January 2017 Mission Trip
by Sonja G
Roberta and Reg Yoder teamed up with members of Zion Lutheran, Des Moines to visit the companion parishes that each church has in the Pare Diocese of Tanzania. This was the fifth joint mission trip of the two churches since 2009, when Dave Eilers and Pastor Holmes made the first visit to Myamba Lutheran Parish, St. Peter’s companion. Myamba is more distant from the Pare Diocese headquarters in Same (where we link up with a Diocese vehicle and driver) than is Zion’s companion, Mhezi Lutheran Parish, so St. Peter travelers have always visited the Mhezi Parish. The 2017 team also visited Gonja Lutheran Hospital, between the two Parishes, and Mwanga School for the Deaf.
When we visit the parishes we live with parish families. We’re always there on a Sunday so we can worship together at one of the sub-parishes and share Holy Communion. Sub-parish visits on other days may involve a choir singing, and will always include many introductions of sub-parish leaders and a building tour. Tanzanian “tea,” more like an ample lunch, is served! Often, gifts are given—perhaps a brightly-colored cloth called a kitenga which is ceremoniously wrapped around us; men sometimes receive a traditional shirt. Myamba Parish presented a covered pottery bowl gift for St. Peter which is on display. In 2017 we visited all 5 Myamba and all 8 Mhezi sub-parishes!
At both Parishes we attended a Parish leaders meeting where we reviewed the progress being made on sub-Parish building and maintenance projects and presented financial gifts to assist their efforts. The gift to Myamba’s confirmation program, collected by St. Peter’s confirmation students, was also presented. Myamba Parish has two Evangelists who have not yet attended Usangi Leadership Training College, and we hope to be able to help them with their tuition needs. It was clear that the October 2016 visit of Dave, Carol and Karen Eilers was cherished time for Myamba Parish.
Pastor Imanuel Chediel has been Myamba’s pastor since January 2016. He is a delightful man who is fairly fluent in English, well-organized and devoted to our God. Parish Evangelist George Mnkeni has been our main contact since Pastor Huruma transferred from Myamba, and this time we arranged for him to receive computer training that should improve our communication with Myamba Parish.
Both St. Peter and Zion provide 4-year secondary school scholarships to students whose families can’t afford the school fees at the government schools in their Parish. In 2017 St. Peter is providing scholarships for 69 students! We visited the two schools at Myamba, taking pictures of scholarship students and presenting them with school notebooks, pens, pencils and erasers. Each new student received a Swahili Bible. Each school was presented with a soccer ball, volleyball and pump.
In each Parish we met former scholarship students eager to continue their education after having completed the four years of secondary school. Those who pass the national exam could attend two more years, called advanced level secondary school, but they have to leave home and fees are higher. Others seek vocational training to become primary school teachers, nurses, mechanics, drivers, electricians or tourism workers. We’ve received a list of 28 former scholarship students who want such training, in programs ranging in length from two months ($280 cost) to two years ($400/year.) Myamba Parish is hopeful St. Peter can help provide funds for their vocational training.
At Gonja Lutheran Hospital mission teams usually do service projects. This year we worked alongside a Fundi (local laborer) who repaired damaged walls and did some carpentry in the delivery room where expectant mothers go when their labor starts. We cleaned walls and applied two coats of paint. Hospital Matron Dora Mtango, RN, who visited St Peter in 2014, emailed the following: “Labor ward is shining! Mothers are delivering in an attract[ive] room after that nice work of painting you did.”
The last stop on our 2017 mission trip was Mwanga School for the Deaf, where we met 9-year-old Myamba student Elizabeth M. Tumaini, saw her dormitory, met her house mother and school headmaster, saw her school records (top in her class for the year!) and paid her school fees collected by St. Peter Sunday school students. We also presented the school with soccer ball, volleyball and pump provided by St. Peter Sunday school students.