By Peter Akester, Former NZCMS Mission Partner
It was four years since I had been in Tanzania, and being part of a SOMA mission team to the Diocese of Kondoa was an ideal opportunity for me to return. Changes in Tanzania were evident as soon as I arrived. A new location for the long-distance bus stand was just one of them, as I sought to travel 600km up country to Kondoa from Dar es Salaam where I arrived. The capital city of Dodoma has grown immensely since I was last there and even Kondoa town has seen a lot of growth towards the main Dodoma – Arusha road.
The SOMA team consisted of seven people. Rev. Ian Hardcastle was the leader, along with his wife, Helen, and two other parishioners from St. Stephen’s Anglican Church in Whangaparaoa. Their names were Toni and Michael. Anton and Christine Nikoloff from Rangiora Anglican parish were the others with whom I joined. We were away from Kondoa town for ten days with seminars in the Southwest part of the Diocese and were based in the village of Mpendo for our accommodation. The seminar locations were chosen by Bishop Given who accompanied us along with his wife, Lillian. We visited three locations; One parish that had been established three years ago, another church location where it was expected to be made a parish next year, and a larger established parish to finish with. The thrust of teaching ranged from calling for a response to Jesus in people’s lives, receiving the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, how to pray for others for healing, both physically and spiritually, and for deliverance. Many lives were changed over this time. People were healed, were set free, and came to know Jesus as their personal saviour. We felt privileged to see God at work in powerful ways.
Having been based in Kondoa at the Bible College from 2015 to 2018, it was good to see a new intake of students for the three-year diploma course, and we had some input for them while in Kondoa.
Reconnecting with many Tanzanian people was also a highlight for me. I had two extra weeks after the mission trip was over, and it was exciting to see the Msalato Theological College with staff and students. My late wife, Chris, and I had been at the college from 1988 to 1998 and many developments have been made there since then. Encounters with ex-students from both eras, with past customers of Central Tanganyika Chemist, past co-workers, previous pastors from Makole parish, and other people who we had rubbed shoulders with in many different situations all contributed to a very stimulating time.
Another part of my visit was to fulfil a promise to Chris, my wife, who died in January 2020. Before she died, she had expressed a wish that I take a portion of her ashes back to Tanzania. Covid restrictions delayed all that, and I was able to take the portion back with me during this trip. I was touched by the response of the people in Kondoa and other close friends in the Diocese of Central Tanganyika. It resulted in two ceremonies and a divided portion of ashes being interred in Kondoa, beside the church near the Bible College, and a village called Lamaiti where Rev. Richard Kanungha is living. He was our pastor at Makole in the early years of our first time in Tanzania. A friendship of almost 40 years.
People were keen to hear about Chris and how she coped with Motor Neurone Disease. I was aware of the Lord’s strength as I shared about that with them. I was worried initially that it might be imposing something strange on them by bringing back those ashe however they expressed how honoured they felt to share in that way.
It is hard to put into words how encouraging and exciting the SOMA mission was, coupled with all the multiple encounters and experiences that followed and surrounded that. Praise to the Lord who made it all possible. I am so grateful for having been part of that and yet aware of how small I am and how great God is.