Mission Update June 2020

Greetings from COLUMBUS OHIO, where we have been since mid-March! We are grateful to have been in touch with so many of you all—through preaching, presentations, and conversations online.

Now, we are entering a new phase of this season of evacuation from the field. Tanzania reopened all universities on June 1. We begin teaching online this week. We will be the first lecturers to have ever taught online at Tumaini University Makumira in the institution’s history! We have A LOT to try to master, and we are working rather feverishly to climb a steep learning curve. We have many friends and family members who had to figure all of this out in a span of two weeks or less in March, so we know it is doable. We look forward to seeing, hearing, and teaching our students!

MEANWHILE, IN THE US…

protests_6.5-4
Protestors march in Columbus, Ohio June 5, 2020

We write you from one of the hundreds of cities across the nation whose life has featured protests for more than a week. Racism and racial violence, and the names George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and many others are raised in calls for the development of a society where an increase of justice, safety, and democratic principles is evident and visible and tangible for all citizens. On top of the coronavirus pandemic, which has also hit the Columbus area hard, the days can feel very heavy.

On a bright and cool morning this week, I walked into a local store during the early senior hours. It felt completely normal. I felt completely normal. I was lost in thought about the news broadcast I had just heard in the car. I was moving through the world, thinking about what was happening—and not thinking about what I was doing.

I entered the store, grabbed a cart, and started wheeling through the aisles—and stopped.

People around me were wearing masks (of course), and I, lost in thought, had left mine in the car.

I wheeled around, walked quickly out of the store, and got my mask.

After returning to the store, with my mask on, I remembered something I have often realized in this new season. Wearing a mask makes it harder to breathe.

My shopping that morning afforded me an opportunity for reflection on these times in which we are living and moving and having our being. As it is harder to breathe, I was more aware of how fast I wanted to finish my shopping. As some people in Columbus see the wearing of masks as a political statement, I was aware that some others fixed an angry stare on my mask-covered face. As I worked to observe the directional arrows on the floor in each aisle and stay at least 6 feet from other shoppers, I was aware of how I was moving through the space—and how others were—in ways that I am often not. Some people were not wearing masks—which signified potential danger. Some shoppers weren’t working to avoid others—also potentially perilous. Although the store was to be open only to seniors and others with medical conditions, the presence of a group of noisy teens moving through the aisles reminded me that the store’s posted policies were probably not being enforced. That is, the rules set in place to protect me could not be relied upon to do so.

Back in the safety of the car, it occurred to me that all of these factors are forcing me to be more self-aware, to think, to stop, to question—to ask whether a trip is necessary, whether a space is safe, who is around me, and whether the rules in place will offer me shelter.

In February, before the growth of a global pandemic turned the world upside down for so many of us and so many in the world, we wrote in this space about Being White in Africa. Since then, on top of the spread of the coronavirus with so many people getting sick, so many lives lost (over 112,000 in the US alone at this writing) and so much grief, protesters have thronged the street in cities in all 50 states and in many countries across the world, demanding increased access to justice for Black, indigenous, and other people of color.

Wearing masks has heightened our awareness of where we are and how we are perceived as we walk through the world. It has given us a chance to reflect on what it means to always have to be aware of where one is and how one is perceived—as some of those we love have had to do throughout their lives (for more information on this, check out a few stories of our loved ones’ daily realities in a recent post on Facebook). It has reminded us of how hard it is to breathe when being in public leads rational people to be anxious. And—unlike the color of one’s skin, for our friends and family and colleagues who are not white—the masks are something we can take off. We who follow Jesus are called to reflect on the realities different people made in the image of God face and in which different ones of us are forced to live. Reflection could—and must—lead to confession—repentance—and change.

OUR GARDEN GROWS

This unexpectedly long season away from Tanzania has had us missing our yard and our garden there. One way we have accommodated is to put some plants on the back patio of our sons’ townhouse. We are grateful to see the flowers and tomatoes growing outside our door!

PRAYER REQUESTS

Last month, one of our teaching colleagues who taught Old Testament and Hebrew to generations of Makumira students and was beloved by many across the church, the Rev. Habukuki Lwendo, died after a short illness. We are very sad to lose a great colleague and a wonderful teacher, and we thank God for his ministry, witness, and service. Thanks for joining us in prayer for his family. We ask you also to pray for the people of Tanzania, the church there, and our colleagues and students. The virus continues, and while we teach from here, we are keenly aware of the difficulty of social distancing in Tumaini’s dorms, classroom buildings, and offices.

