After more than a year of imagination, prayer, thought, conversation, and discernment, we are ready to move onto our next adventure in life and ministry. We leave early next month for our new life and work in Usa River, Arusha, Tanzania, as Lecturers (Faculty) in Theology at Tumaini University Makumira. We will serve the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, appointed by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
A Return to the Familiar
In many ways this is not so much an altogether new thing as a return to something familiar. Many will know that almost two decades ago, we left the US with our three small children for life and work in Fianarantsoa, Madagascar. We all grew and learned so much on the island. The scenery, the animals, and most of all the beautiful people of Madagascar remain in our hearts. We have made many visits back, and we cherish many lasting friendships from our time there. Among our learnings was so much about the US and American culture and the church, faith and ministry in the US. The church in Madagascar has a unique, vibrant and dynamic witness in the world. We will always be grateful for our first chapter in mission service, and we said when that came to an end (and many times since) that we really wanted to serve in that way again.
In God’s providence, that which we have thought about and dreamed of is coming true.
We will be serving, again, with a church that is growing, vital and active, in a country where poverty is a daily reality for many too many people. Once again, we will serve with a great community of mission and national colleagues, many of whom have already reached out to us with support, prayer, and valuable advice. We will teach, as before, at a graduate seminary, preparing leaders for the church. These parallels have helped us think about and prepare for this move.
Beginning Something New
And, there are many ways that this opportunity differs. We will serve on the African continent, rather than on an island where the people do not identify as African. We will teach in English, the language of instruction throughout Tanzania. We are older and, we hope and pray, wiser.
And our three small children – well, in the last 20 years they have gone and grown up, becoming three great young adults. Moving without them along for the ride feels truly weird. We are inordinately proud of and grateful for the people our kids have become. We’re both sad to be moving away from them, and so appreciative of the support and encouragement they have given and continue to give us.
We look forward to learning a lot (including Kiswahili – while we won’t teach in it, worship and much of life is lived in the language of the people). We have been reading, listening, and watching everything we can about Tanzania. We’ve had great conversations, in person, via email, Skype and Facebook, with so many great people who have offered such good and helpful information. And we are just about ready to take this leap into God’s good future.
Walking With Us
Both the ELCA (Mark’s church) and the Presbyterian Church (USA) (Cynthia’s church) approach mission from a stance of accompanying and walking with those with whom we serve. (To learn more about this approach, see an ELCA statement here and a PCUSA statement here.) Entering mission service means stepping into and claiming the legacy of wonderful moments of a great history of witness, healing, proclamation, prophecy and work for justice – and stepping into and acknowledging painful moments when colonial and dominating impulses led to injury and dealt pain and even death. We are bound by the call of Jesus to walk with and learn from people of different cultures and languages. We are called to walk with Jesus and learn from him, even as the two disciples did on the Emmaus road (Luke 24:13-35). We have been honored and humbled to walk with and learn from the faithful people of Madagascar, where many walked with and accompanied us on the journey. Indeed, the support of those who walked with us made our walk possible. We look forward to learning how to walk with and accompany the faithful people of Tanzania, and we will need others to walk with and accompany us. There are a number of ways you can walk with us on this journey.
First and foremost, you can PRAY FOR AND WITH US. God’s grace and providence in Christ is the solid rock on which we stand. We depend on the prayer support of people in many places and spaces to help us do what we do not understand, things we cannot at present do – which we will be called on to do.
Second, you can FOLLOW US on this blog – just click “Follow” in the bottom right hand corner. Please also follow us on Facebook at the link at the bottom right of this page. Your responses to what we write – your comments, thoughts and likes – will be a powerful source of accompaniment.
Third, you can SUPPORT US. We are grateful to be able to go where God has called us, and excited at the chance to take up this amazing opportunity. We hope to walk with congregations, organizations and individuals on this journey whom God has gifted with the capacity for financial support of mission. Congregations and individuals can sign covenants of ongoing support – the covenant form can be downloaded here; support us with one-time gifts; or you can jump in on something really exciting – we’ve been chosen to take part in a pilot of crowdfunding for mission personnel. Check out our page here and let us know what you think!
Fourth, we can VISIT YOU. We will be developing ways to visit with you and your congregation from Tanzania, using Skype or other technologies. Sponsoring congregations and groups can invite us to join in worship, education, and other ministries when we are in the US. We both look forward to seeing what God is doing in your space, and sharing with you in the journey to which God has called us.
Finally – eventually – you can VISIT US. We’d love to show you, once we begin to learn, what God is doing in Tanzania. And while you’re there, Mt. Kilimanjaro, the Serengeti, and so much more awaits your appreciation and wonder. If you, your group or your congregation would be interested in a visit sometime in 2019 or beyond, please be in touch.
We are thankful to God for this opportunity. We are thankful to the wonderful staff of ELCA Global Mission for sending us. We are thankful to our family and friends for their love and support. And we are thankful to you for walking with us thus far. We look forward to walking with you and the people and church in Tanzania in all the ways God makes possible.