June 3, 2021

Partnership three decades later

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Joe and Yvonne’s family picture in Shirati 1990. Photos provided by the authors. Joe and Yvonne’s family picture in Shirati 1990. Photos provided by the authors.

The transfer of leadership is a work of God’s grace that holds its unique challenges. It was 1988 that we left for a three-year term to a place in Tanzania that the Tanzanian Mennonite Church (KMT) had invited us to serve. After completing language school, Joe was given the task of teaching Theological Education by Extension (TEE) with a local pastor and church leader, Joseph Nyakyema, who was married to Jeanette, a missionary. For two years, we worked closely together in traveling and teaching over 100 students in 12 different locations every two weeks.

This partnership may have been one of the KMT-EMM initiatives that bore fruit for the transfer of leadership to take place, at least within the training of church leaders through TEE. The TEE ministry became fully led by the KMT church after our initial two years of service ended due to Joe’s brother’s death in the U.S. This event necessitated the quick termination of our service with KMT and the rapid transfer of TEE leadership to KMT. Today, we still witness the fruit of TEE in the students that Joe knew, who are now giving leadership as KMT bishops and also in local churches.

“Partnership” has been a critical and necessary next step for both LMC and EMM to look at when relating to an international group of churches who have matured into becoming a self-sustained body of believers. For us, this idea of “partnership” first began with Byerland Church, where Joe serves as pastor. Having had a relationship with the Nyakyemas, we developed a church-to ministry connection as Joseph and Jeanette continued to serve KMT in a variety of ministries.

In 2010, Byerland Church partnered with the Bwiri Mennonite Church to put a roof on their building. We partnered with Bwiri both with funds and a team from Byerland that joined the church to construct the roof. In 2018, we led a group of women from Byerland to a KMT women’s conference in response to an invitation to join in the planting of a new church in the village of Maluga. The result of this trip was a deepening relational connection of Byerland Church with KMT. We were invited to develop a church-to-church relationship with the Mennonite church in Dodoma which continues to this day with four to five Zoom prayer/devotional meetings each year.

More recently, LMC and EMM have collaborated together with KMT in the formation of a partnership agreement document that gives guidelines for how the emerging relationship should look. The aim of this agreement is to provide an opportunity for LMC with EMM and KMT to define their identities in relation to one another, to express hopes for their relationships, and to document how to best work toward those hopes together. This document was agreed upon and signed on July 2020.

Beginning in 2019, we began serving as LMC international partner delegates to KMT. This role is primarily a relational link between all three parties involved in the signing of the partnership agreement. This relationship was formally introduced to all the leaders of KMT in October 2019 when we were invited to attend the KMT national elections conference. We are in regular contact with the KMT church leaders through digital contact platforms, namely WhatsApp. We share words of encouragement, scriptures, and pictures in seasons of loss and joy.

The KMT church has set a goal to reach 1 million members by 2034, their 100-year anniversary of becoming a church. This ambitious God-sized goal continues to shape the framework for mobilizing the church into mission and leadership training. We regularly hear of evangelistic outreaches and leadership training events being planned and taking place. Byerland Church has gained much from the church-to-church relationship that we have with Iringa Road Mennonite Church. We would encourage LMC churches to pray and consider engaging in an international church-to-church relational partnership. More information about how to begin that conversation can be found by contacting LMC Global Delegate Tom Eshleman at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

This article appears in the Summer 2021 issue of Missionary MessengerSign up to receive more inspiring stories like this one in our magazine. 


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Eastern Mennonite Missions

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