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A Mission Partnership Between Tanzania and the United States

July 25, 2009

The Plymouth Church, United Church of Christ, in Framingham, Massachusetts is in a mission partnership with the people of Pommern in the Kilolo District of Tanzania. We have built this partnership in conjunction with The Lutheran Church of Pommern which is part of the Iringa Diocese. We are excited about sharing our story to help inspire other churches to create creative partnerships with communities in African countries including Tanzania.

For a number of years, one of our parishioners, Bob Ahearn, has been taking trips to the village of Pommern in south central Tanzania. Through reports of his travels, he interested our church in his efforts, hi the summer of 2005, he invited Peter Cook, Senior Minister at Plymouth Church, to travel with him to Pommern. With the help of Plymouth Church, Bob and Peter provided various kinds of assistance to the village with a particular focus on the construction of a new kindergarten.

In the summer of 2007, Bob and Peter lead a trip of 17 youth and adults to Tanzania. During the trip, we completed the kindergarten and also provided funds to construct two vocational buildings in the nearby town of Kilolo. At that time, we also helped to repair the village's rudimentary water system. It was evident, however, to the group that the village was really in need of wells to provide fresh water since the existing system provided only contaminated river water.

While these trips had a financial assistance component, the accent was always on the mutual relationships we cultivated with one another. One of the most incredible ways in which this relationship was facilitated came through the power of music. In Pommern, there are various choirs which practice during the week and then share their gifts with one another on Sunday morning. These choirs routinely win choir competitions in Tanzania. During our trip to Tanzania, our church members were so captivated by the music that they decided to coordinate an effort to bring the Tanzanian musicians to Massachusetts.

In the fall of 2008, we succeeded in raising approximately $80,000 from United Church of Christ congregations and other churches, schools, and not-for-profits to bring The Pommern Village Choir to the United States. They performed in approximately 25 locations over a five week period. At Plymouth Church, we held a large community concert which featured the Village Choir. That concert also included The Plymouth Church adult and children's choirs and a Gospel choir from the Greater Framingham Community Church—a predominantly African American congregation. We wanted the concert to be a mutual sharing of musical gifts from different cultures. The Pommern Village Choir also performed at the annual meeting of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ.

The thirteen choir members who, with the exception of one, had never been out of Tanzania or flown in an airplane, found that many of their perceptions about America were reoriented during their visit. Plymouth Church members, who had never been to Africa, had to reexamine many of their ideas and assumptions. As we intensively lived, worked, and traveled together, our days were filled with much laughter and new insights. The experience helped to cultivate a new feeling of openness and hospitality at Plymouth Church. Our church members were also drawn into conversations and relationships with many interesting people who we would never have met under other circumstances. A most notable surprise was a relationship with the Tanzanian Network of Worcester County which is comprised of many Tanzanian nationals who now live in New England. The choir tour also helped reinforce for parishioners the covenantal relationship Plymouth Church shares with other UCC congregations.

During their visit, we had a CD of the choir's music professionally produced which we sell for to finance development projects and to continue our cross cultural exchange. Promotion of the CD was facilitated by a story on the February 17, 2009 broadcast of The World on Public Radio International.  After covering the choir's expenses and providing a generous stipend to each choir member, we used a large portion of the remaining funds to finance the drilling of fresh water wells in Pommern. We plan to drill at least ten. Five are already tapped and five more are being constructed. Local villagers, including high school aged students, have been trained in the construction and maintenance of these wells. We continue to raise funds for the drilling of wells and regularly receive donations from individuals, schools, churches and other entities.

If you are seeking some ideas or guidance on how to do cross generational mission trips in Africa or to facilitate cross cultural exchanges like a choir tour in your region, please contact: 

The Reverend Peter Cook, Senior Minister
The Plymouth Church, United Church of Christ
87 Edgell Road
Framingham, Massachusetts, 01701 , 508-875-1364 ext. 103.

The CD, "Songs for Fresh Water", can be purchased for $13.00. Please mail checks to the above address to Reverend Cook's attention.

Below you can find a series of links which tell the story about our partnership.

1. Plymouth Church developed a website for the choir, It features a promotional video.

2. Various visual and musical samples of The Pommern Village Tour can be found on You Tube.

The story about The Pommern Village Choir, which was broadcast on February 17, 2009 on Public Radio International's The World, can be found on:

The following is a link to an article in the local paper, The Metrowest Daily News.


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