Mwezeshaji Henri Kanyumi

Far left in the picture below sits my friend, Pastor John Jeremia. Two weeks ago, I’m not sure if I would have felt comfortable calling him my friend. We weren’t really at odds with each other, but he is one of the pastors who I am working pretty hard to help, and, up until two weeks ago, he always seemed irritated with me. He had strong expectations for what a missionary should do, and I wasn’t meeting those. I hadn’t paid for land and a building for his church, I hadn’t bought speakers and a microphone for them, I wasn’t paying him a salary, and when he asked for money for food and medicine for his 5 children, I normally gave him 5000/= ($2.50), rather than the 20,000/= ($10) he asked for. John is honest, and each Sunday when I visit the church that meets in his tiny living room, I’m surprised by how determined he is. The thing is, we want to help build a Tanzanian church standing on it’s own feet.

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Far left- Pastor John, Upper Center – Church Elder Jeff, Lower Center, John’s child, far right, John’s wife. We are in the living room of the house I share with Zach. 

On Wednesday, August 19th, John met with me in town and asked me to buy a speaker for the church and to give him 20,000 for food for his kids. I gave him 4000 for food and told him that I wouldn’t buy the speaker. I also told him that Pastor Henri Kanyumi would be meeting with him and the church elder on Saturday, the 22nd, and that maybe that would help him to understand this a little better. Henri Kanyumi is a Tanzanian pastor who has helped many churches go from dependent to independent over the last 10 years, so we’ve brought him on board as a consultant (The title means, “One who empowers – Henri Kanumi”). Pastor John said he would meet with him, but he didn’t seem excited about it. He left me with the same disappointed “Haya” that I’ve heard so many times. (“Haya” is used in similar contexts as “See ya later”)

At this meeting (which I chose not to attend, so as to give them space to talk more freely), John told Henri about his frustrations with me, and about how he was working hard to keep his church alive, but that he was just really struggling. People didn’t want to come to a church where they were crammed in a tiny living room, and they also didn’t see it as a real church. Henri responded by asking John what would happen if Davis was to give him the money. Would that solve the problem? Pastor John admitted that it wouldn’t, and that as soon as the money had run out, he would ask for more. Henri asked if they were meeting the community’s physical needs, but John replied that whenever they gave people money, those people never returned to church. Henri explained that if the church was standing on its’ own feet and helping its’ members to come out of poverty, then this is what would help the church to grow. The community would see that the church was offering something new, not just the small handouts that you can get anywhere. Henri explained that he could help John’s congregation to become that kind of church, but that he would need patience; it will be a long journey.

Since that Saturday, I’ve been working with a different Pastor John. He is encouraged, smiles, and has stopped asking for speakers. Even further, he took the initiative to arrange a much-needed meeting of several church leaders in the area about the brick machine project. It feels so good to see that he trusts me, and makes me want to work harder, so as to not disappoint his new faith in me.

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