College in Tanzania brings fresh water to its neighbors

Once on the brink of closure, theological school gains access to water, new funding possibilities

Aug 19, 2019 by and

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Shouting, singing and celebration resounded throughout the village of Nyabange, Tanzania, as water flowed into tanks from Lake Victoria, which is just to the north of the Mennonite Theological College of East Africa.

Nyabange residents celebrate the arrival of water in a tank by the library at the Mennonite Theological College of East Africa. — Don and Judy Stoltzfus/Friends of MTCEA

Nyabange residents celebrate the arrival of water in a tank by the library at the Mennonite Theological College of East Africa. — Don and Judy Stoltzfus/Friends of MTCEA

A new water project was completed in April, changing the lives of area residents.

Acting principal John Wambura said celebrants related the flow of water in the village with the presence of God.

“The people who donated the money for the water project have preached and proved the presence of God,” he said.

The Friends of MTCEA, a philanthropic group with connections to East Africa, helped fund several improvement projects at the college, totaling $44,000.

Ernie Hess, chair of the Friends of MTCEA, explained the significance of the addition of an electric water pump.

“It is envisioned that stations will be developed where persons in Nyabange village can purchase water at a reasonable cost so they will not need to buy water brought each day by bicycle from the lake,” he said.

Don and Judy Stoltzfus, members of the Friends of MTCEA, said Wambura had done a lot of research and planning to bring water to the theological college.

The Stoltzfuses spent January through April in Tanzania during the renovations and played a key role in the process. There was great excitement from the students, village and church leaders.

Access to water has opened up new funding possibilities for the college. It will have 2,000 planting stations for crops such as watermelons, passionfruit, maize, tomatoes and onions.

Poultry production and animal husbandry projects are being developed to generate income and offer vocational training.

In addition to providing water for the college and the village, several other renovations were done at the beginning of 2019 that have helped to improve the mission of the college.

The library gained enlarged windows, fresh paint, new bookshelves and 15 computers. The men’s dormitory has a new ceiling, new windows, tile floors, fresh paint and modern showers and latrines.

An ambitious vision

Two years after the college appeared to be on the verge of closing, Wambura’s vision is helping it innovate for the future.

The motivation for this turnaround is Vision 2034 of the Tanzania Mennonite Church, or KMT. Looking toward its 100th anniversary, KMT has set an ambitious goal of reaching more than 1 million Tanzanians with the gospel.

On how the college fit into this plan, Joe Bontrager, nonresident Eastern Mennonite Missions worker to Tanzania, said Wam­bura “committed himself to the renewal of MTCEA and began to recruit students and to work out a plan for congregations and church districts to support their students.”

Wambura, who also serves as general secretary of KMT, hopes to find another leader to take on responsibilities as principal of the college. As of May, the college had 28 students.

EMM founded the college in 1936 to train church leaders. Today it is run by KMT. While at least 50 percent of the college’s budget comes from within Tanzania, the global church is invited to help with the rest.


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