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!