John T. Willis

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Two summers ago [in 2007], my friend, Dan McVey, and I spent two and a half weeks in Tanzania, visiting and encouraging some of our missionaries: Fieldin Allison and his family, Tim Talley and his family, Travis and his family, and their associates. We are shamed by the people of this country, because many of them know the national language Swahili, English, and their own separate dialects [there are approximately 200 dialects in this region]. The religion of Tanzania is 98% Muslim. Like we Western people inherited some type of Christian background or perhaps Jewish background, peoples in this part of the world inherited Islamic or Muslim traditions and cultures and beliefs. As the world continues to get smaller and smaller, we are going to have to face these different religions and cultures and backgrounds and beliefs, and learn to negotiate, interreact, and appreciate and "sharpen" each other ideas. We are striving to prepare our missionaries to be on the very front of this interaction situation. Of course, our missionaries learned Swahili before they got onto the field, and now they are "sharpening" the language and the culture. This is so imperative. This is very slow work, but very rewarding.

One of our highlights is spending several days on the island of Zanzibar, which is now officially part of Tanzania. Zanzibar is approximately 25 miles in the Indian Ocean east of Tanzania. Initially, we landed at Dar es Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania [several million people, very modern]. The capital of Tanzania is Dodoma. We did not have the opportunity to go there. We traveled several hundred miles north, then south of Dar es Salaam, visiting missionaries and many local people. Then, at some point, we got on a "ferry" at Dar es Salaam, and travled in the ocean for approxiately two and a half hours to Zanzibar.

The people of Tanzania and Zanzibar are very cordial, welcoming people. We always felt much at home. As in many African countries, typically the towns and cities are unkept and often filthy, but the restaurants and motels and houses inside are well kept and very nice. We enjoyed walking along the shores of the Indian Ocean, eating fresh fish well cooked with a good meal. We had some great visits. We same some historical sites. This was all good, and helped us learn to understand and appreciate the people, the culture, and the surroundings.

One of our highlights was spending time at the spice farms. Guides showed us the various plants, how they were prepared, and how they were distributed throughout the world. This is a huge exporting region of the world. Some of their well-known products worldwide are cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, and pepper. But there are many other wonderful products as well. They also offer a great variety of coffees and teas. We brought samples of this back home.

As I was growing up as a child, the movie publishers produced a series of "Road" movies with Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Dorothy Lamour. One of these was: "The Road to Zanzibar." At my early age, I imagined that "Zanzibar" was a "far away" "unrealistic" fairy tale land. NOT SO!!! Zanzibar is "on the map." The people there are real. They are a very productive, hard working people. They treated us very well. I hope you will be able to go there some day yourself.

The Bible does not refer to "Zanzibar." BUT, the Bible teaches that God created EVERY HUMAN BEING of every nation in the image of God. The people of Tanzania and Zanzibar are created in the image of God. Therefore, they, like all people, are people of dignity. God loves and cares for them, just like us. I hope some of our students will attain a heart for Tanzania and Zanzibar. They need us, and we need them.

What are YOUR thoughts? Share your ideas with your church, your community, your nation, your friends. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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