Wavenza, Yohana Lucas
Yohana Lucas Wavenza was born on July 16, 1934 at Ikukwa village, Mbeya rural district, Mbeya region, Tanzania. He was a Safwa by tribe. His father was Lucas Wavenza and his mother was Elen Sinjomba. Yohana Wavenza was baptized as an infant on July 26, 1934. His parents were Christians and his grandfather was an evangelist.
His first formal education took place at Ikukwa Bush School, standards I and II from 1948 to 1949. When he was just a boy he wanted to marry a girl by the name of Sarah Sinyalambi. But when he visited his elder brother, Paul Wavenza, a court clerk at Mwambani in Chunya district, he saw his peers from school and decided to go back to school instead of marrying Sarah. His elder brother paid the school fees for him. He studied at Mwambani Primary School from 1954 to 1955 then went to Chunya Middle School for standards V to VIII (1955-1958). Sarah waited for him and they were married on October 24, 1958. Their children’s names were Magdalena, Eunike, “Bon” (his full name was Boniface), Angelica, Asunjiliye.
Yohana Wavenza’s call to serve the church came when Tutangine Mpayo asked him to go study at Utengule Bible School. In 1959 he enrolled at Utengule Bible School–where Tulinawo Msinjili and William Mwakisu were teachers–and studied Bible Knowledge for six months. When time came to select those who would go on to study theology at St. Philip’s Theological College, Msinjili and Mwakisu were in favor of two other students (Mwamlima and Mwakasyuka)–Wavenza was not their first choice. But Superintendent Lund and the other missionaries preferred to send Wavenza. Yet Msinjili continued to defend his choice (his nephew Mwamlima) saying that two students should be sent to Kongwa. Finally it was resolved that all three students would go to Kongwa. Wavenza and the other two enrolled at Kongwa Theological College in 1960 and graduated in 1961.
After finishing his studies, Wavenza was assigned to work at the Vwawa congregation from November 1961 to early 1964. Then he was transferred and ministered to people with leprosy at Makete in Rungwe district until 1965. In 1966 he was again transferred, this time to Chunya congregation. From 1966 to 1967 Wavenza and Mwakasyuka went to Germany for two years of further studies. After their return, they were assigned a teaching position at Chunya Bible School until 1969. Then Wavenza was transferred to Utengule congregation where he worked from 1970 to 1973. Afterwards he was transferred to Tunduma. The same year he was appointed provincial literature secretary which prompted a move from Tunduma to Rungwe.
In 1974, before Southern Province was divided into Southern and Southwest Provinces, Wavenza and Anosisye Jongo vied for the position of bishop in 1974. Neither was elected because neither received two thirds of the total votes, although Jongo had more votes. I mention this to illustrate Wavenza’s polite character and the careful attention he paid to people’s needs. He also liked people regardless of their socio-religious differences and was very committed to his calling. As a result many pastors and Christians liked him, especially in the Moravian church.
In 1975 he was transferred to Mbeya town congregation until December 17, 1976 when he was elected vice chairman by the synod of Southwest Province. His major responsibility was to oversee the congregations of the province. As a result, he traveled extensively, visiting congregations in order to preach, teach, deal with administrative issues, and conduct seminars, among other duties.
In 1980 he was re-elected vice chairman of the Moravian Church in Southwest Tanzania, a position he held until October 1982 when he was elected first bishop of Southwest Province.
As one of the resolutions of the 1980 synod was the need for a bishop in Southwest Province the provincial preparatory committee started working on the elections for bishop to be held in October 1982. When the time came, communicant Christians voted on a name to put forward for the position. Yohana Wavenza’s name was proposed and he was confirmed by the synod as first bishop of Southwest Province.
He was consecrated bishop on August 16, 1983 at the Sokoine playground in Mbeya city. The officiating bishops were Bishop Theofil Gill from the Moravian Church - European Continental Province (then East Germany) and Bishop Mwaigoga from the Anglican Diocese of Southwest Tanganyika. The two Moravian bishops in Tanzania, Bishop Mwakasyuka of Southern Province and Bishop Kalindimya of Western Province did not attend the consecration ceremony because of a misunderstanding between the Moravian Church in Southwest Tanzania and the other Moravian Church provinces of Southern Tanzania and Western Tanzania. The leadership of these three provinces disagreed on the measures needed to resolve a difficult situation involving the Mbeya Moravian Church and their pastor H. Mwamlima under disciplinary action for refusing to obey the church constitution of Southwest Province.
