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.

Monday, December 29, 2014

What Do ELCA Regional Representatives Do?


Below is a list of a few of our highlights from 2014:
  • Mid-January–Mid-March: Swahili Language Training in Morogoro, Tanzania (see photo above).
  • April: Deborah visited Madagascar with Dr. Mary Marete of ELCA World Hunger to evaluate ELCA-sponsored agricultural projects and theological schools.
  • May: Joe traveled to Uganda to visit the Adjumani Refugee Camp, which is run by Lutheran World Relief for refugees from South Sudan. In addition, he visited the ELCA-sponsored malaria project in Uganda. We represented ELCA at Lutheran World Relief meetings in Nairobi, focusing on helping refugees in South Sudan and Kenya.
  • June: We organized the visit of ELCA East and Southern Africa Area Program Director Rev. Benyam Kassahun to meet ELCA personnel here.
  • August: Elizabeth Hendrickson, a new ELCA missionary arrived in Nairobi. We helped provide her some orientation to East Africa; Deborah represented ELCA at Lutheran Communion of Central and East Africa meeting in Nairobi.

  • September: Attended the dedication of the ELCT’s newest diocese: Lake Tanganyika, and the consecration of its first bishop, (see photo above); visit to the Iringa Diocese, including Bega Kwa Bega and Iringa University.
  • October: Hosted ELCA Global Campaign visit to Tanzania; attended partner meetings in Kenya (JMCK) and Tanzania (LMC Roundtable); attended Pare Diocese’s 100th Anniversary; Visited ELCA volunteer teachers Rev. Mary Jo Maass and Michelle Mercado.

  • November: Joe assisted with the installation of a new well in Mlenga Parish in Dodoma Diocese; Deborah visited Mwangaza Education Project with Rebecca Duerst of World Hunger. Thanksgiving with East Africa personnel (see above photo).
  • December: Joe visited water projects near Iringa with Water to Thrive and St Paul Partners.

Thank you for your prayers and support all year long!

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

Photo Captions
  1. Joe drinks coffee and enjoys a break from his Swahili studies at the Morogoro Junior Seminary. A big “Asante!” (Thank you!) to all our teachers there!:
  2. Faustina Nillan, head of the national women’s program of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, and Deborah at the dedication of the new Lake Tanganyika Diocese.
  3. Joe (in blue shirt), together with colleagues Stu Smith of Ohio and Naftal Mandi of Tanzania, prepare a pump test for a new well in Mlenga Parish of Dodoma Diocese.

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.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas Greetings from Tanzania!


Christmas greetings from warm and sunny Arusha, Tanzania! After completing our service in the Central African Republic (CAR) in 2013, we received a new call as ELCA’s East Africa Regional Representatives, based in Arusha. While both Tanzania and CAR are in Africa, there are some differences: Tanzania has a population of 49 million, while CAR has only 4 million. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania has over 6 million members, bigger than the ELCA! It’s wonderful to see how God is working in Tanzania. The ELCT is one of the fastest growing Lutheran churches in the world! Our job as ELCA East Africa Regional Representatives involves developing relationships with both the Tanzanian and Kenyan Evangelical Lutheran Churches, relationships with their companion ELCA synods, representing the ELCA at regional meetings and events, and supporting our ELCA missionaries and volunteers in whatever ways we can.

There are currently 25 ELCA personnel serving in East Africa: 14 full-time missionaries and 11 volunteers. That’s not including the nine missionary kids living here in East Africa, ranging in age from 2 to 21! Our daughter Christa (age 18) is one of these. She is completing her senior year of high school at Rainforest International School in Yaoundé, Cameroon. Next year she hopes to join us here in Tanzania for a “gap year” before heading off to the U.S. for university.

Thank you for your prayers and support. They mean a lot to us. We wish you a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and many blessings in 2015!

Prayer requests

  •  For a peaceful election year in Tanzania: 2015 will see a Constitutional Referendum in April and Presidential and Parliamentary elections in October.
  • For an end to violence and terrorist attacks in Kenya so that our missionaries and church partners there may do their work in safety and all may live in peace.
  • For peaceful relations between Christians and Muslims in East Africa and throughout the world.
  •  For safe travels during Christmas/New Year’s vacation for our daughter Christa and for many of our ELCA colleagues who are traveling.
  • Praise and thanks for God’s blessings in 2014!


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

Photo Credit: Deborah, Joe, and Christa visiting some friendly horses near Arusha, Tanzania

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.