Mitinje Mayala, Merick
Merick Mitinje was born in 1906 in Nyashoshi village of Kwimba District in the Mwanza Region. He was the third born in a family of nine. His boyhood was typical of that of any Sukuma boy of that time until 1926, when he came into contact with Yohana Mamba, the gospel preacher and church elder. Thanks to Mamba’s village-to-village evangelism, Mitinje accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior and a year later, Mamba baptized him.
Mayala Mitinje married Elizabeth Ntenga Nduta in 1930 and God gave them ten children: Methuselah, Benjamini, Meleya, Hellen, Boaz, Naomi, Epaphrah, Rhoda, Deborah and Ruth.
After his baptism, he went to Kijima Bible Learners Center for some Bible studies then attended Katungulu Bible School in 1933 for a three-year course, where he was awarded a certificate in Biblical studies.
Following his education, the church under the Africa Inland Misson in Tanzania sent him to Ng’wamanyili, Nassa local church, a few kilometers southeast of Bulima, the oldest mission station of Africa Inland Mission / Africa Inland Church Tanzania (AIM/AICT). There he served as the local un-ordained pastor and as a teacher at the Bulima Primary School under AIM.
In 1949, Merick Mitinje returned to school to complete the pastor’s course in preparation for ordination with the Africa Inland church which was known, at that time, as the Ecclesia Church of Christ (Ekelezia Evangeli ya Kristo or E.E.K.) He was ordained the same year.
For twenty-seven years, Mitinje worked in pastorates such as Dindilyani-Magu, Majahida-Bariadi, and Geita. He also taught at Katungulu Bible School from 1973 to 1976.
Rev. Mitinje was one of the first five members of the AICT board of trustees elected in 1961 by the synod council, a title he held until his death. At the same time, the 1963 general election of Africa Inland Church elected him assistant to the bishop of AICT. For ten years, he served in that capacity until the late Rev. Thomas Lukago Yegela succeeded him following the results of the general election of 1973. Since he was better educated than most of his peers, Rev. Mitinje represented the church in conferences, meetings and partnership talks held in various countries.
Despite being a church leader, Merick Mayala Mitinje loved to sing, teach and preach. His heart’s burden was always with the people who did not know Christ as their Savior. The church remembers him for his talents and gifts, over and above his humility, boldness in speaking the truth, and faithfulness in his ministry. Above all, his vision in preparing the youth for church ministries and leadership earned him great respect among his peers which endures to this day.
For almost forty-five years, he served the church and his Lord, never wavering from the course he knew was set for him by his Master. On the evening of July 26, 1976, Rev. Merick Mitinje, one of the early and great African pastors of the Africa Inland Church of Tanzania, died in his sleep at Sengerema hospital in the Mwanza Region. He was 70 years old. His name will stay with us for a long time. He was a legend to all who knew him.
Samuel Malundi and Reuben Mafuru, church elders at the time Mintinje was administrator in the Central Church of the AICT in Makongoro, Mwanza, interview by the author, April 2003, Mwanza.
Elizabeth Nduta, Mitinje’s wife, interview by the author, July 1996, Kirumba, Mwanza.
Boaz Mitinje, Mitinje’s son, interview by the author, June 3, 2003, Butimba, Mwanza.
This article, submitted in June 2003, was written by Rev. Joseph N. Gisayi, 2003-2004 Project Luke fellow, a minister in the AICT for the past twenty-four years, as well as a member of the Africa Inland Executive Council and chairperson of the AICT Mission and Evangelism Department. This article was reviewed and approved by AICT bishop Peter Kitula, David N. M. Nghosha, historian of the Africa Inland Church Tanzania and by Stephen Kapongo, coordinator of AICT Department of Mission and Evangelism.