An exploration of the conception of God among the Bali Nyonga and its impact upon their contemporary Christian practice with particular reference to hymnody and prayer.
Through the invitation of the then traditional ruler of Bali Nyonga, the missionaries of the Basel Mission arrived there in 1903. They embarked on evangelisation especially through the opening of schools. They studied the mungaka language, translated the Bible into it and made several other publications. However in the process of translation they concluded in strong terms that the Bali had no notion of a Supreme Being who created heaven and earth. Professors, Bolaji Idowu, Kwame Bediako and others argue contrary to such missionary assertion above, that continuity from the old religion is what gives meaning to the understanding of the new. It is in this light that in this work we seek to explore the Bali Nyonga conception of the Supreme Being. We will also investigate Christian understanding of the God of Israel; whether he is understood only in the light of previous understanding or they consider him to be somebody whom they had never known in their worldview. The researcher begins however with the basic assumption that the new can be understood only in the light of the past. This is because the people have a few sayings, which clearly indicate that their past is so much, cherished. They say for example that Bo ma ni ntun mandzi mfi kui tsed I nden beh [one cannot dig a new road without cutting across the existing road], ntan 'wo' ka gha bun nden ma mi be mbe I ti' la' be nto nkwedkwed [the hawk said it is not good for old people to all die, lest one day people would take them for meat]1. There is also the name Dayebga [one cannot forget his homeland or their compound]. After introducing the work in chapter one, the next chapter presents a historical overview of the context of research. Chapter three explores the conception of God among the Bali Nyonga. The findings of Europeans are first presented followed by the understanding of indigenes. Chapter four considers the encounter between two conflicting worldviews and its consequences as the Gospel and missionaries [two different worldviews] came into contact with the Bali worldview. The next chapter investigates Christian practice and their understanding of God. We have done this by analysing some Church hymns and prayers. Chapter six is a summary of the findings and a theological reflection on the results of the findings. 1 The hawk is not eaten. By this proverb it is considered that if there are no old people to pass on old values the next generation may do things that are digressions from esteemed values. This saying emphasizes continuity. Babila Fochang, Wisdom of the Ancients - Some African Proverbs, Witty Sayings and their interpretations drawn mostly from Bali Nyonga in the North West province of Cameroon, Dschang: Dschang University Press, 2001, p.4