Christmas Greetings !

Christmas Eve, 2009

Jesus is coming.  Majilio (Advent) is ending.    

It is time to celebrate Kuzaliwa (Christmas).  Let us exalt the Messiah!

Please accept holyday greetings from America.

We pray the blessings of the season upon you and your family.  Please pass my greetings on to others as appropriate.  You are remembered on this day and during this season.

We remember again the prophecies of the Old Testament foretelling the birth of the Messiah.  He came.

Let us also remember the prophecies of the New Testament, foretelling how He will come again, in power and majesty and glory!  He will come again.

May you receive Christmas blessings.

In His service, always

Fr Francis and Patricia Wardega
Missionary Society of St John
Anglican Church in America

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Need For Prayer

africa_mapIn the turbulent times of the Anglican Church, mission ministry in Africa has suffered.  African churches are most often Scripturally faithful.  Their faithfulness puts the Africans at odds with those parts of the Anglican Church which are not Scripturally faithful, but revisionist in their application of the Gospel message.  Without financial support from revisionist Anglican churches, African churches suffer.  Bible colleges close.  Ministry to the poor, to those orphaned, and to victims of HIV/Aids, suffers.  In many cases, financial aid from revisionist churches comes with conditions that African churches find unfaithful as they see it.

So, times are hard, again.  OFM cannot replace those lost dollars.  OFM tries to help Africans themselves to do what needs to be done, through education of church leaders.  We ask you to pray for the work of OFM, which suffers in these times of economic hardship.

Prayer:

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light, look favorably on that wonderful and sacred mystery of your Church, especially your mission ministry of OFM.  By the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility your plan for salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are now being raised up , and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by Him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

AMEN.

Furahaya ya Krismasi – Merry Christmas

Furahaya ya Krismasi is Swahili for “Merry Christmas.”  It tells us something about East Africa’s celebration of this holiday that “Furaha ya Krismasi” was only recently added to the vocabulary of East Africa.

The way that we celebrate Advent and Christmas is not the way that such things are celebrated and practiced in East Africa.  While most East African countries now have lectionaries of readings for every Sunday of the year, the liturgical seasons are not as finely developed as they are in western nations.

For example, most people in East Africa never heard of Epiphany or Advent.  Lent is new to the people I know.  It is only in recent years that some few East Africans began to wash feet on Maundy Thursday.  The early Anglican and Roman missionaries did not teach these things to the African peoples.

So, while we celebrate the liturgical season of Advent on the four Sundays preceding the day of Christmas, most East Africans do not have our understanding of the significance of that season.  They may have readings, which point in that direction, but have not connected that series of Sundays into a season.  I found no Swahili word for our English “Advent.”

East Africa does remember and celebrate the day of Christ’s birth.  But, they are only now realizing that December 25 is not the actual date of Christ’s birth.  There was no December 25 when Jesus was born as a human being.  We do not know the actual date of Christ’s birth.  For East Africans, it is not an easy lesson to learn that December 25 was the date that the early church picked to remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Incarnation, God made man.

East Africans do not celebrate Christmas with the massive giving of gifts, decorated Christmas trees, midnight services, and exterior lighting up of their huts!  What do they do?  They do exchange a few small gifts with a few of their family.  They do gather as family for a meal together.  They may go to church if a special service is offered.  The service probably won’t be at midnight, an unsafe time to walk the rural roads of this land.

In seven trips to East Africa, I have only seen a Christmas tree once – in the Nairobi airport, a small, thin, and scrawny tree – with five lights on it..

East Africans look with amazement on the way that we celebrate this holiday.  They see it as rampant consumerism without knowing the word.  Most of them have no interest, no desire, no capability to celebrate the day as we do.

While I like some of the American ways of celebrating this holiday, it seems to me that the East African way is a purer, simpler way of remembering and celebrating the birth of Jesus.  I am guessing that those of us with European descendents have some knowledge and memory of how our grandparents and great-grandparents celebrated the season and that such celebrations were purer and simpler than what we do now.  I guess that it is very hard for us not to be caught up in the buy-buy-buy consumer oriented society that we live in today, much to the detriment of celebrating the holyday of Christmas.  We are caught up in the American way of celebrating the holiday.  “Black Friday” is a bigger day than is Good Friday.  Sad.

What traditions of Christmas celebration have been passed on to you and what traditions are you going to pass on to your children and grandchildren?

So, depending on your choices, I wish you either “Happy Holidays” or Merry Christmas!”

