The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod began work in Tanzania in 2002 as part of a larger East Africa strategy for training leaders among several people groups in East African countries. Because East Africa has been the target of many years of mission work by various evangelical groups, the LCMS has provided complementary strategy, resources and personnel to support the work of existing mission partners from other Lutheran groups.
Leaders have shared that there are more people coming forward for Baptism than the current number of pastors can handle. Also, because the growth of the East African church has been explosive in recent years, a great need exists to train indigenous leaders who can minister to the large numbers of people who have been recently baptized and to visit many other new villages that have asked for the Gospel.
Therefore, the main thrust of LCMS work has been to help build regional mission training centers (MTCs) throughout East Africa where national leaders can be mentored and trained in evangelism and church planting. Training seminars for women in these facilities is also a priority. Students come for classes from outlying villages for two days a month over a two-year period to be taught by a pastor. At the end of this time, most graduate as evangelists. Each evangelist is provided a bicycle and is expected to go into an unreached area and begin a new congregation. Some continue their training and, depending upon the training, are ordained as deacons or certificate pastors. There are 10 of these MTCs set up around the diocese with an average of 10 students per center.
The LCMS works in mutual mission through projects with the East of Lake Victoria Diocese (ELVD) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT). The ELVD is one of 20 dioceses of the ELCT, a Lutheran church body of more than three million members, and is led by Bishop Gulle. LCMS missionaries have also had conversations with an independent Lutheran church in Tanzania to work together in mission opportunities. This group consists of 10,000 members, 20 pastors and a seminary with 13 students. Thus far, it has grown without the involvement of any foreign missionaries.
Starting in 2002, the LCMS has provided grants for mercy projects in Tanzania. These projects have including digging wells, especially new mission training centers, and providing roofs for church buildings. Also, the Lutheran Church in East Africa is an emerging Lutheran church body with approximately 10,000 members and 20 pastors.
The Mid-South District of the LCMS has been a key partner in Tanzania as it has supported leadership training efforts in partnership with the LCMS.