Be in touch if we can preach, teach, or present at your congregation online! Thanks for your prayers and your support, which make all that we do possible.

In Christ, Cynthia Holder Rich and Mark Rich

MISSION UPDATE APRIL 2020

Greetings from Columbus Ohio!

We have been busy over the past month, NOT with the things we had planned (like teaching second semester courses at Tumaini University Makumira), but busy, nonetheless. As many people are spending a lot of time at home, engaging as they can with others, we wanted to reach out and greet you all.

First, we say with joy: Christ is Risen! Hallelujah! We hope each and every one of you and your congregations had a blessed and joy-filled celebration of the truth of Christ’s resurrection. We know that your celebrations were different this year than other years—as were the last weeks of your Lenten observance, and as your life together is now.

Sunburst batik
Tanzanian Sunburst batik

While many things have changed, the reality of life as Easter people has not! We see new life in the natural world around us, and also in the incredible bursting forth of new skills, new ways of outreach and the making of community, and the blessed persistence of love we see expressed in many places—no matter what impact social distancing is having on us all! Congrats to all pastors, musicians, educators, Council members, committee chairs, and congregations who are taking this all in stride and continuing to proclaim the good news: Jesus lives, and because this is true, we live in him.

We have kept ourselves engaged while in the US. In addition to daily walks (thank you, Columbus Recreation and Parks Department!), praying and worship (thank you, everyone who is streaming and sending resources!), cooking and spending some time catching up on US television, we have been doing what we can to keep ourselves busy and out of trouble. Our activities over the past month include:

  • Preaching and Presenting: we’ve both had opportunities to preach and present. We are open to more of these! We, like many others, have been learning a lot in these days when the computer and the phone are among the few approved and safe ways of contact. And, like many others, we have found ourselves upping our game, out of necessity! And, as learning for any reason is good, we thank God. So, if you want us to preach, teach, or present at your congregation—your women’s group—your youth fellowship—your virtual VBS—or whatever—be in touch!

One particular way we are presenting is a 60-90-minute online program called Teatime with Your Missionaries. By the time you read this, we will have led this presentation a few times with a number more dates already on the calendar.

The presentation starts with a 3 minute video with music, a Palm Sunday anthem from the church in Tanzania sung by the choir of one of our students who already has earned his bachelor’s in music and will complete his bachelor’s in theology this year when the universities reopen for his final semester. (The video is attached to this email.) We continue with a power point presentation on Tanzania, the church there, and our work. We then share about what Covid-19 and the global pandemic means in Tanzania, and how we in the US can be in community with the people of Tanzania at this difficult time. News of projects to produce Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) locally in Arusha and across Tanzania that our medical colleagues are coordinating with others, and the support needed for this project, is part of what we share in the presentation.

If you would like to have us present Teatime with Your Missionaries, or preach, or teach at your congregation—OR if you want to take an offering to support the local production of PPE in Tanzania—OR IF YOU WANT TO DO BOTH–we would love to hear from you. And enjoy the video! It includes a taste of the beauty of Tanzania’s music, land, animals, and people.

Jodi Steve masks
ELCA medical missionaries in Arusha Jodi and Steve Swanson model locally produced masks, which are hard to find and urgently needed by health care providers across the country. This work is really crucial at this moment of global pandemic.
  • Keeping in touch with our students and colleagues: We both have students doing research who have been in touch since we returned to the US. Some of them are being able to continue their research and writing while in their home villages. We’ve also heard from our university colleagues. Life on campus is quiet at present—the students are gone, worship is not happening at the chapel, the library is closed and all staff are on unpaid leave till at least mid-May. The threat of the global pandemic in many countries in Africa, including Tanzania, is exacerbated by fragile health care systems, fragile governments, and fragile economies. We pray for Tanzania, the University, and the people there each day. Thank you joining us in prayer.
Zoom call 4 20 2020
Meeting with our ELCA East Africa colleagues on Zoom, April 20: From the top L—April Trout, Cynthia and Mark, Bethany and Steve Friberg; Row 2, Daudi Msseemmaa, Mark and Linda Jacobson, Mary Jo Maass; Row 3, Jodi and Steve Swanson, Bob Kasworm, and Alex LaChapelle

Finally—we have not been in the US to enjoy spring since 2017, as our normal schedule has us returning to the US in late summer. Here are a few views of the glory of spring here in central Ohio.

