by Mark

Economic Crisis?

June 14, 2012 in Africa, Justice, Mark, Tanzania, Theology by Mark

News of economic bailouts and financial crises in Europe seem a little strange to me here in rural Tanzania. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there is something incongruous about extremely rich people dressed in nice clothes discussing how to preserve the banking system and stave off financial collapse, when our friends around us here in Mpanda are blissfully unaware as they work hard to harvest their crops and earn money to buy a plot of land and build a small house for their family.

So what exactly is the crisis? Is it that people are starving, or being persecuted, or being denied access to basic healthcare? Not generally, no. Maybe it is the shock of individuals losing their jobs, and families having to adapt to a different way of life. I think this is a big part of the crisis.

And yet these kinds of issues are faced by people around the world every day, with no talk of a crisis. A couple of days ago Zitto Kabwe blogged about The bottom 30 million, a reference to the majority of Tanzanians who rely mainly on agriculture and are not benefiting from the overall economic growth in the country. Many of these 30 million have limited access to healthcare and have no formal employment, so could be said to be in a much worse economic situation than many of those struggling in Europe. And yet there is no talk of an economic crisis in rural Tanzania. In fact, if anything there is often an unspoken acceptance that this is the natural way of things, that European countries have a right to be wealthier than African countries, as evidenced by the Spanish Prime Minister’s comment that “Spain is not Uganda”. Read the rest of this entry →

by Mark

Pulling us up from the mud

June 12, 2012 in Africa, Bible, Front, Mark, Mission, Tanzania, Theology by Mark

Having been in Mpanda for three months now we are starting to feel settled and are enjoying our work, making friends and organising our house to feel like a home! I’m particularly enjoying my job as operations manager, helping to set up and maintain the office for the project as our colleagues work with the local language communities to write down their languages and start translating parts of the Bible.

One of my favourite (in a tiring kind of way) moments of the week is Thursday evenings, when I get together with several of our Tanzanian colleagues to do a Bible study in Swahili. We have wanted to read through one of the gospels, so have started with Matthew and read a few verses each week. Read the rest of this entry →

by Mark

Giving Up Everything?

May 23, 2012 in Africa, Front, Mark, Mission, Theology by Mark

When a cross-cultural worker moves to a different country and a very different culture, as well as experiencing many benefits, they will also inevitably give up a great deal to do so. The things that they have to give up may be financial (a well-paying job), relational (family and friends) or just simply the comfort of knowing what to expect when living in one’s own culture and speaking one’s own language.

When moving overseas it can be easy to focus on the things one has given up, feeling like we are suffering a great deal for God and his work. “We had to give up so much in order to move to this country”, or “my life is difficult but God needs me here” can be common sentiments among cross-cultural mission workers. In this situation I can also deceive myself that I am vitally important to God’s work, and that I deserve to be in charge and making the strategic decisions since I have invested “so much”. Read the rest of this entry →

by Mark

Matthew and the Genealogies: Who is this Jesus?

May 5, 2012 in Africa, Bible, Culture, Front, Mark, Mission, Tanzania, Theology by Mark

On Thursday, at the request of the guards at the office, we had the first of hopefully many Swahili Bible studies. I had no idea how the session would go but thought we would start to read through the gospel of Matthew.

The first week we read Matthew 1, and mainly discussed the genealogies, which led to some fascinating questions and discussions. Was David the same guy who killed Goliath? Was he the same one who was king? Where did Solomon’s name come from, and is he the same Solomon that Muslims talk about? Where did Abraham come from? Did he originate from the land of the Arabs? Why were Abraham and his descendents chosen, and not other people? Was the exile the Matthew talks about when the people left Egypt? Why does Matthew keep talking about 14 generations? Read the rest of this entry →

by Mark

Reading the Bible with the Tanzanian Church: Grace and Works

May 3, 2012 in Africa, Bible, Church, Front, Mark, Mission, Tanzania, Theology by Mark

I had a fascinating conversation with a Tanzanian friend the other day about God’s grace (giving us good things that are not earned by our good deeds), and our working hard to follow him and live a good life. The conversation started as we discussed a western missionary who believes that many Tanzanians have not understood the fullness and extent of God’s grace, and so who preaches about God’s completely unearned gift of salvation at every opportunity.

While my friend believes that God’s grace is completely free and unearned, he was concerned that the missionary has not completely grasped the cultural paradigm in which he is working. Many uneducated people go to church in order to hear the pastor tell them exactly what they must do to please God. Emphasising too strongly that God’s grace is not linked to our good deeds will result in people feeling they can do whatever they like, ultimately going against the major thrust of Scripture which is to live good lives that honour and obey God. Read the rest of this entry →