripture Mission and Soma Biblia
The short story of the Soma Biblia society
If we look back at the history of Soma Biblia society, we find two quite different, yet engaging, parallel stories:
The first story can be traced all the way back to a couple of sleepless nighst in Kansay, Tanzania mid-70s. A Norwegian missionary couple; Mr. and Mrs. Jon and Kjellaug Jossang had served as missionaries through Norwegian Lutheran Mission in Tanzania for two decades, when mzee Jossang one night was unable to sleep. He had seen so many Tanzanians being baptized, but he did not have anything in writing to help the baptized continue to learn about their new faith. So together with another Norwegian missionary, Ingebjorg Boe, he developed two pamphlets (Hubiri Habari Njema and Tufundishe kwa Furaha) to help evangelists and sundayschool teachers in their work. That was the beginning. But the main literature work began after Mzee Jossang had heard the name Voi another night he could not sleep. And that is where they went; to Voi, Kenya. A small bookshop was placed next to the bus station. And Wazee Jossang developed tracts, books and also a Bible correspondence course. A literature base was also created on the NLM compound in Nairobi. Two magazines were founded, Riziki and The Brief.
And then finally: in 1976, the literature work was registered in Kenya as Scripture Mission. The work continued to grow, and more effort was put into media, even a radiostation was built in Voi and Wazee Jossang moved the literature office to Taita Hills. A wish for the literature to reach further into East-Africa, resulted in the registration of Scripture Mission Tanzania, in 1985. And the story of growth continues: Translations of Christian classics, new books, tracts and reprinting of Wazee Jossangs classics. The thirst for the written word about the gospel was seemingly unquenchable. But then, in 1998 something happened that gave Scripture Mission a main setback; the beloved missionary Steinar Svendsen was killed by robbers in the Arusha bookshop. The work was put on a down low until 2004, when it was decided to make an effort to blow new life into the literature work. Arusha was made main office for the literature work, and the production started again. And it grew.
The second story started around the same time as Scripture Mission assembled in Arusha. In Sumbawanga, Tanzania, 1985, the Danish missionary, Fritz Larsen, had visions about starting literature work. Mzee Larsen could see that some literature was available, but very few was benefiting from it; well-functioning system for distribution was as good as non-existing. This marked the start of the Danish Lutheran Missions literature work in Tanzania, which during the first 5 years solely worked on distributing literature around Tanzania. On a regular basis, missionary Erik Nielsen, who was Danish Lutheran Missions first employed worker in the literature work, loaded his car in Iringa with Bibles and Christian books and drove to Dar es Salaam, Arusha and Moshi and sold books to local book sellers. And the work prospered! The Bible Society of Tanzania increased their output, and the Bible was made available to more people. With such a firm foundation and good reputation, the DLM decided in 1992 to create their own publishing house: and so Soma Biblia was founded and registered. The goal was still to make Christian literature easy accessible to the Tanzanians. And along the publishing, translating and Bible correspondence courses, three main bookshops were developed; in Iringa, Dar es Salaam and Mwanza. From each bookshop, mobile bookshops were sent out every week to the rural areas to supply local booksellers, or to sell directly from the car along the road or after Sunday service. And the work continued to prosper.
So how do the two stories meet? Well. They have actually met several times throughout the history, selling each-others books, visiting each-others compounds, meeting to exchange experiences and ideas. And talking about ideas: the main subject for both organizations was to spread evangelical, Christian literature in East-Africa, both with the Lutheran Theology as the foundation. So a process started in March 2011. The Directors of Soma Biblia and Scripture Mission met regularly in order to strengthen the relationship between the two organisations. And in 2012, they realized that it would be better to merge the two organisations especially to look towards the future.
And so, The Soma Biblia society was finally founded 1.1.2015 after the merging of these two organizations Soma Biblia (run by Danish Lutheran Mission) and Scripture Mission (run by Scripture Mission East Africa and Norwegian Lutheran Mission). Today, the main office of the Soma Biblia Society is located in the Soma Biblia compound in Dar es Salaam, and the publishing department keeps office in the Scripture Mission compound in Arusha.
The hope is that Soma Biblia Society will end up as an even stronger organisation, which will cover East-Africa with Christian literature and Bibles!