So, why go to Africa? Long term? or just for this visit? I thought I’d thought about this before but this week I’ve had a number of conversations that have caused me to re-visit this as Christians have discouraged me from our current long term plan to work in Tanzania.
The objections fall into two main categories:
- Africa doesn’t need us. Tanzania is full of Australian missionaries. We would only encourage dependence on Western Christianity if we went.
- Our gifts would be better used here. There are heaps of needs in Australia and we already know the culture here, so we should stay here.
The vehemence with which these arguments came shocked me somewhat, though perhaps they shouldn’t have. However God has been very gracious in putting St Andrew’s Hall right next door to where we live and the wonderful people there were very patient and encouraging to me.
They mainly spoke to the first objection with a resounding ‘Absolutely not!’ Here are a few of the things they shared with me:
- There are a lot of Australian missionaries in Tanzania, in fact, more Australians than perhaps any other nationality. That’s because (rightly or wrongly) during the colonial era, CMS ‘gave’ certain countries (like Tanzania) to other countries (like Australia) to be their special concern. Today, that’s much less patriarchal, more like a partnership, but that’s why so many Australians go to Tanzania (but if you go to, say, Uganda, you’ll find a whole stack of Brits.)
- The Tanzanian church is Tanzanian led. Far from being dependent on the West, the bishops and significant leaders are all African. When Australians come to work in Tanzania, they come at their invitation and submit to their leadership.
- Tanzanians are inviting Australians to come and work with them and there are huge opportunities. I sent an email to a missionary in Dar es Salaam asking him if there was much need for student work there. He emailed back saying that there were at least 2 unis and one school who had wanted him to do stuff but he’d had to prioritize other things.
So I’m excited about our trip, especially now that it seems there may be more opportunities that I had previously thought. And I’m excited about learning about Tanzania and its people. In fact, it’s already begun! We’d thought that a week would be plenty of time to have a leisurely experience of St John’s, but now that there are other opportunities to explore, a week is looking far too brief! Because ministry in Tanzania is so relational, you need WAY more time than you might think! We’re hoping that we might be able to extend our stay by a few days (before we have to get back for the start of classes) or otherwise that God would take care of the logistics!
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.