May. 20, 2019

Church leaders in Arusha reflect on mission: “The church is actually a change agent”

Young goat herders near Oldonyosambu, Tanzania. Photo by Gregg Brekke/WCC

20 May 2019

World Council of Churches partners in Arusha, Tanzania reflected on the realities in the communities they serve as they met one year after the World Council of Churches’ Conference on World Mission and Evangelism.

They spoke to the WCC Communication on “Evangelism in Context: Arusha, Tanzania” about current strengths and challenges they see daily on a local level.

Bishop Dr Solomon Jacob Masangwa, North Central Diocese, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania spoke about spreading the good news of salvation. “Evangelism is a total service to humanity, to spread good news of salvation. What I mean here is to prepare the soul and the heart to be friendly with God,” he said. “The church is actually a change agent.”

Many people in Arusha face economic issues that are exacerbated by climate change, Masangwa continued. “This year, we are really experiencing drought, and if we don’t get enough rains, enough crops, people don’t get food, then we are trouble.”

The issue of HIV and AIDS is also a challenge in local communities, continued Masangwa. “The church is providing education on how people can protect themselves,” he said.

Rev. Stanley Elilekia Hotay, bishop of the Mount Kilimanjaro Diocese of the Anglican Church of Tanzania, reflected on the power of believing: “Faith has a power in itself. When people believe, people can do a lot,” he said. “Believe in Christ, believe in themselves. They get out of trouble. The don’t need handouts, actually, they need education and knowledge to help them get transformed.”

Hotay said he sees many single mothers. “A lot of them, they don’t have husbands,” he said. “They aren’t married. They have children. The don’t have jobs. I feel like we need to address this.”

Rev. Matheos Lucas Nziku, pastor of the Greek Orthodox Evangelismos Church in Arusha, summed up the thoughts of many when he said: “Evangelism without action is nothing. We have to help those in need so they can see the work of Jesus.”

Nziku said he wants preach to the poor. “Especially to the poor but I want to preach in the villages where people are forgotten,” he said. “I want to go there. I want to preach the good news to them so they can know the love of Jesus, so today it will be good news to them. That joy, which I have in Jesus, I want them to have, in the villages.”

Sharon Mkisi, Mennonite Central Committee representative for Tanzania, shared her definition of evangelism: “Good news can come along in a variety of forms, and it’s coming from that heart of seeing people through the eyes of Jesus, coming alongside and seeing what practical ways we can share God’s love with them.”

Dr Rogate Reuben Mshana, former WCC acting general secretary for public witness and diakonia, reflected on the important services churches provide to address people’s needs: “In this country we feel like churches contribute more than 10 percent of the social services, at the community level, too,” he said.