Tumshukuru Mungu—We thank God—is a phrase we often hear in Tanzania. Tanzanians don’t celebrate Thanksgiving as a once-a-year national holiday, yet, in their everyday lives, they often express gratitude to God for their blessings. Nearly every church will have a special Sunday for Thanksgiving, usually around the time of the corn harvest in October. Also, people who want to show their gratitude to God for a special blessing, such as recovery from an illness, will often make a special offering. They will come to the front of the church to present their gifts, receive a special blessing and perhaps give a testimony of God’s goodness in their lives.
Recently Deborah was visiting Sumbawanga, the headquarters of Lake Tanganyika Diocese, one of the newest dioceses in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania. When it came time for the offering, people came singing and dancing up to the front to place their offering in a wooden box. The photo above is of the box labeled, Shukurani—Thanksgiving Offerings. There are other boxes for different kinds of offerings, such as tithes and pledges.
As is often the case in Tanzania, people also brought up sacks of corn, watermelons, eggs, and even two live chickens. The women of the church had baked about a dozen loaves of bread. Some people brought handcrafts they had made themselves. These items were auctioned off after the service and the sale price was added to the offering. In this way, people with little cash on hand could still contribute to the work of the church. Church in the U.S. might be a little more interesting if we had this custom!
As we approach Thanksgiving, we are especially thankful for visits from folks from the U.S., including a group from ELCA Mission Advancement in Chicago who came to visit projects and missionaries sponsored by the ELCA and to make some videos of mission work in Tanzania. We are also thankful for safe travels around Tanzania, a trip to Nairobi to visit the Kenya Evangelical Lutheran Church, and a safe journey to South Sudan, for the dedication of the new Lutheran Center in Juba. We are especially thankful for our wonderful supporters in the U.S., many of whom we got to visit this past summer.
Whatever you are thankful for, we pray that you will have a blessed Thanksgiving. Remember, Tumshukuru Mungu!
Top Photo: Offering box at church in Sumbawanga, Tanzania labeled Shukurani (Thanksgiving in Swahili).
Middle Photo: Offering boxes at church in Sumbawanga, Tanzania labeled Fungu La 10 (tithes) and Ahadi (pledges).
Joe and Deborah are missionaries living in Arusha, Tanzania, where they are the East Africa Regional Representatives for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and work in Tanzania, Kenya, South Sudan, and Uganda. Their daughter, Christa, is a sophomore at the University of Southern California this fall.