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We think of you all and pray that this finds you safe and healthy. Thanks for your support! We thank God for you.

Eastertide peace and joy,

Cynthia Holder Rich and Mark Rich

 

 

MARCH 2020 MISSION UPDATE

Mark Rich and Cynthia Holder Rich

Tumaini University Makumira, Arusha, Tanzania

We will remember March 2020.  March 2020 has become memorable where we live. We began the month, seeing new parts of the country and continuing to marvel at the beauty that is Tanzania. We will end the month, having journeyed to the US, not sure when we will be able to return home.

Early this month, we traveled to Mwanza, Tanzania, to visit friends and see what is happening in theological education at Nyakato Theological College, one of three zonal colleges of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania. Nyakato provides education for aspiring pastors, parish workers, and evangelists. The ELCT has a significant clergy shortage, so schools like Nyakato are providing essential leadership development. We have been invited by leaders at the college to consider returning to teach intensive courses sometime in 2021. We are grateful for the invitation and will be working with our supervisors and the calendar to see what might become possible. We discussed the upcoming Easter vacation with our friends, putting some tentative plans in place for them to come our way.

We returned to campus, took part in faculty meetings, and began planning seriously for the second semester (which would begin on 23 March). We talked with colleagues, looked up resources, and began reviewing syllabi.

On Sunday, March 15, we enjoyed dinner at our home with missionary colleagues. We talked about what was happening, but there was no particular sense of urgency about the conversation.

Then the next morning, we, along with all other ELCA long term mission personnel, received a request via email to return to the US as soon as possible because of the coronavirus outbreak. We talked—to each other, to doctor friends, to our family, to mission colleagues. Then a case was diagnosed in Arusha—and the government closed the schools, and then they closed the universities. So—reservations became available—and we rushed to get the house ready to be unoccupied for a while, talked a lot to family and friends, and tried to maintain calm.

Our Dean and a member of the University administration came by to wish us well and pray with us. They shared their own feelings about what was happening and their thoughts of what would happen next. Thinking of these dear people as we left campus, not knowing when we would return, brought me to tears.

The journey was like all the others, in some ways. Although we were travelling from sub-Saharan Africa, most of the people on the flights were white (part of what it means to be white in Africa, which we discussed last month in this space). The planes we boarded were quite full, and the trip was looonnngggg.

Closed restaurant Detroit

And, the journey was very different in other ways. Many people onboard wore masks. Many travelers had cut their trips short and scrambled to get reservations. There were many anxious people on the flight. Surfaces on the plane were being cleaned much more frequently. I got up to get coffee in the middle of the flight, and the KLM flight attendant in the galley asked me where I was going. I shared, and he said, “I hear that many people in the US are buying guns to fight the virus. Is that true?” As we conversed, I reflected on the oddness of the situation for our world at this moment.

We heard from flight attendants about expected layoffs, and thoughts of pooling paid leave days to help out those among their coworkers who needed help. Another shared that as of Saturday, the schedule for Amsterdam-Detroit flights was shifting from five a day to one a day—which would put a lot of people out of work. In the airports, the bars and restaurants were all closed, and the number of people is markedly down. We arrived in the US, still trying to understand where we were and why—knowing we had left our life and work thousands of miles away, and not sure how to respond. In the midst of a global crisis, what is the faithful thing to do?

The advice of Martin Luther , made in 1527 as the plague was ravaging Wittenberg, has been circulating on Facebook: “I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me…If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See – this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not test God.”

Early in the history of the church (251 AD) the second of several epidemics swept through nearly the whole Roman Empire. Bishop Dionysus of Alexandria described the panic: “At the first onset of the disease, [the pagans] pushed the sufferers away and fled from their dearest, throwing them into the roads before they were dead and treated unburied corpses as dirt, hoping thereby to avert the spread and contagion of the fatal disease; but do what they might, they found it difficult to escape.” And he described how believers responded to the suffering: “Most of our sisters and brothers showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves…Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains. Many, in nursing and curing others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their place…”

Although these earlier witnesses did not understand how germs work and their forms of medicine were primitive compared to ours, they still understood contagion and caring, and how Christ was calling them. As William McNeill pointed out in Plagues and Peoples, “quite elementary nursing will greatly reduce mortality. Simple provision of food and water, for instance, will allow persons who are temporarily too weak to cope for themselves to recover instead of perishing miserably.” The Egyptian bishop praised the martyr-like behavior of many of his flock during the plague, yet we can also affirm that a noticeably higher percentage of Christians than pagans survived the epidemic because of this simple ministry of care.

