Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Tumshukuru Mungu!



Tumshukuru Mungu—We thank God—is a phrase we often hear in Tanzania. Tanzanians don’t celebrate Thanksgiving as a once-a-year national holiday, yet, in their everyday lives, they often express gratitude to God for their blessings. Nearly every church will have a special Sunday for Thanksgiving, usually around the time of the corn harvest in October. Also, people who want to show their gratitude to God for a special blessing, such as recovery from an illness, will often make a special offering. They will come to the front of the church to present their gifts, receive a special blessing and perhaps give a testimony of God’s goodness in their lives.

Recently Deborah was visiting Sumbawanga, the headquarters of Lake Tanganyika Diocese, one of the newest dioceses in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania. When it came time for the offering, people came singing and dancing up to the front to place their offering in a wooden box. The photo above is of the box labeled, Shukurani—Thanksgiving Offerings. There are other boxes for different kinds of offerings, such as tithes and pledges.

As is often the case in Tanzania, people also brought up sacks of corn, watermelons, eggs, and even two live chickens. The women of the church had baked about a dozen loaves of bread. Some people brought handcrafts they had made themselves. These items were auctioned off after the service and the sale price was added to the offering. In this way, people with little cash on hand could still contribute to the work of the church. Church in the U.S. might be a little more interesting if we had this custom!



As we approach Thanksgiving, we are especially thankful for visits from folks from the U.S., including a group from ELCA Mission Advancement in Chicago who came to visit projects and missionaries sponsored by the ELCA and to make some videos of mission work in Tanzania. We are also thankful for safe travels around Tanzania, a trip to Nairobi to visit the Kenya Evangelical Lutheran Church, and a safe journey to South Sudan, for the dedication of the new Lutheran Center in Juba. We are especially thankful for our wonderful supporters in the U.S., many of whom we got to visit this past summer.

Whatever you are thankful for, we pray that you will have a blessed Thanksgiving. Remember, Tumshukuru Mungu!

Top Photo: Offering box at church in Sumbawanga, Tanzania labeled Shukurani (Thanksgiving in Swahili).

Middle Photo: Offering boxes at church in Sumbawanga, Tanzania labeled Fungu La 10 (tithes) and Ahadi (pledges).

Joe and Deborah are missionaries living in Arusha, Tanzania, where they are the East Africa Regional Representatives for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and work in Tanzania, Kenya, South Sudan, and Uganda. Their daughter, Christa, is a sophomore at the University of Southern California this fall.

Joe and Deborah can be contacted at Joe.Troester@elca.org and Deborah.Troester@elca.org

Monday, June 5, 2017

Troesters to Visit Supporting Congregations in the U.S. in Summer 2017


This summer we plan to visit congregations and other community gatherings to give a presentation on our work for the ELCA in East Africa. We will concentrate our visits on our supporting congregations in Illinois, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Our itinerary is below; however, there are still a few events pending. We are greatly looking forward to meeting new people and greeting old friends.

Thank you for your prayers and support.

Joe and Deborah Troester
East Africa Regional Representatives for the ELCA
P.O. Box 1770, Arusha, Tanzania 

Troester Itinerary

·         July 9: Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jonesboro, Illinois
·         July 16: Christ Community Church in Columbia, Illinois
·         July 20: Supper Club at First Presbyterian Church in Carbondale, Illinois
·         July 24 to 28: Summer Missionary Conference near Chicago, Illinois
·         July 29 and 30: Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania
·         July 30: Trindle Spring Lutheran Church in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania
·         August 1: St Peter's Lutheran Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania
·         August 2: Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Pearl River, New York
·         August 5 and 6: St John Evangelical Lutheran Church in Oak Harbor, Ohio
·         August 20: Epiphany Lutheran Church in Carbondale, Illinois
·         August 27: First Presbyterian Church in Carbondale, Illinois
Other events pending

Photo Caption: Map showing the states we will be visiting this summer: Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York

Joe and Deborah are missionaries living in Arusha, Tanzania, where they are the East Africa Regional Representatives for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and work in Tanzania, Kenya, South Sudan, and Uganda. Their daughter, Christa, will be a sophomore at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts this fall. 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Happy Mother’s Day from Tanzania


Happy Mother’s Day to all our friends and supporters, especially those of you who are moms. Here in Tanzania Mother’s Day is not as big a day as it is in the U.S., but people here do honor their mothers in many ways. Often a mom is referred to using the name of her first-born child. For example, I might be called “Mama Christa,” since our daughter’s name is Christa. 

Mothers in Tanzania and throughout Africa are often expected to do the main tasks of childrearing—not only cooking and cleaning, but also providing much of the food for the household and paying for school fees. This is especially true in the case of widows or those who may have been abandoned by their husbands.

