DAR ES SALAAM – A team of dedicated leaders from the United Methodists of Greater New Jersey embarked on a transformative two-week journey to Tanzania, solidifying their partnership with the United Methodist Church of Tanzania. This significant visit marked the first trip since the pandemic, rekindling the flame of collaboration that began with the Miracles Everywhere Campaign in 2018. The team’s purpose was twofold: to facilitate the highly anticipated Tanzania Pastors’ School and to witness the inspiring growth and progress within the Tanzanian church.
A 24-hour delay in the final leg of their three-legged flight led the team to spend an unexpected Sunday morning at First UMC of Tanzania’s capital city of Dar es Salaam. As they gathered in the sanctuary for worship, the iconic emblem of the United Methodist Church, the Cross and Flame, stood as a powerful symbol of their shared faith and unity. This powerful emblem accompanied them throughout their journey, gracing the halls of their ultimate destination, St. Mark’s UMC in Kigoma, which served as the venue for the Tanzania Annual Conference session and pastors’ school.
The ordination service proved to be a truly remarkable and joyous occasion, filled with flower-petal throwing and resounding celebrations. For the GNJ team, witnessing this sacred moment and experiencing the rich traditions and vibrant expressions of faith within the Tanzanian church was deeply impactful. The ordinations stood as a testament to the dedication and commitment of these individuals to their callings, leaving the team profoundly moved by the transformative power of these sacred rites.
During their time in Tanzania, Bishop Mande Muyombo shared insightful reflections on the profound impact of investment in ministry. Notably, the Greater New Jersey’s Miracles Everywhere Campaign, which raised $500,000 for Tanzania in 2018, proved instrumental. Instead of using the entire amount immediately, the Tanzania Annual Conference wisely invested the funds, drawing a 5% annual amount to support vital initiatives. This strategic approach enabled them to fund the annual pastors’ school; construct new churches, clinics, and mission centers; and provide ongoing support for pastors and their ministries.
The team from Greater New Jersey was deeply moved by the financial challenges faced by pastors in Tanzania. The revelation that the average clergy’s monthly salary is $25 USD highlighted the immense sacrifices made by these dedicated leaders. Additionally, they were humbled to discover that approximately $45,000 could construct a brand new church building, given the realities of faith communities gathering in tents or makeshift structures made of corrugated metal.
“Words fail me when describing the hospitality, spirituality, worship and grace experienced in Tanzania,” shared Rev. Dawn Taylor-Storm, GNJ’s Assistant to the Bishop on Leadership Development and one of the mission team members. “I was particularly moved to see that the number of women serving as clergy and District Superintendents continues to grow. Truly, this experience gives me hope for the future of The United Methodist Church: Together, GNJ and The Tanzania Annual Conference are working to raise up new leaders and grow the kingdom of God.”
The focal point of the visit was the return of the Tanzania Pastors’ School since the pandemic, which marked a significant milestone in the partnership between the two conferences. The school provided valuable training on essential topics such as the Gospel of Luke, Preaching, Wesleyan Theology of the Sacraments, Prayer, and the Wesleyan Spirit of Evangelism.
Throughout their time in Tanzania, the GNJ team witnessed the unwavering commitment and passion for Christ displayed by the Tanzanian pastors. The school offered a platform for fruitful discussions, exchange of ministry insights, and a deepening understanding of Methodist teachings and practices. The team was inspired by the Tanzanian pastors’ dedication to serving their communities and their entrepreneurial spirit in leveraging existing resources for impactful outreach.
“This trip gave me a greater understanding of how people experience God in new and creative ways,” expressed Rev. William D. Carter III, Senior Pastor of Franklin St. John’s United Methodist Church in Newark, NJ. “While I thought I was in East Africa to teach preaching and prayer, it was clear God sent me to learn from them!”
As the team bid farewell to Tanzania, they returned to the United States carrying treasured memories, strengthened friendships, and a special symbol of unity. Each team member donned a hat gifted to them by their Tanzanian siblings, which proudly displays the emblematic cross and flame of the United Methodist connection.
Reflecting on the power of this emblem, one Tanzanian pastor shared the profound meaning it holds in her community. “In my side of the world, the cross and flame means something. When a person in Tanzania sees the United Methodist emblem, they know that they can be fed, clothed, educated, and seen.” She expressed, “The cross and flame represents hope.” These heartfelt words serve as a reminder of the transformative impact and hope that the United Methodist Church brings to communities around the world.
The ongoing partnership between the United Methodists of Greater New Jersey and the United Methodist Church of Tanzania will continue to foster growth, empower leaders, and embody the hope and world-transformative power symbolized by the cross and flame.