I was saying to a friend that the Kony 2012 campaign all sounds a bit white-saviours-for-poor-Africans. As I tweeted at one point, ‘My concern is not Invisible Children org but the #Kony2012 campaign itself, which perpetuates “we fix Africa.”‘
Well, he asked, isn’t that what you’re doing? You’re going to help ‘poor’ Africans, right?
It’s a good question and one that Tamie and I carry our own share of angst about. So what’s the story?
What, how, why
Tamie and I are seeking to work in interdenominational student ministry under the IFES umbrella. We’ve been looking at doing this at St John’s University Tanzania, hopefully as a part of TAFES (Tanzanian Fellowship of Evangelical Students, the Tanzanian IFES group).
We’re committing to live in Tanzania for at least 10 years. For the first few years, this will mostly involve learning Swahili, learning the culture and forming relationships in which we can learn from Tanzanians. From there, we’ll be working with Christian students and associates to form a Tanzanian student ministry model that will work for St John’s. We expect that this will have something to do with studying the Bible and discipling students — probably in uniquely Tanzanian ways!
The TAFES vision is “to reach out for Christ to all students in colleges and universities in Tanzania to build graduates who bring godly impact to the church, the nation and wider society.” What if Tanzania’s professionals, thinkers and culture-makers — politicians, teachers, doctors, engineers, lawyers, bankers and more — were living lives deeply dedicated to Christ? That would be an incredible force for transformation and renewal!
As to where we fit in with this, well — we see some dodgy reasons to avoid and some good reasons to pursue.
Some bad reasons
Because Tanzania needs us. Are we so arrogant to think that Tanzanians are passive recipients and we their saviours?
Because we have the model for student ministry. What we have is an Australian model built for Australian assumptions in an Australian context. Transplanting that in Tanzania is imperialist, shortsighted and downright foolish.
Because ministry is too hard in the West. To flee to the majority world, where ‘success’ is supposedly easier, would just be using other people for our own purposes.
Some better reasons
Because we have a part to play. Yes, we probably have something to offer, a small contribution to make as part of the bigger picture. The thing is, it’s not up to us to determine what that contribution is. Tanzanians know their issues better than we do, so we have some listening to do.
Because Tanzanians have invited us. St John’s and TAFES have been positive about having our involvement. We’re seeking authentic partnership with them and real collaboration.
Because we see the promise of Tanzania under God. We see Africa’s greatest resource as its people. We believe that God will work through God’s people. Tanzanians are the ones who will change Tanzania — and that’s real, not just potential. We’re just keen to be a part of it!
Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.