Tanzanian Quakers have had a leadership crisis since the collapse of the East Africa Yearly Meeting in the late 1970s. This led to the failure of the Quaker institutions that had been established by missionaries in Tanzania since the 1950s. The Tanzanian government took over the Quaker schools, and now Quakers are not even called the schools’ sponsors.
But the Quaker churches were never lost, and continue to exist in the region where missionary work began, although these churches are struggling to survive. The most substantial of these churches is the Kisangula Friends Church.
In the past few years, however, Nicholas and Dorcas Otieno have been giving new life to the Quaker church in Tanzania. Since they arrived in the country, we have seen a growth of Quaker churches throughout the whole of the Tanzanian nation. Friends now have churches in the North, the Lake region, the South, the Western region, and the coastal region (Dar es Salaam).
Most Quaker churches in Tanzania are new, with growing new membership. Most of the pastors running these churches are struggling to survive, and their members are in the same pool of survival. Therefore, there is very little offering given by the few members in each church to sustain a pastor. The pastors are finding it hard to survive and raise these churches to serve the communities where they are. They also need to raise funds to construct their churches because they started them under trees and rented houses or members’ houses. There are multiple challenges facing these pastors, who turn to the Africa Ministries Office for guidance and support.
One tactic the AMO has taken has been to offer a small business training program, through the organization Global Disciples, to our pastors in Tanzania to help them survive financially and maintain the Quaker churches. The first course occurred January 17–21, 2022, at the Catholic Pastoral and Conference Centre in Singida, Tanzania.
This one-week training led pastors to change their perception of doing business and ministry together as a holy thing. Most of them felt that business is not for a pastor because it may lead to temptations of cheating or corruption. But the teachings, which were scriptural reflections on Paul’s letters in ministry, changed their perception after the training. There was a change in mindset over doing business as a pastor for the church and how their participation in the industry can help change the perception of bad traders in their active communities. The training saw pastors being very passionate about church growth in Tanzania, especially with the support through business enhancement.
We are grateful to Wabash Friends Church for standing with Tanzania Friends Churches in building up the pastoral team for church planting. Wabash Friends Church donated the seed funds for the business training to support the pastors. The seed fund is a grant from Wabash Friends Church to Friends United Meeting for Tanzanian Friends pastors. FUM’s Africa Ministries Office, working with the Otienos, has developed a plan to loan participating pastors funds to start a small business. The pastors will then repay the loans to a revolving fund managed by a Tanzanian team appointed by the AMO. The team will handle the funds according to the rules and conditions conveyed to the Tanzanian people. The group is chaired by Nicholas Otieno, with four other members of the Tanzania church. The team is called the Quaker Pastors Facilitation Program of the Friends Church Tanzania.
Due to the many challenges pastors face in Tanzania, and the lack of education most pastors have in managing funds, the small business training helped them understand how to keep records and avoid eating their principal rather than using their profit plus saving for expansion of the business. The team developed rules and conditions for borrowing the funds and how to repay them. They put strict requirements to guarantee each other and encourage them to repay their loans.
We were happy that the treasurer of the funds was a senior provincial commissioner of the Iringa region. Her name is Edith Mbogo, who, when delivering the rules of borrowing, stated that “if all church avenues for collecting the funds are exhausted, they will use the law of the land to get the pastors to pay the loan.” She said she knows every part of Tanzania, and nobody will ever hide from the law. Therefore, any pastor who takes the loan will have to repay within the stipulated period. If one repays the entire loan within one year or in less than one year, he can apply for an additional top increase in his business and continue repaying again. The loan attracts a 10% interest per year, and the maximum loan currently is Tshs.1 million.
This program has developed a structure to help pastors in Tanzania create a self-sustaining culture of business and church-planting missions. We would wish to increase this revolving fund, which is being managed well, to equally borrow from the fund to build their church structures and repay for others to borrow. The structure for administering the fund has removed the burden and blame that would fall on the Tanzania Yearly Meeting leadership, if they handled the fund in their office. Now, the Yearly Meeting leadership who are pastors may also be beneficiaries of the fund.
The management of the new missions established by many Quaker churches planted in Tanzania sets a new era in missions and sustains them for the future. One is to plant the church and identify the resident pastor of that church. The second thing is to help the pastor through pastoral training at FTC and train them in discipleship business training under the tent-making ministry to enable the pastor to develop skills in business for missions. They are later allowed to access a soft loan to start his/her business as the church grows in the community. This ends the dependency syndrome we have experienced for years.
It is time to engage our church in the theology of business embedded in the Quakers’ values. According to Daren Shear, business theology is the “show for marketplace Christians seeking to explore and apply God’s will for business.” Business is a category of work and must be studied considering the bible’s teaching regarding the nature and purpose of creation. In this context, the Christian faith calls us to think theologically about the meaning of business, embrace relationships, create work in a spirit of hope, admit our flaws as we seek deep spiritual health, and serve others sacrificially in our communities.
Business is not a dirty word; it is a descriptive word. Therefore, Christian theology is just as crucial for your business life as finance, operations or sales, customer or employees. Our pastors are encouraged to be involved in a bi-vocational ministry to survive and keep the ministry of Christ alive. The training for pastors in Tanzania opened to us how the Quaker church in Africa views business. But Christians are in a precarious situation of sorts. They are empowered to use their gifts to succeed, but, at the same time, they are obligated to ethical behavior that their colleagues or competitors may not feel convicted to follow. As businesses, our churches should have transparent financial operations, ethically sound personnel practices, and adequate facilities management.
After six months, the pastoral business program will be evaluated to see how it has fared. The success of this program will open a new chapter for the growth of the Quakers in Tanzania and other parts of Africa. The Quaker church in Africa has a high number of pastors who struggle financially, and hence it is difficult to attract many young people into theological training for pastoral ministry. This is affects the church in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.
—John Muhanji, Africa Ministries Director