By Laurie Oswald Robinson, editor
Almost 85 years ago, the first Mennonites went to Tanzania to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This past summer, a delegation of Tanzanian Mennonite bishops came to remind their brothers and sisters in North America that their “family” relationship still matters.
Amos Muhagachi, a bishop from Kanisa la Mennonite Tanzania (KMT, the Tanzanian Mennonite Church) was part of the delegation. He is currently on sabbatical and is a student in peace studies at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Ind.
Muhagachi is in the first stages of beginning an internship at Prairie Street Mennonite Church in Elkhart. While attending this year’s Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference (IMMC) Annual Sessions at Amigo Centre in Sturgis, Mich., he told delegates that KMT has been praying for IMMC — and other area conferences — for years.
In a phone interview he said, “I shared with delegates that we are who we are today in Tanzania because of the Mennonites who came to us those many years ago. [The late John Mosemann, who served in Tanzania with Eastern Mennonite Missions and Charities, was a former IMMC pastor and conference leader.]
“We have not forgotten that relationship and have been praying for the church in North America. … We know that the church here has been struggling, and anything that affects you, affects us. We want to partner with you so that we all can learn from each other and encourage each other.”
Muhagachi and the other bishops also invited IMMC leaders to establish sister-church relationships between congregations in Tanzania and IMMC. To begin strengthening bonds and moving in that direction, the Tanzanian bishops invited IMMC leaders to visit Tanzania in the near future.
It’s an invitation that IMMC is seriously discerning, said Dan Miller, IMMC conference pastor. The desires for deepening relationships as brothers and sisters in Christ came as a surprise to IMMC — and is a gift of God.
“Most significant to me about our new connection is that we didn’t initiate it, but that they came to us,” Miller said. “That is a gift that we want to receive with open hands.”
Other conference leaders and delegates were also deeply touched by the Tanzanian visit and said it was a nudge from the Holy Spirit to strive for fraternal support and unity — globally and locally.
“It was pretty powerful for us to hear that other churches in Tanzania had been praying for us, even though we were not aware of it,” she said. “It made me realize that we are in community with each other, even though we live thousands of miles apart.”