by Stephen and Gill Davies
‘…a little child shall lead them’ (Isa. 11:6). When the Lord’s disciples failed to see the value of the children brought to Him by their mothers to be blessed, He was displeased and rebuking them said, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.’ (Mk 10:14). This incident was instructive to the disciples, mothers, and onlookers as to the importance of children to the Saviour. His statement has guided us in our Christian ministry in Tanzania over the past 19 years and created the vision for Watoto wa Thamani (Precious Children) day care centre, established to care for and educate children from poor, vulnerable and disadvantaged families.
We have been blessed to see parents, mainly mothers, from both Christian and Muslim backgrounds, enrolling their children for two years with us in the knowledge that they will be taught Bible stories, learn Bible verses, sing choruses and learn about the One who is the only way of salvation. Part of the vision of Watoto wa Thamani (WWT) is to impact families for Christ through the children, and it has been a joy to see the children themselves bringing their parents into the blessing of hearing the gospel. This was achieved initially by inviting parents to attend termly assemblies and an annual graduation where the gospel was proclaimed through the children. However, as time has moved on, and our testimony has become established in Kinzudi village, our involvement with them has evolved into something deeper. Our love for their children has gone beyond that of the care, education and nourishment they receive five mornings a week.
Their families are often in crisis, be it from medical, employment, financial, marital or wider issues such as: a husband killed in a motorbike accident; a wife thrown out of the home due to being HIV+ or to make room for another wife; a child or mother becoming seriously ill or dying suddenly; or being unable to feed the children. In a country where there is no free health service, no unemployment benefit and a social welfare system that is overwhelmed, such cases find their way to the WWT gate where decisions are made and a course of action planned.
We generally help only those we know through WWT or the assembly – these alone run into hundreds. Those who seek help often believe the foreign missionary has the answer to the problem and the means to solve it straightaway. However, we have learned from experience that each situation needs to be independently verified so we call upon the help of local Tanzanian Christians, whom we know and trust, and who often live in the village. There is a danger that by making an immediate emotional response we become little more than a social service. The help is given with the opportunity of hearing the gospel and, praise the Lord, the blessing of salvation has followed in some cases.
In November 2020, Mama Christina, one of our WWT mums, and her five children were thrown out by her husband, after 18 years together, to make way for a new woman. Suddenly she had no roof over her head, no means by which to feed her children, only the clothes they were wearing and she was unable to pay the termly food contribution for her daughter Lucia. Mama Christina came to WWT to talk about it. She had started pursuing matters through the local court system but urgently needed help. The Lord enabled us to rent a room for them for six months, equip them with essentials and commit to supporting them weekly. We asked them come and listen to the gospel each Sunday and they did so. Within two months Mama Christina, who is from a Catholic background, professed faith in the Lord Jesus, was baptised and received into fellowship in the New Year. The genuineness of her conversion is seen in her joy and thirst for God’s Word as she continues to enjoy the things of God.
…it has been a joy to see the children themselves bringing their parents into the blessing of hearing the gospel
Some three years ago, Mama Riziki, another of our WWT mums, a Muslim lady, told us that she and her two children had been abandoned by her partner. Initially, he had paid the termly food contribution but he later refused. We gave her a small cleaning job covering a maternity leave for three months, which helped her to feed the family at that time. Later, we were able to make this a permanent position but being only a few hours a week, it was not enough to sustain the family so we agreed to pay the rent on her room. Both of Mama Riziki’s children attended WWT and graduated, receiving the Bible story book as their prize. Mama Riziki is illiterate but her children were able to read it to her each evening and the Lord worked in her life. At the end of 2020, at home, while thinking deeply about what God had done for her on so many levels, she trusted Christ as her Saviour. What a joy it was for the assembly to baptise her and Mama Christina in the New Year.
When she was first in crisis, Mama Riziki and her two children lodged with a friend, Mama Msafiri and her four children, in one room until she had her own accommodation. When Mama Msafiri found herself in a similar situation, she moved in with Mama Riziki’s family into a room no larger than 10ft by 10ft. Mama Riziki began bringing Mama Msafiri and her family to hear the gospel. We have since rented Mama Msafiri her own room.
Every morning, in January 2021, when we arrived at WWT, Mama Selina was there asking for help. Not having met her or knowing of her situation, we suggested she first come to the Sunday meetings so that the Tanzanians could understand her situation. It transpired that her husband, a motorbike taxi driver, had died in an accident at the beginning of 2020, leaving her to care for four children alone. A kind lady had given her a room rent-free but this offer of help was now coming to an end. By digging sand and selling it, Mama Selina had managed to feed her children quite regularly but not every day. Her two older children had not been able to start school because they had no uniforms. We paid the rent on her room for six months, equipped her children with what they needed for school and have periodically helped her with a little food money and invited her to attend the Sunday meetings. She has not missed a meeting so far this year except when sick. This family is being impacted for Christ, by the offer of love, practical help and exposure to the gospel.
In January 2014, Lulu joined WWT. Her mum, Mama Lulu, an HIV+ single mother, gave birth to Abrahamu in mid-July 2017. The fathers of her children were not on the scene. Visiting the squalor of her home, we were concerned for her wellbeing, seeing the weakness of her body and her inability to feed little Abrahamu herself. Formula milk was provided over the following months, which generated an interest in Mama Lulu to listen to the gospel preaching and, at one point, she talked about baptism. She then disappeared and there was talk of her attending another church. However, she recently reappeared with another baby and the reason for her absence became clear. Nonetheless, she was welcomed back without judgement to hear the gospel again at the assembly.
In a culture where more respect is given to a mother than a single woman, the pressure on young girls to have a child is massive. They live with a partner for a time and are dependent on the man until he gets bored and leaves or throws the woman out without thought of taking responsibility. This attitude leaves many young unmarried mothers vulnerable. A number of them are uneducated and have no means to support themselves. Often, they then live with another man and the cycle continues.
He is the Way
So, what is the answer? The only lasting answer is Christ! He loves without discrimination and so must we. Our burden is to show His love practically, to bring the gospel of salvation within reach, to trust the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts, and to pray for them that they might be genuinely converted. Many a believer can point to parents who were instrumental in leading them to Christ. There are some in Tanzania who can point to their children as the means through which they heard the gospel.