Things are different now; we have better medicines and practices and professionals to administer them, large institutions of medical training and care that didn’t exist in early and medieval times. And yet there are things that are not so different. In most countries, including the US, leaders are unprepared for the crisis.

The gospel has also not changed. We followers of Jesus know that we too must continue to care, even when that must be done as remotely as possible. We must make changes in our ways of living not only for our own safety but for our neighbors, family, and friends. And we also continue to be the people of faith, hope, and love—faith with each other and with God even during uncertain and frightening times; hope that life counts for more than mere physical existence; and the love of God that is greater than death itself. As the apostle Paul put it (Rom 8:35-39): “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

And so let us continue to be careful and full of care. Be in touch with each other. Take part in online worship. Volunteer. Learn the truth and help set people free. As you are able, give. Rest. Ask God for ideas. Pray always. And as you pray, please include Tanzania and Tumaini University Makumira in your prayers. We are very concerned about the strength of the Tanzanian health care system when the number of cases rises.

We so appreciate your support. We could not do what we do without your assistance. As we seek with you to remain faithful during this crisis, we hold Paul’s benediction from I Thessalonians 5:13-22 in mind. John Rutter has set a version of this to music, and a link to a performance of this piece by the Cambridge Singers can be heard at this link.

May God’s grace, peace, love, compassion and strength be with you all.           

Mark Rich and Cynthia Holder Rich

Being white in Africa

Greetings from Tanzania!

We had some wonderful days over the holidays with our niece, who has lived and served with Peace Corps in Mozambique for the last few years. Reflecting on our conversations led us to some deep thinking about an issue that is clear to everyone here but often difficult to discuss elsewhere: being white in Africa.

We live and serve at a university with over 75 staff and faculty and nearly 4000 students. There are five white folk in that group. We are 2 of them. Everyone knows who we are—students in law, education, and social sciences, whom we have never met and will never teach—they, along with their professors, know who we are. We stand out—not just because of Cynthia’s white hair nor Mark’s great height. No, the color of our skin makes us remarkable and memorable in ways that are different, requiring adjustment on our parts.

We look like early missionaries—and colonists—who arrived in East Africa in the 19th century. We come from and represent a partner denomination—one of a group of 13 partners, all of whom are majority white denominations and organizations, which provide a lot of the university’s financial support. We witness lots of examples of donor-driven activity here—programs that exist because someone—generally a white person—in a foreign city far away decided that the program was needed, or the building should be built, or a staff or faculty member should serve here.

We teach at a university that has one of the best academic libraries in East Africa, a library that holds the largest group of research about the church in East Africa in the world (RESEARCHER FRIENDS TAKE NOTE), and a book and database collection that would look paltry and insufficient for any institution of like size in the US. Our students come to us from an educational system that is underfunded and schools that are overcrowded. These realities have a great impact on what, and how, we can teach.

Over the last three years, we have had a number of students leave campus for a time because of the death of one of their children. Others have left because their wife or husband died. On two occasions, one of our students has died. The terminal illnesses varied in these cases, having only one thing in common: they were all treatable.

We serve in a deeply patriarchal society, the impacts of which splash over into the church. Some parts of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania partner with the ELCA. Others partner with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Our students, and many in the ELCT, perceive that the money of the partners comes with strings attached—either pressure TO ordain women or NOT TO ordain women. Leaders strive to keep all relations with the partners copacetic, while (sometimes openly) resenting the power that these white-led partners in ministry have over ministry here.

All of these issues are impacted by RACE—so being white and serving in Africa, a distinctly non-white space, puts us in positions that are clearly privileged and often painful. Tanzania is in the process of registering all residents with national identification cards. The process includes many steps and lots of visits to different offices. The lines are long and require patience—and for us easily-burned white folk, hats, as we stand in the hot sun. In one of these lines last month, our years in Africa rendered us both not surprised and chagrined when a government official, seeing us through a window, came out and told us to jump the line and come inside. Part of this is because our process is different—and longer—because we are not citizens. Part of it is because we are white. Walking past old people, pregnant women, moms carrying babies, and people with disabilities to get served first is awkward, and it reinforces colonial ideas about race which we work to disrupt.

