Dispatch 5, 13 Dec 2009 3rd Sunday of Advent

The ministry of OFM is to provide ministry education in places where such education is hard to get.  The teaching has been completed for now here in Geita.  It was hard work for all concerned.  The class members thought that the whole Anglican Church believed, practiced and taught as they did.  They were wrong.  They discovered the need and desire to learn more in order to serve God and His people in the best way possible, now and in the future.  So they wanted to learn.  It was a huge challenge.

Learning was not easy.  The need to translate all instruction into Swahili slowed the process down.  The interpreter was an 18-year-old recent high school graduate whose Swahili vocabulary did not extend into church matters. So many words were a struggle. The students worked so hard at writing down everything that was said, that I often had to tell them put your pens down and listen.  Students with a seventh grade education were learning college level material.

Some things they caught at the first mention.  They understood that Moses himself did not personally write the first five books of the Bible.  They understood that others wrote in the spirit of Moses and God was all the greater for working through many people rather than one.  They spontaneously applauded God when they realized that.  It was a Holy Spirit moment.

They struggled to comprehend that the ministry of the prophet was to announce God’s Word, not to predict the future as they always had been taught.  But they learned that and accepted that.  Thank you Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.

What was hardest for them to comprehend was not really important, the concept of dating events in Scripture, B.C. and A.D.  Their Swahili Bibles listed such dates in a routine manner.  They asked what it meant.  It took me a half hour to repeatedly explain the meaning and I do not think that most understood completely. Why is it that for B.C., the numbers get smaller as the dates get closer to the birth of Jesus and for A.D., the dates get larger as you get farther away from the birth of Jesus? There was no answer to that question.

They finished proudly.  They looked good for the class picture. Note in the picture below how some proudly displayed their Bibles.  Each student was thrilled to receive a copy of the class picture.  Remember that they lived at the church for three weeks, sleeping on mats on the floor, having to cook their own food, and having to clean the church.

On the last class day, one by one, they proudly came forward and received their Certificates of Ministry Education, from the area Anglican coordinator, Fr Mathias.  Guests and other Anglican pastors came.  Speeches were made.  The students will put their certificates in a frame and display them proudly in the sitting room of their huts.

They went home different than they came.  What they knew before had been significantly supplemented.  They went home with a new determination to do the best for God and his people and had faith that they could now do such things better.  They went home with a desire to continue to learn.  They were all pressuring Father Mathias for more training and more education.  The seeds that had been planted and nurtured were now sprouting.  New knowledge, new attitudes, new confidence.

Geita is a place of contrasts – contemporary and ancient.  I saw large Mercedes cargo trucks for the gold mines and followed by donkey carts for firewood.  There was electric power but it failed almost every day, sometimes for several days at a time. There were crowded roads with buses, trucks, and cars, but mostly there were bicycles – even bicycle taxis.  The battle between progress and traditional ways is happening.  For the pastors, they must learn much more in order to serve God and his people of the next 25 years.

Every Sunday in Africa, I preached at the liturgy in a local church.  So the people in several churches here in Africa heard about the Missionary Society of St John, Bishop Fick, and your support of ministry education in Africa.  I assisted Fr Mathias, the pastor.

Your prayers and donations made a big difference here.  These twenty pastors will change the nature of church in these rural areas.  They will become seed for sowing in God’s kingdom here in Tanzania.  Thank you God.  Thank you people of God.  Your prayers and financial support are bearing great fruit here in East Africa.  The teachers of God’s people are being taught.  Without you, all this does not happen.  We are grateful for those who supported this trip and we are grateful to the monthly donors who keep this ministry alive.  This ministry, the students in Africa, and the rural church in Africa, all rely on you and all thank you. Without such support from you, this ministry dies.

Asante sana!  (Thank you!)

Fr Francis Wardega MSJ

Mission Station Geita, Republic of Tanzania

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