Traveling to Tanzania

Njombe is a district in Tanzania that is not well-known to much of the population here in the United States. Njombe has an estimated population of 85,747 according to the National Bureau of Statistics Tanzania website. For the next three weeks, the population of Njombe will grow by 12.

Trinity Lutheran Church in Webster City will be sending five individuals to Tanzania to work with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania. Those five individuals will be part of a 12-person team consisting of people from Spencer, Cherokee, Fort Dodge, and Algona. They will be guided through parts of Tanzania by the program director of the ELCT Gabriel Nduye.

The Western Iowa Synod, which Trinity Lutheran Church is included in, has a companion synod relationship with the Southern Diocese of the Lutheran Church in Tanzania. They will be headed to Njombe, where the Southern Diocese headquarters are located. The relationship between the synod and Southern Diocese is nearly 15 years old.

“In that time we’ve created ministries that we share with them. We help support them and provide some financial support and some expertise. We walk with them as they do these projects on the ground,” said Trinity Lutheran Church Pastor Mike Kroona.

“We worked with them to start a girls’ school that we’ll be visiting,” said Mike Kroona. “There’s a well project to drill well water for villages in the Diocese. There’s a place called the Center for Agricultural Development. We support a hospital. We’ll be spending time exploring and working in all these different areas.”

Kroona, his wife, Shelby Kroona, Alex Hooker, 15, Isabelle Hooker, 15, and Kamren Neddermeyer, 14, will be traveling for over two days to reach their destination.

Preparations for this trip began in January. Team members fundraised by selling cookies, receiving donations, and getting support from family members and the Trinity Lutheran Church congregation. They were able to raise over $12,000.

“Our hosts from Tanzania came down to talk with us, so we got to meet them and they kind of told us what we would be experiencing,” said Isabelle Hooker.

The team will be flying into Dar es Salaam and make the long trek to their final destination of Njombe. They leave Thursday morning and are expected to return Friday, August 12.

“It’s a very long trip. We leave at 11 a.m. Thursday morning. We land in Tanzania at 10 p.m. Friday evening and then it’s a 13-hour bus ride to Njombe,” said Shelby Kroona. “It’s a long journey.”

“I decided to go because it seemed like a good experience and we would learn a lot from it,” said Isabelle Hooker.

Mike Kroona noted many differences in culture that may contribute to opening the eyes of team members, including worship styles.

“It’s a different culture and to recognize while we worship the same God, how we do it may be different,” said Mike Kroona.

“I thought this would be a good opportunity to experience another culture and see how they worship and do things there,” said Alex Hooker.

“I’ve always been interested in other cultures and I thought it would be a pretty cool way to grow in faith and get to learn a lot,” said Kamren Neddermeyer.

Mike Kroona noted the special relationships used to make the partnership between the Synod and Diocese.

“You join them and you walk with them and you work with them and you learn with them,” said Mike Kroona. “You set up relationships and you learn from them what they want and they think they need. That’s how the girls’ center came about. That’s how the CAD came about.”

“Tanzania is a third-world country. The average income of an average family is $350 American dollars a year,” said Shelby Kroona. “So by using this model, through our partnership, we know that if a well is brought to the community, it will free up time for women and young girls to go to school.”

“We know that once you start educating and providing safe, clean water, villages and communities are able to thrive and have some economic change and grow from that,” said Shelby Kroona.

Shelby Kroona, who is the Hamilton County Public Health Administrator, is most excited about visiting the medical facilities in Tanzania.

“One of the things that I’m looking forward to is that I’m going to be meeting with the head doctor at the hospital,” said Shelby Kroona, “They are in need of some equipment so when we get back, the churches in Western Iowa hopefully will be able to get together and furnish an ultrasound machine for the hospital or whatever else they may need.”

The team will be bringing toys, toothbrushes, socks, and undergarments for children in local orphanages.

Towards the end of the trip, the group will be treated to a wildlife safari ini Ruaha National Park.

Mike Kroona said the group is hoping to do a couple updates a week with photos and text via Facebook. To check out what the group is up to, visit the Facebook page WIS Tanzania Youth Trip 2016.

“We’re hoping to have better connectivity so we can share what we are up to,” said Mike Kroona.

“I think the whole trip is just going to be an awesome experience. I’m excited for it,” said Neddermeyer.

Mike Kroona thanked the congregation and community for their support as the team gets ready to take off and asks for prayers as they travel and experience the mission field.

“Pray for us because it is a crazy world out there,” said Mike Kroona.