I spent a semester abroad in Kenya as a college student. I then served as a Volunteer in the Diocese of Kagera, Tanzania from 1995-1998 after the refugee crisis in Rwanda. I had the opportunity to return in the summer of 2000 to East Africa for some studies. I am now returning in January with a team from the Diocese of Massachusetts.
1. We have just heard you are part of a mission team traveling to Tanzania in January. Tell us how that evolved.
As many folks know, I have had an interest in Africa since my youth. I remember seeing slides of Sudan from the times my grandparents traveled there while on sabbatical. As a college student, I had the opportunity to travel to Kenya for study abroad. And after college I was a Volunteer for Mission in Tanzania. Volunteers for Mission were essentially the Episcopal Church's version of the Peace Corps. I raised my own financial support and served the Diocese of Kagera for three years as their youth coordinator. As a priest I have always been drawn to continuing relationships with clergy in the world-wide Anglican communion. I feel that the gift of the Spirit, which is so tangible in the church in Africa, is something which we North American Christians can truly learn from--or better yet--experience.I happened to see that the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts has an active ministry to Tanzania and I just emailed them to let them know of my love for East Africa and that I had gifts of language and cultural awareness that might be of service to them. I was contacted very quickly by their chair, Dr. Colin Johnstone, and he came out to Redeemer to worship and have lunch with me.
2. What are you hoping to accomplish when you travel in January?
Colin's team has already had active ministries in place in the Diocese of Tanga for the past few years. Two years ago the Bishop of Massachusetts traveled to Tanga. This time, however, we hope to set-up an English as a Second Language program in the Anglican Secondary School. The students take all of their exams in English, but have a very difficult time succeeding because English is not their national language. KiSwahili is their spoken langauge and is used in instruction up until junior high. After that, the teachers switch to English for instruction and all test-taking. It is a very difficult scenario because many of the teachers are not fully comfortable with the language. On our team, we have a person who teaches at Boston University with a degree in teaching ESL. She will be responsible for the programmatic aspect of our endeavor.
In January, we hope to make sure that the project is a feasible and wise one at all levels.
3. What will you do?
I will work in my capacity as the Episcopal Campus Ministry priest and recruit college students to come and live and work and pray in Tanzania for six weeks. Because of my connections to the local colleges, as well as schools and chaplains in the Province, I have a large community from which I can draw. While I am there I will pay particular attention to how our students will live in the Tanzanian culture and see how feasible it is to undertake our task.
4. Why college students?
These days, so many secular institutions offer people opportunities to travel abroad. I think the church is uniquely poised to offer travel and mission as an opportunity to be transformed by the Gospel. So often, our travel focuses on experiencing new things. While that is fun and important my hope is that as Christian travelers, we become transformed into pilgrims. Pilgrims are people who seek out the presence of God where ever they go and also are bearers of the presence of God. I also hope that this type of mission work will build-up our Episcopal Campus Ministry program right here in our backyard.
5. How will your trip be funded?
I will use funds from my Continuing Education budget and from the Episcopal Campus Ministry budget.
6. How long will you be gone?
Ten days...yes, it's long, but traveling there takes quite a bit of time as well. We have asked the grandparents to come and take residence in our house while I am gone so my husband doesn't lose all hope.
7. Anything else you would like to share?
I am so excited and grateful for this opportunity on so many levels. Thanks especially to the clergy, staff, and people of the Church of the Redeemer who will go with me as I represent all of you to the church in Tanzania. In Swahili, they say " Bwana Asifiwe." This expression means "Praise God" and I will say it to each congregation I visit and assure them of your prayers, your greetings, and your interest in the one, holy,catholic, and apostolic church.