Frequently Asked Questions


Below are short answers to some of the questions that folks often ask us. This page will be updated in the future. If you have questions for us please send us an e-mail by clicking on this link: Stubbs e-mail

What is Tumaini University Makumira?

Makumira (TUMa) is a university operated by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania. It is located at the base of Mt. Meru (14,977 ft) and on a clear day you can also see Mt. Kilimanjaro (19,000 ft) from the campus.  For 50 years it was exclusively a Lutheran seminary, serving all of East Africa. In 1997 it became part of the National Lutheran Tumaini University system and has since added a Faculty of Humanities (languages, education, music) and Faculty of Law. Just this year (August 2012) they received full accreditation from the Tanzania Commission for Universities, the third university in all of Tanzania to be accredited. The music program here started in 2005. It is the only Bachelor level degree in music offered in the entire country of Tanzania. Students can choose an emphasis in church music or music education in the three year program. For more details please visit the TUMa website: Tumaini University Makumira.

What are you doing at Tumaini University Makumira?

My wife and I are trying to work ourselves out of our jobs. Our job descriptions say we are doing leadership development, evangelism, and capacity building. The goal is that qualified Tanzanians (holding a Masters degree in Music) will be leading the program in the next 3 years. The first Tanzanian with a Masters Degree in Music teaching in our program is Pr. Sululu, (MM Northern Illinois University, May 2012), the second one has started at the University of Texas, Pr. Kaghondi. The third, Hezron, will go to Sibelius Academy next year. We are also working on projects that will create an income stream for the music department (recording projects) and help to preserve the rich musical heritage of some of the ethnic groups in Tanzania. Please see our Support page for more details and ways you can be a part of this project.

But what do you really do?

I (Randy) serve as Head of the Department of Music and teach conducting, performance skills, music technology, music history of North and South America, music business, and direct a campus choir (learning music from outside Tanzania, mostly African-American and South American). I also teach a course on Hymnody and Liturgy through the Faculty of Theology.

Besides official teaching duties I do a lot of administration and attend many meetings and develop contacts and partnerships with other music programs around the world. We have many opportunities to share and learn about music and the lives of those we serve. Each experience brings new realizations and insights into the joys and challenges that Tanzanians face each day.

Carol teaches all three music education classes, a music elective for Theology and Education majors, and required individual lessons on voice. She also leads a youth choir on campus (7-16 year olds) that she founded in 2007. In addition to rich opportunities for the children, this choir also provides hands-on practical experience for the college music education classes.

How did you become missionaries?

That’s not a short answer. We now can see how God was preparing our family for work in missions for many years. We just didn’t realize it at the time.

Randy Stubbs answer: While there was certainly a specific turning point in our deciding to become missionaries, I am convinced that God calls each one of us from a very young age to "come and follow me." Looking back it is quite clear, now, how hundreds of experiences over the years helped to prepare me and my family to serve God in Tanzania as missionaries. At the time I thought many of the experiences were fun, interesting, educational, or just learning experiences, but now I can see that they were all part of His plan for me and my family. 

It is impossible to say that I "felt a call" without including my family. While we are all individuals, we are a unit working together with our unique and combined gifts and talents that God has given to us. All of us (me, my wife Carol, Megan-19, Marissa-17, and Nathan-16) have been challenged, and have grown through this experience of doing His work here in Tanzania.

One of the military branches uses the phrase, "it's the toughest job you'll ever love." We could not even imagine many of the things we have learned, done, and experienced here. It has changed us individually and as a family. It has certainly made us stronger, more confident in our faith, and more willing to continue forward.

Prior to moving to Tanzania in August 2006 I was the Director of Music and Organist at First Lutheran Church in DeKalb, having served there since 1987. My family and I had many, many opportunities to grow, share, learn, and experiment in many areas. We certainly felt blessed to be part of the DeKalb/Sycamore community (and still do). 

One Sunday night (August 2005) at our family devotions we were discussing money. One of the guided questions was, "If you didn't have to worry about money, what is something you would like to do as a family?" I don't remember what the other family members said, but I remember blurting out, "if I didn't have to worry about money, I would like to do a family mission trip." Everyone just stared at me with big, blank stares. I was Mr. "I-need-everything-organized-and-planned-in-order-to-function" suggesting something radical. 

After opening the door to that possibility God literally worked miracles to get us to Tanzania. There are countless related stories about our journey getting here, but I'll save those for in-person. It was difficult to say "yes" because it meant a total and complete change from all that was familiar and predictable, moving from the community we had lived in for 19 years, job security, friends, everything. But with God all things are possible and now we see how he has guided and prepared us for each and every step of our incredible journey.

