Friday, November 25, 2011

Ngorongoro National Park

[Editor:  Somehow, this post got lost in transmission while our people were in Tanzania.  Given the irregular access to the internet in Tanzania I'm surpised it didn't happen to more.  This one is about their visit to the breathtaking Ngorongoro Crater.  Its a gigantic and extinct collapsed volcanic crater miles and miles across. Within it you can find those classic movie scenes of vast herds of wildebeast, zebra, and the predators who hunt them.]


From the left: Bashiri, Andrea, Pastor Laura, Al
Friday, we ventured to the Ngorongoro Crater with Bashiri as our trusted guide.  The Crater is a vast plain surrounded by mountains created when a volcano imploded long before recorded history.  The Crater is a conservation area where the Maasai people and African wildlife seemingly live in harmony. Although as Bashiri reflected “if the Maasai kill a lion, he will go to jail, if the lion kill a  Maasai, no problem.”

A cheeta sunning next to the path.
Once in the Crater, we stared at an African water buffalo while he stared back at us; as Bashiri observed, the buffalo was fully confident; apparently the buffalo can be shot, play dead for 48 hours and then still rise up to kill you.  Yikes!  Bashiri proudly told us that the African animals cannot be tamed, we could see why.

Male lion waking from a nap
Laura, Mark and Bashiri after a picnic lunch
Moving along, we came upon two lions sleeping peacefully under the trees; their long, lean bodies sprawled out, they looked as though they didn’t have a care in the Crater.  Bashiri posited that they probably had enjoyed a good meal of protein and now they were lazy.  He also told us that although the males were powerful, the females were the better hunters.  Hmmm.

A beautiful day, I am reminded of the Lord speaking to Job, “Were you there when I laid the foundation of the earth.”  

Peace, Pastor Laura

[Editor: Check back to the first post in this series for links to pictures of Ngorongoro and the animals within taken on the 2007 Tanzania Mission trip.]

Monday, November 21, 2011

Tarangire National Park

November 18

After an early morning breakfast (omelets, of course!), we embarked on our trek to Tarangire. Fortunately, Bashiri was our guide and driver for the five hour trip across some paved, and many unpaved roads that were under construction. The road construction chiefs and the majority of the equipment drivers, who were working on the roads, were Chinese who have been hired by the Tanzanian government. This disparity of labor hasn’t necessarily been well-received by the local people, who are in need of employment.  However, the work continues with many locals observing the process by the sides of the road. The observers were not disappointed by the road show of large transport, semi-trucks, charter and public buses, vans, and a few land rovers competing with the road crew and equipment operators for passage way on the temporary slick, red clay and sand, narrow (often single lane) paths provided while construction is underway.  We were fortunate for Bashiri’s patience and 4-wheel drive skills, and supported him with our thanks and prayers.

At 2 PM, we arrived at the Tarangire National Park our lodging destination for the evening. With Bashiri as our guide, we toured the park after lunch until sunset. We were able to observe over 100 elephants (up close and personal) from the land rover, as they enjoyed their afternoon grazing; many species of antelope and deer; birds and geese of many colors; and, of course, the beloved, pug faced warthogs! 

We concluded by having dinner at the lodge and then being led by flashlight to our tents; the game animals often roam by the lodge and tents during the night so caution was in order, followed by sleep under a beautiful star lit sky.   


Finishing up in Kiomboi

November 17

We left Kiomboi on the way back to Singida.  We met again with TTCL to discuss the work they are planning to do to lay fiber optic cable to Kiomboi.  TTCL provided details on price and equipment that would be involved.  Kiomboi will be responsible for the local network.  Mount Olive has provided a wireless router for initial network connection to the internet.  Over time Kiomboi may need to have a more extensive LAN network.  ELCT (Lutheran Church in Tanzania) is responsible for financial payment to TTCL for the fiber optic cable.  This amount will be deducted from the TTCL bill until it is repaid.  

We reviewed the contract that TTCL had written for the ELCT, and Laura had some comments for the ELCT to consider on the contract.

