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A group of Tanzanians travels among the barren land of Monduli Juu. Catastrophic drought in recent years has created food insecurity across East Africa.
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Photo by Erik Tryggestad

‘Practical preaching’ in a dry, thirsty land

A mountaintop church in Tanzania shares water — and the technology to collect it — with its community.

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MONDULI JUU, Tanzania — Worshipers walked across a beige, barren landscape on a Sunday morning as Bible class began in Monduli Juu, which is “up” (“juu” in Swahili) among the mountains of northern Tanzania.

For the Church of Christ, attendance is up, too. Throughout the Sunday morning lesson, villagers trickled in, filling the benches and two columns of plastic chairs. By worship time, the building was full.

Worshipers pack the pews of the Monduli Juu Church of Christ on a Sunday.

Worshipers pack the pews of the Monduli Juu Church of Christ on a Sunday.

A guest speaker, Aloyce Sollo Mollel, delivered the sermon. A second-year student at the Andrew Connally School of Preaching in nearby Arusha, he focused on the apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 16, stressing the importance of giving.

Part of the reason for the good Sunday turnout is the rows of giant, white tanks outside the church building. The congregation has installed a rainwater collection system and shares with its community. Church members, under the direction of missionary Ralph Williams, installed a similar system at a nearby medical dispensary and at a school.

After service, church member Paulo Ipanga explained how the elaborate water system works. Through a system of gutters and tubes, rain is collected and filtered. It ends up in massive storage tanks that are painted white to keep the water as cool as possible.

Despite a prolonged drought in northern Tanzania, “those systems have never run dry,” Williams said. “The clinic, which is largely a birthing center, has water year-round. The church has water for members and for the school they started. In the past, they were buying water to meet their needs. Now they are supplying water.”

The Christians used additional plastic tubes and a tarp to construct a baptistery, which sits among the water tanks at the church building.

“When you have something that touches people’s lives, it also touches people’s souls.”

“When you have something that touches people’s lives, it also touches people’s souls,” said Ngarasaa Koimere, the Monduli Juu church’s minister. By providing water for their community, church members have gained opportunities to share their faith in Christ. The church also has brought together members and nonmembers as they have constructed the water systems, the minister said.

“That’s practical preaching,” Benedict Mgema, a 20-year-old member of the congregation, said of the community outreach. Inspired by the water system, he wants to go to university and study engineering.

Paulo Ipanga inspects water collection tanks at the Monduli Juu clinic. Each is labeled with the name of the month during which rainwater was collected.

Paulo Ipanga inspects water collection tanks at the Monduli Juu clinic. Each is labeled with the name of the month during which rainwater was collected.

As they’ve built water systems, the church also has built a corps of local specialists, Williams said. Three church members were contracted to build a rainwater system for a nearby Anglican day school. One member supplements his income by selling water from his own system. His wife uses water from the system to grow and sell vegetables.

“She has time to work in the garden and to take care of her family,” Williams said, “because she doesn’t spend half her day hauling water.”

As worship concluded, church members filed out of the building and formed a line, methodically shaking each other’s hands and forming a big circle as they sang a Maasai-language version of “Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lamb?” The hymn from the mid-1800s is a call to baptism.

For those who answer that call, there’s water to spare.

TWO CHURCHES in the U.S. are collecting funds for clean water projects in Monduli Juu and rural Tanzania. See ralphwwilliams.com for details.

Filed under: Africa missions Andrew Connally School of Preaching Clean water projects Drought International News Tanzania Top Stories water for Africa Water scarcity

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