When our colleague ELCA missionary Bethany Friberg arrived in Tanzania over twenty years ago, she noticed that many women struggled to put food on the table and often the family didn’t have money to educate their children. Bethany and her husband, Dr. Mark Friberg, live out in Maasailand near the border with Kenya, where Mark serves in Lutheran health clinics ministering to the Maasai.

Bethany admired the beautiful traditional beadwork that the Maasai women make. These items are often sold to tourists, so she had the idea of forming a women’s cooperative to make and sell beadwork. Twenty years later, some thirty women are working together in the Naapok Bead Project. Between them all, they have sent over fifty of their children to school, some of whom have even graduated from university, a goal that in the past only seemed a distant dream. They earned money to buy goats, seeds for gardens, and other agricultural projects that have enriched their families’ diets.


Recently, Joe and I attended the dedication of Naapok’s new center, where they now have a cement building where they can meet to work together and can safely store their bead-making materials. They also built an outdoor shelter, suitable for holding meetings or church services, and even constructed restrooms with flush toilets—a real luxury in the Tanzania bush! The women served us a delicious lunch of beef, goat, vegetables, and rice—typical for this part of the world.

We are happy that as the ELCA East Africa Regional Representatives we can encourage Bethany and Mark in their work.

Top Photo: Bethany Friberg and members of the Naapok beading group. Our ELCA Land Cruiser is in the background.

Second Photo: Joe and Deborah receive beaded key chains as gifts from a member of the Naapok women’s cooperative.

Joe and Deborah are missionaries living in Arusha, Tanzania, where they are the East Africa Regional Representatives for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and work in Tanzania, Kenya, South Sudan, and Uganda. Their daughter, Christa, will be a sophomore at the University of Southern California this fall.

Monday, July 25, 2016



‘I grew up in this church’:

A video story of faith formation in Tanzania


The Living Lutheran just published a video story of Rahel Mwitula-Williams, a third-generation Lutheran Rahel tells about growing up in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania. Her faith was shaped in part by her grandfather, who was one of the first local missionaries in Tanzania, trained by Lutheran missionaries. Rahel now works as a manager for global relations for the ELCA. You can watch the complete video by clicking on this link.

Photo: Half-way through the video is the above photo, which Joe took of a procession of bishops at Bishop Ambele Mwaipopo's installation service in Sumbawanga, Tanzania, in September, 2014.


Joe and Deborah are missionaries living in Arusha, Tanzania, where they are the East Africa Regional Representatives for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and work in Tanzania, Kenya, South Sudan, and Uganda. Their daughter, Christa, will be a freshman at the University of Southern California this fall.

Friday, April 1, 2016

World Water Day 2016: Water in Mlenga, Tanzania


March 22 was World Water Day. About one out of ten people in the world still lacks access to an improved water source. However, we are rejoicing that the people of Mlenga, Tanzania, are no longer among them! Thanks to a cooperative effort between the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania, St. Peter’s Blackberry Lutheran Church in cooperation with the Northwestern Ohio Synod, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s World Hunger Fund there is now a fully-functioning well with solar pump and 15,000 liter (4,000 gallon) concrete storage tank, which provides plenty of clean water to this rural community in the Dodoma Diocese of central Tanzania. The region around Mlenga is very dry and lacks reliable sources of drinking water. Prior to the completion of this project, people had to walk 3 miles each way to fetch water using donkeys. The project was managed by Naftal Mandi and Stuart Smith of Ground+Water Tanzania.

This project was dedicated last month. Bishop Marcus Lohrmann of the Northwestern Ohio Synod of the ELCA and his wife Heidi were in attendance. We lift up this project as an example of what can be done when people from different places and backgrounds come together to find solutions to water problems.

Photo Caption: Hudson Kiwia and others filling plastic jerry cans with clean water at the newly completed well in Mlenga, Tanzania. In the background there is a house for the well attendant with a control room and business office. The edge of the solar panel array (twelve 250-watt panels) can be seen on top of the building.

Joe and Deborah are missionaries in Arusha, Tanzania, where they are the East Africa Regional Representatives for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and work in Tanzania, Kenya, South Sudan, and Uganda. Their daughter, Christa, is in Tanzania with them taking a gap year between high school and university.


Saturday, September 5, 2015

Troester Home Assignment Report—2015

We have returned to Africa from an enjoyable but exhausting two month tour of the United States. We traveled over 8000 miles in the U.S. by car, train, and plane and were able to visit our friends, relatives, and supporters in Illinois, Minnesota, North Dakota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. We sincerely regret that time did not allow us to visit our friends and supporting churches in Florida and Puerto Rico.

During July and August, we had 15 separate engagements, including visiting 11 different congregations plus attending the ELCA-GM Summer Mission Conference and a Global Mission Gathering in the Upper Susquehanna Synod. The response to our presentations was positive and enthusiastic. We were even written up in our hometown newspaper, The Southern Illinoisan.

