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Mara Conference

By Benjamin Ngalama Biha

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Benjamin Ngalama Biha

Mara Conference is a part of Northern Tanzania Union Conference in the East-Central Africa Division of Seventh-day Adventists. Its headquarters is in Musoma, Tanzania.

Territory: Mara Region, and Ukerewe Island (in Lake Victoria).

Statistics (June 30, 2020): Churches, 515; membership, 187,358; population, 3,944,576.1

Organizational History

The Majita – Ukerewe and Ururi Field was established in 1909 with 18 Churches and 3,347 members.2 The work rapidly increased and the second field was established in 1912 at Utimbaru area known as East Lake Field with 18 churches and 3,486 members.3 In 1960 the first field reorganized, and its name changed to Central Nyanza Field,4 with 40 churches and 4,485 members. The second field also reorganized in 1960, and its name changed to East Nyanza Field,5 with 50 churches and 7,360 members. In 1977 Mara Field was organized with 115 churches and 10,727 members.6 In 1982, Mara-Kagera Field was organized, with 115 churches and 15,946 members.7 1987 saw Mara-Kagera Conference organized, which at that time was comprised of two regions: Mara region, Kagera region, and Ukerewe Island district, with 131 churches and 23,983 members.8 In 1990 Mara Conference was organized, comprised of one region (Mara region) and one district (Ukerewe Island District), with 152 churches and 32, 527 members.9

Origins of Adventist Work in the Territory of Mara Conference

The Seventh-day Adventist work in the Mara Region began in 1909.10 The first missionaries were Ernst Raessler and Abraham. C. Enns, who arrived in the Shirati zone, then a German district, on June 1, 1909.11 They found that Shirati and the surrounding area were in quarantine due to sleeping sickness spread by tsetse flies, which had caused some doctors to die. The missionaries decided to move on the next day up to the Nyabange area.12 From Nyabange they walked four days on foot, looking for a good area until they reached Busegwe, 20 miles (50 kilometers) east of Musoma town, where they met with the mlwazi (chief) of that place, Kenyaka Hossein, who gave them a place used by children for dancing and singing songs after their parents killed a lion. The place was called “Obwana,” which means “children’s place,” The missionaries paid 60 rupiahs and one blanket to the chief, and that was where the Busegwe mission began.

At the end of 1909 and early 1910, Abraham C. Enns and Dominick, with some Africans from Busegwe, including Andrea Idafa (Pare), who had served as a cook for German missionaries, went to establish the work in the Majita area, while Raessler remained at Busegwe station. The Chief Kusaga of Majita allowed them to choose the area, and the Kulwenge area was selected. The missionaries erected a church building, and in 15 months it had 600 people. Also in 1910, Dominick and Abraham C. Enns went to Ikizu, where they met with Chief Matutu of Waikizu (people of Ikizu), who gave them 80 acres of land at Bukama, where they established the third mission in the Mara region.13

According to Kangalu, missionaries established missions in several areas in the Mara region, which included Iramba, Nyabange, Shirati, and Utimbaru.14 The work of constructing buildings at Utimbaru was supported by the indigenous people, who were paid 3 rupiahs per month and worked 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Sunday to Friday.

Effect of World War I on the Missionary Work

When British forces advanced into Tanganyika in 1914, many of the German missionaries left. Between the departure of these missionaries and the arrival of the British, most of the Adventist missions in Lake Province were looted and destroyed.15 It is believed that some missionaries like H. Palm, R. Munzig, and Otto Wallath lost their lives after the war. As soon as Seventh-day Adventist missionaries were permitted to return to the Lake province in 1921, stations were reopened at Busegwe, Utimbaru, Majita, Ntusu, and Mwagala, and headquarters were established at Ikidzu (later spelled Ikizu)16 in the Mara region. However, in 1921 only 10 members out of 78 members could be found.

Challenges that Faced Missionaries in Lake Victoria Region

Missionaries to Tanganyika faced many challenges. The work demanded determination, good health, and a positive attitude.