As white disciples serving in Africa, we really grateful for our colleagues and students, who have welcomed us to ministry here at the University. Serving here offers opportunities for deep conversations about all of these issues in our classes, as race impacts the way we read the Bible, understand mission history, comprehend God, view the church and relate to each other. Being white in Africa has changed us.

Ugandan missiologist Emmanuel Katangole, now a Professor at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, views the sacred act of eating together as a missiological model that bridges differences and creates space for the building of mutual understanding. When you approach the table of our Lord at your congregation’s worship, we invite you to think of the millions of African Christians, joining with you across the miles in the Eucharist. And if you want to experience the power of this sacred act firsthand, we invite you to consider visiting!

In this Epiphany Season, we wish you all new revelations of Jesus’ love and grace, and renewed awareness of God’s presence and power. A blessed New Year to you all!

Peace in Christ,

Cynthia Holder Rich and Mark Rich

 

JANUARY 2020 MISSION UPDATE

Kili Christmas morning 2019
Kilimanjaro early on Christmas Morning 2019

Greetings from Tanzania! Happy New Year!

We had some wonderful days over the holidays with our niece, who has lived and served with Peace Corps in Mozambique for the last few years. Reflecting on our conversations with her has led us to some deep thinking about an issue that is clear to everyone here but is often difficult to discuss elsewhere: being white in Africa.

We live and serve at a university with over 75 staff and faculty and nearly 4000 students. There are six white folk in that group. We are 2 of them. Everyone knows who we are—students in law, education, and social sciences, whom we have never met and will never teach—they, along with their professors, know who we are. We stand out—not just because of Cynthia’s white hair nor Mark’s great height. No, the color of our skin makes us remarkable and memorable in ways that are different, requiring adjustment on our parts.

We look like early missionaries—and colonists—who arrived in East Africa in the 19th century. We come from and represent a partner denomination—one of a group of 13 partners, all of whom are majority white denominations and organizations, which provide a lot of the university’s financial support. We witness lots of examples of donor-driven activity here—programs that exist because someone—generally a white person—in a foreign city far away decided that the program was needed, or the building should be built, or a staff or faculty member should serve here.

We teach at a university that has one of the best academic libraries in East Africa, a library that holds the largest group of research about the church in East Africa in the world (RESEARCHER FRIENDS TAKE NOTE), and a book and database collection that would look paltry and insufficient for any institution of like size in the US. Our students come to us from an educational system that is underfunded and schools that are overcrowded. These realities have a great impact on what, and how, we can teach.

Over the last three years, we have had a number of students leave campus for a time because of the death of one of their children. Others have left because their wife or husband died. On two occasions, one of our students has died. The terminal illnesses varied in these cases, having only one thing in common: they were all treatable.

We serve in a deeply patriarchal society, the impacts of which splash over into the church. Some parts of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania partner with the ELCA. Others partner with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Our students, and many in the ELCT, perceive that the money of the partners comes with strings attached—either pressure TO ordain women or NOT TO ordain women. Leaders strive to keep all relations with the partners copacetic, while (sometimes openly) resenting the power that these white-led partners in ministry have over ministry here.

All of these issues are impacted by race—so being white and serving in Africa, a distinctly non-white space, puts us in positions that are clearly privileged and often painful. Tanzania is in the process of registering all residents with national identification cards. The process includes many steps and lots of visits to different offices. The lines are long and require patience—and for us easily-burned white folk, hats—as we stand in the hot sun. In one of these lines last month, our years in Africa rendered us both not surprised and chagrined when a government official, who saw us through a window, came out and told us to jump the line and come inside. Part of this is because our process is different and longer because we are not citizens. Part of it is because we are white. Walking past old people, moms carrying babies, and people with disabilities to get served first is awkward, and it reinforces colonial ideas about race which we work to disrupt.

As white disciples serving in Africa, we are really grateful for our colleagues and students, who have welcomed us to ministry here at the University. Serving here offers opportunities for deep conversations about all of these issues in our classes, as race impacts the way we read the Bible, understand mission history, comprehend God, view the church and relate to each other. Being white in Africa has changed us.

We are looking forward to congregational visitors this year—a great way to start these kinds of conversations. Ugandan missiologist Emmanuel Katangole views the sacred act of eating together as a missiological model that bridges differences and creates space for the building of mutual understanding. We share some pics below of US college students and our students eating together, experiencing the power of this model. We have no doubt that everyone who takes part in visits here will have this as part of their time. The impact of visiting is both significant and lasting! If you want to talk about coming to see what God is doing here at the university, please be in touch!

