Tanzania at the Crossroads

David Virtue DVirtue236 at AOL.COM
Thu May 31 01:48:38 EDT 2001


Tanzania at the Crossroads

Special Field Report for Virtuosity

By Jerry A. Kramer
St. Christopher Church
League City, TX May 30, 2001

Twelve days ago my wife, Stacy, and I left our home in Texas to make a
pilgrimage to the Anglican Diocese of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, as
guests of the local bishop, the Rt. Rev. Simon Makundi. While still in
the throes of jetlag, I wanted to put some thoughts into writing about
this life changing - and faith enriching - experience.

Immediately upon our arrival what impressed us most was the incredible
faith of these people. They believe in Jesus in a way that we cannot
even begin to understand. It is as though He has just risen from the
dead and rolled away the stone. Indeed, we prayed at the airport,
prayed once in the car, prayed on the way to the Diocese's Guesthouse,
prayed before and after dinner, and then prayed as we said our
farewells for the first evening. Jesus is alive, He has defeated death
and the devil, and He dwells among them in the Spirit.

In Tanzania, visitors are considered a blessing from God. One must
always be prepared to receive warmly a visitor, just as one must
prepare for the unannounced arrival of the Risen One. Christians here
are keenly aware of Jesus' presence and imminence, living their - at
times very difficult - daily lives in His light.

The most pressing factor currently pressing upon Tanzanian society
holds significant consequences for the Church there - and for all of us
who profess to believe in the Gospel. Urbanization is drawing people
from the once highly populated rural regions into the big cities - in
this Diocese (which is roughly the size of Pennsylvania with one main
paved road) they are flocking to Arusha and Moshi. The most critical
need, therefore, is for increased evangelization, planting churches and
launching educational programs in the midst of these newly forming and
rapidly burgeoning urban communities.

We were heartened to learn - and see firsthand -the Anglican Church
(yes dear readers, the Anglican Church!) leading the way in
evangelizing among these marginalized peoples, particularly the Maasi
who are abandoning their nomadic ways.

Over the years, the more established churches, e.g., Roman Catholics and
Lutherans, have become rather complacent. This has had the effect of
opening the way for the Muslims to make significant inroads in what has
been, up until this time, a nation evenly balanced between Christianity
and Islam. The Muslims are now aggressively seeking souls backed by a
tremendous infusion of foreign support and capital.

One small newly planted Anglican parish - St. Mary's in the textile
district of Arusha - recently attempted to purchase property for their
permanent church. When word of this acquisition leaked, local Muslims
approached the owner and attempted to dissuade him, through bribery and
other measures - to cancel the sale. In the words of one St. Mary's
member, "Thanks be to God he [the owner] was an honest man who kept his
word to us." They now have their acre of land on which to worship under
a sheet metal roof and four open air walls. One cannot miss the
beautiful and bold choir voices spilling out into the surrounding
neighbourhood when coming down the main road for Sunday services.

The goal for Islam is not only to plant mosques on every corner, but to
influence the political life of the nation. Radicals hope, through
proselytizing and polygamy, to shift the population balance. Once in
control of high governmental positions and structures, they would
assuredly seek to impose Sharia law. Here we have the potential for
another Nigeria and Sudan in the very nascent stages if left unchecked.

Amidst all of the poverty and suffering there, whenever we asked a
pastor or diocesan official "What is your greatest need?" (One would
immediately think "food, clothing, medicine, etc."), the response was
always "greater evangelization!" As one young evangelist told us, "the
Muslims can give the people cows, food, money, education and other
material things . . . but we have the truth and the power of God on our
side. We just have to preach the Gospel - with conviction and
sincerity."

The Church there is in a lock-step battle for the future and soul of
the nation. 60 percent of the local priests and pastors live below
poverty level, often times going hungry. Yet they are profoundly
committed to proclaiming the Gospel and witnessing their faith in the
Risen Christ. Candidates for priesthood and evangelical ministry are in
great supply. What they need most, however, is sufficient support,
training, and education. The fate of this beautiful, faithful nation
will likely be sealed, one way or another, over the next few years.

The Anglican Diocese there runs a three-year bible study and evangelism
program, currently housing (and packed to the gills with) thirty
students on a small farm outside of Arusha. This program is the local
Church's highest priority, though it is struggling mightily for
survival. These men study in residence four months each year, "learning
scripture and theology so that they don't teach heresy - as some do in
the west," and then spend the balance working in their home parishes,
preaching door to door and holding open air meetings. This all has the
look and feel of the first century Church immediately following
Pentecost.

It costs $400 a year to train an evangelist. The necessary funds,
however, are sorely lacking, as is sufficient classroom space; at
present they use a small kitchen and dining room for seminars. Many
more workers could be trained to harvest in these mission fields,
implementing the Great Commission and checking Islam's growth, if
additional resources were available to the Church there.

Each Sunday in Kilimanjaro we attended several Swahili services in
different locations. What we were so privileged to see was the Holy
Spirit working in these people, filling their voices with song and
giving them incredible zeal for saving souls and proclaiming the Good
News of salvation. They are saving, scrimping and sacrificing to plant
new churches and advance Christianity among this and future
generations. It is an incredible site to behold.

The Anglican Diocese of Mt. Kilimanjaro's guesthouse is now fully
operational and can accommodate comfortably eight American/Western
visitors at a time. If you or your congregation would like to see the
Church growing - fighting the good fight - with zeal and immeasurable
enthusiasm, and have your faith increased beyond measure, our brothers
and sisters in Christ warmly welcome you in their midst. While it was
not an inexpensive trek to Tanzania - we will be forever changed and
hope to bring a measure of this Apostolic zeal back to our home parish
and community.

Please keep the faithful of Tanzania in your prayers. The future of the
Church there hangs in the balance and will be deeply and lastingly
impacted by their ability to continue evangelizing and educating
effectively as this rapid burst of societal transformation reaches its
zenith.

For more information on the Anglican Diocese of Mt. Kilimanjaro contact
the Rt. Rev. Simon Makundi at DMK at habari.co.tz or Jerry and Stacy
Kramer at JK4211 at aol.com.




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