"...So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,
complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus..." - Philippians 2:1-11
Our Partner Congregations in Tanzania
St. Stephen's has been partnered with a congregation in the small rural village of Ihimbo in central Tanzania for over ten years. This year, we added Iwondeas an additional partner congregation. In 2010, Tracy Westman and Dean Hostager made the first visit to Tanzania to reach out and connect with our brothers and sisters in Christ halfway around the world. In 2015, five St. Stephen's members made a return trip. They were Pastor John Snider, Tracy Westman, Beth Hostager, Jennifer Van Pelt and Tina Scibner.
Saint Paul Area Synod Tanzania Information
Tanzania mission trips are arranged through a Saint Paul Area Synod program called Bega Kwa Bega, which means "shoulder to shoulder" in Swahili. The SPAS website has some good information about Bega Kwa Bega and trips to Tanzania. The link to the main SPAS Tanzania webpage is:
On this webpage (to the right) there are links to specific topics including; Traveling to Tanzania, Fee Structure, Congregational Partnerships, Scholarships, Mwangaza Education for Partnership, and Forms and Resources.
Things to see and do on a mission trip to Tanzania
Ihimbo is a small rural village set among the rugged hills southeast of the large city of Iringa in central Tanzania. Our partner congregation has a small church there. The village is small, but people come from miles around to attend church. Pastor Zabron Lubawe oversees the church and six surrounding "preaching points", which are managed by six evangelists.
Pastor Lubawe has a home a short walking distance from the church. Tracy and Dean were guests at the pastor's home during their stay in the village. We ate well and had comfortable accommodations while we were there.
On Sunday we were guests of honor at lively and uplifting Tanzanian worship service. One highlight of our visit was presenting bicycles to the six evangelists during this service. The Ihimbo choir that sang during the service sounded incredible!
In Ihimbo there is a rudimentary clinic/dispensary. We brought supplies for the clinic and took a tour while we were there. During the tour we said hello to a very pregnant woman resting on one of the beds. The next day visited her again with her newborn baby girl. Tracy asked what the child's name was. The woman asked Tracy, "What would you like to call her!"
We spent one day visiting each of the six preaching points using a Land Rover. At each of these we were greeted by the preaching point evangelist and by the joyous members of each congregation. Each of these preaching points told us of their hopes and dreams for the future. Each has the potential to become a church with a pastor if there is enough growth and need. Tracy collected a sample of soil at each of the stops and brought it home with her!
Another Ihimbo highlight for Tracy and Dean was bringing soccer balls, jump ropes and Frisbees to the village children. We found the children at the village playground--just an area of dirt. The boys were playing soccer using a plastic jug as a ball. The children were very happy as we played soccer and jumped rope with them using the new equipment!
The city of Iringa is the administrative capital of the Iringa District in Tanzania. The population is well over 100,000. Iringa is also home to the Iringa Lutheran Diocese. Groups traveling to visit partner congregations in the area first stay in the city, often at the Lutheran Center there. The Lutheran Center operates much like a hotel, having rooms with hot showers and a modest restaurant.
During our stay in Iringa, we visited the Iringa Diocese, Tumaini University, nearby Ilula hospital, and Huruma orphanage. The hospital was built, equipped, and is maintained with the help of Minnesota funding and the occasional hands-on medical expertise and planning. While the hospital is truly a blessing to the surrounding area, the medical services are not free. There are people who cannot afford medical treatment or are not lucky enough to be offered free treatment. Also, for many people, Ilula is simply too far away. Transportation is not always readily-available or free for people needing treatment.
We also traveled to the nearby Image school where many of our students attended classes. St. Stephen's currently sponsors about 20 students in the Iringa area. The school was on break at the time, but we did manage to connect with a few of our sponsored students while we were there. Several of the teachers gave us a grand tour of the facility. We saw the foundation for a new library during or tour. It would be interesting to go back and see the finished library!
Iringa also offered the opportunity to shop dukas (stores) and to eat some good meals. Our group took the time to eat at several interesting ethnic restaurants and other cafes while we were there. We also had a great time shopping the dukas and other street vendors. There's a lot of interesting souvenirs to be found in Iringa!
It is common for Bega Kwa Bega groups to arrange a two-day safari in the Ruaha National Park to the west of Iringa. We did this and were not disappointed with the amount and the variety of animals we saw from our safari vehicle! Individuals in a group may choose not to go on safari if it does not interested them, or if they do not wish to pay the extra (but quite reasonable for such an adventure!) money.
During one excursion, we were fortunate enough to come face-to-face with a pride of lions. A male lion even rested in the shade about 8 feet from our vehicle! During the night elephants came and walked between our cabins. We really did feel safe during our safaris and our stay at the camp.
The cabins there were quite comfortable and the meals were excellent. We even enjoyed some drinks at the bar before one delicious meal. The cabins and other facilities were all powered with solar energy from solar panels. Hot showers were available and electricity was available in each cabin for a block of time each day.
A less-common option for travelers is a side trip to the tropical island of Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania in the Indian Ocean. Zanzibar can be added to a Tanzania trip on an individual basis. The cost for a Zanzibar excursion is definitely reasonable.
While our entire group traveled to Zanzibar in 2010, our experience there was varied. While some of us thoroughly enjoyed the tropical island experience, others in our group admitted that they were eager to return home and could have skipped it. It should be noted that the hotels and restaurants in Zanzibar were definitely the best we experienced in Tanzania! The palm trees and sunny beach outside our hotel were definitely a welcome sight to Dean!
Zanzibar offers a variety of interesting things to do and see. Tours can be had in historic Stone Town, a former slave and spice trade center in the 19th century. There are many historic sites in and around the city to visit. The Darajani market boasts a large amount of venders selling fruits, spices and other foods, filling the air with many pleasant smells. The tour of the former slave market was another powerful experience.
There are also other options within driving distance of Stone Town. Most of our group took a tour of a local spice plantation, where we could see the spices growing in their natural environment. Our guide also cut spices from trees and bushes for us to inspect and sometimes even taste. A few in our group even went on a "swimming with dolphins" trip and visited a small wildlife area as well.
Kilimanjaro is the tallest summit in Africa and the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. Climbing Kilimanjaro is an experience that might be a "once in a lifetime" opportunity for some!
Kilimanjaro is a "walkable" mountain, meaning there is no rope climbing involved. There are a few places where the ascending path disappears and large boulders must be navigated by hand and foot, and there are some places where you would not want to fall off the path, but the terrain is generally safe.
In order to climb Kilimanjaro in 2010, Dean Hostager traveled by himself many days before the main group left for Tanzania. He was rewarded with many unforgettable pictures and memories, including walking by the disappearing snows of Kilimanjaro, posing by the wooden sign at the top, and knowing that he climbed the highest mountain on one of the seven continents.
Training needs for the climb can vary between different people. Dean was able to succeed using a regiment of daily walking and stationary bike riding.
A Kilimanjaro expedition would be arranged through a climbing company independent from the Bega Kwa Bega arrangements. Obviously there are additional expenses such as paying the climbing company and paying for some gear necessary for a successful climb.