When I first travelled to Tanzania 35 years ago, I had no idea that this country would become my second home! The initially agreed 2 years as a teacher for the children of Markus and Hanni Lehner ultimately turned into 9 long years. During all this time I taught the children of 3 Swiss staff families. From the start, I have been fascinated by the impressively beautiful nature and the vastness of the African landscape. 



Early on I had the privilege of becoming familiar with the African culture. The friendliness and hospitality of the Tanzanians paved the way for establishing true relationships with the locals. I learned the colloquial language Swahili along the way. On weekends, I had the opportunity to attend the services of the first congregations of the «MEC» (Mbalizi Evangelistic Church). In 1980, that is two years before my arrival, MEM was registered as a church (it was founded in 1957 as the Mbalizi Evangelistic Mission). In the following years we experienced an enormous growth: from the initial 7 churches to the current 180, scattered in 5 regions of Tanzania. Other areas of life also underwent rapid development: 

In 1991 I was asked if I would take over and head the project department for women's work. Besides the practical training of local women in sewing, this also included establishing further women's groups within the MEC congregations and holding seminars. Thus, we combined practical lessons with teaching the Bible and studying God’s word with the African women leaders. By this I gradually got to know better and appreciate the MEC congregations and the local people. Even now I am daily engaged in the women's work (counselling, finances). For some time now, the main responsibility has been placed almost entirely into the hands of the local staff. 



As from 1996, we integrated lessons for women in the Bible school’s 2-year course. That is the students’ wives could attend specific lessons for women. As this sector grew and became more independent, I got involved in teaching English to the men. Many of them had only gone through seven years of primary school in their rural villages.... I discovered the potential that God had given us in many of these local people in relation to the future of the MEC communities. My heart burnt for these students and I wanted to further invest in the education of them. Up to that point, only a few of the indigenous pastors had been able to attend higher education in specific professional schools. At the end of 2013, in agreement with the church leadership and in cooperation with the teachers, we began the 3rd and 4th year of training at our Bible school in Mshewe: further courses and studies in theology as well as high school level education (according to state adult education).



It is a fact that, over many, many years, we (MEC) have been offering education and training to young people (handicraft schools, high school and college, computer courses, teachers' education, nursing school). A regional hospital and 3 guest houses are also part of MEC; these «institutions» support the church work financially. It is very important and crucial for the future of MEC that the training of and support for local leaders continues and that these people have a burning heart for the church and are prepared to get involved in the main responsibility! Currently, the next generation is taking over the leadership of MEC. In Psalm 33,11 we read about God's perspective for a change of generation: «The counsel of the LORD endures forever, the thoughts of His heart from generation to generation». The next generation should also ask for the thoughts of His heart and act in accordance with His will!

Of the first graduates of the 4th year (they are from the younger generation) two now attend higher technical colleges (theology and IT). Two others, together with their families, work as missionaries in northern Tanzania, to establish new churches and ministries there. I am in close contact with them and have visited them a couple of times. Among other projects, I see my future calling/task in guiding and supporting the younger generation as co-workers in our churches.
Lydia Maag, Tanzania 

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