Life in Tanzania: Minister Discusses Work at The Country Bookshop
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness. It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. We had everything before us, we had nothing before us."
Just ask Tally Bandy and Jessie Mackay.
For the past two years, Bandy, an ordained deacon at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Southern Pines, and Mackay, the renowned Pinehurst artist, have traveled from the richest country in the world to live and work for eight weeks in a village in Tanzania, the poorest country in Africa.
While there, Mackay gave art lessons to children at the Bishop Stanway Primary School, and Bandy taught pastoral care and theology at the Msalato Theological College.
"Living in the United States is privileged, easy and almost gives one a feeling of entitlement which simply is not the case for the majority of people in the world," Mackay wrote in their shared online journal, www.karimutanzania.com.
"Life-sustaining water that is so precious to them is easily at our fingertips. There, women and children walk for miles to fill their buckets with less than clean water and then carry them back to their villages on their heads." The 'devastating poverty' that shocked them they first arrived in 2008 had escalated into 'starvation poverty' when they returned a year later."
"We just cannot wrap our minds around this kind of need and poverty in our own world of abundance, but something in the deepest parts of our souls knows that it isn't right," Bandy says. "People should not be starving to death or begging for water."
When they returned home and re-entered their "world of abundance," they were "staggered by too much."
"Something inside of me changed," Bandy says. "I saw the world through new and different eyes. Instinctively we said that life is about love, care, relationships, friendships and sharing, not about how many houses or cars we own or how many pairs of shoes are in our closets. I look now and think my closet is obscene with abundance, while Africa breaks my heart every day."
When Bandy learned that the Rev. Canon Moses Matonya, principal of Msalato Theological College, where she taught while in Tanzania, was coming to Virginia on sabbatical this January, she asked Bonnie Johnson, manager of The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, if he could come to the bookshop to discuss what life is like in his country.
"We are honored to have the Rev. Matonya here Wednesday, Dec. 30, at 4 p.m," Johnson says. "As we near the beginning of a new year, what better way to spend time than by reflecting how we can live our lives in a more meaningful way by helping others."
Moses Matonya was born in northern Tanzania, in a village where there is still no electricity or water.
As the first son of the first of his father's three wives, he assumed the responsibility for his 19 brothers and sisters when his father died. He became a Christian at age 9.
Matonya holds a bachelor's degree in theology from Trinity College in Bristol, U.K., and a master's degree in contemporary mission studies from All Nations Christian College, Hertfordshire, U.K.
He served as sub-dean of the Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Spirit and as principal of Msalato Theological College in Dodoma, from 1998-2004. He spent a year in the U.S. in 2007, as a guest preacher in Atlanta, and in a hospital chaplaincy program in Columbus.
In 2008, Matonya was asked to return as principal of Msalato Theological College, which was experiencing financial uncertainty.
In addition to discussing life in Tanzania, Matonya will also discuss his book, "Real Power: Jesus Christ's Authority Over the Spirits."
"Many African Christians -- well-educated, urban dwellers as well as Christians living in rural areas, practice spiritism alongside their Christian faith," Matonya says, "They practice spiritism because they do not see Christianity as having the answers to their everyday problems. They regard Christianity as more of a social club, useful because it provides the gateway to a future life but of little relevance in the present.
"While they believe that God is all-powerful, traditional stories explain that God became 'tired of their sins and complaints, so he retired to the remote places in the heavens where he cannot be expected to interfere with the fate of people,'" Matonya writes in his book. "He has, however, granted power to the spirits so they can direct and control human life on God's behalf as they like. As a result, many Africans believe they can only approach God through the mediation of intermediaries like ancestral spirits who are quicker to answer their needs than God is."
"Missionaries have downplayed the African spirit world as foolish and unreal," he adds. "They asked African converts to relinquish all of their own beliefs and bow down unthinkingly before the imported system of religious orthodoxy."
But for African Christians, the ability of Christianity to solve the problems of daily life is what is most relevant, so many feel it is safer to keep both their Christian faith and traditional beliefs rather than to abandon traditional beliefs completely.
Matonya will also preach at St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church, Seven Lakes, Sunday, Jan. 3, before leaving for Virginia Theological Seminary.
The Rev. Moses Matonya lives in Dodoma, Tanzania, with Ruth, his wife. They have five children.
For information, call The Country Bookshop at (910) 692- 3211.
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