The Nyamwezi of Tanzania
Population: 1.5 million
Location and Background: The Nyamwezi tribe (“people of the moon”) is the second largest in Tanzania, living principally south of Lake Victoria in west-central Tanzania. About 30% of Nyamwezi live and work outside of their 35,000 miles of land, in Tanzania’s commercial and agricultural centers.
History: It is believed the Nyamwezi and their related tribe the Sukuma arrived in their present location in the 16th c. Before Europeans arrived, they had an empire consisting of four clans, each descended from one ancestor. Their ancient king, Mirambo, was known to be a brilliant military leader. They were traders, and by 1800 they were involved in trade of copper, wax, ivory, and slaves with Arabs at the coast. Elephant hunting was a prestigious occupation due to the wealth from ivory trade. They also acquired guns and were often involved in intra-tribal wars, and conflicts with the Arabs.
Culture: The nuclear family lives together, and villages are not necessarily based on kinship relationships. Ideally every adult should be married. Various rituals are held for marriage and naming babies, and Westernization has had much influence on how the Nyamwezi function. Children go to the government schools. They are agriculturalists and pastoralists. Goats and sheep are used for sacrifices, and for their meat and skins. Their land is dry woodland, with scarce water, so it is not prime agricultural land. Men work the land, women care for the home.
Religion: The Nyamwezi embrace African Traditional beliefs, Islam and Christianity. They have much respect for their ancestors (the living dead), to whom they offer sacrifices and rely on for their benevolence. Most claim to be Muslims and follow the five pillars of Islam, but in reality they live by their animistic worldview, believing in a creator God, the spirit world, and the importance of using witchdoctors and other diviners to communicate with the spirits. It is reported there are 80,000 Nyamwezi in the Moravian church. The AIC-T has planted a hundred churches in the area but the majority of attenders could be Sukuma, not Nyamwezi. Some say up to 15% of Nyamwezi could be Christian, most of those are Catholic or nominal Christian.
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Please pray for a new believer who has left his former ways and is embracing time to learn about Jesus. His home family rejected his new beliefs and was beating him. He has taken shelter offered among other believers as he desires to set a new course for his life in Christ. Please pray for him, and his persecutors to know Christ too! May God give him strength through the difficulties and pray for the Spirit of God to touch his life. Pray for a solid foundation in the Word of God and for the teacher discipling him.
Pray for Bible school students who meet for classes two weeks out of every month. Pray that they will be able to consistently carve out this time to dig deeper into Scriptures, study Biblical foundations and be equipped for service. Pray for their needs and for the staff teaching. Pray that they will have clarity in their calling in bringing God’s message to others. Pray for their assigned work on Sundays in the city and also to be effective witnesses when they return to their ministry sites the other two weeks of the month. Pray they will be able to form Christ-centered churches as they bear witness to Christ among the households where they serve.