Saturday, May 30, 2009

SAUT Worldview Workshop: 23 May 2009

The flyer that we posted all over the campus

Saturday, 23 May 2009, was a true highlight for our experience of this semester of teaching at St. Augustine University (SAUT). The idea for a workshop on worldviews which compete for attention as we teach at the university grew out of discussions with our colleagues here inTanzania. We recognized a desire to teach in an integral Christian way, but most of our colleagues had done their graduate work at secular universities, either in Africa or overseas, and were shaped by that. SAUT labels itself as a “secular” university, owned and operated by the Episcopal Conference of Tanzania. "Secular" in this case means "not pontifical"; it also means that it is open to students of all denominations and faiths. Both of us have Muslim students in the class. Not all lecturers are Catholics; there are also a few Muslims on the faculty. 

The Vice-Chancellor opening the workshop with prayer

We had planned the event for some time, providing the groundwork through preliminary discussions with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Dr. Mfumbusa, as well as Dr. Kitima, the Vice Chancellor. Flyers had been placed all over the campus, and we had spoken with the colleagues we knew, to invite them to this event. Most promised to come. We had also invited the Tanzanian IAPCHE members to come to Mwanza for the occasion. So we worked carefully to prepare a set of power-point presentations for the workshop. And we urged those supporting our work to pray for this event. So you can imagine that we were very thankful that the workshop turned out to be successful, especially because on the day itself there were a number of significant SAUT events competing with ours. We had hoped for twenty participants, but had prepared chairs for as many as fifty people, realizing that under the circumstances half that number would be a good turnout. Indeed, the total attendance for the whole workshop was twenty-two; not everyone was able to stay for all presentations. 

Adrian and Wendy looking over the program before the workshop

For the workshop we had chosen the title, “The University Teache and Competing Worldviews,” hoping to demonstrate that a Christian worldview can play a constructive role in a context where it has competition. We planned two sessions; the first was to deal with some operative worldviews, especially the western or secular one that is dominant on many university campuses, as well as the African or traditional worldview that continues to influence lecturers and students alike here, and finally, the Christian or biblical worldview that we want to encourage lecturers to implement in classroom teaching. The second session was intended to show our colleagues how one can teach from within this Christian worldview. Both presentations were well received, as we heard from later reports.

We were especially grateful that the Vice-Chancellor of SAUT, joined us to open the workshop with prayer and a word of encouragement for this project. He was accompanied by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic of the university, but they had to hurry off to another event which hosted a local Member of Parliament. The head of the department of philosophy, Dr. Aidan Msafiri gave a general introduction for the sessions, and welcomed the lecturers and graduate students who represented various faculties and departments. We were grateful for his support and participation, for we had specifically invited him to show how a Christian worldview might be applied more concretely in his own discipline, which is environmental ethics. We also asked one of our colleagues specialized in African traditional religion, Julian Mugishagwe, to introduce the African worldview. In this way we wanted to make sure that this was not a workshop introduced only from outside SAUT. Our hope is that the program we developed can be adapted and used again in the future. We left two cd's with copies of the program with Msafiri, who has already stated plans to repeat the workshop.

Msafiri making his presentation on using a Christian worldview in teaching environmental issues

Our colleague Julian who presented the African worldview

Wendy using a card made by our daughter Sharon that illustrates how time binds us in the secular worldview

Before closing the workshop we took the opportunity to donate a number of relevant and valuable books for the library of SAUT. These were eight publications of Dr. Benny van der Walt, from the University of Potchefstroom in South Africa, all dealing with the issue of worldviews. Benny had sent copies of these books to us when he knew that we would be teaching in Tanzania. Little did he know that we were planning this workshop on worldviews. We thought it a great opportunity to formally hand them over to Msafiri.

Presenting the van der Walt books to Msafiri

Sister Esther, a colleague from Ireland

The group picture was taken at the end when some participants had already left

Isaac Mutua with one of the participants

For this workshop we had invited Rev. Isaac Mutua from Kenya, director of CPCHEA (Centre for the Promotion of Christian Higher Education; see the website: and Africaregional director for IAPCHE (International Association for the Promotion of Christian Higher Education; at the website:, to attend and use the opportunity to introduce the work of these organizations. In that regard he was successful. Most of the participants of the workshop signed up to become members of IAPCHE. Later that day, and on Sunday afternoon, Isaac had further opportunities to talk with both the Vice-Chancellor and Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs, about SAUT becoming an institutional member. Both of these university officials are supportive of the goals of IAPCHE and CPCHEA, and said the matter would receive careful consideration. We certainly left a number of our colleagues with a new enthusiasm for teaching from a Christian perspective. So all in all, we are thankful for this workshop, and pray that the benefits will continue to multiply in future.

