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A Maasai woman greets Erik Tryggestad after Sunday worship at the Monduli Juu Church of Christ in Tanzania.
Voices Only
Photo by Erik Tryggestad

Voices only: ‘Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lamb’ in Swahili — plus a bunch of handshakes

A Church of Christ in rural Tanzania is "up" — in name and in attendance — thanks to its efforts to bring clean water to its community

MONDULI JUU, Tanzania — This village is “up” (“juu” in Swahili) in the mountains of this East African nation.

And numbers are up at the Church of Christ here, too. I got up — from my seat — as the service began to take a few photos and quickly lost my spot. Soon, the benches were full of souls, young and old. I grabbed a plastic chair and found a place toward the back of the building. It’s a good problem to have.

Church members and visitors fill pews and plastic chairs during Sunday worship in Monduli Juu.

Church members and visitors fill pews and plastic chairs during Sunday worship in Monduli Juu.

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 medical dispensary just up the hill from the church building last year.

Related: Church harvests rain in rural East Africa

I saw the system in person as I worshiped with the Monduli Juu congregation, which meets among the Maasai people of northern Tanzania. Aloyce Sollo Mollel, a second-year student at the Andrew Connally School of Preaching (affiliated with Bear Valley Bible Institute), gave a powerful message on the importance of giving, stressing Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 16.

Aloyce Sollo Mollel preaches on the importance of giving as Ngarasaa Koimere, right, translates his words from Maasai into Swahili

It struck me how the church is using its talents to give clean water to its community. The church’s minister, Ngarasaa Koimere, translated the visiting preacher’s words from the Maasai language to Swahili.

After service, Paulo Ipanga gave me a tour and 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.

Paulo Ipanga explains how the rainwater harvesting system works.

Paulo Ipanga explains how the rainwater harvesting system works. Water tanks outside the Monduli Juu dispensary bear the names of months of the year.

Ipanga pointed down the hill toward a well used by the community. The water isn’t clean, he said, and the whole region in in the midst of a drought. Thankfully, several of the storage tanks at the clinic still have water.

The tanks at the church building still have water, too. Among them the church has constructed a small baptistery.

Benedict Mgema

Benedict Mgema

“When you have something that touches people’s lives, it also touches people’s souls,” said Koimere, the 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 non-members as they have constructed the water systems. They’re installing one at a small elementary school near the church building and have plans to build more.

“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.

As worship concluded, members filed out of the church building and formed a line, shaking each other’s hands. Eventually we formed a big circle.

We did something similar when I visited a small, thatch-roof church in South Sudan in 2011.

Related: ‘This is my place’ — Sudanese Christians return home to help a struggling new nation

My gracious hosts, Michael and Dorris Fortson of Neema Village, provided me with transportation to Monduli Juu. We had enough room in our safari vehicle to take a few friends down from the mountain after worship.

Michael and Dorris Fortson and their granddaughter, Maria, greet members of the Monduli Juu Church of Christ after Sunday worship.

Michael and Dorris Fortson greet members of the Monduli Juu Church of Christ after Sunday worship.

What’s your favorite a cappella song? Send us a video link and a short description of what the song means to you. We might use your selection in a future Voices Only.

Monduli Juu, Tanzania

Filed under: clean water community development community outreach drinking water fresh water Insight Maasai Opinion Swahili Tanzania Voices Only water for Africa water project

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