After we decided to jump into missions it turned out that we needed to go as volunteers. Contrary to "not having to worry about money" suddenly we were faced with trying to raise over $50,000 in support (over $15,000 for just plane tickets for our family of 5!). Of course, God knows what we can do, and what HE can do. About a month before we left we had raised all of the money we needed. God touched many hearts to contribute generously toward his mission through our family. After the first year as volunteers, we became paid ELCA missionaries (another story). Then in 2010 the ELCA “recalled” us due to restructuring and budget cuts in the Chicago office. We responded that God was not yet finished with us in Tanzania and through divine intervention Makumira agreed to pay us two local salaries and the ELCA agreed to continue our benefits. That was a trying time for us, but now we can see that it strengthened ties here (they could see we were really committed to the program) and affirmed to us that Makumira really was supporting the program, even when they had to pay for it. If we tried to live as Americans here in Tanzania then our salaries would not be enough, but we try to eat and do many other things closer to Tanzanian standards and for that we have enough money to live and to assist with the some of the many needs we see all around us. God is indeed good.

What challenges have we faced or are we facing now?

1) ELCA missionary orientation was very good (in retrospect), but very challenging. If you can imagine EVERYTHING you do in your life and then pretty much do the opposite you can get a taste of life here. Big things, little things, you sleep, cook, eat, talk, wash clothes, work, meet, buy, go to the bathroom...EVERYTHING. In short, we had to learn to let go of our expectations, what we expect to happen in any and every situation. 

God helped to prepare us for this challenge through our 2nd child, Marissa. She has Down Syndrome and we had to learn to let go of expectations in order to receive the blessings that come with a child with special needs. Our world was instantly turned upside down, but that was one of the biggest ways God helped in our transition to living in a developing country.

2) Communication is an ongoing challenge that we face, though it is improving. We all speak Swahili to varying degrees and are mostly comfortable communicating basic information, but the challenge is not just knowing vocabulary and grammar. It is learning how to have effective communication in a culture that is still largely aural, when we come from a culture that relies heavily on written language. “If you are not there in person you do not exist” seems to be the basic, unwritten, tenant of communication. We might think that sending an e-mail would be a quick and effective way of getting or receiving information, but most Tanzanians do not think that. The further extension of this idea is that policies and procedures generally do not exist in any written form, not only making it difficult to figure out what they are, but also allowing for them to change according to need. Prayers for wisdom and understanding in this area are most appreciated.

3) The third challenge is that we do not have a common background (reference point) with our students/colleagues. Something that makes good sense to us is thoroughly questioned because it is a completely new concept to Tanzanians. You don't realize how big this is until you are teaching in another culture. We have had to learn new ways to express familiar ideas and concepts in completely new ways, even new English vocabulary and ways of pronouncing (in English) so that the students can understand us better. 

The language issue is interesting, because it's not enough for us to learn another language, but to learn how to speak our language (English) in a way that they can understand it more easily. That means slowing down, choosing your words carefully, and often changing the American pronunciation to a Tanzanian English pronunciation. In short, we have to stop and think before we open our mouths, whether in English or Swahili. That is not entirely bad.

What does it mean to be an ELCA missionary?

I'll answer that in two parts. First, to be paid through the ELCA means that we can concentrate on our jobs here and not spend a lot of time raising funds so we can eat. Not all denominations operate this way. We have friends serving as missionaries with other churches and sometimes they have to take 1-2 months to stop their mission work and fund-raise back in the States. As paid ELCA missionaries we receive a fair living wage and benefits. 

Second, to be ELCA missionaries means that we represent the ELCA every day here in Tanzania and every day that we are in the States (on home assignment). The Bible talks about being ambassadors for Christ and we are very aware of that role. Because our skin color is the minority here (1% or less) it is IMPOSSIBLE for us to go anywhere without being noticed and watched. EVERYTHING we do and say is watched by others. At times it feels like we are in a fishbowl, but that is reality. It makes you think even more about what you say, whether in English or Swahili. When we go for a walk, outside the campus, in the city, in a village, we become grand marshals at a parade of curious children and adults.

