Preaching Clubs and Mama Langham
A Report of Visit to Tanzania, June 13-30, 2010
by LPI Africa Coordinator Emmanuel Oladipo
It was my first visit to East Africa in my capacity as the Langham Partnership International (LPI) Africa Coordinator and so my first personal contact with Frank Luvanda and his team in Tanzania. I had visited the country several times before, but this was my first time in Mwanza and the Victoria Lake region of the country.
Mwanza and Kome
Although it is literally on the other side of the lake, going to Mwanza from Entebbe involved flying via Nairobi and Kilimanjaro. Frank Luvanda’s journey from Morogoro was more arduous, unfortunately, as he had to spend the night enroute when the bus he took broke down.
We had a very satisfying day programme in Mwanza, which gave me an insight into how much the LPI programme is valued across the denominational divide. Frank led sessions on preaching from the Epistles and I gave two expositions. The following day, four of the leaders from Mwanza accompanied us to Kome Island, five hours away by ferry, (Acts 20:4!). There we found a welcome party consisting of church leaders, choristers, dancers and ululating women, to say nothing of crowds of excited children. It quickly became evident that our coming was a big event for the entire island where Christians comprise the vast majority of its 10,000 inhabitants, and where the churches share an extraordinary fellowship together.
Half of the 60 church leaders at the seminar were women, representing all the Protestant denominations on the island. All of them are regular members of preaching clubs, and there were numerous testimonies of how LP training had been just what was required to make them effective ministers of the Word of God.
Our two-day programme bore very little resemblance to what we had agreed on paper; and the times schedule none at all! But a more committed group of eager learners would be hard to find anywhere, and the reports from the group work indicated a most refreshing grasp of the principles we sought to impart.
One unusual event was the conversion of a thirteen-year-old girl who had been taken out of school to be “married” into sex-slavery in a traditional arrangement. It led to a rather unpleasant confrontation with her pimp, (Acts 16:19!), but we received heartening cooperation from the chief of the island, and the case is being reported to the relevant authorities.
Sengerema & “Mama Langham”
We returned to Mwanza by a different route, which enabled us to meet with the LP leaders at Sengerema. Only a handful of club leaders could make it for the meeting, about a dozen or so, to whom I was invited to bring an exposition as a model and for their encouragement.
This is the home of the lady everybody addresses as “Mama Langham” because of her work in promoting preaching clubs everywhere. She had joined us on our journey from Mwanza, and it was a delight to meet with her family and to see something of the role she plays in her home church.
By all accounts, Devoth Joash is a remarkable woman. Coming from a Roman Catholic background, she married into an Anglican family and her father-in-law sent her to Bible School. That is where she was saved, and then she was appointed an itinerant evangelist. She planted churches in six villages, along with having and raising six children together with her very supportive husband.
It was her church leaders who sent her to attend LP seminars. On completing Level 3 in 2009, she embarked on a new project: initiating preaching clubs everywhere. To date she has started five on Kome Island, five in Sengerema, and three in Geita. What is most remarkable is the way she gains the confidence of denominational leaders of disparate hues so that they entrust their ministers to her for training, and then brings them all to learn and share happily together under the auspices of LP.
Back in Mwanza, and before my return flight on Tuesday, we had a meeting with the leaders to evaluate their overall work and find out how we can be of further service to them. They described to me the work of the 42 preaching clubs now meeting all over the country and the plans they have for the rest of the year. Their strategy is to have Levels 1 & 2 in the zones but have Level 3 as national events.
I will be delightfully surprised to know of another country where LP has permeated rural churches to the same extent, or where the training and fellowship it offers are more valued! Leaders visit local groups tirelessly, and although they are grateful for whatever support they receive from LPI, they are committed to funding the projects from their own resources. To this end, local seminars are scheduled at harvest time when people are best off.
One specific request they made is for literature in Kiswahili. I was able assure them that arrangements are on hand for them to receive books from Kenya, that we shall gladly support them in building mini-libraries in the zones, and that Frank was preparing a list of their needs for LPI to consider.
Visiting these two countries was a delightful experience for me at several levels. It afforded me the opportunity of getting to know and work with colleagues out there for the first time and it was also good to be updated with the work of Scripture Union and to link them with LP for the benefit of both movements. As usual, I praise the Lord for this privilege to be of some help to the saints.