On arrival in Tanganyika in 1956, I was assigned to live with my folks on Kijima station. Time was to be spent in Sukuma language learning (re-learning, since I had used it as a missionary child growing up there!); later I was to go to Bukoli for my examination.
About a year or so after that exam, my parents were moved to Kola Ndoto. The Mission Field Council appointed me as “Station Superintendent” – theoretically in charge of not only the actual Mission Station but the whole area under that Station’s “jurisdiction”. That involved about 36 primary schools, over 100 “bush” churches and 5 pastoral districts. I did a lot of traveling, first by Volkswagen (I found out they can float in deep water!) and later by Land Rover – GREAT for mud and water!
I did have personal difficulties, though. Being “in charge” of those bush churches and pastoral districts presented an embarrassing situation to me. I was expected (by the Field Council) to give spiritual and administrative counsel to those bush evangelists and the district pastors – but most of them had been in ministry from back in the days when I was a kid growing up out there. Most of them had much more experience and spiritual maturity than I did yet here was I, supposed to guide them and be the chairman of all the church councils. How could I be the “bwana mkubwa” (big bwana) over these mature servants of the Lord? Quandary? Yes!
With trepidation, because I myself was answerable to the Field Council, I deferred to the pastors in church councils and spent time on safari visiting the churches, listening and counseling in private face-to-face informal time – often over a delicious African meal. The African pastors responded great to this deference; the pastors of church districts became the chairman of his pastorate church council and, when we met together as a Station district council, one of them was appointed chairman, usually the most senior pastor or the Station pastor.
Though some of the procedures and the system used to produce consensus “jarred” this mzungu’s (foreigner’s) mind, it worked and proved to be the way to go. In theory the “self-governing, self-propagating, self-supporting principle for African church development had been in place for a good number of years; in actuality practice was far behind especially on Mission Stations which had been in existence “for a coon’s age”, like Kijima.
I remember fondly my interaction with all those pastors and evangelists. I trust relationships that were developed proved we were “one in Christ”. Yes, there were differences – especially with one pastor from a distant pastoral district – but differences of outlook and proposed solutions did not, as far as I know, affect personal relationships. And, with real gratitude to our Lord, none of the differences ever had to do with Biblical understanding or applications.
“… I will build My church… .”, the Lord said. And this church in Tanzania (formerly Tanganyika) is proof of this. This is GREAT cause for rejoicing – and GREAT impetus to prayer for its continued ministry in that country. TO GOD BE THE GLORY!