Gospel work among the Datooga
In 1998 a church adopted the Datooga people group in Tanzania and covenanted to pray for them. Today, the Datooga are coming to know who Christ is and how he can change their lives.
‘It was some experience to sit under the trees with the villagers and hear them talk of their openness to the gospel and to see the changes brought to the village as the result of the gospel coming to them’.
These were the words of a church group after a recent visit to the Datooga in Tanzania. Why did they go? Because in 1998 they had adopted this people group and covenanted to pray for them. Today, Pastor Emmanuel Shilikale pastors a church of Datooga in a town called Olipiru.
The Datooga are coming to know Christ, but it wasn’t always that way. Gene Christian, a member of Africa Inland Mission (AIM)’s first church planting team among the Datooga, remarked that the people were gripped by ancestor worship.
A sickness would raise the question as to what spirits were offended and how to appease them. A medium would be consulted to find out where the offence was and what the solution would be. Gene related that there was power there. This was the type of power that kept the Datooga from the freedom found in the good news of Jesus Christ.
So how did it happen? David Hennigh, who led the first team, remembers that his father had made a survey in the 1960s amongst the Sukuma. It was during that survey that the Datooga were discovered by AIM. They were neighbours and enemies of the Sukuma and known for their viciousness.
God laid the Datooga on David’s heart and so started the impetus to seek them out. He began by encouraging prayer for them through AIM’s Adopt a People programme.
This led to mobilising a church planting team — some members being from the church that had adopted the Datooga!
It’s amazing that David’s father heard about the Datooga because the Sukuma recognised them as an enemy to be feared, and yet it is Pastor Shilikale, a Sukuma, who is now faithfully shepherding them and sharing the gospel with more Datooga. It was obvious there was a lot of prayer going on for the Datooga.
David Hennigh recently wrote, ‘Today, work in the Mariwanda area amongst the Datooga continues. The work at Olpiro continues to impact that area while another work has been started around five hours away in another Datooga community. Praise God for the way that he is impacting the Datooga with the hope to be found in Jesus!’
This is the power of prayer and an example of the process God often uses to establish his church amongst a people group. Prayer is at the heart of this process — God laying on the hearts of his servants a burden for those outside of his eternal Kingdom.
This burden then translates itself into mobilising more people to pray, which leads to God calling chosen individuals to be his ambassadors to them. And these missionaries, backed by the prayer of many others, result in the display of God’s power and purpose in transforming lives and birthing a new Christ-centred community — the local church.
This process still needs to take place amongst the remaining 950+ unreached people groups of Africa.
Africa Inland Mission