Isaac with Adrian and Peter, a IAPCHE member from Tanzania

Isaac with Adrian and Wendy

Friday, May 29, 2009

Prayer Notes for Ascension and Pentecost

“Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.”  (Psalm 24.7)

1. We want to give thanks for the workshop on Worldviews, for faculty and graduate students, held last Saturday, May 23. Dr. Isaac Mutua, the East Africa representative for the International Association for Christian Higher Education (IAPCHE), came already on Thursday to join us for the event. The attendance at the workshop itself was not large, since there were a number of other events on campus demanding the presence of faculty. But those who did attend expressed their appreciation for the presentations, which introduced a Christian perspective as it impacts teaching in various branches of scholarship. We are grateful for the participation of two colleagues, Julian Mugishagwe, specialized in African traditional religion, who introduced the African worldview, and also Rev. Dr. Aidan Msafiri, head of our Department of Philosophy, who gave an example applying a Christian worldview concretely in his own discipline, namely, environmental ethics.

2. We would ask your prayers regarding our own plans for travel in the next few weeks. Early in June we had hoped to travel to Nairobi to follow up our contacts with universities there, but that will not be possible now. Exams at SAUT are scheduled for the second and third weeks of June. As soon as we finish marking exams, we will visit a number of universities in Dar es Salaam with an eye to possible placement for IICS/CSI faculty. We would ask your prayers for wisdom in these discussions, and for safety as we travel to Dar es Salaam and then return to Canada.


3. Thank you for your prayers for our work at this university. During the last few weeks we have had numerous opportunities to share our experience of teaching at St. Augustine University of Tanzania (SAUT) with scholars who are considering teaching overseas, explaining to them the educational needs in East Africa, especially in Tanzania, where university lecturers are in short supply. University officials have reminded us of a special need for lecturers in engineering. Please pray with us that Christian scholars in Canada and the United States will respond positively to that need.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Colleagues in Mwanza

One of the joys of working overseas is making new friends, both among faculty members of the university where we are working, and in the local expatriate community. In the various overseas contexts in which we have worked over the last decades we have found it useful to make acquaintance with our immediate colleagues, who have worked in our specific environment much longer already, but also with other expats who have lived in the specific context cross-culturally, for they have already faced and dealt with the challenges which one faces inevitably in a new environment - questions like: Where can one find reliable medicines? potato peelers? baking soda? or language books? The significance of such questions might not make sense to our new colleagues who have not themselves come from overseas, while other expats will understand quickly what we really need to know to make the necessary adjustments . Before we traveled to Tanzania we had already corresponded and even spoken on Skype  with Steve and Jan, who have worked in the Mwanza region on numerous agricultural and poverty alleviation projects.

Steve and Jan, with their three boys, at the Good Friday potluck 

And on arrival in Dar es Salaam in early February, we appreciated getting hints on how to work effectively in the Tanzanian context with Margaret Ngujuna, country representative for Christian Reformed World Relief Commitee (CRWRC) in Tanzania. 

Adrian with Margaret in her office in Dar es Salaam

Upon arrival in Mwanza, aside from meetings with the SAUT administration, one of our first contacts at the university was the Nigerian colleague from Unijos, Timothy, a historian, who was happy to know that we had just come from Jos, and was anxious to get the latest news from us about the situation in Jos, where his wife, still  living in Unijos campus housing, had come through the November riots with some minor unpleasantness and inconvenience.

Timothy and Adrian

We were glad that we could set his heart at ease regarding general conditions in Jos, and the relative peace experienced at the time we were there. Since then we have enjoyed numerous opportunities to converse with him about the situation in Jos and Nigeria.  We also met Peter, a bright young lecturer in the social sciences from southern Nigeria, also teaching at SAUT on his sabbatical. And we have met a number of expat faculty who have come from Europe, from Germany and Austria, as well as  American Jesuit priests who have been teaching here for many years, from the time when SAUT was still the Nyegezi Social Training  Institute. 

