Dispatch Two from East Africa, Nov 13 2009

 

Jambo!  My first mission trip was in the summer of 2000 when I traveled to Kenya under Bishop Weeks and Hugh Kaiser.  Over the years, I have made many friends there, among them a young man, now ordained a priest, serving in Nairobi.  We have kept in touch via e-mail, occasional phone calls, and now Facebook.

This trip, I traveled across the border from Tanzania to Kenya to visit these friends.  Crossing an African border at 10 PM at night required departing from the bus, leaving Tanzania through its immigration station there, walking 100 meters across no mans land in the dark, and entering Kenya, without a Kenyan visa!  The visa was procured upon arrival after the border officials sweated me a bit. .

As I shared with many old friends in Kenya, I heard many phrases – “You taught us new things we never knew” and “Becoming a priest became a calling from God, not another job” and “We are different because of your teaching – still different after so many years.”  In one place I was told that there are now ten babies named Francis, Patricia, or Mary.  And one cow named Francis too.

There were many questions.  “How is Patricia?” and “How is Bishop Fick?” and “How is Bishop Weeks and Hugh Kaiser?”  There was much good remembering stories of the past.

These visits gave me time to acclimate to temperature and time differences before starting the main ministry in Tanzania this trip.  The original plan for the main ministry was to teach two weeks to new students, and one week to old students, all in the Tanzanian Diocese of Victoria Nyanza on Lake Victoria.  When the Bishop sent out the invitations, he expected 15 new students but over 50 signed up.   Evidently, the old students talked about their initial experiences in the classes and encouraged new students to enroll.

So, the plan will be changed.  All classes scheduled for old students this trip will be cancelled.  Instead, I will teach two groups of new students, splitting the total group of new students in half, and splitting the total time too.  Why is this important to the African church?

In many Anglican Dioceses in Africa, their statistics say something like this:  45 priests; 93 churches.  What does this mean?  It means that ordained priests serve only 45 churches.  Evangelists lead the remainder of the churches.  These evangelists are young men, on fire for the Lord, passionate in their ministry of the Word, but uneducated in parish ministry, uneducated in life, uneducated in school subjects, and doing the best that they can.  Over the years, many evangelists go on to ordination.

Such men are hungry for pastoral training.  They are excited by the opportunities to learn basic Christian teachings, ethos of ordained ministry, liturgy, sacrament, Scripture and preaching.  They have realized that parish ministry is more than an altar call. Matthew 28:20 “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.”  Ephesians 4:12 “to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”

The Bishop is excited.  The new students are excited.  I am excited too.

Logistical obstacles will be overcome.  More food will be purchased.  We will work longer hours.  And the legacy of the teaching done by OFM will take deep, deep root in the present and future of this diocese.  The work will not be spectacular healing services that will fill soccer stadiums; but it will be basic, personal teaching for young church leaders who will make a difference here. The Bishop has entrusted his young men, the future of the diocese, to this ministry.

Thank you so much to all of you who are praying – keep praying!  More teachers are needed here in Africa!  Also, thank you so much to all of you who donated money to make this trip possible, and are still donating money to keep the ministry alive.  You know who you are.  We could never be grateful enough.

Tonight, I will rest, listening to BBC News on my new little worldwide radio, a gift from a supporting parish.  Tomorrow I will visit other old friends.  Sunday, I will celebrate liturgy in a little, rural, Anglican church.  Next week, I will return to Mwanza in Tanzania, and begin the main ministry.

Mungu arabariki! May God bless you.

Fr Francis Wardega
Missionary Priest in Africa
Missionary Society of St John

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