Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada – The church in Tanzania underwent revival in the 1940s–1980s and the leaders of Kanisa la Mennonite Tanzania (KMT) are ready to welcome it again. The newly elected bishops have cast a vision to expand the Mennonite church in Tanzania by one million people.
In January 2017, several retirements caused turnover of more than half of KMT’s bishops: five new young leaders (under age 55 compared to the usual 60-plus) joined the remaining three to create a plan for revival, envisioning a Mennonite congregation in every village in Tanzania.
The bishops, who oversee 230 pastors with 65,000 members, have a strategic plan to share the gospel with a million people by 2034 (the 100th anniversary of the Mennonite church in Tanzania). Every member is to bring one new person to church every year.
KMT is a strong church, says bishop Amos Muhagachi of Dodoma Diocese, but it had grown stagnant. One of the earliest indigenized national Mennonite churches in Africa, KMT sent workers to plant Mennonite congregations in Kenya, and its Bible school in Bukiroba draws pastors from Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and Kenya for training.
Lately, Muhagachi says, “There is an explosion of evangelism; the Holy Spirit is moving.”
Ages 14–45 make up 75% of the population of KMT. “Tears were running down my face to see young people going to church,” says Muhagachi. One church he visited has three youth choirs comprised of 20 members each.
Growth at the Bible college shows congregations are already inspired to reach out. “Applications are never beyond 50, but this year there are more than 100,” says Muhagachi.
Students must pay 100,000 Tanzanian shillings for tuition. Contributions pouring in from local congregations help defray other costs: food, paint and chairs for classrooms. Churches have also offered to subsidize student fees.
Church leaders seek training in Bible and leadership and to learn more about peacebuilding, especially with the significant minority of Muslims in Tanzania. KMT approved a constitutional amendment to allow the ordination of women for ministry, and seeks scholarships to enable training.
“I have never sensed this kind of movement,” says Muhagachi.
“I have been inspired by the thirst to reach out to potential millions of Tanzanians who have not yet been into covenant with God through Christ,” says newly elected bishop of Dar es Salaam Nelson Kisare, citing Matthew 28:19–20. “We have no reason whatsoever therefore, to doubt about the success of KMT Vision 2034, because God is with us.”
—Mennonite World Conference news release by Karla Braun with files from Debbi DiGennaro and Emily Jones, Eastern Mennonite Missions
*Article updated 27 June 2017
Meet one of the new young bishops from Kanisa la Mennonite Tanzania (Mennonite church in Tanzania):
Trained in economics and management in Tanzania, South Africa and the UK, Nelson Kisare worked in one of the largest banks in Tanzania while serving the church as an elder and treasurer. However, he sensed “the calling to do God’s work as shepherd of Christ’s flock and guardian of the faith of the apostles,” and retired from bank services in 2015.
Kisare was elected pastor at Upanga, Tegeta and Tabata Segerea congregations in Dar es Salaam, elected deputy chairperson of KMT eastern diocese in June 2016, then was among five new bishops under age 55 who were appointed in January 2017.
“As bishop of KMT Eastern Diocese, I am responsible for primary leadership and oversight of a church to proclaim the gospel of Jesus and uphold the spiritual well-being of the flock and to be an example of righteous and godly living,” says Kisare.
Kisare and his wife Rachel have four children (John, Frank, Imani, Happy) and care for an orphan girl by paying for her school fees and taking care of her living expenses in their home.