A Mighty Boma

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One wall of a boma with its doorway
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Maasai families live and sleep safely within the boma.

When westerners think about Martin Luther’s hymn A Mighty Fortress or Psalm 46, on which it is based, the picture that often comes to mind is that of a medieval European castle, complete with turrets, drawbridge, and moat (like this, for example).  Although it’s not exactly what the Hebrew author had in mind when he wrote Psalm 46, it does capture the essence of the meaning of the Hebrew word for fortress/refuge.

In Africa, however, a different picture comes to mind that is just as accurate.  In the Swahili translation of Luther’s hymn, the word for fortress is translated as boma, which refers to a thick enclosure of thorny branches built around a household, its yard, and its domestic animals.  In country where elephants and lions roam freely, the only safe place to be at night is within the confines of the boma.  The next time I sing the hymn, I think a different picture will come to mind!

2 thoughts on “A Mighty Boma

  1. We’ve been to Kenya and to a Maasai village where we entered a home made of animal dung. It was interesting to see how the Boma did protect the individual family huts and the village as a whole. Inside the ring of family huts was an area that held their livestock. You bring back great memories of a wonderful trip. God Bless your missionary work there. They are lovely people that need the Word of God in their lives.

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