It is with great sadness that we announce the death of the founder of Scripture Mission, Mzee Jon Jøssang. Mzee Jøssang passed quietly away, 90 years old, with his family around him in Norway on 30th of December.
How do you sum up a life as rich as that of Mzee JJ? The stories about him are endless. He was curious, adventurous and seemingly without fear. He was a true believer in Christ, but not without doubt, and maybe that was what made his preaching so real and trustworthy. He and his wife had the ability of creating great things from what seemingly was dust, which made them perfectly fit for what the Lord had planned for their lives. But there is one trace throughout JJ`s life that really tells us a lot about who he was and why he did the things he did: he was always lead by the question ”how to lead a person to Christ.”
Jon Jøssang, best know as JJ, got at an early age the call to become a missionary. He came to Tanganyika the first time in 1954 as a missionary through the Norwegian Lutheran Mission. Here he worked for many years in Dongobesh and Kansay in Mbulu district. He served, as he puts it himself, as a ”jack of all trades”; construction worker, car mechanic, driver, priest and author. He built schools and churches and was part of the building of Haydom Lutheran Hospital. And then he of course preached on Sundays. He married Kjellaug his first year in Kansay, a warmhearted Norwegian nurse who had grown up in China as a missionary`s daughter. JJ and ”Memsab” (as JJ called his wife) were witnesses to the big happenings in the history of Tanzania: they were present during ”Uhuru”, heard Nyerere speak and saw Tanganyika and Zanzibar become Tanzania.
But the true legacy of Mzee Jossang, began one night he 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. Now, God`s plan is often a lot bigger than ours, and these two pamphlets would mark the beginning of something far bigger than I think JJ realised. Because an other sleepless night in 1971, as JJ and Kjellaug`s time in Tanzania was coming to an end, JJ heard the name ”VOI”. And one day as he had some business in Moshi, JJ thought it wasn’t that far to Voi, so he crossed the border and entered the small, dusty, Kenyan town of Voi. In Voi, JJ stumbled upon an old, disused sisal farm with a couple of run down buildings. JJ met with the owner and was allowed to rent the place for almost nothing. So after a short period in Norway, JJ and Kjellaug with their two kids, moved to Voi.
In Voi JJ started working with whatever the Lord put on his mind: like teaching the Bible at two secondary schools, and regurarly visiting the Manyani prison and preaching there. Then JJ noticed how buses going to all over East-Africa all had a stop at Voi, and he started handing out tracts at the bus station. 96000 tracts were handed out just like that! And JJ realised the great potential of spreading the gospel through the bus station. But he needed help. No problem! JJ was the kind of person who found workmates everywhere! His only requirement was the same that Barnabas said to Saul the first time they met ”Have you seen Jesus?” Whether people were Anglicans, Baptists or Presbyterians was less important to JJ. The only question was: ”does my colleague have Jesus in his/her heart?” Which of course led him to wonderful people of God, f.ex. Josefu who JJ hired to sell Bibles, books and pamphlets at the bus station from a small table. When the business was running well, they opened a small bookshop.
Also the potential of leading people to Jesus via correspondance was something JJ dived into. He wrote a simple but engaging booklet in Swahili called ”Faith and Life” (Dini na Maisha). This book was made into a Bible correspondence course, and is to date used in Soma Biblias Bible correspondance course and one of Soma Biblias most popular booklets. Also ”Badala ya” (”instead of”) which in simple words explains how Jesus compensated for our wrongdoings, came to life at Voi and became a popluar book on the market and is still in sale today.
In 1976 JJ finally registered what would become NLM`s literature work in Kenya as ”SCRIPTURE MISSION”. At the office in Nairobi for the registry of mission work, JJ was told that ”It’s a very nice name indeed!” .
JJ`s literature work expanded and more missionaries came. A literature base was created on the NLM compound in Nairobi. Two magazines were founded, RIZIKI for pastors and evangelists, and ”The Brief” for students. RIZIKI is still very much alive today! 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 Wundanyi in Taita Hills. Here they built their house and workplace for many years, called Hebron. A wish for the literature to reach further into East-Africa, made the registration of Scripture Mission Tanzania happen in 1985, with Norwegian missionaries taking JJs work further.
JJ and Kjellaug continued their literature work in Wundanyi up to 1993, when they retired. Although a couple like JJ and Kjellaug cannot leave East-Africa just like that and they continued working for small periods all the way up to 2006 when JJ`s health declined as he was diagnosed with Parkinsons. But also in his last ten years, JJ followed the work of Scripture Mission closely, including the merge of Scripture Mission and Soma Biblia in 2015.
Today, as Bibles, Christian books, booklets, tracts and magazines are everyday spread throughout Tanzania through a Soma Biblia bookcar or a Soma Biblia bookshop, we look back in gratitude at the work JJ started, keeping in mind the number one reason for our work: How can we continue to lead people to Christ?