In my last post, I highlighted one of the missiological issues that we will face if we go to Dodoma: language. Another issues is where we will live. In the past (and sometimes the present) missionaries have been notorious for living in big houses, separate from the people they’re trying to reach and then making terrible cultural blunders or wondering why they don’t see fruit. The days of missionaries living their western lifestyle in the plains of Africa are over.
You can imagine my dismay then when I realised that not only do the missionaries at St John’s speak English, but they also live in houses behind the uni’s large fences. I asked Elspeth and she said that at first she objected to living behind a fence too. After all, it seems so cut off from the town!
And it is. But it’s not cut off from the university. In fact, it’s on uni campus. That means that students can drop in all the time and it’s really easy to have Bible studies and meals with them in your home. So you’re more accessible to the students when you live behind the uni fence than if you don’t. Even though you’re less accessible to the ordinary Dodoman.
And the standard isn’t any higher than the Tanzanian lecturers. Of course, that’s way higher than the average Tanzanian but then, lecturers are not ordinary Tanzanians: only 2% of Tanzanians even have the chance to go to uni. And this is a culture that honors its teachers.
So it’s a question of what you’re contextualising to: Dodoma? the villages the students have come from? the university culture? It’s messy. Living on campus at St John’s seems to leave the first two out, but it does the last one really well. And in the end, that’s the field we’d be going to work in. Of course, it’s not quite as clear cut as that – you can’t just separate off the uni from Dodoma like that. So it still leaves me squirming a bit. But if I wait until I’m comfortable with it, I don’t think I’d ever go.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.