Ngingumhambi: A Zulu Hymn of Faith and Hope
Ngingumhambi is a Zulu hymn that means “I am a pilgrim” or “I am a traveler” in English. It expresses the Christian belief that life on earth is a temporary journey and that the true home of the believer is in heaven with Jesus. The hymn was written by Rev. James Dube, a Zulu pastor and evangelist who lived from 1867 to 1946. He composed many hymns and songs that are still popular among Zulu-speaking Christians today.
The hymn has five verses, each with four lines. The first verse declares that the singer is a traveler on earth, but does not fear because Jesus is their shepherd and protector. The second verse affirms that the singer hears and obeys the voice of Jesus, who leads them to the fountain of life and the bread of life. The third verse praises Jesus for giving them peace and strength, even when they face enemies and darkness. The fourth verse expresses the singer’s longing to see Jesus face to face, who has all power and is their refuge. The fifth verse anticipates the end of the world and the joy of being with Jesus in their eternal home.
The hymn is sung in a lively and upbeat tune, reflecting the confidence and hope of the singer. It is often accompanied by drums, guitars, keyboards, or other instruments. The hymn is popular among Zulu churches and choirs, as well as other African languages and cultures. It has also been translated into English and other languages, such as Swahili, Xhosa, Sotho, and Afrikaans.
Ngingumhambi is a hymn that celebrates the faith and hope of Christians who trust in Jesus as their savior and lord. It reminds them that they are not alone in their journey, but have a divine guide and a heavenly destination.
The hymn Ngingumhambi is based on several biblical passages that use the metaphor of a shepherd and a sheep to describe the relationship between Jesus and his followers. For example, Psalm 23 says, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Another passage is John 10:11-16, where Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
The hymn also reflects the Zulu culture and worldview, which values community, hospitality, loyalty, courage, and respect. The Zulu people are known for their rich oral tradition, which includes stories, proverbs, riddles, songs, and poems. The Zulu language is expressive and poetic, using imagery, repetition, parallelism, and contrast to convey meaning and emotion. The hymn Ngingumhambi is an example of how the Zulu people have integrated their Christian faith with their cultural identity.