News from Our Africa/Europe Area Director Bryce Whiting
TANZANIA: WORKING THROUGH COMMUNICATIONS
A phone call with Pastor Johnson Odoyo (Conference Secretary of Tanzania AC Conference).
Pastor Johnson: “I have 30 kicks. I am praying that 20 of them will live.”
(I have two choices in this conversation. I can place more value on his perception of my intelligence while I pretend that I understand, or I can place more value on our relationship, honestly telling him that I do not understand while asking him to be patient with me as I seek for clarity. Johnson is a public school principal. Perhaps …)
Bryce: “Johnson, please help me to understand. Did you say you have 30 kids?”
Pastor Johnson: “Kicks. Kicks! I have 30 kicks. I am praying that 20 of them will live.”
Bryce: “Johnson, spell it for me. Is it K-I-D-S?”
Pastor Johnson: “No, it is C-H-I-C-K-S. Kicks! There is a disease going around. I am praying that they will become hens.”
Ahh! Now it is clear.
The two seasons in Tanzania bring either too much sun or too much rain. It is challenging to raise crops and livestock, but Pastor Johnson Odoyo endeavors to do both. He is the secretary of the Tanzania AC Conference, fluent in at least three languages and a dear friend who also serves as my translator.
As the conversation continued, the entire picture became clearer still. The AC church in Tanzania is trying to be recognized by the federal government as a denomination. If they do not meet the qualifications soon, they will be shut down.
The demands of the application are excessive:
- An office set apart from any church building. Some of our churches meet under mango trees because they cannot afford a structure. An office is an extravagance which hungry mouths can hardly afford.
- A motorized vehicle. None of our Tanzanian pastors own a motorized vehicle, for preventative maintenance seems outrageous when there is a need for food, education, medical care and other essentials.
- A notarized letter from ACGC in Charlotte requesting the registration and listing the officers of the conference.
- A constitution.
- $1,000 (U.S.).
We have helped them to meet some of these demands. We provided the letter and some of the money needed. Without the full amount however, the process cannot continue. This is the tightrope on which we must walk: to give the full amount creates within them a full dependency on their friends in the U.S., but to give nothing shows that we do not care. Painfully, we gave some and rightly placed the ownership of this mission back into their laps. Notice the hand of God in this matter.
In the phone call, Johnson proceeded to explain that the conference was ashamed not to be able to pay the remainder of the bill themselves. They have adopted a change of mindset, however, and each church will make a contribution to the conference each month. Each pastor will stop waiting for aid and will strive to make his own living. Thus, Johnson is planting vegetables and watermelons and is now raising “kicks” – which he hopes will one day become hens. He is hoping that other pastors will follow his example and become more self-sufficient.
Johnson also explained, “The offering can help those in need and help the church to grow. We are blessed when we give. We will conduct a seminar where the churches can meet together and receive training in earnings and savings. Pray for God to give us a different mindset to help ourselves. People need to hear good news. Some had heard false teaching and have gone to other churches. We cannot do it when we are poor. We blame ourselves. We have gone down. We could have done it earlier, but we are all ashamed that we did not have it. May God forgive us for our laziness. Next time, we will have something in our account. Our prayer is to pay the remainder of the fee this month and then to move on to spreading the gospel.”
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)