Working in Arusha

Working in Arusha

Marsh, R.J.

1958

Book ID 439

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Marsh, R.J. Working in Arusha, 1958
Extract Author: R.J.Marsh
Page Number: text
Extract Date: 1958

A Chaplain in Tanganyika

IT must be counted a privilege to live and work in a district which includes Africa's highest and most renowned mountain, Kilimanjaro, and the world's largest natural crater, Ngorongoro, as well as other lesser known although by no means less attractive beauty spots and game reserves. However, variety and attraction could also certainly be found in the round of work which it was my privilege to fulfil during a tour of four years in Northern Tanganyika.

Arusha, about 4,500 feet high among the foot hills of Mount Meru, is an important centre not only for the Northern Province, but also for wider regions around, and the Headquarters of the Game Department for the whole of Tanganyika is situated not far from the town, indicating the importance of this area to visitors and tourists. Apart from its own population of well over 8,000 of all races, Arusha is the centre for a widespread community of European farmers and planters. So a great variety is to be found both in and around the town from its multi-racial communities ? Europeans of many nationalities, in government and commercial employ as well as the settler communities; Africans in diverse stages of development from primitive tribal ways to educated and civilised town customs; Asians almost as varied, from the small shopkeeper, to be found in even the remotest parts, to the wealthy and influential business man and estate owner. The ministry of the African Chaplaincy must take all these into account, and when this is done the importance of the position of our own people in such a territory takes on a new significance. The task of the Chaplaincy is not only that of looking after our own people in a strange land, but also of helping them to see their responsibility and calling as Christians living in one of the strategic missionary areas of to-day.

An incident emphasising this responsibility came to us in our own home one evening, when we were talking with an African friend, who was helping us in our language study. 'Tell me, padre' he asked, 'As I come to the Swahili and English services on Sundays I see both congregations, and I often wonder to myself, where are so many of our Government people? How can they expect to bring up our country in the best way if they don't seek the help of God?' How solemnly were we reminded that our people are being observed, and that such things as increased congregations at Christmas and Easter are noticed. Small wonder then, that we found our African Christians following the same pattern in their church life.

Yet there is among many of our people a real desire to help and to give the best they know in their contacts with the peoples of Africa. I think of farmers who were willing to help their African farm labourers to have the opportunity of worship and Christian teaching by visits from our African clergymen. There were many farms to visit within short distances of Arusha, as well as a large and fairly prosperous coffee farming area nearly 100 miles away. Often as I visited farmers it was possible to talk over with them ways in which the Christians among the Africans at work on their farm could be helped. One occasion called for a visit to a Pyrethrum farm some 7,500 feet up on Mount Meru for this very purpose. The thirty miles of tarmac road from Arusha was all right, but the four-mile climb up the rough farm road on the mountain side prove more than enough for our car, and my African colleague and I arrived at the farmhouse on foot. After lunch a further climb up the farm roads of over 700 feet brought us to a thatched roof building provided for Christian worship. This was the highest altitude at which I have conducted a service. These particular farmers were willing for our African pastor to travel by the farm lorry on the days when it made regular calls to the town, to assist him in more frequent visits to these members of his flock.

The responsibility for Christian witness and service is with our people in all walks of life, and many of them have personal contacts with Africans and Asians in Tanganyika to-day. An outstanding example comes from a Government school a few miles from Arusha, where over 400 African students are trained in the arts of agriculture, animal husbandry and forestry. One British member of the staff has been largely responsible for the growth of Christian witness in this school. Under this man's leadership regular worship, Bible Study and prayer groups have been fostered among the Christian students, and he himself conducts at least one service or Bible Study each week. It is chiefly due to this man also that a mission conducted by the African Assistant Bishop of the Diocese has been held in the school each October of the past two years. Great changes have come into the lives of many of these students who, through the Missions and afterwards by the influence of their fellows, have found Jesus Christ to be the Saviour and Lord of their lives. We have heard recently of another keen Christian who has been posted to this school, and ask especially for your prayers for the Christian witness being made in this place.

The story of the church in which these students worship is an interesting sidelight on the variety of life in Tanganyika. The present building was erected by Polish internees, encamped in this area at the close of the war, for their own worship. When the school was commenced here, the interest of the principal secured the continuance of the church as a place of worship, but on condition that it became available for all Christian groups. The result was that the Roman Catholics used one end, and Protestants of all denominations the other end, of the building with an entrance into the centre. Meanwhile, until the completion of a new hall, the school also use the church as an assembly hall for many official occasions.

These opportunities are the front line of Chaplaincy work in Africa ? The places where the Christian gospel can be brought into effective contact with the vast areas of life not yet brought under the dominion of Christ. In this way nearly every member of our Chaplaincy congregations may be regarded as a frontier post! Let me introduce you to a few typical examples.

Mr. A is a government official in one of the departments of administration, agriculture or medicine, etc., and spends much of his time travelling over a vast area, perhaps with only the company of a dozen or more African assistants as they visit the centres of African village life. I wonder how often others look at him and see him not only as a Government official or even a 'white man', but as a Christian?

Mrs. B is a qualified teacher and with help in the home has enough time on her hands to take on a job. There is always a great demand for women in clerical work, but she likes teaching better, and so we find her as an assistant (sometimes even as head) teacher in a school, quite probably an Asian one where there is a great demand for teachers. In a school, then, of Hindu, Moslem and probably otherwise irreligious children comes ? A-part-time relief? And agent of Western civilisation? Or a Christian? How will others see her?

Finally, Mr. C, with some professional ability, likes the life of Tanganyika, and in his commercial employment rubs shoulders daily with African clerks and Asian supervisors, as well as labourers and odd job men of both races. Perhaps as he enjoys the novelty of African life and the excitement of a developing community, Mr, C. never thinks of himself as a frontier post. Of course, if he can teach these other people some standards of honesty, good work and just dealing in business so much the better. But a frontier post for the Good News of the Saviour of the world ? Well, that never entered his head. Or did it?

But every front line must have a base. In this instance, it is the less spectacular work of a Chaplaincy in its regular Sunday services and parish meetings in the town, the continuous visitation of a congregation and community that is always changing its members, together with the longer and more arduous journeys among the scattered farms and administrative posts of a district. The Arusha district was a compact one for Tanganyika Chaplaincies, with only one centre more than 100 miles away. The base work has been consolidated through the assistance of your Society together with the growth of the work in the Diocese itself. The effective working of the front line depends in part on the ready recognition by our own people of their calling and responsibility as 'workers together with God' in the extension of His Kingdom. Here at home we still hear much of the value of our export trade. The export of greatest value that we can give to Africa to-day is dedicated lives among our own people overseas in the calling of government, commerce and agriculture. That is where the frontier of Christ's Kingdom is to be found.

Extract ID: 1436
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