We are preparing our 2020 congregational visit schedule. Some dates are reserved, and others are in conversation. Congregations pay for travel, meals and lodging. We expect by March 1 to have the weekends reserved. There are some August, September, October weekends and lots of time during the week available. Contact us soon if you’d like to see us this year! We really look forward to seeing you! Here, some views of our life over the past month, including the visit to campus of a  J-term class of 30 students and their profs from Carthage College, an ELCA school in Kenosha, WI.

As always, we thank you for your support, without which none of this would be possible. Blessings in this Epiphany season! May you see, hear and experience God’s revelation in new and powerful ways as this year begins.

In Christ, Cynthia Holder Rich and Mark Rich

 

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We’re back! Our November 2019 newsletter

MISSION UPDATE    November 2019     Mark Rich and Cynthia Holder Rich

ELCA Mission Personnel serving at Tumaini University Makumira

near Arusha, Tanzania

 We’re back!

After many weeks in the US, we’re back at Tumaini University Makumira, and grateful to be here! We’ve spent a couple weeks greeting friends, setting up life, and preparing to teach. And as always, we’re working to let go one rhythm, one set of rules, one way of doing things in order to pick up another.

We’re back, where if one wants hot water, one turns the hot water heater on.

We’re back, where we filter our water before drinking.

We’re back, where a mosquito net drapes our bed each night.

AND back, where our students are so very grateful for the opportunity to study theology. Back, where colleagues are grateful for our presence, and where we are grateful for their support. Back, to be reminded that in this part of the church, every pastor sees him or herself as called to evangelism, in a highly religiously-pluralistic context where less than half the population is Christian.

We’re back, where we are not in charge. Where the class schedules and course load agreed upon before we left the country have changed in many ways, for reasons beyond anyone’s control. Where students we thought would be here are not and some we didn’t expect are here—also for reasons beyond anyone’s control, including the students’ themselves.

Back, to hear a new Anglican student say he enrolled here because Tumaini is “the best Christian university in the country”, to hear another state how he has been able to apply what he has learned from us in his ministry, to have a woman student come quietly and share how happy she is that we have returned. Back to greet the first students we have had as Bachelor’s students in our time here return for graduate studies. Back to see growth in many areas at the University, and concern expressed in others.

We’re back, and so grateful for the opportunity to be here!

MANY, MANY THANKS to all who welcomed us during our home leave, for visits, classes, worship, presentations, and conversations. We so appreciate you all! Enjoy some pics of our time in the US, and a few from our yard here now, as the short rainy season bursts forth. In this month of All Saints, we’re grateful for all you saints of God!

Peace and love, Cynthia and Mark

July 2019 Mission News

GREETINGS FROM COLD AND GRAY ARUSHA!

The end of our SECOND FULL YEAR OF TEACHING is coming VERY SOON! (can you hear the cheering from there????) We are grateful, happy for our students, and often frazzled with all there is to do to finish the semester. As we write, classes have come to an end and exams start in a couple weeks. We are both supervising students at the Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD levels, so there’s a lot of advising left to do. Thanks in advance for your prayers!

JUNE was a very busy month. Three ELCA bishops, two representatives from the Women of the ELCA (WELCA), and two ELCA Global Mission Area Program Directors, and three representatives from the Lutheran World Federation came to visit Tanzania and the ELCT for the ELCT Quadrennial Clergywomen Consultation. We were very grateful to be able to attend this historic event. Most of the ELCT ordains women, and in many of those dioceses, clergywomen continue to struggle to find good and meaningful pastoral work. (In case you are wondering, this continues to be an issue for US clergywomen as well!) Two of the dioceses do not yet ordain women. The meeting was held in one of these, and many strong statements were made in support of women and women’s call to serve in ministry. Thanks be to God for this gospel call that fully includes women!

Some of the visitors came to the University before the Consultation began. Theology students and faculty met with the ELCA visitors, and good conversations ensued. Here are a few glimpses from a very special day.

