Tanzanian Parish Raises Funds for BCC

IMG_5479By Barb Carman

| It was a hot morning, as usual, but no rain. The location was in one of the poorest parishes associated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania – Northern Diocese. Though the ground was muddy, it didn’t stop the few volunteers who were rushing around putting final touches to the tables, seating, and decorations for the events that were about to start. It was 8:15 a.m. and the adults and children were starting to arrive. The events had been planned by leaders in the local parish and coordinated with the staff from BCC. They were apprehensive only because they had never attempted a major fund raiser, and knew that a lot was riding on the outcome of the day.  They were ready for a long day.  Congregations throughout Tanzania see Sunday as a full day for reunion, visiting between families and friends, worship and sharing food.

This Sunday was different because the Pasua congregation had high expectations and goals for the day. The committees for each portion of the day had planned and organized an event that far surpassed the challenges of a wedding or other celebration.  Right up to the day of the event, they were also apprehensive and very nervous.

Their goal was, to the extent possible, to educate their congregation about the BCC center on the church property which is partially housed under a large tent. The leaders of the congregation have always been proud that they host the center, but realize the facility is inadequate, especially during the rainy season. Last year, they formed a committee to take on the challenge of building a proper BCC classroom on the grounds where three pre-school classrooms and a Montessori kindergarten classroom exist.

There was the feeling of nervous excitement and anticipation as 8:30 a.m. passed and people were steadily arriving, mostly on foot, and the day was starting to take shape. The event began with a small breakfast with the Bishop, church leaders, BCC children and their families and staff, as well as guests from Poland. About 200 people spontaneously gathered at the classroom that has been under construction since January. The Bishop, in full vestments, led everyone to the corner of the building to unveil the cornerstone, bless the building, and pray for its successful completion.

With the ceremony completed, the Bishop led people back to the church. There were many greetings and welcomes, and a sermon by the guest pastor from Poland was delivered. By then, the church was full and many people were standing outside listening on a loud speaker. There was a guest choir that performed outstanding singing and dancing.  There were also many guests in attendance who were from the neighborhood and represented other faiths.

Then, the pastor of the Pasua Church outlined the goals of the day. He clearly explained the goals of BCC, why the church was proud to be a part of a new movement in Moshi to find new ways to support children with disabilities, address their health care needs, advocate for their inclusion in the public schools, find creative ways to improve the economic conditions of BCC families,

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and affect societal attitudes towards children with disabilities. He was very direct when he informed the congregation and guests about the central purpose for the day. It was, simply, to raise money to finish the classroom after the church received a small grant from the U.S. to initiate the project. He was apprehensive.

He then introduced the Mayor of Moshi, an articulate man who stood hand in hand with one of the children and explained why he was there.  He presented a message about the need for unity among peoples from different walks of life in order to strengthen a community.  Being of the Islamic faith and speaking in a Christian church at the Sunday morning service touched the hearts of those present.  He was amazing and received a rousing ovation.

I was asked to speak briefly about the way the building was being built. I told them that each construction team member is related to one of the BCC children in some way.  The team formed a construction co-op and this is their first project. The co-op is lead by a foreman who supervises another “specialist” and five laborers of which two are older BCC participants with intellectual disabilities. The co-op, with no coaching, decided that the BCC participants would receive the same wages as the other laborers.

Deacon Kaaya, the Director of BCC, spoke next and did a great job tracing BCC’s history with Mosaic and laid out his vision for the future. He was also apprehensive.

The “master of ceremony” began the fund raiser portion of the day by asking members and guests to come forward to announce their names and make contributions. At first, only one or two came forward, but what ensued was a line that seemed to never stop. The Mayor was one of the first to get in line and made a substantial contribution. About 30 minutes into the fund raiser, you could tell that the Bishop, Pastor, committee members and BCC leaders were less apprehensive.

A little before 11:00 a.m. on the following Tuesday, I was informed at the debriefing meeting for the event that over $10,000 was raised, which was in addition to the $5,000 lead gift. Everyone looked relaxed. During the meeting, the committee was informed that another church wants to hire the BCC cooperative to build a new structure on their property. They prayed and gave thanks to God.

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