Mkimbizi Lutheran Church of Tanzania

Bega kwa bega, “shoulder to shoulder” in Kiswahili, is a very important mission and benevolence programs for Immanuel Lutheran Church and for the Saint Paul Area Synod (SPAS). It began over thirty years ago, with a need for pastors in the southern half of Tanzania. Tanzania’s only seminary was in Arusha, near the northern border.  Initial plans for an Iringa seminary became Tumaini University, which now has over 2000 students and over a dozen majors.

Another inspiration was pairing congregations in SPAS with congregations in the Iringa Diocese. There are now almost sixty partnerships.  Immanuel’s sister congregation, Mkimbizi, is located in the outskirts of Iringa near Tumaini University.  Immanuel and Mkimbizi pray for each other, Immanuel funds development projects (Mkimbizi contributes in kind labor and land).  Immanuel members visit Mkimbizi each two or three years, an unbelievably heartwarming and interesting experience.

Tanzania has been at peace with a stable government since independence in 1961. However, economic development has been a challenge. Most people live a subsistence existence, growing their own food, building their own home. There is little discretionary income for education, health care, clean water, and other necessities. Economic development in subSaharan Africa has been an international problem for decades. Reasons include transportation difficulties, heavy human and animal disease burden, regional warfare, lack of education, uninspired government, agriculrural problems due to lack of rainfall and poor soil, lack of capital investment and lack of return on capital. The most promising approach has been the microbank, a local lending program which makes small loans available to the poor. In 2009,  Immanuel funded one of the first ten microbanks in the Iringa diocese.

Primary school is universal and supported by the national government. However, the six years of high school are private pay. The biggest benevolence of bega kwa bega is the high school scholarship program. Immanuel currently supports 24 students at an annual cost of $350 per student. SPAS supports over 1500 students annually. The St Paul area churches supply the tuition, the students supply their best study effort. If they fail the yearly examination, they are ineligible to continue.

Iringa has been an agriculture exporting region. It currently is less that 80% self sufficient in food. Lutherans from the University of Minnesota Department of Agriculture are working with Tumaini University to bring the green revolution to Iringa, with improved seeds, fertilizer and water management. Within ten years, they hope to have Iringa producing 120% of its food needs. Immanuel is participating in a pilot agricultural project with Mkimbizi. In the first couple years of this project crop yields are up significantly!  Photos

Iringa is  a high HIV area, in part due to an international highway extending from Cairo to Capetown. Mkimbizi has several child members who are orphans with both parents dead from AIDS. St Paul area Lutherans have developed a hospital at Ilula, 30 miles from Iringa. With the national government and the Clinton foundation, a very active HIV treatment program is in place.

Clean water is another crucial health improvement issue. Dysentery and other water borne disease are very common in rural Iringa. St Paul Water Foundation has dug over 100 wells, and has developed a crew of Iringa residents who own and operate the well drilling and maintenance equipment.

Beginning in 2012 Immanuel is sponsoring a weekly public health broadcast on Radio Furaha, the bega kwa bega Christian radio station in Iringa.  The Radio Furaha station manager believes the listening audience is 400,000.  The radio station is receiving 200+ cell phone calls a day and 2,000+ text messages a day from listeners.  This is far beyond the project’s wildest dreams.


Deforestation is  an issue.  Wood and charcoal are the main fuel sources for cooking.  Starting in 2011, a project is underway to plant a million trees.  The lumber is for local use.  It will also become an export crop in a few years once harvesting and replanting is underway.

Several issues are unsolved. Government reform to decrease corruption and increase freedom and entrapeneurship are needed. Instability of governments near Tanzania (Somalia, Congo, perhaps Sudan and Zimbawe) create refuge issues.  Infrastructure, including roads, electricity, and internet access are lagging.

The members of Mkimbizi Lutheran Church are gracious and joyous. It is unclear if Immanuel gives more to Mkimbizi, or Mkimbizi gives more to Immanuel. The Mkimbizi congregation is growing rapidly. Their congregation has impressive leadership, education, devotion, and work ethic. Due to rapid growth at Mkimbizi, the total combined membership of Mkimbizi and Immmanuel is growing rapidly!

Contact Dave Klevan 651-227-3837 for more information about Immanuel’s Mkimbizi relationship or if you are interested in a life-changing opportunity to visit. Groups from Immanuel visit Mkimbizi every couple of years.

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