July 30, 2016

50 Years and Counting in Tanzania

Utume Kwanza!” (Mission priority!), sounded the vigorous challenge of James Sadock Butoke, president of the South Nyanza Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, to an assembly of 10,000 people gathered in the Kirumba CCM Stadium on a recent Sabbath.

His audience of members and friends of the Kirumba Seventh-day Adventist church in Mwanza, Tanzania, were ready with their answer: “Ni wakati wa Mavuno!” (It’s harvest time!) 

Mission priority was the constant focus throughout the Kirumba church’s jubilee celebrations June 27 to July 3.

In session after session and speech after speech, members and friends of the church heard prominent government representatives glowingly affirm the work of the Kirumba congregation and the impact of Adventists on their society across the nation of Tanzania. But whether members were cheering for mission priority, harvest time or jubilee in Kirumba, every element of their jubilee celebration — including made-to-order jubilee attire — expressed the church’s focus on their spiritual reason for being, serving and celebrating, and their enthusiastic support for the world church’s program of Total Member Involvement (TMI).

The regional commissioner for Mwanza, John V.K. Mongella, declared open the public phase of the jubilee celebration on Thursday, June 29. Following a march past of the church’s various uniformed groups, Mongella and Adventist World associate editor Lael Caesar were welcomed to Kirumba’s jubilee by two Pathfinders who decorated them with Pathfinder scarves. In his subsequent address, Mongella promised 500,000 Tanzanian shillings (U.S.$230) for the local church to continue its admirable work with the youngest of the marchers, the Adventurers.

“These Adventurers are the next generation of excellent Tanzanian citizens,” Mongella said.

He also pledged another 500,000 Tanzanian shillings toward the erection of a new Kirumba church building.

Regional Commissioner John Mongella opening the jubilee celebrations. From left: pastor Harun Kuyenga, who translated Lael Caesar’s sermons from English into Kiswahili; Lael Caesar, Adventist World associate editor and the celebration’s main guest speaker; Sadock Butoke, South Nyanza Conference president; and Yusufu Lutunja, Kirumba church pastor. (Photos courtesy of Lael Caesar)

The parades, displays, and music, as well as government ministers’ speeches and Caesar’s sermons maintained a steady focus on Kirumba’s mission priority.

“You are here because God put you here for a purpose,” Caesar said. “This jubilee is not the end. Jesus wants to take you all the way, all the way home.”

In turn, Angelina Mabulla, deputy government minister for lands, housing, and human settlements development, a non-member attendee of the Kirumba church, referenced Scripture when she said, “Jesus told us to go out and make disciples” (Matt. 28:19-20).

“Anyone who grows up receiving the training that the Adventist Church provides is destined to be a good citizen of Tanzania,” she said. “If they did not, they would have themselves to answer for it.”

On Sunday, July 3, escorted by church officials, Mabulla and Hamisi Kigwangalla, deputy government minister for health, community development, gender, elderly, and children, toured the construction site of the Pasiansi Adventist Medical Center, expected to begin operations in September or October 2016. In a subsequent address, Kigwangalla said he had instructed the region’s health officer to work closely with the development of this hospital to ensure that it can receive the highest certification possible. He also called on Seventh-day Adventists to continue holding up a high moral standard in a society that gives constant evidence of a clear need for such leadership.

The weeklong jubilee celebration included multiple activities on the grounds of the Kirumba church that demonstrated the church’s focus on its mission of taking the gospel to the world of its community, in the spirit of the world church’s Total Member Involvement program. The range of members’ participation included displays of Christian books and health foods, and a community clinic that attended more than 1,300 patients — the fourth to be conducted there in the last three years. Medical services spanned the areas of urology, eye exams and distribution of glasses, dental checkups, physiotherapy, cervical and breast cancers, blood pressure and diabetes. Simultaneously, 50 other members volunteered as blood donors.

Also on hand for the Kirumba church’s 50th anniversary celebrations were the presidents of both of Tanzania’s unions, Godwin Lekundayo (North Tanzania) and Mark Warwa Malekana (South Tanzania), as well as other top administrators and 13 pastors who have served Kirumba over its 50 years of witness. Lameck Mwamukonda, retired president of the former Tanzania Union Mission, struck his own note of urgency in his Sabbath vespers message. His stature as a former pastor of Kirumba, a former president of the South Nyanza Conference, and president emeritus of the entire country’s Adventist work, gave special point and poignancy to his challenge.

“The time has come for every church member to invest and participate fully in mission,” he said.

During their jubilee celebrations Kirumba’s members were ever ready to answer their president’s call, “Utume Kwanza” (Mission Priority!) with “Ni wakati wa Mavuno!” (It’s harvest time!). The inspiration of the celebration that gave them the chance to look backward on God’s guidance in their past left them with more assurance than ever that they have nothing to fear for the future, so long as they keep that past in mind.