Diseases: Most missionaries were new to tropical diseases, with low immunity to malaria, and there were very few health facilities. Abraham C. Enns said, “While we were at Majita and living in tents almost seven months, constructing Majita church, I became sick with malaria 100 times and 5 times almost to die.”17 Due to malaria disease, from 1903 to 1917 at least 21 missionaries died, and others suffered severe illness.

Communication barriers: The people of Tanganyika used different languages based on their tribes. In the Mara region there were almost 15 local languages. Missionaries learned Kiswahili and other languages to translate the Bible, and other subjects like songbooks. Mrs. Kotz wrote a dictionary called “Grammatik des chasu.” Kotz emphasized that the only way to reach Africans is to learn their languages.18

African customs and traditions: A number of customs and traditions brought challenges to Christianity.

  • Polygamy. Traditionally, an African man was permitted to marry many wives. The man with many wives was required to treat them equally.
  • Circumcision. Missionaries did not oppose male circumcision, though they had issues with some of the ceremonial elements associated with it. The major issue was female circumcision (also known today as female genital mutilation). Missionaries were totally against this practice, and this brought conflict among African society and missionaries.
  • Tobacco use. Missionaries insisted that believers’ bodies are the temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:19), and tobacco can be harmful to the body, causing many diseases.
  • Traditional religions. Most African tribes worshiped their ancestors. Each tribe believed in some gods that they obeyed and worshiped for blessings, preventing diseases, bringing victory in war, blessings of rain, etc. They respected their priests who lead them in traditional worship. For missionaries to change this practice and belief was a big challenge that required tolerance.

Achievements in the Lake Victoria Region

Despite the challenges and hard times missionaries faced in Tanganyika, and regardless of some critical times they faced with the Africans, there were great achievements by the missionaries in Tanganyika as well as in the Lake Victoria region.

They established 17 missions and 58 schools from 1903–1917, as follows:

Pare zone: Four missions—Giti mission, Kihurio mission, Suji mission, and Vunta mission—with 26 schools.

Majita zone: Four missions-–Bwasi mission, Iramba mission, Nyabange mission, and Shirati mission—with 10 schools.

Busegwe zone: Five missions-–Busegwe mission, Ikizu mission, Utimbaru mission, Sizaki mission, and Butiama mission—with 16 schools.

Sukuma zone: Four missions–-Bupandagila mission, Itilima mission, Kanadi mission, and Mwagala mission—with six schools. Before World War 1 there were 5,000 students in those schools.19

Another achievement was the growth of church membership. Filipo Kayanda and Yohana Mtarimbo were baptized December 2, 1911, as the first fruits of the work in the Mara region. As of December 31, 2019, Mara Conference has 493 organized Churches and 267 companies, with 184,634 members served by 85 pastors (47 ordained ministers, 38 licensed ministers) in 74 pastoral districts. The conference operates six Secondary Schools, two Primary schools, four Dispensaries and one Hope Media House.20

Institutions

The conference operates six secondary Schools, and two primary English medium schools:

Ikizu Adventist High School, located in the Ikizu area in Butiama district, Mara region. The school serves 514 students managed by 36 employees. Academically, it is ranked the first of 19 in the district, the eighth of 182 regionally, and 251st of 3,956 nation-wide.21

Busegwe Girls Adventist High School, located in Busegwe village, Butiama district, Mara region. This school serves 175 students managed by 15 employees. Academically, it was the second of 24 in the district; the 16th of 182 regionally, and 415th of 3,956 nation-wide.22

Bwasi Adventist Secondary School, located in Bwasi (Majita) area in Musoma rural district. The school serves 237 students, managed by 22 employees. Academically it is excellent, as evidenced by being the first of 21 in its district; the second of 17 regionally; and 23 of 986 nationwide.23

Nyansincha Adventist Secondary School, located in Nyansincha area in Tarime district. The school serves 193 students managed by 15 employees. Academically it is doing well, as evidenced by being the first of 36 in its district; 10th of 182 regionally; and the 287th of 3,956 nation-wide.24