Leave a Legacy – Send Books to Africa

Needed for Africa

Needed for Africa

There are many ways to help our Anglican brothers and sisters in East Africa. An effective way, an important way, is to contribute to the education of those who would teach the Faith once delivered, to the people, who will lead the church of the next forty years.  Here at OFM, we do that.  We do that with the help of God, some parishes, and many people, all of whom support this ministry.  We ask you to continue those prayers and to continue that financial support.

Now, we ask more.    Currently, the ministry is working with two Bible Colleges that teach the future teachers and leaders:  Nyakato Bible College in the Anglican Diocese of Victoria-Nyanza, and Buigiri Bible College, in the Capital Diocese.  Both these colleges are rich in students and rich in potential.  They are poor in library.

They need books for their libraries so that the students have reading resources to support their programs of studies.  What kinds of books?  Theology – church growth – Scripture study – pastoral ministry – church history – healing and deliverance – sermon preparation – Christian formation – Sunday School for children – personal spirituality.  Can you help?  Do you have older, used works available to send?

How can they be sent?  Please send them directly to Africa.  Addresses are listed below.  The most economical way to send them is through use of a US Mail “M Bag.”  These “M Bags” and appropriate labels are available at some – but not all post offices.  Only books may be sent – no vestments nor altar implements.

When the paperwork is filled out, value each book at fifty cents or a dollar.  The Africans pay less customs duty that way upon receipt.  Include your return address/e-mail address inside so that the Africans may express their appreciation.  If you wish, please label each book with your name or the name of your church.  This promotes unity and grateful hearts between all of us.

This is a good way to leave a legacy, to contribute to the growth of the Kingdom in far away lands.  Any questions – please call me: USA-248-345-2651.  Addresses to send books are listed below.  Note that there are no postal zone numbers in Tanzania.  Thanks so much.

Rev Capt Nestor G. Muheta
Nyakato Bible College
Anglican Diocese of Victoria-Nyanza
P. O. Box 278
Mwanza – Tanzania – East Africa

The Most Rev. Daudi H.Chidawali/Rev Eliah Mballaga
Buigiri Bible College – Gospel Catholic Church
Postal Box 3045
Dodoma – Tanzania – East Africa

New International Seminary Being Formed

Bishop Gerhard Mayer, REC of germany

Bishop Gerhard Meyer, REC of Germany

In late October of 2008, a group of priests and bishops from several lands met to discuss the formation of an International Theological Seminary for External Studies which could serve students on three continents, Europe (Germany and U.K.), Africa (Tanzania) and America.  This meeting was held in conjunction with the General Council of the Reformed Episcopal Church in Victoria, British Columbia, in Canada.

The initial group included the chairman of the group, The Ven. Dr. Douglas B. Mills, Archdeacon, Missionary Diocese of the Central States, Dean, External Studies Program, Bishop Gerhard Meyer of the Reformed Episcopal Church in Germany, Bishop John Fenwick of the Free Church in England, Rev Fr Steven Rutt of Andrewes Hall/Cramner Theological House, and Rev Fr  Francis Wardega, Canon Missioner to Africa for the Missionary Society of St John.

Initial discussions focused on a desire to improve certified education for clergy and catechist/church teachers in places where such education is hard to get.  The goal is to carry out better the part of the Great Commission that directs us:

Matthew 28:18-20.   “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the world. Amen.”

The focus of the group is on: “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

The group would work together to provide an Anglican extension seminary that could provide accreditation, leadership, coordination, curriculum, and assistance to already existing schools in Germany, England and Tanzania, to start.

First steps include examining existing curricula from the component institutions, analyzing needs, and the proposal of a common core curriculum for examination by component institutions.

The basic plan being discussed:

Certified instructors in each land would carry out the course instruction.  The same instructors would also administer examinations and grading.  Student data, course work, and grades would be recorded at the seminary offices in America, where appropriate diplomas would be issued from the parent seminary.

Having the diplomas come from an accredited seminary would offer more universal value to the graduate.  As appropriate, both bachelors and masters degrees would be granted.

There was a sense of excitement at the meeting as we shared reports on the schools we represented and realized the potential for improving how we will do Gospel work in the future because of these efforts.

We pray for the guidance of the Lord and His blessing.

Tanzania 2008 – Dispatch 1

MISSION DISPATCH NUMBER ONE:  Mwanza, Tanzania, Saturday, August 9

The mission trip has started.  I landed yesterday, Friday, in Mwanza, a city on the southern coast of Lake Victoria, after a journey that started very early Wednesday morning in Detroit, and took four airline flights.  It is hot-90 degrees-and humid, normal life in Mwanza.  Rt. Rev. Boniface Kwangu, bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Victoria-Nyanza (DVN) was there to welcome me personally.

