Machinga of Tanzania

“Wild animals and strong houses characterized our early forefathers,” exclaimed my guide. As he gave me a brief tour of a Machinga village, I learned what he meant.

The first Machinga moving into Tanzania built log houses

with weblike wooden doors to protect themselves from wild animals in the area. The houses were distinctly different from other tribal groups who built mud houses with grass roofs.

Today Machinga villagers build their homes with cement blocks and a zinc roof or mud blocks and a grass roof. Fewer animals are near the village, although a small log house built on stilts is used for sheltering goats and sheep from hyenas at night.

The village is located on the coast, so both fishing and farming provide for the needs of the people. Their yards are clean, and it is refreshing to see villagers taking pride in their community. They don’t have a dispensary, but they do have a primary and secondary school.

The mosque and madrassa are dominant with all local people practicing the Islamic faith. My guide mentioned that although the entire village is Islamic, only about 40 percent are true Muslims. The other 60 percent are Muslim only by birth.

An elderly woman shared with me about the history of the village. Nearly 100 years old, she has a son of whom she is justly proud and who holds a high position in the national government.

“If you could live your life over again, what would you do different?” I asked her.

She thought for about a minute and then responded, “I would give more money to the madrassa.” It is easy to see that she is a true devotee of Islam.

The guide told me of an evangelical pastor who came to a neighboring Machinga village located on the main road. He lived among the people and preached the gospel. When he prayed for a local woman who was desperately ill, the Lord graciously healed her and she accepted Jesus as her Savior. Then the villagers put pressure on her, forcing her to return to Islam. Next they began persecuting the pastor and forced him to leave the area.

The spiritual need of the Machinga is great. Opportunities among youth and nominal Muslims exist, but one will need to be creative in presenting the gospel and willing to suffer persecution. May the Lord be gracious to the Machinga!



Introduction / History
The Machinga’s homeland is nestled between Lindi and Kilwa Kivinje in a mountainous area inland from the Indian Ocean coast of Tanzania. Their name is fitting for Machinga means "mountains." It is a beautiful area. The neighboring people groups are the Matumbi to the north, Mwera on the west and the Makonde to the south.

What are their lives like?
The life of villagers living along the coast revolves around the fishing industry. They construct their own boats, maintain them and market their catch of the day. Inland, up in the mountains, the people rely on produce grown on their small farms.

The Machinga value education. Each village has a primary school and secondary schools are regional, serving a number of villages. As an example, one secondary school has a good complex with buildings constructed from cement blocks, stuccoed exteriors and with aluminum roofs. The school has an enrollment of around 400 students. The administrators and teachers are non-Machinga personnel. The students are housed in private homes in the local village.

A happy marriage is highly valued too. The groom is asked to pay a small dowry for his bride and to take good care of her. It is rather common for the Machinga to intermarry with their Mwera neighbors.

What are their beliefs?
Islam dominates the Machinga society. Attendance at the mosque is important and great emphasis is placed on training their children at the madrassa. Often the madrassa structure is superior to that of the mosque.

A village may be totally Islamic but a majority of the people is only Muslim by birth. These nominal Islamic peoples are fertile soil in which to sow the gospel. However, historically new converts are pressured to return to Islam and Christian workers are driven from their villages. Outsiders in government service or teachers in their schools who are Christians usually practice their faith covertly.

Prayer Points

  • Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers (government, school teachers, businessmen) into his harvest field (the Machinga)."
  • Tanzanian evangelical churches and mission organizations to identify felt needs among the villagers (roof on a primary school, digging a well, etc.) that can be met and in so doing gain favor, acceptance and an open door for ministry.
  • Pray for translation of the Bible to begin in this people group's primary language.
  • Pray for the availability of the Jesus Film in the primary language of this people.
  • Pray for Gospel messages to become available in audio format for this people group.

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