But before leaving Toronto we had heard of Erin Carter, a nurse and member of our supporting church, the Willowdale Christian Reformed Church (of northern Toronto), who had come to Mwanza through CRWRC, to volunteer for a number of months at a clinic/hospital run by the Africa Inland Church (AIC), the biggest evangelical denomination here in East Africa. But even before we actually were able to meet Erin, we made contact with another couple  also working with CRCWRC in Mwanza, and like Erin involved  with the AIC clinic.  Gordon and Peggy Tans had come from Alaska in November of last year; as a nurse Peggy was to work with the same clinic, a welcome support for Erin in that work, while Gordon (a retired lawyer) would volunteer his services at the headquarters of AIC, helping in whatever way he could in financial and legal matters. 

One of the highlights of our initial months in Mwanza was the visit of  Erin's Mom, Betty Carter, who came to Mwanza early in April to help her daughter say goodbye to the work here, and accompany her on the long flight back home to Toronto. 

Erin with her mother, Betty

Betty's visit was special for us, not only because of the mutual connection with our supporting church community, the Willowdale CRC, but particularly because she was able to bring a much needed replacement computer battery for Wendy's Mac (as well as some decaffeinated instant coffee which we could not find here). We especially enjoyed  socializing with them and other colleagues on Good Friday, when the Tans invited us over for a potluck lunch in the afternoon, followed by a time of devotions and farewells. 

This was the Good Friday gathering. In front: Gordon, Wendy and Jan (Steve took the photo) and around the circle:  Inge-Marie, Erin, Naomi, Betty Carter, Peggy, Leif and Adrian

Erin was not the only one leaving. The Michmerhuizens were also winding up their six years of work in Mwanza and region, planning to leave by the second week of May. The Tans themselves would leave a week later, though they do plan to return in September to resume their work with AIC. 

Through our attendance at the English language service of the local Anglican church, and through  the Michmerhuizens we have been introduced to other members of the expat community in Mwanza, those working in business, in charitable organizations, or as missionaries. 

Although the missionary community in Mwanza is not small, it is certainly not as large as its counterpart  in Jos, where we would not have expected to meet all, or even the majority of missionaries gathered in one location, as in Mwanza, where many missionaries meet for  a potluck dinner and devotions on the first Friday evening of each month. So far we have managed to join them twice, and have found it interesting to discover the variety of the work done, not only in church planting, but in various supportive tasks, like the work of the Danish couple, Leif and Inge-Marie with "Isoma Biblia (Read the Bible)", who focus on distribution of Bibles and related literature.  We also met Naomi, who grew up in Tanzania as a child of missionary parents who worked with the AIC; she has now come back after many years in work with Wycliffe in other countries; at present she is helping members of the large local tribe, the Sukuma, facilitating literature development in their own language,  helping them write down the stories of the tribe before they are forgotten, since Swahili is the common language and public use of tribal languages has been receding. Other missionaries work with children and development of Sunday School literature, in   medical and dental clinics, or as teachers at an large local international school. 

Naomi (in foreground)

Although the rate of infection with AIDS is not much worse than in Nigeria, one of the major problems it has brought with it is the many children who are left without parents or near relatives who can support and raise them. These children are sometimes left in hospitals, or abandoned. Tanzanians themselves are largely reluctant to adopt these children when there is no clear  family or tribal connection. Thus orphanages have become a sad necessity throughout Africa, and also here in Tanzania. It is a need to which numerous missionaries are addressing their efforts. A few weeks after we arrived in Mwanza we received an email from Hanneke Cost Budde, working in Shinyanga, a few hours south of Mwanza, as the HIV/AIDS coordinator for the Africa Inland Church, Shinyanga diocese. There she works mostly with people living with HIV/AIDS, orphans and widows.

Hanneke with a mother who helps with foster care, and the five children she has rescued and is raising

It had been years since we met Hanneke in Toronto, where she worked with  Knox Presbyterian Church (when our daughter Sharon was attending there); her work is now supported by that church. We met her just after Easter, when she came to Mwanza to take Grace, a Canadian co-worker, to the airport, and give her a lovely farewell lunch at Tunza, a local lakeside restaurant. 

Wendy, with Hanneke, her youngest charge, and Grace 

As a social worker Hanneke is in a position to help many needy people, especially the women, but she has also become involved with abandoned children. Hanneke has taken under her care and adopted a number of children who would probably not have made it without her timely intervention.

Hanneke and her youngest at Tunza