Nyabehore Adventist Secondary School, located in Ngoreme area in Serengeti district. The school serves 277 students managed by 22 employees. Academically, the School is doing well by being the second of 36 in its district; the 9th of 182 regionally; and 281 of 3,956 nation-wide.25

Kameya Adventist Secondary School, located in Kameya area in Ukerewe Island district. The school serves 262 students, managed by 15 employees. The School is doing well academically by being the second of 25, district-wise; the 32nd of 242 regionally; and 391 of 3,956 nation-wide.26

Murderspach Memorial Adventist Primary School, located in Kibumayi area in Tarime district. The school serves 493 pupils managed by 16 employees. Academically, the school is second of 28 in its district; 17 of 663 regionally; and 493 of 10, 659 nation-wide.27

Hope International School, located in Bunere area in Bunda district. The school serves 93 pupils, managed by 9 employees. The school is fourth of 22 in its district; 30th of 163 in its region; and 480 of 6,641 nation-wide.28

Four dispensaries provide Adventist medical services: Kamunyonge Seventh-day Adventist Dispensary, located in Musoma Municipality, Mara region, Tanzania; Bukwe Seventh-day Adventist Dispensary, located in Rorya District, Mara region, Tanzania; Tarime Seventh-day Adventist Dispensary, located in Tarime District, Mara region, Tanzania; Nansio Seventh-day Adventist Dispensary, located in Nansio area in Ukerewe Island District, Mwanza Municipality.29

The conference operates one Hope Media that serves as the center of recording, and broadcasting good news of the everlasting gospel within the conference and nation–wide.

List of Presidents

Central Nyanza Field/East Nyanza Field: Simon D. Otieno (1960-1964), A.L. Davy (1960-1964); Y. Lusingu (1965-1966), E. Wanjara (1966-1968), E. Wanjara, Central Nyanza (1968-1974); Arthur I. Davy, East Nyanza Field (1968-1970); Z. Bina, East Nyanza (1970-1974); Z. Bina, Central Nyanza (1975-1977), M. Rutoryo, East Nyanza (1975-1977).

Mara Field and Mara-Kagera Field: H. Kija Mashigan (1978-1984); T. Chacha (1985-1987).

Mara-Kagera Conference and Mara Conference: Lameck Mwamukonda (1988-1991); Lameck Chacha (1992); Joshua Kajula (1993-1996), David W. Kihogo (1997-2000), Caleb Migombo (2001), James Machage (2002-2010), Daud Makoye (2011-2015), George Ojwang Ezekiel (2016-).

Sources

2020 Annual Statistical Report: vol 2. Silver Spring, MD: Office of Archives, Statistics and Research, 2020.

Abraham C. Enns, “German East Africa,” ARH, June 29, 1911.

Busegwe Girls’ School Board Secretariat, 2020 Board Minutes, Busegwe Girls’ School archives, Mara, Tanzania.

Bwasi Adventist Secondary school Board Secretariat, 2020 Board Minutes, Bwasi Secondary School archives, Mara, Tanzania.

“Development of Seventh-day Adventist Work.” African Seventh-day Adventist History. Accessed March 10, 2020. https://www.africansdahistory.org/tanzania/.

Hoeschele, Stefan. Centennial Album of the Seventh-Day Adventist church in Tanzania. Arusha, TZ: Tanzania Union of Seventh-day Adventists, 2003.

Hoeschele, Stefan. Christian Remnant, African Folk Church. Leiden, the Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill NV, 2007.

Hope International Adventist School committee Secretariat, 2020 Committee Minutes, Hope International Adv. School archives, Mara, Tanzania.

Ikizu High School Board Secretariat, 2020 Board Minutes, Ikizu High School archives, Mara, Tanzania.

Kameya Adventist Sec. School Board Secretariat, 2020 Board Minutes, Kameya Adventist Secondary School archives, Mara, Tanzania.

Kangalu B. Elineema, Historia ya waadventista wa Sabato nchini Tanzania 1903-2014 (Dar es Salaam, Tanazania: NEEC General Traders, 2015).

Minutes of the Year-End meeting of the Majita-Ukerewe Field, held at Bwasi, Dec. 6-9,1967.

