Friday, May 30, 2014

“Remember as you go about your day that you may be the only Jesus some of your friends, neighbors, and family will ever see.” ― Wanda E. Brunstetter

While we did not come to Tanzania with the object to convert all to Christianity, it is happening all around us.  Our denomination, the Methodist Church in Tanzania had only four churches with about 200 members in 2003, but now has 24 churches and over 4,000 members.  And that is just in our little area mostly in the Mara region.  When we came, almost every source we studied said that there were roughly 30% Christians, 30% Muslims, and the rest Native Tribal Religions.  Even today, the government figures remain the same although no government study has ever taken religious numbers into account.  Many, if not most, travel oriented websites quote the same figures, but are they correct or just being non-threatening to non-Christians?  Yet, the study of the United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor for 2013 suggests that 62% of the population of Tanzania is Christian.  That’s twice as many as most non-religious websites report.   In addition, according to The Pew Forum, Tanzania, with a 45 million population, has a relatively divided religious make-up, with 61 percent of residents identifying as Christians, and 35 percent identifying as Muslims.  So, the Pew Forum, a highly respected data collector seems to agree that the numbers are closer to the 62% reported by the study quoted above.  High figures are also appearing elsewhere.  Hope for Tanzania reports over 50% Christians.  Destination Tanzania (a travel group) also reports the same 50% Christians.  SmartChristian.com says the number is 52% Christian.  The Anglican Communion also agrees with the much higher figures writing that “there are a significantly greater number of Christians, but this is hotly contested by Muslims.”  The website also quotes a 50% figure for Christians.  Obviously, a country with a Muslim president and with Zanzibar having over 98% Muslims is not going to want to advertise the incredible growth of Christianity here.  There have been attacks on Christian churches in Arusha and a pastor of a Christian church in Zanzibar was murdered on his way into the church.  I’m sure the government doesn’t want to fan the flames of extremism by acknowledging what so many others see and record—that Christianity now makes up over half the population with figures ranging as high as 62%.  What’s going on here?  I think it’s simple.  There is no single denomination or church body that is working on a national level to increase Christianity, but like the quote above says, the more that people see how the Christians live and take care of each other, the more who want to join.  John Wesley (the founder of Methodism) said, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”  I believe that is what the members of every denomination in Tanzania is doing.  We just hosted two Finnish evangelists (remember, just two, not a hundred), and in about ten days brought almost 700 people to Christ in Bunda and Mwanza.  Our Methodist main evangelists are just people from the villages who love Christ and want to spread His word and that has led to the starting of almost twenty churches in the last ten years.  The Word brings hope, forgiveness, joy, and teaches us to love one another.  That has brought over two billion worldwide to Christianity (double the figure for Muslims) and those numbers continue to grow.  It doesn’t really matter what the government and travel websites say, those of us who live here see the growth every day.  Doubling the number of Christians in just ten years in a country of 45 million is not a testimony to the evangelists, it is a testimony to Christ.
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