Tamie Davis, originally from Adelaide, works with CMS Australia and blogs at meetjesusatuni.com. In this series, she reflects on her family’s first year in Dodoma, Tanzania.
I get lost driving around the massive campus that is the University of Dodoma on my way to the national conference of the Tanzanian Fellowship of Evangelical Students. Fortunately, I run into Happiness who asks for a lift and gives me directions. When we arrive at the conference she takes my son Elliot out of his car seat without asking me, because that’s perfectly normal in Tanzania, and we all walk towards the main hall.
I can hear the sound of a talk coming from inside. The woman speaking is not shouting, but there’s lots of passion there and the microphone is turned up very loud as it seems to be at every event. As I peer into the lecture hall, I see that she’s dressed in an orange business suit, a popular clothing choice for professional women. She’s speaking in a mixture of Swahili and English and my ears prick up because she’s speaking about how God uses people in their professions for his purposes, or even raises them up in those.
I learn that this is Dr Faith, a chemistry professor from Morogoro, and as she jokes that she’s no longer the skinny university student she was, we hear how much she’s grown as a result of that time. She was involved with Tanzanian Fellowship of Evangelical Students at university and counts it as formational in her own Christian character and witness. As she gives her seminar on career and missions, she is not only an example of leadership development, but of passing the baton. She’s a testament to God’s work in Tanzania for many years.
The pictures of safari animals or helpless village children that pervade the western media’s portrayal of Tanzania are almost quaint at this urban conference of Christian university students. Of course these students know those images well: they are proud of their nation’s tourist attractions, and many students arrive at university from a village context. But that is not all that there is to Tanzania. The unreached tribes of this vast nation exist alongside women with PhDs in business suits. And God is at work here.
There’s a saying that Christianity in Africa is a mile wide and an inch deep, but in Dr Faith’s case, this generalisation is miles off! The wonderful thing is that these ‘best and brightest’ of Tanzania are not unconcerned with their fellow Tanzanian. They are discussing how best to reach the university, but they are looking beyond the university world, considering how this opportunity may be used in the service of others.
And so, a year into our time in Tanzania, the label ‘missionary’ feels uncomfortable and rightly so. While much of what we bring as Australians is unique, we are not the pioneers here and we give thanks to God for that. We feel we are partners, joining together with Tanzanians in inviting university students to meet Jesus at uni and take Jesus beyond uni.
Follow the Davis’ adventures in Tanzania on their blog.