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Ministry in Tanzania

by Glenese Parish last modified May 02, 2014 09:53 AM
A letter from John Rowse

Dear friends,

Thank you for your praying over the last few weeks.  Please be praying for Kay who at last has a bunion-removal job coming up (May 26). I'm now back in Mbeya briefly after visiting:

Ministry in TanzaniaSumbawanga

I still have the hope that a new unity in the gospel (which most won't have heard before) might bring at least some folk from both sides of the Anglican conflict there together.  But it did not get off to a good start, since even the 'good' pastor thought the message of the gospel too dangerous and complained to the bishop.

However we did have a great meeting in a village where a man suspected of being a witch had had his house totally demolished by the mob.  We worked with many of the same mob - with police escort. They got right into the discussion and gave us a great hearing.  I also did some sessions on grace at Grace Bible Institute in Momba just out of Sumbawanga, where some I had taught there over ten years ago were now teachers.  It was lovely to be with folk who just lapped up the truth, and who I'm sure will pass it on.


This town is deep in the bush, between Mpanda and Tabora.  A good 100k's of the road is through thick forest.  I was there as guest of the District Medical Officer, to suggest a different way of handling a school mass hysteria outbreak.  After a lot of interviewing of students and teachers and local folk, it was a classic case, with almost exclusively girls affected, some with serious stress issues (e.g. from home conflict - one girl's father had told her it would be better if she'd never been born!), and  mass "infection" with some crazy beliefs which had raised the general anxiety level. 

Last year, one troubled girl's startling behaviour had set her close friend going.  But later it seemed as if all the attention the first girls received became rather attractive to others, and this may account for a second stage in proceedings, where some of the apparent imitating behaviour may not have been quite as sub-conscious, and, to use a highly technical term (not commonly voiced, I suspect, in the behaviourist literature) there was some "brat" behaviour. 

I worked with teachers in five classes, doing a kind of fire drill where one would girl would fall and scream wildly and the rest of the class quietly leave, go far away and not form new groups.  This way, the 'players' would have no 'spectators'.  Then we had to convince the parents.  What helped was that they had already tried seven renowned diviners and had got nowhere.  One had even advised slaughtering a pig and eating it together, although he was a Muslim!

The big man who was chairman of the school board got me a little concerned when he announced that they had sent some of these 'doctors' off with a good whipping:  It makes you want to look around for a stiff exercise book to put down your trousers.  But after quite a grilling, he announced that the way I was suggesting made sense.  Even the Muslim Sheik came on side.  The last I heard from the principal, it has slowed right down, with very few instances this week.  Please keep praying for them. 

The Anglican bishop in Mpanda had wanted me to work with the small Anglican Church in Inyonga.  The local "evangelist", however, was simply not buying "grace alone" and he, too, like the Sumbawanga pastor, shared his misgivings with the bishop, who then decided it might be wisest not to continue with the planned tour of churches in the diocese until I had first taught the pastors and evangelists.  So that's the plan.  I need to make that long journey again in May.  Please pray for that.  Please pray for safe driving.

At one stage, deep in the Katavi Game Reserve, there was a sudden splash of white, and ten or so zebras crossed right in front of me, and then, immediately, a herd of giraffes crossed (I counted 17 of them), but with some big ones stopping, blocking the road and eyeing me off, it was a bit of a standoff for a while.  These are awfully lonely roads if the tall gentlemen start to get angry.

Ministry in TanzaniaMpanda

Although the bishop at first thought it should be OK for me to teach the Anglicans there - since a fellowship group I had taught there the last time had come right onside quickly - he changed his mind and when the big Sunday service came, I just got to greet people and then sit there seeing a golden opportunity for evangelism slip by as one of the locals shouted out the details of the type of palm branches that were thrown down before Jesus.


There is more - work in Ileje, south of Mbeya, on the Malawi border, and Njombe, south-east of here, but I'll keep that for later.  May I ask you to pray, though, for the poor man who has been the principal of Msia Primary School, near Ileje.  I had to collect him and drive him to the police for his protection after he got a death threat.  This was another school where, you may recall, we tried to convince the locals that the girls' falling over etc., was not caused by witchcraft itself, but more by a contagious fear that someone had bewitched the school.  But the chief in our party had undermined what I'd said by offering a witchcraft solution, which it appears the locals found more attractive, and the stories started circulating about the principal, that he was bewitching the school and using witchcraft to enable him to 'move around' with other men's wives.  So do pray that he will be safely transferred to another school well away from there.

Thanks for your backing.
John - with love from Kay and the family 

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