The only event that marred our visit was the death of our dear friend and long-time supporter, Rev. Martha McCracken, of Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania. When she was pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Martha was the person responsible for connecting us with Global Mission. We had planned a visit with her in Jersey Shore, but sadly she was already hospitalized in serious condition at that time. She passed away on August 31, 2015. She will be greatly missed by all who knew her.

Now we are back in Arusha, Tanzania and have returned to our duties as the ELCA Regional Representatives in East Africa (Tanzania, Kenya, South Sudan, and Uganda). After visiting a few more university campuses, our daughter Christa will be spending a gap year with us between high school and university.

We want to thank all of the people that helped us with our travels, by providing delicious homemade specialties, giving us a comfortable place to sleep, and patiently listening to our stories and presentations. We made many new friends and renewed many old acquaintances. We look forward to seeing you all again the next time we return to the States. Below is a detailed list of all our engagements. A copy of our PowerPoint presentation is available upon request.

Thank you for your prayers and support.

Joe and Deborah Troester
East Africa Regional Representatives for the ELCA
P.O. Box 1770, Arusha, Tanzania

List of presentations during our 2015 Home Assignment.

·         July 12, Sunday morning: Deborah preached at Christ Community Church in Columbia, Illinois and we gave a presentation afterwards.
·         July 16: We gave our presentation at Giant City State Park for the Supper Club of First Presbyterian Church in Carbondale, Illinois.
·         July 19 to 24: We attended the ELCA-GM Summer Mission Conference at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois.
·         July 25: We gave our presentation for the Meru Committee of the Greater Milwaukee Synod, in Shorewood, Wisconsin.
·         July 26: Sunday morning: Deborah preached at Resurrection Lutheran Church in New Berlin, Wisconsin and we gave a presentation afterwards.
·         July 27: We met with Rev. Doug Cox, Rev. Tim Iverson, and Scott Lien of Global Health Ministries in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
·         July 29: We gave a presentation at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Rolla, North Dakota.
·         August 2, Sunday morning: Deborah preached at Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jonesboro, Illinois and we gave a presentation afterwards.
·         August 2, Sunday evening: We gave a presentation at Epiphany Lutheran Church in Carbondale, Illinois.
·         August 8, Saturday evening: Deborah preached at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.
·         August 9, Sunday morning: Deborah preached four times at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania and we gave a presentation afterwards.
·         August 16, Sunday morning: Deborah preached at Zion Lutheran Church in Penn Hills, Pennsylvania and we gave a presentation afterwards.
·         August 16, Sunday evening: We gave a presentation at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Poland, Ohio. We spent the rest of the evening and next morning with Stu Smith, a hydrogeologist that I have worked with in both the Dodoma Diocese and the Meru Diocese in Tanzania.
·         August 17: We gave a presentation at St John Evangelical Lutheran Church in Oak Harbor, Ohio. Our presentation was attended by Bishop Lohrmann, Northwestern Ohio Synod.
·         August 22: We gave a presentation at a Global Mission Gathering for the Upper Susquehanna Synod at Christ Lutheran Church in Milton, Pennsylvania.
·         August 23, Sunday morning: We gave a presentation and Deborah preached at St. Michael Lutheran Church in Cogan Station, Pennsylvania.

Photo Caption: Epiphany Lutheran, in Carbondale, Illinois, welcomed us home with this cake.

Joe and Deborah are missionaries in Arusha, Tanzania, where they are the East Africa Regional Representatives for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and work in Tanzania, Kenya, South Sudan, and Uganda. Their daughter, Christa, is taking a gap year with us in Tanzania between high school and university.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Troesters to visit supporters in the U.S. in summer 2015

This summer we will be visiting our supporters in July and August. We plan to visit congregations and other community gatherings to give a presentation on our work for the ELCA in East Africa. Our exact itinerary has not been set, but we will try to visit as many of our supporters as possible. Our supporting congregations are scattered across much of the United States in Florida, Illinois, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Dakota, and Texas. If you would like for us to visit your town, please send us an e-mail at Joe.Troester@ELCA.org. Feel free to forward our blog to others who might be interested as well. Please contact us as soon as possible, because dates (especially Sundays) are limited.

Thank you for your prayers and support.

Joe and Deborah Troester
East Africa Regional Representatives for the ELCA
P.O. Box 1770, Arusha, Tanzania

Photo Caption: Outline map of the United States showing States with our supporting congregations.

Joe and Deborah are ELCA missionaries in Arusha, Tanzania, where they are the East Africa Regional Representatives for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Their daughter, Christa, is a senior at Rain Forest International School in Yaoundé, Cameroon.