It isn’t very often that a new network of meetings emerges because someone stumbles upon Friends on the internet. And it’s even more unusual when this happens in a rural part of Africa where few homes have access to electricity! But that’s how the Friends movement in Kyela, Tanzania was born.
In 2007, a young man named Barnabas contacted Friends World Committee for Consultation, saying that he’d found Friends on the internet and wanted to know how he could become one. The Executive Secretary of the FWCC Africa Section at that time, Moses Musonga, invited John Muhanji, FUM’s Africa Ministries Director, to accompany him on a visit to Kyela to learn more. Since FWCC isn’t directly involved in church planting work, Moses asked FUM to take the lead in shepherding this new community.
When John and Moses first visited they found two Friends churches, both with sizeable membership. John arranged for three of the new Friends (two men and one woman) to attend Friends Theological College for a one-year certificate program, to be better equipped to disciple the new community in Friends faith and practice. The next time John visited, there were four churches.
Kyela is a mid-size town in Mbeya Region in southern Tanzania. It sits at the northern tip of Lake Malawi, and is just a few miles from the border between Tanzania and Malawi. The border with Zambia is also a short distance away. The land along the lake is swampy and flood-prone, and the people are mostly engaged in subsistence farming and production of rice and cocoa for export.
Since 2013, Iowa Yearly Meeting has been partnering with Kyela Friends. Together they have purchased three motorcycles for use by evangelists, have constructed a new church building in Kyela town, and are distributing Bibles to those who’ve never heard the gospel. Today, this ten-year-old Quaker community has planted churches across the borders in Malawi and Zambia, as well and Dar es Salaam (the capital of Tanzania), over 400 miles away.