Today, I rest and accommodate to the time change – eight hours ahead of the time in Detroit.  Tomorrow, I celebrate and preach at the English service at the downtown cathedral.  Monday, I begin teaching at the theological school.  In Tanzania, there are two official languages; Swahili and English.  There is often a third language – a local tribal language – also.  I teach in English and it is interpreted into Swahili.

Tanzania is normally a peaceful land.  Its first president, Julius Nyerere, called Mwalimu – the teacher – taught the people that they are family, ujamaa in Swahili.  He taught a spirit of cooperation that transcended tribal animosities and history.  It worked!  It has stood the test of time.

Tanzania is a union of Tanganyika, old German East Africa, and the islands of Zanzibar and Pemba (clove capital of the world).  It is approximately evenly split between Christianity and Islam.  The largest Christian group is the Anglican Church.  Rt. Rev. Dr. Valentio Mokiwa, the Anglo-Catholic Bishop of Dar es Salaam, was elected primate of Tanzania in February of this year.

I will spend the next approximately 19 days teaching clergy and lay leaders.  I will teach basics of the faith, introduction to liturgy, introduction to ordained ministry, fundamentals of sacred Scripture, and sacraments to those who are the main teachers of the diocese.  Every student will receive a copy of every lesson plan, building up personal ministry libraries in a land where there are very few libraries at all.

So the work begins.  I thank you all for sending me here.  I will work hard to make the most out of what you and God have given.  I give thanks to God for overcoming all obstacles to get me here.  I give thanks to all of you, the donors of the years, friends, who have been faithful supporters through all the fitful journey of church in recent years.  I give thanks to my bishop, Rt. Rev. Frederick G. Fick.  I am also grateful to Most Rev. Walter Grundorf, Deaconess Tina Jenkins of the Missions Office, and the people of the Anglican Province of America who have supported this trip mightily also.

May the blessing of God Almighty be with all of you.

Fr. Francis Wardega, MSJ

Mission Trip to Tanzania August 2008

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Insignia of the Diocese of Victoria-Nyanza

The Rt Rev Boniface Kwangu, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Victoria-Nyanza in Tanzania, has invited Fr Francis to come to his diocese and teach clergy and lay leaders. Details are being worked out but the trip is tentatively scheduled for August of 2008.

The general plan is for Fr Francis to go to several selected locations within the diocese and teach smaller groups (less than 20 people) of the clergy and lay leaders in the diocese for four-five days each.

The Anglican Diocese of Victoria Nyanza covers the regions of Mwanza and Shinyanga in northwest Tanzania and is essentially, the southern shore of Lake Victoria. The diocese encompasses an area of 7,373 square kilometers. Mwanza is the second largest city in Tanzania and one of the major ports of Lake Victoria.

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Bismarck Rocks in Mwanza Harbor

The Diocese is divided into 6 achdeaconries, 8 deaneries and 50 parishes. It has 208 churches, 55 Pastors and 208 Evangelists.

Please note that American usage of the words “parish and church” may mean basically the same thing. That is not necessarily true in Africa.

In Africa, a parish will usually have a pastor. A church may have a pastor or more often it may have an evangelist or church teacher as a lay leader. Churches may be under the coordination of a local pastor from a different parish or may be under the coordination of an archdeacon or a dean.

Priests and deacons are ordained ministers. Evangelists and church teachers are commissioned ministers. It is rare for Eucharist to be offered every Sunday in most places.

We ask your prayers and financial support of this mission. Estimated costs of this next mission are:

Air travel to Africa: $2500
In country travel: $1000
In country expenses: $1000
Classroom materials: $ 750
Total: $5250

Not all can travel to Africa for Gospel work. Yet all can share in the work and the graces by being a part of the mission through prayer and financial support. As a mendicant missionary society, we beg for your support.

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health; I know it is well with your soul. 3 John 2

Fr Francis Wardega
Canon Missioner
Missionary Society of St John
Anglican Province of America
248-345-2651
jambofrfrancis@yahoo.com

Who Are You? – What Do You Believe?

The author of this essay has served God in Africa six times over the last few years. Each trip lasted at least a month and included significant contact with God’s people in what we would call the most rural areas.

God’s people in such rural areas do not have the instantaneous communications that we have in America or that many Africans who dwell in the major cities have. Internet access is limited or non-existent in the rural areas. Electricity is limited or non-existent in the rural areas. Television is limited or non-existent in the rural areas. African newspapers are more focused on local politics or their national political happenings. It takes a while for people to get the news.

