For one hundred and sixty-four years the Society of African Missions (SMA) has been sending missionaries to Africa.
When a new missionary arrives at his/her new mission, they have some time to learn about the place, the people, and the culture of their new home.
Last January the SMA American Province sent two new Lay missionaries to Tanzania. The coronavirus pandemic has made their adaptation period difficult.
Miss Mikki Kente, one of these missionaries, shares part of her experience:
“When the pandemic began, I was at language school learning Kiswahili,” she wrote. “Fortunately for me, I was in a place called Mipa which had wide open space. We washed our hands more often. We were encouraged to stay at the SMA property, so we did not wear masks. Since all the people on the SMA property had been together prior to Covid-19 we did not change our behavior after the outbreak. Then it was announced that all the schools would be closed. I took this time as a personal growth period and the opportunity to attend Mass every day in the SMA chapel.”
The Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (the African CDC) last reported 2,026,841 Covid-19 cases, and 48,681Covid-19 related deaths. The last official report from Tanzania, from April 2020, stated there were 509 Covid-19 cases and only 21 related deaths.
Abdi Latif Dahir, New York Times journalist wrote: “Tanzania’s president, John Magufuli, has declared the scourge of coronavirus ‘absolutely finished’ and encouraged tourists to come back. In May, the United States Embassy also warned of an ‘exponential growth’ of infection in Tanzania. The risk of contracting the virus in the commercial port city of Dar es Salaam was ‘extremely high.’” (New York Times: Tanzania’s President Says Country Is Virus Free. Others Warn of Disaster; by Abdi Latif Dahir, Aug. 4, 2020)
SMA missionary, Mikki said: “None of the churches in Tanzania closed, because the president of Tanzania said Satan cannot hide in the body of Christ. He encouraged church attendance. The bishops, however, suggested that the children stay home. Church attendance has dropped dramatically since the outbreak of the pandemic.”
Our SMA missionaries in Mwanza have been giving away masks to help people cover their noses and mouths, keeping a distance of 6 feet from each other, and washing their hands with soap.
After six months, Mikki was assigned to the mission of Bugisi parish, in Shynianga city, in the north central region of Tanzania.
“After Mipa, I was transferred to Bugisi to start my life in mission. I was given a face mask to wear when I went into any public spaces. In the beginning of June, the president started to open the schools slowly, starting with the colleges, universities, and high schools, while the primary and secondary schools remained closed. At the beginning of July, the schools opened for the rest of the students. During this time, the president announced that Tanzania was Covid-19 free.
For the most part Tanzania has gone back to the way it was pre-Covid-19. A few locations still require face masks and handwashing.
During the height of Covid-19 in Tanzania the president only closed the borders to people coming in. The day to day activity did not change that much within Tanzania.
If the president would have chosen to close Tanzania with mandatory stay at home orders, the entire country would have gone into a panic. It would have been difficult for the people to survive otherwise. The country of Tanzania never shut down, but we were encouraged to practice social distancing, wear our facemasks, and wash our hands before entering establishments. We continue to follow these rules until further notice.
Now, I am spending time helping the sisters of Our Lady of Apostles at the Bugisi Vocational Training Center (BVTC). My days are filled with continuing to sharpen my language skill set, learning about the different trades the school offers, and helping out in the office with various administrative tasks.”