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A STORY FROM OUR TEACHING

The BD5 (final year, final semester theology degree) students in Missiology and Ecumenism class gather in small groups to present different aspects of missiology—approaches we can take in leading the mission of the church—using scholarly articles written about mission efforts in Tanzania. This year, the small groups chose five very different topics. We were grateful to have five thought-provoking presentations of missiological approaches, on:

WITCH ACCUSATIONS, one of the ways that the patriarchal system here victimizes women, who are the majority of those accused of being witches. Accusations often come when a woman’s husband dies, and the community or the husband’s family accuses the widow of causing her husband’s death, in order to chase the widow out of her house and off her property. The group presented ideas on how the church should respond.

ECONOMIC DISCIPLESHIP—how to live in solidarity with people living in urban poverty, and how to lift up those who are very poor. The article presented the idea that poor people can gather together and pool resources to transform their lives, and the church should stand with them in this work. The group talked about ways in which this echoed Assets-Based Community Development (ABCD) approaches, part of the class curriculum.

WANGARI MAATHAI and ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP, on the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize (2004), and how she inspired and energized women to transform their lives and the environment through saving green spaces, planting trees, and empowering women for their God-given leadership roles.

The PROSPERITY GOSPEL, on how to approach and confront ideas, brought to Africa from North America decades ago, that combine Pentecostal preaching, liturgy and music with the idea that the sign that one is faithful is prosperity in this life; and,

The building of an AMERICAN MISSION ORPHANAGE on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, and the surprising number of misunderstandings that emerged when American missionaries showed up unbidden in a community (no, they weren’t Lutheran or Presbyterian) offering to start an orphanage—and the community assumed the work would reflect their values rather than those of the donors. Just like everywhere else in the world, when we minister with children, sensitivities run high and cultural norms can really clash.

The students, most of whom are studying, reading, and presenting in at least their third language, did a marvelous job. Here’s just a taste of the energy in these presentations:

Wangari Maathai
“Wangari Maathai” and the Kenyan women she inspired protest development projects, encouraging saving green spaces and the planting of trees in order to save the environment.
Orphanage
The Orphanage Director conflicts with the Village Elders on whom the orphanage should serve and who gets to decide—American donors or the community.

THERE IS MUCH TO DO before we leave for home assignment in August! Our students are finishing research theses, final exams start soon, and there will be much reading, correcting, and marking for us to do. So we are not finding time to be bored!

We often remember you all, the faithful disciples who lift prayers, write notes, and send financial support to make our ministries possible. We are so very grateful. We look forward to meeting many of you in the next few months.

Blessings to you all,

Mark Rich (Mark.Rich@elca.org) and Cynthia Holder Rich (Cynthia.HolderRich@elca.org)

INTERCULTURAL COMPETENCY: A CRUCIAL SKILL IN MISSION

Eid-Mubarak

When Cynthia taught at Western Theological Seminary in Michigan, her department worked on outreach with local Hispanic/Latinx pastors seeking theological education. The team worked for months on plans for an intensive workshop, securing good speakers and teachers, working on logistics—food, teaching and hospitality spaces, books, lodging, and partnering with local ministerial associations to invite pastors and leaders. Finally, the big week came—but many pastors who had shown interest did not! The first day was a pretty empty experience, with the team feeling a rising sense of anxiety about the investment of time, money, and resources and how everything done had resulted in failure. THEN, in the late afternoon, pastors started showing up. The day was to have started at 8:30, and pastors started coming—in large numbers!—around 4:30! By 6 the room was full—which was wonderful—and also confusing. What had happened? Was the communication strategy wrong? Was this cultural—did people understand a full day late as on time? And, there was anger—how much disrespect did people have for the efforts that had been made on their behalf???
NO. None of these were the case. The reality was that the SOCCER (FOOTBALL) WORLD CUP was taking place. The matches were being played in Europe, so fans in the US were watching very early in the morning, resting during the day, and working at night. WE HAD SCHEDULED OUTREACH TO SOCCER FANS DURING THE WORLD CUP. It was the Western Seminary team’s mistake, and it was a big one. By God’s grace, they were able to work with the pastors and leaders to flip the schedule and have teaching every evening that week. It was wonderful! The team was grateful! And there was a lot of discussion, during the week and for some time after, about how much the team and the seminary, led almost exclusively by non-Hispanic, non-Latinx people, had to learn if they were going to offer effective educational strategies to this new culturally-different student population.
As we write this, it is Eid al Fitr, the celebration for Muslims of the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. On the Tanzanian mainland, 35-45% of citizens are Muslim, and on the island of Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous region of the country, more than 90% are Muslim. Here in the Arusha area, there are mosques in most communities. We hear the call to prayer every morning from a local mosque before the bell that rings from the University chapel at 6 am. There are many Muslim students at the University, and all of these have been fasting while taking full time classes over the last month.
Tanzania has worked hard since independence for peace between peoples of different faiths. Our students in the Faculty of Theology are all Christian, and many are already ordained pastors. Most of them have good friends who are Muslim—they grew up going to school, and playing, and having close relationships with Muslim kids and Muslim families in their neighborhoods.