Muderspach Memorial Adventist School committee Secretariat, 2020 Committee Minutes, Muderspach Memorial Adv. School archives, Mara, Tanzania

Nimrod Masoma Lugoe, Historia ya Kanisa la waadventista wasabato katika mkoa wa Mara, 1909 – 2000.

Nyabehore Adventist Secondary School Board Secretariat, 2020 Board Minutes, Nyabehore Adv. Sec. School archives, Mara, Tanzania.

Nyansincha Adventist Secondary school Board Secretariat, 2020 Board Minutes, Nyansincha Adv. Sec. School archives, Mara, Tanzania.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, various years, http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Yearbooks/Forms/AllItems.aspx.

Notes

  1. “Mara Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (2021), https://www.adventistyearbook.org/entity?EntityID=13664.

  2. Minutes of Majita-Ukerewe Field Committee, held at Bwasi, Nov. 1, 1960, Majita mission church history action 19/60, Mara Conference archives.

  3. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1961).

  4. Minutes of the Year-End Meeting of the Majita-Ukerewe Field, held at Bwasi, Dec. 6-9, 1967. Change of name of Majita – Ukerewe field, action no. 298/110/67 T.U.

  5. "Development of Seventh-day Adventist Work," accessed March 31, 2021, https://www.africansdahistory.org/tanzania/

  6. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1978).

  7. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1983).

  8. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1988).

  9. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1991).

  10. Stefan Hoeschele, Christian Remnant, African Folk Church (Leiden, the Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill NV, 2007), 114.

  11. Kangalu B. Elineema, Historia ya waadventista wa Sabato nchini Tanzania (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: NEEC General Traders, 2015), 11.

  12. Ibid.

  13. Nimrod Masoma Lugoe, Historia ya Kanisa la waadventista wasabato katika mkoa wa Mara, 1909–2000.

  14. Elineema, 13.

  15. “Development of Seventh-day Adventist Work,” African Seventh-day Adventist History, accessed March 10, 2020, https://www.africansdahistory.org/tanzania/.

  16. Ibid.

  17. Abraham C. Enns, “German East Africa,” ARH, June 29, 1911, 12.

  18. Elineema, 15.

  19. Ibid., 128.

  20. Stefan Hoeschele, Centennial Album of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Tanzania (Arusha, Tanzania: Tanzania union of Seventh-day Adventists, 2003), 13.

  21. Ikizu High School Board Secretariat, 2020 Board Minutes, Ikizu High School archives, Mara, Tanzania.

  22. Busegwe Girls’ School Board Secretariat, 2020 Board Minutes, Busegwe Girls’ School archives, Mara, Tanzania.

  23. Bwasi Adventist Secondary school Board Secretariat, 2020 Board Minutes, Bwasi Secondary School archives, Mara, Tanzania.

  24. Nyansincha Adventist Secondary School Board Secretariat, 2020 Board Minutes, Nyansincha Adventist Secondary School archives, Mara, Tanzania.

  25. Nyabehore Adventist Secondary School Board Secretariat, 2020 Board Minutes, Nyabehore Adventist Secondary School archives, Mara, Tanzania.

  26. Kameya Adventist Secondary School Board Secretariat, 2020 Board Minutes, Kameya Adventist Secondary School archives, Mara, Tanzania.

  27. Muderspach Memorial Adventist School committee Secretariat, 2020 Committee Minutes, Muderspach Memorial Adv. School archives, Mara, Tanzania.

  28. Hope International Adventist School committee Secretariat, 2020 Committee Minutes, Hope International Adventist School archives, Mara, Tanzania.

  29. Personal knowledge of the author as secretary of Mara Conference.

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Biha, Benjamin Ngalama. "Mara Conference." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. May 11, 2021. Accessed October 16, 2021. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=BFDY.

Biha, Benjamin Ngalama. "Mara Conference." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. May 11, 2021. Date of access October 16, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=BFDY.

Biha, Benjamin Ngalama (2021, May 11). Mara Conference. Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved October 16, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=BFDY.