Overcoming Denominational Differences in Tanzania

About nine years ago, when Compassion began operating in Tanzania, we were received with mixed feelings by the church.

  • Some thought there is no genuine organization that can offer the benefits we claim to offer to children.
  • Some were not comfortable that we want different evangelical denominations to come together and have a common objective in releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name.

The church history in Tanzania shows that for quite a long time, the church identified itself along denominational lines and had closed the door on the possibility of cooperating together as the body of Christ.

light shining through cross in church

The pastors from our pioneer partner churches had never sat together for the business of God’s kingdom. There had never been joint prayer sessions, and the idea of a one-week joint workshop, which we organized and conducted at Masoka Management College in Moshi, was unimagined. Therefore, establishing Compassion International Tanzania required great energy in order to share the vision. It was accompanied with much prayer and crying.

Weekly social workers’ fellowship, women’s prayer meetings, pastors’ retreats and other forums helped greatly to change the mindset and attitudes of the church leaders. All these contributed to breaking the walls of misunderstanding and hatred. This then helped the child development center staff since they could easily interact among themselves as they helped one another without minding their denominational background.

Initially, we called pastors and elders of the would-be partner churches and had a one-day sharing on what it means to partner with Compassion for child ministry. Then all the selected churches were invited for a one-week vision sharing. During this week of workshops a lot was shared about the child, partnership, rules and responsibilities, policies and guidelines, etc. A team of up to 10 people was invited from each church.

Slowly pastors started understanding the ministry and accepting it in their churches. This happened because people could evidently see the changes in the lives of the children. Children who had never been to a church before were now singing Sunday school songs on Saturdays with joy. They were reciting their memory verses and praying.

One child who was attending a child development center in the initial days was living with his dad, who was a witch doctor. After attending the program and learning how to pray, his father could no longer practice his witchcraft. He (the father) went to complain to the church and was quoted as saying,

“These children have been spoiled, and as my child prays my business is affected.”

The churches started breaking down the barriers that set them apart and were coming closer and closer to each other. The children are being registered according to where they live and not where they go to church. It is evident that Compassion has brought a new culture of church/denominational cooperation to Tanzania, and that the cooperation is still growing.

The ministry of Compassion is now accepted all over Tanzania. The commissioning of Compassion’s child ministry in Tabora, the 11th region where we operate, marks a new beginning for us … but you already know about that.

5 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Kate October 7, 2010

    I wonder what happened to the little boy whose father was a witch doctor?

  2. Jessi October 6, 2010

    This was great to read about. Our little girl is in Tanzania so I’m so glad that God worked in the hearts and minds of the people in those churches to open them to the program and change the lives of these children.

  3. Britney May 27, 2008

    I love how God works. Who could have imagined that through Compassion the body in Tanzania would overcome denominational barriers? How wonderful!

  4. Vicki Small May 27, 2008

    Wow. I remember when the terms “ecumenical” and “ecumenism” were suspect. Crossing denominational lines (I’m talking about the U.S., you know) was unthinkable, at least in my tradition. Come to think of it, pockets of “pride of grace” and “pride of place” still reign, in some churches.

    Now, what this post describes seems…odd, I guess. Not quite the right word. Anyway, what matters is that the Spirit of God moves in exciting ways, opening hearts and doors wherever people will listen. Kelly is right: This post is an encouragement!

  5. Kelly @ Love Well May 27, 2008

    God is on the move. What refreshing encouragement this Tuesday morning.

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