The ever-changing vision and work of tech4tanzania

In 2010 Bishop Mwakyolile of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania shared the vision to transform the Lutheran Teachers’ College at Mbeya into a Tanzanian college accredited and authorized to teach toward and grant bachelors degrees in areas desired for the development of indigenous leaders in the southern highlands of Tanzania and throughout the country.  For various reasons, LSS leaders in the partnership with the Konde Diocese at the time seemed disinterested, unwilling, or unable to help bring this vision to fruition.

Tech4tanzania (T4T) is not a part of the mission or budget of the Konde Committee of the ELCA Lower Susquehanna Synod.  Even so, stories and experiences with LSS Tanzanian partners inform us and continue to influence our vision and work.  T4T was called into existence early in 2012 as Bishop Mwakyolile sent Pastor Amani Mwaijande to study at Gettysburg Seminary for study and to promote the vision to grow Mbeya Lutheran Teachers College in the tradition of American and all Western academic paper and credential chases.  Discovering that the dream was real and realistic with only library and computer equipment needed for the next step of accreditation, Pastor Anne-Rose Reeves wondered if her congregation and some friends might hear the voice of God in this journey.

Several of us discerned this work with the college as a call for service and jumped in.  We developed an interfaith network of friends and community leaders.  I went to evaluate human and infrastructure resources for shipping, import, transportation, installation, training and maintenance of computer equipment at the school.  Bishop Mwakyolile and college Provost Mwankenja wanted me to see and evaluate other educational and health care institutions in the diocese.  I was both heartbroken and hopeful as I was led to see some of the needs and opportunities to partner.  In June of 2012 tech4tanzania shipped a twenty foot sea-going container with more than 100 computer systems, 1,500 academic books, classroom and office equipment, thousands of educational supplies for students, treadle sewing machines as well as personal things from former and current pastors who study at Gettysburg.

I shared the report of the work and observations with the outreach committee of St. Paul Lutheran Church and its interfaith partners (tech4tanzania).  Between July of 2012 and May of 2013, Konde Diocese institutional leaders and friends regularly communicated (with their new equipment) developments, dreams and needs for the college, junior seminary and two hospitals.  Partners in tech4tanzania developed relationships with a large variety of people, programs and institutions that were willing to hear the stories from Konde and share their resources with tech4tanzania.  Last June (2013) T4T shipped a forty foot sea-going container with more than 120 computer systems and 3,000 academic books focusing in nursing, math, since, engineering and computer technology.  Additionally, we sent eight new hospital beds, four ambulance gurneys, examination tables, CPR manikins and tens of thousands of dollars worth of requested equipment and supplies for use at the college for its new nursing program.  Science lab equipment, computers and academic books were sent for Manow Junior Seminary along with athletic equipment just for fun.  Some unusual items, such as the two manual electronic organ for the cathedral at Tukuyu and more sewing machines were also requested, found and shipped last year.

Pastor Anne-Rose Reeves and I went to Mbeya in 2013 to meet with our Tanzanian partners, Konde Diocese leaders and friends.  We gathered information, taught, shared the Gospel and prepared the way for the 40 foot container.  I invited a Mennonite friend and technology teacher to join us and work at the college (Southern Highlands University College, Tumaini University, Mbeya campus).  Existing relationships were strengthened and new ones were formed.

We are again gathering requested equipment and supplies with a hope of shipping in 2015 but our vision, shaped by God and the needs of our Tanzanian partners, has expanded in wonderful new ways.  T4T will help our Mennonite friend and his wife who are paying for the provost’s son to come here to earn an associates degree in computer science beginning this December.  We have helped the computer technology lecturer from SHUCo successfully apply for and win an ELCA scholarship for his master’s degree at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.  This man, John Mwaipopo, is the middle son of the first Tanzanian Lutheran pastor who studied at Gettysburg Seminary in 1993 and has been elected bishop of a newly formed diocese adjacent to Konde.  I was asked by the ELCA to find a pharmacist who might be willing to work at the Karatu Lutheran Hospital pharmacy for six weeks.  A fellow member at Tree of Life Lutheran Church, Harrisburg, heard the call and responded.  We sent a college professor who specializes in teaching English to those for whom it is a second language to SHUCo recently in an effort to explore further work with Messiah College faculty, students and staff.  With Bishop Dunlop’s encouragement and support, we are talking with the president of Gettysburg College as we explore academic and cultural opportunities there.

I will be happy for you to share any of this with your congregation council or members as well as the Boy Scouts and other service and character-development organizations of which you or they are part.  We have done all of this with personal funds and the many small gifts of dozens of partners.  Most importantly, we have done this with the help and promises of God, fearing not.  Additionally, trying to be wise as serpents and as innocent as doves, we are also developing fund raising events (cookie walk, African food events, etc.) and relationships with people, organizations and businesses who share our vision of a global community in which resources are shared and people are encouraged to be as God calls them.

Randy Barr



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