As bishop, Wavenza had to deal with several challenging issues such as the ongoing problems of the Mbeya Church’s insubordination and, as a result, their exclusion from the provincial system from 1982 to 1993. Another was an incident in June 1985 involving a group of Christians from different congregations in Southwest Province who held an illegal meeting in Mbalizi to demand that T. Msinjili, the provincial chairman at the time, resign from his position because they disagreed with his reelection.  In the issue involving Msinjili, the provincial board resolved that he should not resign as provincial chairman and that all the pastors who had participated in the illegal meeting at Mbalizi should be suspended. Throughout this ordeal, Wavenza said that this problem had to be dealt with in God’s wisdom so that peace might prevail in the province. He continued to say everyone should pray to God for his guidance during this critical time. Unfortunately congregations like Yeriko (Mbalizi), Isangala, and Mshewe decided to secede from the province in the aftermath of the illegal meeting in Mbalizi. The provincial board–especially Wavenza and the executive committee–had a lot of work to do in order to avoid more secessions.
He was chairman of the Moravian Theological College (Motheco) board of governors from 1993 to 1997, chairman of the Moravian Church in Tanzania from 1997 to 1999 and vice-chairman of the Christian Council of Tanzania from 1997 to 1999. He wrote a book entitled Nipe moyo Mwanangu (Give me your heart, my child), a reflection on the book of Proverbs. He ordained many pastors as deacons (first ordination) and presbyters (second ordination).
Serving as an advisor for the province was not an easy task but Wavenza managed through the power of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He was a good pastoral counselor, a man of faith, and a dynamic preacher. When he preached, he usually emphasized salvation by faith and grace in Christ Jesus. In his sermons he sometimes spoke about worldly things that he had denied for the sake of Christ. One Sunday when he preached at Utengule, he said, “Kitu gani chaweza kunizuia nisioe mke wa pili? Lakini kwa sababu ya Kristo siwezi nikafanya hivyo” (What prevents me from having a second wife? Because of Christ I cannot do it.)
Yohana Wavenza died on November 24, 1999 and was buried at Jacanda on provincial grounds in Mbeya city, Tanzania.
Angolwisye Isakwisa Malambugi
Author’s Note: I first met Wavenza in 1973 when he was provincial literature secretary and I was a student at Makumira Theological College (now Tumaini University). When he was elected vice chairman in 1976 I was a parish pastor and then principal of Utengule Bible College. After finishing my masters of theology in South Korea, I returned to Tanzania in November 1984. From 1984 to 1988 as vice chairman and from 1988 to 1994 as provincial chairman, I worked very closely with Bishop Wavenza. Many of these observations are a result of my personal contact with him.
- According to the Provincial Constitution of the Moravian Church in Tanzania Southwest Province and the Constitution of the Worldwide Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum) there are two major leaders of the province: the bishop who is the spiritual leader of the province in the worldwide Moravian church and the provincial chairman who is the provincial administrator.
Mrs. Sarah Wavenza, widow of the late Yohana L.Wavenza, 68 years old, interviewed by J. Malema at Sababa-Forest August 2006 while he was a student at Teofilo Kisanji University.
Ms. Angelica Y.Wavenza, his daughter, interviewed by the author at Sisimba, Mbeya city on November 27, 2006.
Alinikisa F. Cheyo, 46 years old, bishop of the Moravian Church in Tanzania Southwest Province at Jacaranda, Mbeya city, who answered the questionnaire on December 14, 2006.
Mrs. Elizabeth A. Malambugi, 58 years old, interviewed by the author on June 10, 2006 at Iwambi, Mbeya city.
William Mwakiakto, retired pastor of the Moravian church, interviewed by the author at Iwambi, Mbeya city on August 20, 2006.
This article, received in 2007, was researched and written by Rev. Angolowisye Isakwisa Malambugi, former chairman of the Moravian Church in Tanzania, Southwest Province, lecturer at Teofilo Kisanji University (formerly Moravian Theological College) in Mbeya from July 1995 to December 2006, and part-time lecturer at Open University of Tanzania from 1999 to the present. He was also Project Luke fellow in Spring 2007.