International church happenings rarely if ever, make the local news in African rural areas. Thus it has been surprising how important it has been to rural African Christians whether I was a faithful Anglican priest or was I a supporter of the homosexual agenda.

Wherever I went, I was welcomed and then sat down in a private area and grilled. Who are you? What do you believe? Will you teach my people about the acceptance of the homosexual agenda? Are you a part of the group that advocates homosexual bishops? Are you a part of the group that supports God’s blessings for same sex “marriages?”

What happens in the mighty churches and large cathedrals of America has an effect in the little mud churches of African villages.

Most African Christians would describe themselves as a people faithful to God’s Word. That precludes acceptance of the homosexual agenda.

Some African Christians have another reason to oppose the homosexual agenda. In their countries (Tanzania and Nigeria among them), Africans Muslims use the homosexual agenda of Christians in America in their Muslin evangelization programs. They tell African Christians – “you are a part of the church that promotes the goodness of homosexuality.” Muslims quote prominent American Christians who are vocal in their support of the homosexual agenda. Since homosexuality is so abhorrent to Africans, to maintain that Christians support it is an invitation to leave Christianity.

We encourage you to support faithful missionaries who go to Africa and offer support to God’s faithful ones there. Let their voices be added to the cry of the faithful in Africa.

Munguu arabariki (God bless you in Swahili).

Fr Francis Wardega
African Missionary

Fr Francis preaches in Tanzania during AdventFr Francis preaches in Tanzania during Advent

Tanzania: Dispatch Six

Bishop Mpango

New Challenges

The time with Bishop Chidawali has ended. There was a last celebration of the Liturgy at the cathedral of King of Kings. Following this the last distribution of things were made; lesson plans, books, and thank you notes with little girls. There were tearful good-byes, “please come again. Your visit was so good”. It brought hope and expectation that the future would indeed be better.

It was a long bus trip to Dar es Salaam. I arrived during rush hour and 98 degree weather. My stay was in a hotel there on the seventh floor – a hotel without a lift (elevator)! I won’t be staying there again. Now I transfer to the next task of ministry.

The next task is to pay an official church visit to the Diocese of Western Tanganyika, the biggest diocese in the Anglican Church of Tanzania, under the leadership of Bishop Gerard Mpango. The Bishop was in Dar and we met at dinner with his wife, Margaret. It was delightful. He has traveled extensively in the USA and Margaret went to school in Michigan. The purpose of the visit to the diocese is to become familiar with the bishop, the diocese and the the people there and for them to get a flavor of who we are in order to begin a long lasting, mutually supportive relationship.

Later I found myself on the flight to Kigoma on the southwest corner of Tanzania. It was a three hour flight. I arrived on the shore of Lake Tanganyika. Across the lake, in plain sight, is Congo (old Zaire). Further south along the border is Zambia (old Northern Rhodesia). It is a stable country. Their first president, Kenneth Kaunda, was one of the bright stars in a time of rising democratic African leaders that included Nyerere of Tanzania, Kenyatta of Kenya, Obote of Uganda and Nkrumah of Ghana. Further down the river you will find the country of Mali, which bears no relationship, other than a name, to the ancient historic African kingdom of Mali which was located in western Africa, above Nigeria. Then comes Mozambique, most famous now as the coastal country along the Indian Ocean which produces and bottles Coca-Cola for this part of Africa. Read the rest of this entry »

Tanzania: Dispatch Five

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Another Week on the Road.

We had returned to Dodoma on Sunday evening and were out again Monday late morning for the next week. In the interim, clothes were washed and semi dried, a few hours sleep was achieved, and a bath was taken. As usual, we do not travel alone. The usual two mechanic/drivers were along. Two other priests came. A fresh new choir of only a half dozen came. The vehicle was not as crowded as on the first trip.

Our first destination was Mpwapwa. I was prepared for about the same as last week. No electricity. Dirt floors in mud huts. Difficult roads. But there were some pleasant surprises this time. There was electricity. The homes had walls of cement block with corrugated steel roofs. However, the roads were still difficult.

Mpwapwa was a regional capital under the German leadership before World War One. Prior to that, it had been a distribution center for the African slave traffic going to the Arab nations of the Middle East. Now, it has primary schools, secondary schools, and even a college.

Three parishes combined there to welcome us. It was delightful. There was a formal Tanzanian dinner with all the favorite dishes. I was a gracious guest, eating and enjoying some of everything. When you dine as a Tanzanian, there is a need to wash before you eat and to wash after you eat. Read the rest of this entry »

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