So, we got some things wrong about student ministry in Tanzania, but a number of things we said during our pre-departure deputation in Australia have been confirmed. For example:
- We said that we would be joining in with what God is already doing here, rather than pioneering something new. At St John’s there are 5 or 6 student fellowships and groups like TAFES have been established in Tanzania for over 20 years.
- We said that Tanzanian students are bright, creative and full of initiative. Since being here we have met one who is starting his own NGO to help the poor.
- We said that student ministries are largely student run. We have loved meeting some of the TAFES staff, but they work at a more regional level than Australian staffworkers, so the individual groups are almost entirely student led. Likewise, we work on a chaplaincy team, but the students have been running their fellowships with minimal involvement from the chaplains.
- We said that though university officially happens in English, Swahili may be better for student ministry. There is certainly a continuing conversation happening among students about this, with lots of different opinions. Our experience so far is that whatever the official policy of a university or group, students use a mixture of the two languages when studying, conversing and in student ministry.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.