Wednesday, November 23, 2022

TZCLC Hadzabe Gospel Outreach - NOV. 2022

I woke up early yesterday in anticipation of a long and exciting day. Last year when I visited Tanzania, I spent a few hours visiting with Pastor Nathan Lengutai the day before departing. Pastor Lengutai is an elderly Maasai Lutheran pastor with whom we've had the privilege of working for many years. He was fortunate to attend the Lutheran seminary here in the Arusha area many years ago. He was led by the Lord and his conscience to leave the Ev. Lutheran Church of Tanzania several years ago as that church body drifted further and further away from the truth of God's word. He is respected by everyone and known as a humble, wise, and kind student and preacher of God's saving word. I'm not sure how old he is, but he's getting up there. 

Pastors Jeremia Issangya (L) and Nathan Lengutai (R)

Pastor Lengutai always has so much wisdom to share, but he does it in such a humble way. As we were visiting last year, he asked if I had ever heard of the Hadzabe people living out in the forests. He explained that this tribe was one of the oldest in Tanzania and, perhaps, one of the first to live in this area of Africa. DNA evidence suggests that they are not related to any of the other tribes or people groups living in Africa. Amazing to think that the ancestors of these people may have been the first to settle here in the years following the flood and the Tower of Babel! He also went on to tell me that they really needed to hear the Gospel. Apparently, missionaries have tried many times to approach them with the Gospel, but unsuccessfully because they simply don't trust outsiders. Because the Maasai stick more to their traditional ways more so than others in Tanzania, the Hadzabe have traditionally been more trusting of the Maasai that cultivate crops and graze their herds in the areas where the Hadzabe have lived for thousands of years. Pastor Lengutai began to tell me that he had heard from some of his friends that the Hadzabe were becoming increasingly open to outsiders and that some Hadzabe clans were beginning to send their children to schools and trading in the cities and villages that surround the lands where they live. 

The Hadzabe are described as a "primitive" or "uncivilized" tribe, meaning they do not cultivate crops, raise animals, or live in houses. Traditionally, they gather and hunt for their food and have been doing so for centuries. Until recently, they have not built homes but instead, live in caves and under bushes and trees. According to what I have read, there are still about 1,200 Hadzabe and about 400 of them still live by these traditional ways and have very little contact with outsiders. The majority of the Hadzabe have begun interacting with the people and towns that surround the lands where they live for the past several years.

Their traditional religion is centered around the Sun, from which they believe all blessings and curses come. They also believe the Sun to be the place where the spirit goes at death. Interestingly, part of their oral tradition shares a story of a man named Indaya who returned from the dead to bestow gifts and customs on the Hadza people. It's not a much of a stretch of the imagination to assume that the story of Jesus made its way to the Hadzabe people many years ago, perhaps through Ethiopia and the migration of settlers who came from the north.

So, after last years conversation with Pastor Lengutai, I began to wonder if the Lord would open an opportunity to share the Gospel with these people. Unbenounced to me, one of the 2021 graduates of the seminary, a young Maasai pastor named Solomon Laizer has a close friend who works for the government office that overseas the welfare of the Hadzabe. This friend asked Pastor Solomon if he would like to visit the Hadzabe. Pastor Solomon mentioned it to Pastor Jeremia, who in turn asked me a couple of months ago if we could schedule a visit when I was in Tanzania. Of course, I said yes. That visit took place yesterday.

We traveled for eight hours (one way) waaaaay off the beaten path and into, what seems like, a wilderness area that is south and west of Arusha. We had one flat tire and had to stop at three different government offices to get permission to go into the area. We visited with the Senior Welfare Executive Officer for the region, who is the brother of the friend of Pastor Solomon. 

It takes a village to change a tire...or at least to watch :)

When we arrived, there were probably at least 100 people gathered under a large Baobab tree that apparently serves as a local gathering place. We were greeted by a group of ladies dancing in their traditional style. There was a little confusion at first about why we were there, but the government appointed guide found someone who could translate from Swahili to Hadza language. I didn't really notice it, but the Hadza language involves clicking and therefore is difficult to learn. The interpreter spoke with the government guide and explained that we were there to discuss the possibility of bringing pastors to their area to teach them the Bible. We were each given an opportunity to speak. I gave a simple Gospel message by explaining that the reason we had come is because we want them to know about the One True God who loves them and sent His Son Jesus to be our Savior. And because of God's love for us we also love them and want them to learn about the Bible and their Savior Jesus. I left them with a brief explanation of John 3:16 and the joy that God's love provides to all people. 

When we finished speaking, individuals from the clan were given the opportunity to speak. There was a man and woman who spoke. They both welcomed us and thanked us for coming. They both told us how they needed food, water, and schools for their children. Pastor Jermia explained to them that we hope to bring pastors to teach them about Jesus and that we would pray for all their needs and that the pastors who come will also help the children to learn their lessons.

I'm not sure how I feel about all of this. It was certainly a great opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus. And I hope and pray that this will be the first of many opportunities for TZCLC pastors and evangelists to come and teach the Bible. But, at the same time it was heart-breaking to see these people so dependent on others. I was told that the clans that have refused to come near to society and have stuck with their traditional ways of hunting and gathering are actually better off because, while they are poor (by most standards), they make their own way and they have not been reduced to essentially begging for food. On the one hand, you can see the wisdom of "protecting" the more traditional clans from the rest of society and letting them live as they choose. But, on the other hand, if they are denied the opportunity to learn of their Savior Jesus, they are not better off. There needs to be a way to bring them the Gospel and at the same time, not corrupt them with the allure of free stuff. This is certainly something to bring to the Lord's throne of grace as the TZCLC has a seemingly open door to evangelize among the Hadzabe. Praise the Lord for the opportunity share the Gospel and plead for the Lord's wisdom to do so in a way that truly serves His kingdom and the Hadzabe people.

Three Hadzabe Clans in Western Tanzania Await Our Arrival

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Praise God from whom all blessings flow! What a joyous opportunity to share the Gospel of our Lord!