As part of his transition from Wesley College Principal to Executive Director of our US Foundation, Eric Soard spent five weeks in Tanzania in late summer 2020. While there, he sat down to catch up with Wesley College students and graduates. Here are the stories of three of them.
Jackson: Plans changed, faith grew
2020 has been a year, I think we can all agree on that. Jackson is someone else who has had his plans affected by a global pandemic. After graduation from Wesley College last year, Jackson became the first Tanzanian to be accepted into UMC Global Ministries’ Global Mission Fellow program.
Unfortunately, the program was cancelled due to COVID-19, and to participate in the future, he will have to reapply.
The Global Mission Fellow program is a huge growth opportunity which is hard to underestimate. Travel and service outside of one’s home community always change people’s lives in dramatic ways. Due to the pandemic, Jackson went from preparing to move to another country to serve for two years, to figuring out the next step in his life at home in Tanzania.
Yet, as we were talking, it is clear that he has grown through this disappointment. We discussed his calling as a pastor, his desire to see the church and God’s kingdom grow, and how he had hard decisions in front of him. Priorities of his family, the church, and his own personal growth all need to be considered.
Jackson’s next step most likely includes ordination, and he is also trying to understand if losing this chance to work abroad this year may be a door closing to several of his dreams.
As we ended the conversation, he seemed to have a peace that his role was to be faithful. Faithful in taking care of his family, faithful to follow God’s call in his life, and faithful to doing the best work he can do for God’s kingdom regardless of where he was. I pray that his dreams can still happen, but I also have a peace as I see the maturity and leadership that has and continues to grow in Jackson’s life.
When I talked to Vincent this past week, I was clearly talking to a growing young man. I’ve known his story since he joined Wesley College a few years ago:
I knew that Vincent had been only 15 years old when his father passed away. He was the oldest sibling out of a family of five, and he immediately dropped out of high school and started shouldering the responsibility of taking care of his family. He worked as a fisher, staying on the lake all night catching fish to support his family.
In about a year’s time he saved up enough money to buy a small piece of land and build a traditional house for his mother and siblings. He had no doubt that this was going to be his life.
At the time he was attending Igombe United Methodist Church, helping with singing and sometimes even leading worship. Through the church, he learned about Wesley College and that he might have a chance to finish high school there – and even be able to go on and study to become a pastor.
Fast forward these few years. Vincent is now working towards his graduation from our Theology program.
And when I talked to him last week, there was something different about him. He still has challenges in taking care of his family, in fact there are new challenges. His mother started having seizures, and they can’t find good medicine for her. He often finds himself taking half or more of his funds for food and school supplies and sending it home, leaving him a tight budget.
However, he also wanted to talk about his church, their desire to build a church building, and his excitement to see the children’s ministry grow. That passion was sparked when he was able to attend a children’s ministry workshop last year.
Vincent has always been responsible for his family, but as he has grown and matured that feeling of responsibility has now extended to his church and community. He is thinking towards graduation and how he is going to build a house -- not just for his family -- but a place of worship for his church so they can have a spiritual home.
I am excited to see Vincent graduate and see how his education will help him to be a different kind of home builder for years to come.
David Jeremiah graduated in November 2019 from Wesley College with a diploma in theology. Since then, he has been appointed as the Children’s Coordinator for the Tanzania Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. He has been visiting churches, encouraging and training children’s ministers and bringing attention to this vital role within churches around Tanzania.
Part of David’s work has been communicating with and managing the support coming for this work from the UMC’s Alabama – West Florida Annual Conference. A volunteer team from the Conference provided the original training and helped launch this amazing ministry. They’ve been supporting the leadership that David is providing. David, at a young age, is the first person to hold this position on a conference level. He’s blazing a path forward for future children’s ministers in Tanzania.
When David and I met last week, we talked about this children’s ministry, the plans he is working on that stretch through 2022, and his own desire to go further in his ministry. This responsibility and opportunity have awakened a desire in David to continue his education and become even better equipped to serve the church.
David will continue to serve the church locally in Mwanza. He will continue to coordinate the children’s ministry in Tanzania. And he will also work towards being admitted into a bachelor’s degree program for divinity. Powered by young energy and passion, he’s gained the wisdom to know that he needs more ministry experience and more education in order to prepare him for his eventual role in the church. It was an encouragement to catch up with David. I am excited to continue to be part of David’s journey in the years to come.