school-kids-stone-town-zanzibar-tanzania-kids-school-walking-around-stone-town-zanzibar-tanzania-132009091
Muslim and Christian schoolkids getting snacks after school

Every day, we see school kids walking to and from school—mixed groups of Muslim and Christian kids walking together, holding hands, and playing—as a soccer/football game might break out at any time when space and a ball present themselves. In classes, we discuss ministry strategies where pastors and imams work together so that people facing illness, or poverty, or hunger, or drought can be served. We can get lulled into amnesia, and have to remind ourselves that these relatively easy, normal and straightforward conversations might be very different if we were teaching at a variety of seminaries in the US.
The celebration of Eid is not a set date. The decision about when it starts happens based on leaders in the Muslim Council of Tanzania sighting the new moon. So, at the beginning of this week, our Dean told us—it might be Wednesday, or it might be Thursday, and we will tell you as soon as we can. As Eid is a national holiday, and classes do not meet on the day that it is celebrated, this makes planning for teaching a bit tricky—for us. No one here, students or faculty, seems to see this as a problem, as they have lived with this religious and cultural uncertainty all their lives. So we have to learn to
do the same.
When wishing people a blessed Eid, the proper greeting is Eid Mubarak. The Kiswahili verb to bless is kubariki—based on a borrowed word from Arabic for blessing. Hebrew shares the root, with the very common Biblical word for blessing in Hebrew, berakah ( ברכה ), sounding very familiar to our Kiswahili-speaking students and colleagues. As we study and speak Kiswahili and find more and more Arabic borrowed words in the language, many of which have Hebrew cognates, we find ourselves thinking about the marvel of language and how it carries and mixes cultures.
Becoming interculturally competent is crucial for mission. From the first moment of an interview to enter mission service, this key skill is emphasized, discussed, taught and encouraged. We work on this daily, opening ourselves to learning new things, new ways of thinking, new understandings of life and ministry, new ways to share the good news.
We enjoy the learning and we are happy to increase our competence. And we struggle. We struggle with learning new things, new words, new vocabulary, new ways of being. There are times—many times—when we are tired, or homesick, or both, and we are just plain frustrated with having to learn new things in order to operate effectively here. There are times when every missionary just wants to go home where things are
easier, more familiar, and where those we love the best can be greeted face to face rather than over a Skype call. We are like all of our missionary colleagues in this. And like all of them, we know that living and serving internationally means that we have no choice but to work to become more interculturally competent—both because we enjoy sanity as a feature of life and ministry, and in order to teach and serve effectively.
We have been blessed—tumebarikiwa (can you see that Arabic root in the word?)—to serve internationally, both in Madagascar and now here in Tanzania. Our view of the world and the church has broadened in ways we couldn’t imagine before. Our international service has changed the way we serve, preach, teach and lead in the US. And, as the US becomes ever-more diverse and international, we wish the blessing—tunataka baraka—of growing intercultural competence for every US pastor, and every US believer, and every US congregation. There is joy in this work to which Jesus calls us all.

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ELCA BISHOPS VISIT THE ELCT THIS MONTH!
We are both very much looking forward to the visit of ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton and Bishops Patricia Davenport and Viviane Thomas-Breitfeld, the first two African American woman bishops elected in the ELCA, later this month! They are coming to take part in and help lead the ELCT Clergywomen Consultation, a quadrennial event. We have been blessed to share in planning for this event!
Please pray for us, for the ELCT Clergywomen, who are hoping and praying for the election, at some point in the future, of women bishops in the ELCT. We know that the visit of three ELCA women bishops will prove a blessing to us all and to their ELCT clergywomen sisters.
Blessings to you all! We look forward to the blessing of seeing many of you face to face later this year. Your prayers, notes, emails, comments, and financial support make our service possible. Thank you for blessing us!
In Christ, Cynthia Holder Rich and Mark Rich

Lecturers in Theology, Tumaini University Makumira, Arusha, Tanzania