Compiled by Stephen Davies Tanzania, from contributions from missionary colleagues
The Emmaus Bible School correspondence course was started right from the beginning of missionary work in Tanzania in 1955 in the coastal towns of Kilwa, and later in Mtwara. After a long and fruitful period in Dar es Salaam, Emmaus moved to Dodoma. Currently there are 2,000 students, half of them being prisoners. The demand for online studies is big and the possibility of offering the Emmaus courses online is being explored, so that many more young people might continue to profit from them. Emmaus is staffed by two local instructors and a missionary.
Education of children has long been a challenge to missionary families and those remaining in the field. The Haven of Peace Academy (HOPAC), in Dar es Salaam, is a Kindergarten-Grade 12 (Year 13) school that was founded by missionaries in 1994, but did not have a boarding facility. The Lord gave the German Section the vision to build a hostel for missionary children on land near to HOPAC, to give their parents the opportunity to keep on working in their ministry up country or even in Dar es Salaam while their children went to a Christian School. CMML(T) has been operating The Haven Christian International Boarding House since 2002, initially only for German missionary children but now accommodating children from across the globe.1 The goal is to provide a Christian home-away-from-home, helping missionary children to develop a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Together with times of devotion and worship, the students are supported in their studies and homework,2 with activities also offered in the evenings and at weekends to build good relationships with each other and create a family-like atmosphere. The Haven employs six nationals, all Christians, who are overseen by two missionaries plus two one-year volunteers. The team members enjoy a good relationship, always start with prayer in the morning and have known the Lord’s blessing as they have worked together for the Lord.
Moshi Christian Children’s Centre (MCCC aka MTOTO) was first established in 1969 as a missionary response to children in crisis. For nearly five decades it has been a Christian ministry that goes on reaching out to support children, youth and families who find themselves in extreme and difficult circumstances in northern Tanzania. It has always been shaped by a compassionate response to those in distress or danger, offering open arms of welcome and protection; offering the open arms of God’s love to those who need it. ‘Caring for children one child at a time’ means that personalized care is offered to every child that the Lord brings to the Centre – the aim is to try to care for individuals just as we believe God knows us individually. In its earliest days, MCCC was a loving response to the malnutrition and hunger of many children in the community. Today, it is still the response of local Christians in their own communities of northern Tanzania to the ongoing needs around them. In conjunction with the Social Welfare department and under licence, MCCC provides home to approximately thirty-five children of various ages. Two nationals, one who was brought up at the Centre, serve the Lord out of a call and compassion for children’s ministry, and lead MCCC; this results in MCCC children being intimately involved in a local church where one of them is a church leader.3
Western Tanzania is vast, and some villages are isolated due to poor roads and infrastructure. While helicopter services were occasionally available, missionaries could hitch a ride and visit small assemblies to teach and encourage the believers, but only for just a few hours. When these occasional opportunities ceased with the relocation of the helicopter service, what alternatives were there? For one missionary couple living in Kigoma, in 2010, the Lord gave the vision to build their own sailing boat, Wings of the Morning, on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, with the purpose of sailing to remote villages to preach the Good News and strengthen the believers. The two-masted ketch-rigged vessel was launched in 2011, and nine ministry trips, ranging from a day’s sail to week-long voyages, have been completed to-date. Equipment for gospel film showings is taken, along with literature, and the missionaries are accompanied by Tanzanian fellow-workers, who help out with children’s meetings and seminars. As more road access comes to the different villages, it is hoped to be able to go further south with the boat towards the Zambian border. On one voyage a medical team of fourteen was taken to a village north of Kigoma for three days of ministry to sick people and needy souls.
There are also refugees on the doorstep. Tanzania has long been a refuge for people fleeing wars in neighbouring countries. In the 1990s new floods of refugees came into Tanzania’s western region from Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 1996 missionaries had just moved from Burundi to Kigoma, Tanzania and knew some of these refugees as fellow believers from the assemblies in Burundi and Congo. The Lord enabled them to help the refugees establish assemblies in the different refugee camps and they made regular visits with spiritual and material aid. Whilst many of the camps were closed as refugees returned home or migrated to Australia, Europe or North America, missionaries have been able to connect some with assemblies in the USA and Canada.
