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Progress at Morogoro in Tanzania

Morogoro

by Thayer Salisbury

(Following a recent trip to Africa where he had worked for many years, Thayer Salisbury filed the following report about the work in Monogoro.  He currently lives in Toledo, Ohio, where he is the preacher for the Flanders Road Church of Christ.)

I do not have adequate words to express my joy at the progress in Morogoro. If 1/4 of my former students are doing the kind of work Wilfred Massawe is doing in Morogoro, then every minute of eight years in Africa, every bout of malaria, every penny we spent, was well worth it. Wilfred understands the difference between baptizing individuals and teaching the gospel so as to plant a sustainable church. He has chosen to seek the latter, and he is doing very well at it.

Earlier efforts had been made at Morogoro, but those efforts were of the rush in, baptize a bunch, and then rush on. There was no church there when Wilfred arrived, ten years ago. Wilfred knew that it would take a sustained effort, and he committed to that effort. He knew that he could not count on much outside support, and he drew his plans understanding that. The original plan was sacrificial. Wilfred and his wife, Hyasinta, decided that they would have to support themselves to carry out the work. The plan was for her to open a stall in the market and rent wedding dresses, and other fancy clothes, to those who desire to have such occasionally. Unfortunately, before that plan could be well established, Hyasinta was struck by illness. Without money for adequate medical care, there was nothing Wilfred could do. He lost a wonderful helper just over a year into the work.

Since that time, Wilfred has received a small amount of support each month, and it is a joy to report how much he has managed to accomplish. The city is large and spread out. Transportation is difficult outside the central portion of the city. Wilfred realized that no one location would be ideal for people from all parts of Morogoro.  As he began working with his first few converts, he encouraged them to obtain property for the church in different locations around the city, so that eventually there could be meeting places accessible to everyone. A small parcel was obtained to the east of the city, at the foot of one of the mountains. There (with just $700 of outside help) a small building was erected and a small congregation now meets in that location.

A second (larger) parcel was obtained closer to the center of the city. This location will be accessible to more people, and a larger building was planned. But in this case the government required that the building meet code, and also required that it be used to offer some form of “development” to the community (such as a library or nursery school). The building is usable for worship, and for the seminar I held on leadership, but it still lacks glass in the window frames, ceiling tiles, and the completion of the electrical work.

A third parcel of land was obtained halfway up the mountain to the south of the city. There are quite a number of converts in this area. The land obtained here was dominated by a huge rock, which most of us would have viewed as an obstacle to building. The church members, instead, view it as a blessing. One of them has taken on the task of reducing this rock to smaller rocks that will then be used in constructing the building. He began by building a fire against the rock. When the fire caused the rock to crack, he inserted a wedge in the crack and pounded it with a sledge hammer. He figures that it will take him six to eight weeks to reduce the rock to usable building material.

But the most encouraging aspect of the work in Morogoro is the way Wilfred has taught them about church leadership right from the start. All too often missionaries and evangelists fail to teach anything but faith, repentance, and baptism.  Converts left long in a state of depending on the evangelist for all leadership often develop attitudes that make it very difficult to move the church toward scriptural organization with elders and deacons. Churches in such a state of mind will always be unstable.  Being so dependent on one man leadership, the death or departure of that one man often spells disaster for the church. This is one of the main reasons the church in many areas of Africa remains weak decades after it was introduced. The church has been in some parts of Tanzania for more than fifty years. But only one congregation has elders.  In many areas the work of evangelism has been done repeatedly. But the evangelist moves on and the work collapses and has to be done again.

My lessons were quite understandable to the people in Morogoro because Wilfred had prepared them to hear them. Essentially I was just saying “amen” to what he had been teaching them right along. We have confidence that this congregation will move toward scriptural leadership in the near future.

For more information on work in Tanzania, contact Thayer Salisbury at tsalisbury57@frontier.com.

Posted on January 07th, 2014

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