May 6, 2013

Gardens Grow in Tanzania

Tom and Susan MacPherson, missionaries from our Synod at Irente Children’s Home in Tanzania, gave the Assembly an update on their mission and ministry Saturday morning — live from Tanzania via Skype. The MacPhersons have been serving as part of the companion relationship between SEPA and the North East Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania since 2011.

SEPA Tanzania Companionship Team chair David Neal began the report with news that Synod Council has approved extending the MacPhearsons’ mission for a third year. Their mission is just a part of the companionship between SEPA and North East Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT). Fifteen SEPA congregations are companions with congregations in North East Diocese, providing financial and prayerful support. To extend shared companionship through prayer, prayer request cards are being collected in SEPA congregations, translated into Zulu, and sent to Tanzania. Congregations in Tanzania will be doing the same, sending their prayer requests back to SEPA.

Neale shared a video of scenes from Tanazia sent by the MacPhearsons, and then introduced them, via technology, live from Tanzania. Susan MacPhearson explained some of their work, where “the children come first, before anything else.” They aid in may ways, from teaching English class, to collecting manure for the gardens, to acting as tour guides for English speaking visitors to the children’s home. The gardens are yielding corn, beans, cabbage, green peppers, tomatoes and onions – which, she notes, is a result of “city kids learning to be farmers.”

The Tanzanians say the MacPhearsons are “completely Tanzanian,” and they are inviting into the homes, events, weddings, and funerals in the community. They are not visitors to the local parish and community, but are members. They have also taken on the role of “substitute grandparents” to the eight Peace Corps volunteers in the immediate area, and the volunteers are active at the children’s home, working on projects and teaching in areas including AIDS prevention.

Tom MacPhearson noted the work together of the ELCA and the ELCT, and is proud that the ELCA has recognized they Synod for the “most companionships in the ELCA.” He thanked the many who support them and their ministry, including Synod leaders, Bishop Claire Burkat and the Synod staff, and the Companionship Team (Alice Bell, Nancy Shaw, Sharon Smith, David Neale, and Joanne Carlson).

As their two-year commitment ends in October, Tom affirmed that they have accepted a third year as missionaries, and thanked God for the guidance and presence they experience every day. He suggests that prayerful consideration of the next step needs to be undertaken, and hopes that someone from the Synod will consider taking over their mission, reflecting that they have been carrying out the theme from the 2012 Assembly, “Plant It, Water It, Watch It Grow!” – and that someone needs to take up and continue the work they have started, continuing God’s work for many more years. Before signing off, he asked all to pray with them, giving thanks for the connection, and praying to God for strength, for His blessing on the work both in Tanzania and here, and for the companionship.

In introducing the report, Bishop Burkat shared that she and Joanne Carlson, committee and SEPA staff member, will be traveling to Tanzania in June to visit the North East Diocese and with the other 19 Tanzanian dioceses as part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the ELCT.

–       John Kahler