SPIRIT-LED RESEARCH


RUFIJI OF TANZANIA

The Rufiji people live on both sides of the Rufiji River in Tanzania. The majority are subsistence farmers, with many taking advantage of periodically flooded alluvial soils. Most villages have a centrally located market, a primary school and a dispensary. Islam plays a dominant role in their culture.

“Which village shall we visit?” was my topic of discussion with the tour guide. We stopped at a town on the main road in the heart of the Rufiji homeland to drink a Coca-Cola and try to obtain information as to the location of a pure Rufiji village.

Parking in front of a bicycle repair area, we found only one store on the block that sold soft drinks. After purchasing our Cokes, we sat down on chairs at the front of the shop.

The owner came, sat down and began to visit with us. We learned that he was a Rufiji and knew of a village about 10 kilometers off the main road where all the people were Rufiji. He said, “It is difficult to give directions to the village so I will lead you.” A man who was from that village overheard the conversation and asked to ride with us. Within 15 minutes the Lord arranged a guide and an escort. It was truly a divine appointment!

The village road had just been graded and was in excellent condition. We were impressed but recognized the need to return before rain set in.

Upon arrival we learned that the village chairman was the sheik for both the region and the local mosque. It was Friday, and the hour for Muslim prayer was approaching. The sheik had already left for the mosque, so the customer from the bike shop offered to show us around his village until the sheik was free.

We walked only a few yards when a group of primary schoolchildren on their lunch break approached us. Our guide was pleased to introduce us to two of his children, and I noted they both had bicycles. We then visited the school compound, met one of the teachers and entered one of the empty classrooms. The school was a functional facility, and the people were proud of it. 

The teacher told us the enrollment was 401. We asked if teenage pregnancy was a problem among the students. He reported that last year there were 60 pregnancies, and each girl was dismissed from school.

Meeting the dispensary doctor was a meaningful visit too. She was on her lunch break but took time to share with us about her work.Although not a Rufiji, she had served this village for over a year.She quickly added that she had asked for a transfer.

When we asked why, she said, “The women will not follow instructions.” She pointed out that pre-natal instructions were usually completely ignored, and expectant mothers refused to go to the hospital on the main road to deliver their babies. The ensuing difficulties seemed overwhelming to her.

The prayer time at the mosque had closed, so we went by to see the building. On our way we met the sheik, who invited us to meet him at his office. We accepted his invitation, and after taking a few pictures of the mosque we joined him there. Five village elders were with him to receive us.

Our interview went well. The group liked my reason for coming – to meet the people about whom I had studied - and they were pleased that the businessman on the main road had selected their village for our visit. They informed me that if they had known of my coming, they would have prepared a feast for us.

“Next time I will let you know in advance, and I will try to bring my wife,” I told them.

One elder responded, “If you bring your wife, we will butcher a cow for you!” The room was filled with laughter!

It was time to leave, so I offered to buy tea for them at their local restaurant. They readily agreed and it was my privilege to host the sheik and 10 elders. It was a great time of fellowship, after which the group posed for a picture.

Claps of thunder and dark clouds warned of an approaching storm. We quickly said goodbye and raced toward the main road. The rain caught us on the freshly graded road, but our four-wheel drive vehicle carried us safely to the pavement.

Our research among the Rufiji went well. We learned a lot about the people and built a solid relational bridge for a return visit. It was a “first step” into an Islamic community. The Lord surely directed our footsteps! 

 

RUFIJI PROFILE

Introduction / History
The Rufiji people group live along the banks of the Rufiji River in Tanzania. Their homeland is largely rural but the heaviest population is clustered around a number of towns on the Dar es Salaam – Lindi main road.

The majority of the Rufiji are subsistence farmers. Many have farms some distance from their family homes in order to take advantage of occasionally flooded alluvial soils. This creates family separation for up to four months as the crops are sown and harvested. The primary crops grown are cassava, maize, rice, millet, sesame, coconut and cashew nuts.

Mangoes, oranges, pineapples, papaya and jackfruit are a major part of their diet. Some individuals are involved in fishing with others making and selling furniture while several are engaged in small-scale commercial ventures.

Each village has at least one primary school with standard grades 1 to 7. Regional secondary schools are available with a post-primary polytechnic school located in Ikwirri. Health services are provided at clinics located within 3 to 5 miles of the majroity of the people.

The Rufiji houses are simple. Some are constructed with walls made from mud and wooden poles and thatched or corrugated roofs. Others, primarily in towns, are conventional homes built with concrete blocks. In the fertile and often flooded valleys along the Rufiji, traditional shelters on stilts are built to deal with the floodwaters.

What are their beliefs?
The villagers are exclusively Islamic with their lives revolving around the mosque and imam. Sometimes the imam will also serve as the elected village chairman. However, teachers in the primary schools and the dispensaries' staff are primarily non-Rufiji with several Christians among them.

The towns on the main road have several churches, but most of their members are outsiders from other parts of Tanzania.

Prayer Points
* Ask the Lord to lay a burden on the hearts of individuals, local churches, national church organizations and mission groups for the off-the-main-road Muslim Rufiji. May this recognition of spiritual need result in on-site research for the purpose of developing relational bridges and identifying felt needs through which the gospel can be presented.
* Believe the Lord to touch the hearts of Christian school teachers, dispensary workers and government personnel living among the Rufiji to recognize that they are strategically placed by God to be cross cultural missionaries. May they catch a vision of demonstrating the love of God and providing a living witness to those among whom they live. May their efforts result in conversions, discipleship and house churches.
* 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.

Profile Source: joshuaproject.net

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