Introduction / History
The Ingessana, or Tabi, live in the Tabi Hills of Sudan, near the Ethiopian border. They, along with the other groups in this region, are bordered on all sides by powerful, dominating peoples. The Muslim Sudanese live to the North; the Amhara and Oromo live to the East; and the Dinka and Nuer live to the West and South.
Although this region is home to different political, cultural, and linguistic traditions, the Ingessana have successfully avoided assimilation. Aided by the terrain of the Tabi Hills, which are isolated and rocky, the Ingessana have never been conquered and have succeeded in keeping their language pure.
The Ingessana are infamous for their hostility toward strangers. In the past, refugees have refused to go there due to their hostile reputation. Because of their isolation, the Ingessana have become a very cohesive group and have been influenced very little by outsiders.
What are their lives like?
The Ingessana rely equally on their crops and their herds for survival. They keep their herds of pigs, cattle, sheep, and goats on grazing grounds about three hours away from the villages. Millet is their staple crop, and they can grow two crops a year: one on the slopes of the hills adjoining the houses, and again in clearings on the plains. If necessary, they grow sesame to compensate for a poor sorghum harvest. Ingessana homes are the most strongly constructed and elaborate in the Southern Fung region.
Traditionally, children are cared for by their parents until they reach adolescence. Generally, the women and young children do not live with the rest of the family. Instead, they live in homes of their own until the children reach puberty. Most girls are betrothed while very young and marry during adolescence. When boys reach puberty, they either begin herding their fathers' cattle in the temporary camps on the plains, or move in with a maternal uncle or other relative.
Young couples do not live together when they first get married. The husband either lives with his father or his father-in-law, and the wife continues living with her mother and sisters. Later, when the young couple has children of their own, they move to separate dwellings.
The Tabi Hills region is divided into many sections. Each section has its own grazing ground, hunting areas, and farmland. A chief serves as the religious and political head of each section. He usually lives in a separate hut called the hut of the sun, which is also the center of religious life for the people. A number of sections form one tribe, and each tribe is led by a "hereditary war leader."
What are their beliefs?
The Ingessana worship the sun. They believe that the sun, or Tel, is the creator of life and of the universe. They call upon Tel during important crises, such as when drought threatens, when a child is sick, or when a woman is barren. Shrines for Tel are in each village and worshipped regularly.
When an Ingessana dies, he is buried wherever he was lying. That is why a man who is extremely ill will try to reach his own village and a woman will leave her husband and go to the house of her father. If a person dies outside his village, his family performs a ceremony to call his spirit back to their village. The deceased are then washed, ornately decorated, and completely covered in cloth. The body is placed on a mat, with the head facing east. After the burial ceremony, stones are placed around the grave.
What are their needs?
There is a great need for Christian literature to be translated into the Ingessana language. Laborers are also needed to work among these tribes, showing them the love of Jesus in practical ways. Prayer is the key to seeing these hostile people reached with the Gospel.
Ask God to grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies ministering to the Ingessana.
Pray that the Lord will raise up long term workers to join the few who have already responded.
Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the small number of Ingessana Christians.
Ask the Lord to bring forth a vigorous Ingessana church for the glory of His name!