IN TANZANIA, THERE ARE 2,000 PARISHIONERS FOR EVERY LUTHERAN PASTOR.
Rev. Jonathan Clausing (left), LCMS missionary and theological educator, is helping to address that imbalance by training up new pastors at St. Peter Lutheran Seminary in Himo (Moshi), Tanzania.
Whether teaching Luther’s Small Catechism to new seminary students or leading continuing education seminars for pastors (center photo at left), “LHF books are the bread and butter of what I do,” said Rev. Clausing. “The Swahili Small Catechism is far and away the most useful book. Everybody loves that book! I no longer have any, because I’ve given them all away!”
Thanks to faithful LHF supporters, Rev. Clausing – and many more East African missionaries, evangelists, pastors and churches – will soon be resupplied with 60,000 more Small Catechisms, as well as nearly 50,000 “Jesus Never Fails” devotional booklets and 9,000 copies of A Child’s Garden of Bible Stories, all in the Swahili language.
OVER 7 MILLION LUTHERANS: “THIS IS GREAT!”
The needs are great. Although geographically Tanzania is only one-tenth the size of the United States, there are more than 7 million Lutherans (compared to the LCMS at 2 million, or the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod with 200,000 members). As the Gospel spreads and evangelists start new congregations, the lack of trained pastors and religious materials makes it a challenge to teach the Lutheran faith properly.
“Given these circumstances, Luther’s Small Catechism sometimes replaces the work of the pastors in their absence,” explained Rev. Dr. Dinku Bato, LHF’s coordinator for African translation projects. “The pastor is responsible for 9 or 10 churches and mainly preaches. He can’t teach and do confirmation classes in all those places, with perhaps 150 people in class. LHF’s catechisms are vital! They faithfully teach in the languages of the people when pastors cannot.”
“The people love education,” enthused Rev. Clausing. “They’re very eager to learn. Within the church that I serve (Lutheran Church of East Africa), the problems aren’t that there are false teachings, at least not intentionally. There’s just ignorance, and they want to learn more. So when we open up the Bible and show how what Luther taught is just what’s in the Bible, they’re like, ‘Yes! This is great!’ There’s a great eagerness to learn Lutheran theology, because it’s Biblical theology.”
While over 60 percent of Tanzania’s people are Christian, Islam and the traditional, animist religions pose an ever-present and growing threat.
“And these faiths aren’t watertight compartments,” Rev. Clausing explained. “Ancestor and spirit worship can permeate Islam and Christianity, so it’s a mixture. And sometimes even with Christianity and Islam, there’s an overlap as families mix and merge, and there’s not always a great deal of; clarity [in teachings and beliefs].
“Muslims don’t know what Muslims are supposed to believe, and neither do Christians – which can actually be a good thing,” he continued. “Muslims don’t know what they’re supposed to believe, but because they know about Jesus, you can go into their houses and say, ‘I’m going to teach you about the Jesus from Scripture,’ and they’ll say okay! [Here in Tanzania], there’s not a huge amount of hostility between Muslims and Christians.”
TEACHING THE TEACHERS
To combat the lack of theological knowledge, Rev. Clausing believes it’s essential to train up pastors who, in turn, can better teach their people.
At the seminary, “most of the seminarians don’t come to us clear on Lutheran theology, so we’re learning to walk before we run,” Rev. Clausing said. “The odd thing is that confirmation classes are already a common tradition in rural parishes, but the Lutheran catechetical content has often dropped out of those classes. My goal has been to try to fill the existing structure with Lutheran content, and a huge part of this has been the little Swahili catechism from LHF.”
“Tools like the Small Catechism are essential to the proclamation of the Gospel in many parts of Africa,” said Rev. Shauen Trump (left), LCMS regional director for Africa. “By pointing constantly back to God’s Word, the Small Catechism with Explanation provides a guidebook for those who have recently heard the Gospel and believed, but otherwise don’t know where to start. We absolutely love working with LHF!”
Only with your help can this important work continue. Prayerfully consider how you can help support LHF projects.