Last week we were blessed to be able to listen to Godfrey Melissa who is a pastor from Tanzania who grew up on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro. He has lived in the United States for the past 12 years and he has reached out to the Swahili speaking community in the US. There are about 100 million people speaking Swahili. Only people from East and Central Africa speak Swahili, but the governments of Africa are trying to make Swahili the African language. There are over 70,000 Somalis in the Twin Cities and some of them speak Swahili. What has happened when they come to this country and settle here things start to change for them? In Africa about 85% of the people who speak Swahili are Christian (Catholic, Lutheran, and Pentecostal). They come here either to go to school or to work. The Swahili speaking people are struggling. They make about $600 a year, they live on a dollar or less a day. There is what they call the “brain drain” from that part of the world because their doctors and such are coming here and making tons of money that they could not make in East Africa. Sadly, they slowly slide away from their faith. The Lutheran Church is growing in Africa and declining over here. They are ministering to the African community as a whole. It has been a challenge, it’s not easy. They still have the African hospitality, but many cannot come to church on Sunday because they work on the weekends. He is homesick, but he feels called to the US. He has been a minister fro about 19 years. They are not trying to recruit people to join their church; they are reaching out to the people in need. He often visits them in their homes. The Swahili population in America is largest in the Twin Cities. The Kenyans especially tend to congregate in their tribes and they speak their own tribal languages. Most Africans are trilingual. Umoja, meaning togetherness, are a group of several Kenyan tribes and some Tanzanian tribes that have gathered together. They get money from the government based on the project they have. They have their own stores where they buy their food from Africa. Where they live depends on their income; so they do not all really cluster in one area. There is a paradox because when it comes to church they are isolated, but if there is something like a party then hundreds show up.
A very strange connection that I made between Pastor Melissa speaking and the honors course was Amazing Grace. It is so hard to think that 200 years ago Africans were brought over as slaves and now they are coming freely to find a more prosperous life. There are also those people such as Pastor Melissa, who come to America for mission purposes. I guess that for me this connection that I made was not what I had expected, but definitely made me ponder for a while how drastically situations change over time.
Hearing Godfrey speak reminded me of my friends Fofana and Johanna, one is from Liberia and the other is from Tanzania. They had shared with me some of the same information about African culture as Pastor Melissa did, but it was good to hear again. I think that his mission is amazing and I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to do all of that away from home and family. I think that Godfrey is doing amazing things for the Lord and it makes me very happy that he is able to do these things. I know many people are astounded when they hear of missionaries coming to America, but it is true. As Godfrey said, the church is growing in Africa and declining in America, so it is apparent why we would need missions. God is so obvioulsy with Godfrey Melissa and he is a wonderful testament to what Christians believe and should practice. So much so that he is inspirational.