We then had a final meeting over lunch with Peter Kijanga as well as the Secretary General and Treasurer of the Central Diocese.  Bishop Sima was not feeling well, so was not available for the meeting.  We communicated that they need to follow up with the following three items:  1) complete the fiber optic cable to Kiomboi to enable them for an online library, 2) hire a person who can support the computers and network at Kiomboi, the diocese office, and Vivian Gulleen, 3) use this person or another person as a teacher to train students at Kiomboi and Kijota on using the computers.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Singida University in Kiomboi

[Editor:  You may be wondering why it's called Singida University when it's in Kiomboi.  I have to admit I'm guessing here, but I think its because Kiomboi, and Kijota all are in the Singida Region of central Tanzania.  Yes, there is also a town of the same name, but I suspect they're thinking of it as the region name, not the town name.]

November 16, 2011

We woke to a wonderful breakfast made by Margaret at the Minnesota house at Kiomboi.  After breakfast we discussed the full agenda for the day, with a tour of LIK, computer setup by Al and Mark, and Andrea meeting with the school teaching staff and Interim Provost Peter Kijanga (who had visited Mt Olive in 2010) to discuss online education opportunities.

Pastor Mpumpa (pastor of the Kiomboi church and teacher at the school) took us on a tour of the Kiomboi church.  They had several people working to clean, sand and paint for preparation of the 100th anniversary celebration next month.  The Kiomboi church is about 75 years old.

Then we toured the school.  The school (currently named LIK for Lutheran Institute in Kiomboi) was built by the Augustana church as a school for children of missionaries.  [Editor:  Mount Olive, was a part of the Augustana synod when first created. ] It is interesting that we sat by a man on the plane from MSP who went to school here at Kiomboi.   

The school is currently used for pastor and evangelist training.  By May of next year, the plan is to obtain University registration (which requires certification by the government) and bring in their first classes for the University programs.  In order to obtain registration, there are three main qualifications; 1) Library and chief librarian, 2) at least 5 qualified university professors, and 3) sufficient building infrastructure.  Mount Olive and SEMN Synod work here is key to #1 – Library.  It is difficult to impossible to get all of the books needed for the University, so they are dependant on computers, internet, and online library/curriculum.  Therefore, they are very excited to have our assistance and to have us here to visit the school.  The school has sufficient buildings for registration, with classrooms, offices and dormitories.  All of the buildings are in very good shape after renovation work done a few years ago with the help of the SEMN synod.

Singida University in Kiomboi plans to provide degrees in Education and Theology.  In the future, they also plan to provide degrees in Nursing, and they also want to specialize in Environmental Sciences given the raw materials that are available in central Tanzania.  They would like to research the capability to harvest these raw materials, yet not degrade the beautiful, natural environment.

After our tour and initial meeting, Al and I spent time in their computer lab checking out the ten desktop computers that they have, and also the ten laptops that we brought for the University.  Everything is now in order and ready for the fiber optic cable from Tanzania Telecommunications Company that will deliver the internet to the University. 

Andrea and Pastor Laura met with the staff to discuss options that Globe University can help with in partnership with Singida University.  They had a lively discussion on current teaching methods and use of online education methods.

We came back to Minnesota house for lunch, and meetings continued in the afternoon.  We then visited the hospital, which used to be owned by the church, but is now run by the government.  Peter Kijanga and the school staff joined us for dinner at Minnesota house, and we had a good time for fellowship and conversation after dinner.


Lutheran Church in Tanzania - Central Diocese

November 15

Today we returned to Bishop Sima’s office at the Central Diocese.  Mark and Al spent time helping the Bishop install Skype on his computer as well as getting other laptop computers in the office up and running.  The Bishop and his staff were most appreciative.  In addition, Andrea was able to make a presentation to the Bishop on the ways in which Globe University could further partner with Singida University once it is established.

I was able to tour the primary school located next to the Diocese.  Each class that I visited had approximately 40 children; the children were very happy to sing!  Although, the classrooms were sparingly furnished with desks and a blackboard the children were eager to learn and the teachers motivated.

The school actively provides for the needs of the children including providing vaccinations, shoes and food for those families of children whose parents have HIV.  The children who attend the school are poor and do not have to pay any fees to attend the school.  The school is funded through private donors who live in Australia and the United States.  Although the school accepts children of all faiths, the school actively teaches the Lutheran faith and celebrates many baptisms each year.

Two of Bishop Sima’s Assistants who are pastors spent the morning with me explaining their approach to education in the Diocese.  Baptismal instruction and preparation for teenagers and adults lasts two years and includes the following topics:  the miracles and resurrection of Jesus Christ; living faithfully as husband and wife; good peer relationships; malaria and HIV education; the necessity for self reliability; exploration of the call to ministry. Confirmation instruction also lasts for two years.  They also explained that while the Lutheran Church in Tanzania has a shortage of pastors due to the length and expense of seminary education  (as is true in the United States), there is no shortage of evangelists and parish workers. 

