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Pastor Paulo shares about what it means to become a Christian among an unreached people group and his passion for reaching more of his community with the gospel.
Cursed for Christ
When I stood before the elders, they said to me, “You have two choices, the right hand of community, or the left hand of blood”. My first year of being a Christian was very hard. Among the Datooga we live in community. If someone needs help, the community try and help them, be that with livestock, with illness or with family issues. We do life together. In 2006, when I became a Christian, the elders called me to a meeting. They wanted me to turn away from Jesus and go back to the traditional Datooga beliefs. If I didn’t, they would have nothing to do with me. If I needed help, they told me that it would be pointless to ask them, I would be completely ignored by my community. Not only that, but they would curse me – causing harm not only to me, but to my wife and my family.
Who are the Datooga?
The Datooga are a people group from central Tanzania. They are a large group of former nomads who have now settled as farmers. They often keep animals, mainly cattle, but also goats, sheep, donkeys and chickens. They are animists, respecting and fearing their ancestors. They’re proud of their culture and see no reason to change. But in 2006 a third TIMO team served among the Datooga. There are now believers because of these teams and some, like Pastor Paulo, have gone to Bible school. Simon and Sue French, who served as part of the TIMO team, continue to serve among them, and are currently crafting a set of Bible stories in the Datooga language.
I stood firm. And in that first year there were a number of deaths in my family. But the Africa Inland Church Tanzania (AICT) were there to support me. The discipleship of the church and AIM’s Training in Ministry Outreach (TIMO) team was very important to me. It was through their encouragement that I began to feel called to be a pastor. I spoke to the AICT evangelist and told him what I was thinking. I said to him that I didn’t know how I could be a pastor because I couldn’t read or write. He prayed with me, and told me that I should fill in the forms for Bible school. I told him that I couldn’t. I couldn’t read the form! So I told him the information that was needed and he filled it in for me. A while later I found out that my application was successful. I was able to attend Bible school.
When I arrived at the school I couldn’t read. But local missionaries slowly taught me literacy skills. In the first year, I was bottom of the class. In the second year I was doing better, in the third year I did really well. Not top of the class, but I could read and write! And now, I am the pastor of five growing churches. We are seeing people turning to Christ, congregations growing in their knowledge and depth of their faith. The churches are becoming centres of community, where God’s love is demonstrated in words and actions.
It’s not always easy. It certainly wasn’t in the beginning. But, you see, when the elders gave me the choice of the left hand of blood, I knew that it was Jesus’s blood and that he’d already shed it for me.