Mission Update July 2021 – Books and Bibles, and the Great Migration

Dear friends,

When we first moved to Tanzania in 2017, Cynthia and I knew that our library collection would never return to the States with us. I just estimated that our combined collection comes to more than 1,400 books!

Our dean of the theology faculty, Rev Dr Angela Olotu, had asked me, Mark, to make a list of the books we will be donating. I foolishly agreed, not thinking that it was that many books. I succeeded in making a list of two shelves of books (about 2.5 meters of books), and that came to 108 books. So with some quick measuring of about 35-37 meters of bookshelves, I came to estimate that we have about 1,400-1,500 books. I can roughly estimate a total value of that collection to around $35,000 to $40,000 US. That’s what comes from two PhDs having lived, worked, and studied in the US for over 40 years!

A small part of our library, all going to the university!

Having just sent the e-mail making that official offer of our collection to the university, I feel almost like we’ve just lost a member of the family. It’s a shock! These books have moved with us for decades, just like family. One of them I’ve had since I was a child (I’m probably going to bring that one back to the States!).

We are of course making this donation in the hope that the ideas in these books will benefit our students both now and in years and generations to come. Most of our students really have not gotten the idea that books are really for them, because there’s usually such a dearth of books and bookstores here in Tanzania. Buying and reading books are, frankly, a dimension of life only in places of the world where there’s enough money to afford such things.

As you may also have guessed by now, dear reader, this also means that we are planning to leave the university and Tanzania. We will return to the US around October 9 or 10, having finished out our four-year contract. Family matters constrain us to return. We will, however, also continue to visit the university in years to come. We will continue to supervise PhD students. The government is also pushing universities to include online instruction in their offerings, so we hope to continue to teach in that way as well. Mark is also planning to work on fundraising for Lutheran universities in poor countries.

Study Bible for students

The Bibles used by most of our students are the Revised Standard Version, which was first published in 1946 and last revised in 1971. (Later editions appeared with added books such as Maccabees, Sirach, and Wisdom of Solomon). No students in the US use the RSV. American students are using either the New Revised Standard Version (which is a new translation from original texts) or the New International Version or (God help us!) the English Standard Version (ESV).

The one and only reason our students here use the RSV is that it is cheap. The copyrights on that version have lapsed and so it can be published cheaply. It’s not a good translation. It contains many mistakes; it doesn’t use anything close to contemporary English. This is why no one uses it any longer in the US. But it’s what our students can afford.

So I’ve made it a point to buy and bring to Tanzania in our luggage copies of the HarperCollins Study Bible of the New Revised Standard Version, and I’ve been giving them out to students. The students are of course very glad to receive them, and most of them have never had a study Bible before. Some of them do have study Bibles, but those unfortunately are often RC Sproul’s version of the ESV (*groan*). That’s the only study Bible I’ve seen that is actually evil – it actually does harm to women and all the people who love them and appreciate them. (Yes, I’m angry about it…)

Some of you may notice that the Bible on the far left is actually a Lutheran Study Bible from Augsburg Fortress Press, and the one on the far right is the Oxford Press version. So I had some extra study Bibles on hand, and I gave them out too!

The Great Migration in Serengeti

We finally after four years got the chance to visit Serengeti National Park to see the great migration that happens annually between the Serengeti in Tanzania and the Maasai Mara Reserve in Kenya, and back again. It really IS exactly like what the guidebooks and videos say it is! The line of migrating wildebeests and zebras stretches literally from horizon to horizon, thousands of animals walking in a line – not single-file, but close. Here is a map of their migration throughout the year:

Click here to see a video of the animals migrating.

Thanks to our good friends and mission colleagues from the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission, Hanna Martikainen and Kimmo Tappanainen, for hosting us on this visit!

We were also blessed to see the great Ngorongoro Crater, a natural wonder of which pictures can never do justice! If you’ve ever seen Crater Lake in Oregon, it’s about that same astonishing magnitude, but with plants and animals in addition.

We look forward to invitations to visit you all, either in-person or online, anytime from now to the end of this year! We are still trying to figure out what our employments will be once we’re back in Columbus, Ohio, in October. God willing, that will work out well and we will continue to serve our Lord Jesus once again back in the United States!

May the peace of Jesus be with us all! Thank you all for your support in the work we are honored to do!

Rev Dr Mark Rich

Rev Dr Cynthia Holder Rich


2 thoughts on “Mission Update July 2021 – Books and Bibles, and the Great Migration”

  1. Thank you. I’ve really enjoyed reading these newsletters. Blessings to you as you finish up in Tanzania and for whatever is ahead.

    “It’s not enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it, one must work at it.” Eleanor Roosevelt



  2. Thank you so much for your support, Carol!! (Sorry I’m so late in responding…) The mission work continues on, and we know that God is helping us in our own next steps. May God continue to strengthen and bless you! -Mark


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