If you haven't checked out the ELCA website, global missions unit, I would encourage you to do so. The ELCA has changed their philosophy regarding missionaries since the “old days.” We are part of the new system, but there are still a few missionaries here in Tanzania that are part of the "old" system of lifelong service in the same location. We are here to train Tanzanians in music, lay the foundation, and get the music department to the point where Tanzanians can take over and carry on the work. We are not here to run the program for the next 20 years, even though that is what many Tanzanians would like (that is the old system).

Finally, when we are in the States, whether for home assignment or when we complete our service here, we are missionaries to "our own people." Our lives have been dramatically changed by our experiences here. Most people will never have a chance to travel the road that we are on, but we can share about our experiences when the opportunity arises. In 2009, 2011 and again in 2013, we shared God's story of ministry through our family with congregations in Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Washington, and California. We sing, play instruments, preach, show pictures, and share stories. We know that God is working through us (including all our kids) to touch the hearts of Americans.

So, missionaries minister for a time in a location outside their native home and then they return to minister in their own community. It's quite exciting and it's quite a challenge, but we know that God is going ahead of us and preparing the way.

What are your prayer requests?

We have learned, and are still learning, the importance of prayer living here in Tanzania. We greatly appreciate the many individuals that are praying for us each week and we know it makes a difference. Without the many safety nets that exist in the States we learn that the power of prayer is the most important tool we have here. 

Our prayer requests include:

-continued good health and personal safety, especially while traveling, as we acknowledge that each day is a gift from God

-better mastery of Swahili for my wife and I so we can be more effective in our jobs and building relationships

-more music teachers to come for a year, a semester, or even a few weeks

-discipline to continue daily devotions so that we can continue to grow spiritually

-wisdom to discern God's will and not just our desires as we build the program here

What kind of house do you live in?

We live in a large house by Tanzanian standards, a small house by American standards. The faculty houses on the MUCo campus have cement slab floors, concrete block walls, and a tin roof. There are virtually no wooden houses because termites destroy the wood very quickly. Many people make “temporary” houses with wood frame covered with mud. As can be expected, those houses need almost constant repair, though some last for many years.

We enjoy such luxuries as electricity (although it is quite inconsistent) and indoor plumbing. We thank the previous occupants of our house (Dr. & Pr. Bangsund) for installing battery back-up, surge protection, voltage regulator, and step-down transformer. As our family is pretty tech-saavy a predictable and controlled source of electricity is important for our computers and recording equipment.

We cook with LP (gas); one 22 kg container lasts us about 4 weeks. We have replaced a number of plumbing and electrical fixtures to make life a little more comfortable. It is amazing how freeing it is to live a much simpler lifestyle. We encourage you to try it.

Where do your kids go to school?

We (mostly my wife) home-schooled our three children in the States and we continue to home-school them in Africa.

Megan (20) is a second year college student at Makumira as a music major. Who would have imagined? She loves African dance and most of her courses. She continues to do well on the cello, though she not had a teacher here in Tanzania for a few years. She also enjoys teaching a English class for Tanzanian girls in the nearby village. For those of you that are worried about home-schoolers not getting enough socialization, you obviously have not met Megan. She thrives being with 1 year olds through 100 year olds. The flexibility of home-schooling allowed her to do a lot of music (cello, choir, music theory, African ensemble, and more) as well as courses in Liguistics, Fantasy Literature, Christian World-view and Islam, and Drawing. Of course she also took the required math, science, English, and history courses.  In her spare time she has taught herself to play bass so she now plays jazz and funk with her brother and Dad.

Marissa (18) continues to do most of her schooling with her Tanzania tutor, Penina (Mama Mary). She continues to work on basic math (adding and subtracting two numbers, multiplying single digits), hand-writing, spelling, reading, science, geography, and Swahili. Marissa is still playing the harp and LOVES singing in Carol’s youth choir and participating in African dances. She also enjoys helping around the house (unlike her siblings), doing sweeping, dishes, and feeding the dog.

Nathan (17) is in 11th grade with a combination of online and self-study courses. He does well with computers, math and science, and he loves to read. Nathan continues to write computer games and will learn a new computer language this year. He loves all things computer (except having to get off of it). He doing also very well with guitar.

What kind of foods do you eat?

About 1/3 of the time we eat food that we ate while living in the States, albeit with modifications. The other 2/3s of the time we eat traditional Tanzania meals. There’s plenty of rice, corn, and beans here and those are staples in the Tanzania homes. What we really enjoy is fresh tropical fruits (many kinds of bananas, oranges, pineapples, passion fruit, mango, papaya, avocado, tangerines, lemons) and many vegetables from our own large garden (tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, broccoli, lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, onion, garlic, sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, beans, zucchini).