The Lutheran Church in Tanzania makes heavy use of evangelists and parish workers in carrying out the work of the church.  For example, the Cathedral associated with the Diocese has approximately 1,000 members.  The church has one pastor but another 17 evangelists and parish workers that support the church’s work.  The Bishop’s staff believes that many people become evangelists and parish workers because of the extensive baptismal education that the churches engage in.

 The Lutheran Church in Tanzania has been in a period of rapid growth.  Currently in the Central Diocese there are 70 some churches each of which has another 2 or more mission start congregations associated with it for a total of over 300 congregations in the Diocese.  Each of the mission start congregations are under the responsibility of an evangelist as well as the pastor of the main church.  The largest church in the Diocese has 5,000 members and it seems that many of the congregations number 500 in members.  As the Bishop’s staff explained to me, the Church is always in a mode of “evangelism” and always wanting to make an impact for good in society as well as people’s individual spiritual lives.
I was grateful for my time with the Bishop’s staff and realized how much we have to learn from our Lutheran friends in Tanzania.

We had very good news today.  The laptops that we had ordered for the schools arrived just in time for our trip to Lutheran Institute in Kiomboi (LIK - where Singida University College is being formed by the church).  We are very grateful to Pastor Shila and Pastor Mpumpa, who drove the five or six hours each way to pick up the computers in Arusha and bring them to Singida.  After the computers arrived, we drive to Old Kiomboi from Singida.  The drive was very smooth and took only about one hour.  We are staying in the Minnesota house, with Margaret being our host.  This is also where Mark, Al, Larry and Peter stayed during the 2007 mission trip.

God’s Peace, Pastor Laura

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lutheran Church in Tanzania - Central Diocese

November 14

We continue to start our day with omelets, fruit, and African coffee and tea. Eggs are abundant here and are a part of almost every meal; the coffee is dark and strong—these foods, along with good conversations, are how we prepare for the day ahead. This morning, we went to meet with Bishop Sima and other ministers at the ELCT Central Dioceses office. Although our drive was short, the red “Xs” and “BOAMA,” which means break down, appears on many buildings along the road. As the new highway that will connect the cities and regions of Tanzania continues to be constructed, the houses and shops along the pathway continue to be broken down, and the owners must relocate. For those who have families the transition will be easier than for those who will no longer have a home or shop and will be left with nowhere to go.

When we arrive at the office, we are greeted by the diocese Secretary General, Daniel Mandi. After Bishop Sima welcomes us, Peter Kijanga, the retired minister who will be the provost of Singida University and Daniel take us to meet with people they have been working with at TTLC, a telecommunications company that is developing internet connectivity in Central Tanzania. Fiber optics cables, their efficiency, costs, and future implications are reviewed. We are told that these cables are the only reliable way to route internet access to Kiomboi. Much review and discussion will need to take place at the ELCT office in order to make the best decision; the technicians at TTLC will be putting together more information to help with this decision that we will come back to review with them on Thursday.

When we get back to the office, we contact the computer company and find out our computers should be available for pick-up at 2 PM on Tuesday—we celebrate this good news during lunch! After lunch, Mark and Al roll-up their shirt sleeves and get to work on preparing five new computers at the office for use with Windows and Skype, and install some updates and applications on a few other office computers as well. With only one connection and many steps, Mark and Al have nearly all of the work completed by 6:15 PM. Pastor Laura and I, while intrigued with the technical work, spend the afternoon visiting the Open University with Peter Kijanga. The Open University is primarily a technical college that offers diplomas and certificates in IT, computers, Microsoft™ applications, primary and secondary teacher education, and law. Peter was critical to the University’s development and is very proud that degrees in sociology and other liberal arts are being added to the programs. Many of the courses are offered through distance learning online and all of the students have access to an online library as well as a computer lab. As long as the rains keep falling that are essential to generate the electrical power, the school will be able to provide many opportunities for its students. Laura and I also visit a museum displaying tribal artifacts that is adjacent to the university.

After a dinner in downtown Singida, which had Mark introducing his palate to some of the local peppers that ignite his senses, sleep comes easy . . .