July 2019 Mission News


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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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.
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)

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