May 12, 2015

Tanzania Missionaries Welcomed Home

Plant it. Water it. Watch it Grow. The theme of the 2012 Synod Assembly perfectly expresses the partnership of SEPA Synod and the Northeast Diocese of Tanzania. This fruitful partnership was spotlighted at the Assembly on May 9, as we celebrated The Sebastian Kolowa Memorial University (SEKOMU) and missionaries Susan and Tom MacPherson.

Planting crops is very important in the lives of the people in the Northeast diocese of Tanzania. When Tom and Susan MacPherson came there three years ago, Tom asked the villagers how to plant cabbage. He was told to draw a line in the dirt and drop the seeds in. The result was lots and lots of cabbage, much more than they expected, more than enough to share. In the same way, the seeds of love that the MacPhersons helped to plant, watered with the help of SEPA synod, support the growth of the Irente Children’s Home, the Irente School for the Blind, and many other initiatives, large and small. 65 harmonicas sent for the School for the Blind. A rooster and six hens for a family, who have paid it forward three times so far.

Susan MacPherson (left), with husband Tom, displays a "welcome home" gift.

Susan MacPherson (left), with husband Tom, displays a “welcome home” gift.

For three years the MacPhersons have made videos that have been shown at synod assembly. We have seen them love the children and families. We have seen the Tanzanian people come to know and love them. Today was different from other years because today, we welcomed home Susan and Tom in person.

The MacPhersons spoke of the profound impact their years in Tanzania had on their lives. In Tanzania, people literally rushed up to receive Communion in church, so eager were they to have this gift from God. In Tanzania, long, detailed conversation is very highly valued, as opposed to our rushed greetings in the US. In Tanzania there is a great spirit of community; families, neighbors and strangers care for one another. Susan and Tom were humbled to be told by people that they were an example of Christ’s love for them. They may be home now, but the MacPhersons’ love and concern for Tanzania will never leave them.

Bishop Burkat presents Susan Pursch with a gift honoring her service to our SEKOMU partnership.

Bishop Burkat presents Susan Pursch with a gift honoring her service to our SEKOMU partnership.

Ten years ago, Susan Pursch heard of the dream of building a college in Tanzania that would serve individuals with special needs. Joanne Carlson and Bishop Almquist suggested Susan lead a new coordinating committee. First came ground breaking and renovation of old buildings in disrepair. Roads were cleared. Within a year curriculum was created, faculty hired, an IT lab built, using over $400,000 raised by SEPA synod. Ten years later, SEKOMU focuses on serving people was disabilities, training graduates to work with people with physical and intellectual challenges.   Now it is a university with 1500 graduates. Susan was invited to speak at SEKOMU graduation, along with the president of Tanzania.

Today, Susan was honored for a decade of coordinating this great Northeast diocese and SEPA synod partnership. Susan said that God gets the honor and glory. Susan reminded us that we were invited to the table in Tanzania, we were not in charge (a huge lesson). She thanked us for the opportunity to help multiply God’s purpose to bless the world, building a university from the ground up, brick by brick.

– Elise Seyfried