NOTES FROM THE FIELD
In this series, thoseinvolved with CLC foreign missions profile one aspect of our overseas endeavors.
During a recent visit to our sister church body in Tanzania, I was able to assist in the training of men to be faithful preachers and teachers of God’s saving Word. It is always encouraging to gather with faithful pastors and church leaders around God’s Word as the one source of truth. I had the opportunity to meet with several pastors in four different districts for one or two days of seminars. While the priority of my visits is to work with the pastors and leaders, it is always a privilege to get out into the communities and the Maasai bomas (village enclosures) to meet our brothers and sisters in Christ and bring the Good News of our Savior Jesus.
Many of the congregations I visited were very typical for East Africa. The church buildings are made of mud wattle construction. This type of construction involves digging a ditch for the outside walls of the structure. Long sticks are then placed into this ditch, so they are standing erect. Larger posts are placed at the four corners and on each side of where the door will be located. Mud is then packed into the ditch at the base of the sticks to hold them upright and in place. The next step involves weaving smaller and more tender sticks through the long sticks that have been placed into the ditch. Once all the walls have been woven together, mud is then packed in layers onto and into the sticks on each side of the walls. After the mud has dried, the walls will sometimes be smoothed over and then painted.
One such congregation of the CLC-TZ is in a rather desolate area of the Moshi/Kilimanjaro district. This area is called Msito wa Tembo. This is a Swahili phrase for “Valley of Elephants” because for many years this area of Tanzania was a major migration route for the wild elephants that used to dominate much of this part of East Africa. Elephants have not been seen in this area for quite some time. You don’t see many humans, either. Several devastating droughts have left this region almost uninhabitable. Yet the resourceful people of the Maasai tribe manage to live here. The Maasai are cattle herders who roam for miles and miles to graze their cows, goats, and sheep. For the most part, they do not eat fruit or vegetables, so the lack of fertile ground for farming isn’t an issue for them.
While most people in Tanzania would find very little reason to travel to Msito wa Tembo, the pastors and leaders of the CLC Tanzania have found a very good reason to make their way into the Valley of Elephants. The reason they do is quite simple—there are blood-bought souls of Christ waiting to hear the Good News that their sins have been paid for and they are forgiven! And pastors and evangelists go, with Bibles in hand, to proclaim the truth of God’s saving Word.
Among the Maasai, respect is not readily given; it must be earned. However, once an individual has proven himself to be honest and trustworthy, then the Maasai will protect that individual with their own lives and freely share anything they have with him. This became quite obvious when I saw how warmly the CLC-TZ pastors and I were welcomed into their bomas. Some of the more distant congregations were very quiet and leery, as they had not been visited by a light-skinned foreigner before. But by the end of our time together, they had warmed up considerably.
What a gift we have been given by our Lord to share the Gospel with the people of the Maasai tribes of East Africa!
Todd Ohlmann is a full-time visiting missionary for the Church of the Lutheran Confession.