By Janessa Colburn
Joe Munisi is a local pastor in Tanzania, and a dedicated facilitator of the Celebrate Children Seminars (CCSs). He and his wife Carol have recently been leading seminars about once a month for men in the local church. Their seminars often last about two days, beginning with sessions on trauma and how that affects a family. During the second day, they teach methods of healing and self care. They demonstrate ways to restore dignity and identity, helping men understand God’s intentions for humanity, His design for healthy family life, and how men should relate to women and children, keeping in mind that all people have equal dignity and value.
According to Joe, healing for families and marriages starts with the man. While many people see problems in the way that men carry all the power and authority in their culture, Joe sees an opportunity. He said, “If the man understands what you’re talking about, the whole family is healed.” Culturally, men have the opportunity and responsibility to lead the family, but they only do what has been modeled and established for them as the cultural norm.
After one of the Seminars, an attendee wrote, “These teachings are real. We didn’t know how to care for our children. I am an old man now, I wish my children were still young, but they are not. I would like to take these teachings and apply them to my grandchildren. Nobody taught us how to be good fathers and husbands. What we saw our fathers doing is what we have been doing but now I realize that it wasn’t the right way.”
Recently, Joe reflected on one of his seminars, saying that “the men in the community have parented as they were parented by their fathers – with distance and harsh punishments.” It is true that hurting people hurt people, and trauma is often passed down generationally. People copy the parenting model and example they have seen throughout their lives. But education has sparked change and healing in local families and churches.
The CCSs that Joe and Carol teach have been especially effective because they actively practice what they preach. Joe is unashamed to do things that would be culturally abnormal. For example, he walks beside his wife as opposed to in front of her, he sits next to her in church, and he carries his children on his own back. He and his wife teach side by side, demonstrating to the attendees that a woman has equal dignity, value, and authority as himself.
Part of their teaching includes the process of pregnancy, and how a baby’s development affects the mother. Joe tells them, “Torturing a woman is like abusing where you came from.” Some of these things in Joe’s training are shocking and uncomfortable for participants, but many people return with positive and encouraging feedback and reports about how the seminars have changed lives and healed families.
Joe’s vision is to continue partnering with local churches to teach men how to love and support their wives and children, and treat them as equally loved and valued members of the family and society. He has been encouraged to see how eager the men are to learn. They have been able and willing to make changes that are difficult and uncomfortable at first, but ultimately lead to restored marriages and healing from trauma. He said, “They are so interested that they want to do the training every day.” With that encouragement, Joe is excited to see how these teachings continue to positively influence the community.