There are dukas (small shops) and fruit stands all around, so we can get any of these locally grown foods quite easily and inexpensively. The other nice thing is that you can grow things all year round.  If your only experience with fruits and vegetables is what you get in the supermarket you are really missing out on how good they taste picked fresh. Please come and visit us and we’ll help you enjoy the food here.

While there are two “western” style supermarkets in Arusha. It is quite expensive, but they do carry most foods Americans and Europeans like to eat. Still, I can’t bring myself to pay USD $9 for a box of South African cornflakes. Carol makes granola, yogurt, butter, and pannier (a type of cheese) each week for us to enjoy. Since June 2010 we drink and use our goat’s milk for yogurt, butter, and feta cheese from our mama goat Bella. Yum.

We cook everything from “scratch”, much as we did in the States. There are two noticeable differences between what that means in the States and what it means in Tanzania. In the States, “scratch” means you buy the individual ingredients and put it together (no boxed/canned meals). Here in Tanzania it means you grind the wheat, kill & pluck the chicken, fetch the wood for the fire and the water, etc. We have given into convenience and we pay high prices to buy the wheat already ground, the chicken already plucked, etc.

We eat mostly vegetarian, as we did in the States, partially for cost, convenience, and diet. Of course, when we head to Maasai territory that all changes. They eat, and therefore we eat, goat or cow at every meal (that they eat), usually with nothing else. As this web page is supposed to be short answers I stop here for now. You can find lots of food stories sprinkled throughout our blog.

What is the medical situation like?

While we are in Tanzania it is impossible to even spend enough on medical to satisfy our deductible. In the past year in Tanzania we have spent less than USD $20 on medical care. That includes 3 malaria tests for our children (at different times) and X-Rays on Carol’s foot, when she thought it might be broken (it was just a bad sprain). When we are in the States last summer we are required to have full medical check ups by the ELCA. The medical benefits help with those expenses.

Yes, the quality of medical care is not quite the same as in the States, but we are delighted that in December 2008 there was a huge change! Arusha Medical Center opened and it looks like a real hospital with much “modern” equipment. This is the result of many persons, but especially ELCA missionary Dr. Mark Jacobson. Now there is an option for quality medical care that had never been available in Northern Tanzania.

The reality here is that if you are in a serious accident and time is critical to your survival, you may not survive. There are only a few ambulances in Northern Tanzania serving approximately 3 million people. There is no “911” service. Most people don't have cars. Many peoples homes are not even accessible by car. Many people don't go to the hospital even if they should. The ELCA would pay for an "emergency evacuation" if something is really serious. This service would allow us to get a flight to Nairobi (the next country) or Europe (8 hours by plane) for emergency medical care. 

How can we send things to your family?

We love to get mail, electronically or via “slow boat to China”. (We know everything comes by plane, but things sent by ship can sometimes reach us faster than “Priority” items.) There are e-mail links at the top and bottom of this page. To send something through the Post Office address it to:

    The Stubbs Family

    Tumaini University Makumira

    P.O. Box 55

    Usa River, TANZANIA

A few helpful bits of information regarding mailing packages to Tanzania. Standard envelopes arrive in about 3 weeks on average. Padded envelopes reach us more quickly (3-5 weeks), usually unopened, and costs us the least to receive. The customs folks add your declared content value and how much you paid for postage to calculate how much we pay to pick up the package. Paying extra to rush things to us usually ends with the package taking more than 5 weeks and we have to also pay an extra USD $5-10 to retrieve. We appreciate you considering this when you send items.

What do we like or miss from the States? Of course, any communication and pictures are appreciated. We can purchase many foods, if we want to spend the money, in the Arusha area, but there are few items that aren’t available at any price. Dried fruit (Craisins, cherries, blueberries) are a nice treat. Energy bars are very nice when we are traveling and we aren’t sure where or when our next meal will be. We love chocolate chips, but they don’t do as well sitting in a hot warehouse for several weeks while officials decide when to deliver the package. (A general note: we didn’t really eat sugary candy or highly processed foods in the States, except chocolate. We appreciate more natural types of foods. Thanks.)

A few caring persons and churches have sent boxes with goodies. That is quite a delight. They usually take 2-5 months to arrive, they are more expensive to ship, and we also must pay to retrieve them as mentioned above. We really encourage padded envelopes, but we appreciate any thoughtful gestures at any time of year.

What other questions would you like us to answer?
E-mail us and we will add topics of interest.