The Muslim population of Tanzania is estimated at around 40%. In general, believers have been reluctant to evangelize Muslims, mostly due to fear and lack of training. The previous focus on open air evangelistic meetings and showing Christian films in the Kigoma region was met with minimal interest, especially compared to the effort and expense that went into such endeavours. Thus, there was a shift of focus to more door-to-door evangelism! Those involved were surprised at how many people warmly welcomed them, had a genuine interest in discussing religious things, and were willing to listen to the message they had brought. They made sure to always give a clear gospel presentation, and then left their hosts with a few good tracts or booklets.
Seminars were also held on how to reach Muslims through friendship evangelism. Building friendships, so that they can be shown the love of Christ, often enables the scriptures to be read with them. It is only the truth of God’s word which will then begin to correct the many misunderstandings they have about God, Christ, and Christ’s followers! Please pray with us that believers might be trained and motivated to evangelize their Muslim neighbours. We long for Christ to be glorified in His church.
Other missionaries based in Dar es Salaam, burdened with the need to evangelize children from poor and disadvantaged families, obtained a plot of land in Kinzudi village on the outskirts of the city. In 2009, Watoto wa Thamani Day Care Centre (WWT) opened, a kindergarten for fifty, four to six-year-old children, registered with the Social Welfare department. Each day, the children begin by singing Bible choruses, memorizing God’s word, hearing Bible stories and prayer. Afterwards they are taught basic literacy and numeracy in Kiswahili to prepare them to enter Primary School. The Christian teachers, all nationals, are committed to bringing the gospel to these young hearts and through them to their families, who are invited to special assemblies throughout the year. One grandmother has been saved and baptized and is in fellowship in the local assembly. Contact with the parents has brought many needy souls who have been helped physically, but also brought under the sound of the gospel. Many of the children who have been through WWT now form the core of the assembly Sunday School and the nucleus of a Friday children’s meeting.
Visit any village in Tanzania and you will notice the number of children sitting about, or maybe playing with their friends. Should you start to show an interest in them, you quickly get an audience. The city of Dar es Salaam is no different. Missionaries based in the city were invited by a contact to hold a children’s meeting in the open air in a major police housing compound. This work on a Thursday afternoon has been going on for more than ten years. At the start, 200+ children could be expected, but these numbers have started to shrink as families are relocated. Around sixty children still come each Thursday (weather permitting) to learn and hear God’s word, to sing choruses, and answer questions to get a reward. Enthused by such a response, once WWT had been established, they decided to try holding a similar Kids’ Club on a Friday afternoon using the WWT facility. More than 400 children, from both Christian and Muslim backgrounds, regularly attend the meetings, at which they sing choruses with gusto, memorize God’s word with accuracy, listen to Bible stories attentively and answer questions with eagerness. Each precious child is a soul for whom Christ died.
From small beginnings in Southern Tanzania, the Lord’s work has spread and grown, and over the years the number of missionaries has far exceeded the 100 that Dudley Dalton envisioned under CMML(T). Many Tanzanians have been won for the Saviour, many assemblies established, and many national evangelists called to serve Him. Yet many of the assemblies are small and weak, and the number of assembly-commended missionaries registered under CMML(T) is only a fraction of what it was in the past. Yes, the fields are white unto harvest, but the labourers are few! The Lord is still calling! Where are those who will hear and heed His call?
Prayer is sought not only for more to be exercised, called and sent as missionaries, but for the building up of Tanzanian believers, for the establishing of local New Testament assemblies that cherish the distinctiveness of gathering to the Lord’s name, and for a local awakening of nationals with a heart for Him and to reach out with the gospel of the grace of God to their own people, young and old, of any religion or none, that the Lord might be glorified and see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied.
Compiled from contributions from assembly-commended missionaries across Tanzania.