Saturday, September 1, 2012

How did Lutherans come to Tanzania

Lutherans in Tanzania

Some of you have me asked how Lutherans came to Tanzania.   I saw this little clip recently on Pastor Al Collver’s blog 

 “ Lutherans first arrived in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania in 1836, sent by the Leipzig Mission Society. Around the this time in the 19th century, European Churches typically did not send missionaries from the State church. As a result pious lay people and pastors formed mission societies to send “missionaries” to the heathen. Bible Societies also formed during this period."

In fact, the LCMS was built in part by the mission society efforts of Wilhelm Loehe. Article VI of the Missouri Synod’s Constitution prohibits work with “heterodox tract and mission societies.” The first and immediate context of this for Dr. C.F.W. Walther would have been mission societies like the Leipzig Mission Society
Kidia Parish in Old Moshi

Stella Hirji , owner of African Trails travel agency in Arusha Tanzania ,   a friend who has helped  us make travel arrangements for the last 10 years told me that   the first Lutheran church was built in her village Kidia Parish in Old Moshi where she was born and her parents still live.   Her grandfather Mr. Joseph Merinyo was a staunch follower and  he was  the first African to be sent to Leipzig in 1907  to study in Germany, and stayed there for two years before he came back he worked as their interpreter and helped in their missionary work.

Indeed the Lutheran Church in Moshi had close affiliation with Leipzig Church. Actually before the Kidia Parish Church was built, the Germans first put a wooden hut at a place called Kitimbirihu where  believers from the whole village used to go and pray once a year during the anniversary of the church. Although it was an open place it was also fun. She recalls that when as a  young girl her grandfather used to receive the various missionaries who came to Moshi. He was also a very close friend of the first Bishop of Kilimanjaro Bishop Stephano Moshi ( Kilimanjaro Christian Medical center was built in  his honor.

The Lutheran Church in Tanzania has experience rapid growth and currently has 5.8 million members which ranks it behind the Lutheran Church of Sweden with 6.5 million, 7.3 Lutheran in America, 2.4 million are in the LCMS,  and the Evangelical Lutheran church of Germany with 24 million.

The Mid-South district LCMS has been partnered with one of the newest Diocese in the Lutheran church of Tanzania (ELCT)  the East of Lake Victoria Diocese  (ELVD). The ELVD has grown in 10 years from 40 thousand to over 100 thousand baptized Christians.   This area of the country was one of the last areas to be evangelized,  missionaries did not visit the area because of the distance from the ocean, the heat and sickness . There still are many people, about  6 million, who are not Christian and many of these have not heard the name of Jesus.

That is why we go, following in the tradition of missionary societies and CF Walter. We go to share the gospel.

Come join us