A tribute to my uncle, Dr. John Chacha, Father to Many
Two years ago, on April 16th, 2015, my uncle John Chacha was unexpectedly killed in a tragic car accident in while traveling through Kenya. For those of you who don’t know, Chacha (as he was best known to most of his friends and family) was the founder and director of Teamwork Ministries International, as well as the City of Hope in Ntagacha village in Tanzania, where I served as a missionary from 2010-2012.
The aftershocks of his death were literally felt around the world, by the churches all across the US, Europe, Africa, and even Asia where he used to preach and lead conferences, by the 500 Bible schools that he started throughout Africa to train pastors and leaders, by his extended family in his home village of Ntagacha and beyond, by the 90+ children in the orphanage at the City of Hope who called him “Baba”, and of course, by his wife Regina and their six children, and our extended family in the US.During my time at the City of Hope, Chacha pushed me to move further out of my comfort zone than I ever anticipated, encouraged me to take on ventures that I sometimes thought were a bit crazy, and handed me leadership roles through which I learned countless lessons. We didn’t always see eye to eye, but I was challenged and inspired by his enormous dreams for the City of Hope and surrounding communities, his audacious faith, and boldness to stand before God and ask for things that seemed impossible. He was a true visionary, and there aren’t many people like him in the world.
My last memory of my uncle was when he was back in the states briefly, probably in 2014, a number of months before his passing. I went over to their house, and we stood in the kitchen as he asked about my plans to move to Zambia. At that point I was only in the early stages of preparing to go, and still unsure about when and how. He said to me, “When Regina told me about your opportunity, I thought wow, that just makes sense!” He encouraged me in my decision and told me he was excited for me…And that was the last time I saw him. I will carry that moment with me for the rest of my life, no matter where I go in the world.
I know that Chacha was a very prophetic man, and the fact that he saw the direction that God was leading me in, and said “Yes and Amen” to it was another confirmation that I was doing the right thing.I didn’t fully begin to understand how much of an impact my uncle and his ministry had on my life until I began the process of moving to Zambia. Looking back, I realized that he is the reason that I went to Africa in the first place, the reason I met so many missionaries as a child, the reason I had friends from so many African countries, the reason I knew stories of what God was doing in the far-flung places around the world, and the reason I liked traditional Swahili food before I ever made it to East Africa.When I was only 17, Chacha asked me and my younger sister Marla if we wanted to join him and a ministry team for a short-term missions trip to Nakuru, Kenya, to help lead the children’s program during an annual conference at a church there. It took a bit of convincing to get my parents to allow both of us to go, but the following year, in 2002, both Marla and I boarded a jet for the first time and set off for Kenya with our awesome team from the US. We were only there for 10 days, but in that short time, I fell in love with the people, the language, the food, the music, and the culture. One night, I was standing in the courtyard of our hotel, looking at the vast expanse of stars that are visible in that side of the world (you can actually see part of the Milky Way, it’s incredible), and I started thinking, “I could do this long-term”. It didn’t make sense, considering I was there for such a short trip, but in that moment, God was calling me to serve in East Africa. That calling stayed in my heart until almost 9 years later, I moved to Tanzania and finally saw it come to pass.
Memories of my uncle Chacha have been resurfacing in my mind over the past few months, I suppose because the anniversary of his death was approaching. I certainly had time to reflect on his life as I traveled back to Kenya and Tanzania for the holidays at the end of last year. Few people ever accomplish even a fraction of what Chacha did in his 60 years of life, and the amazing thing about his legacy is that it still lives on. My aunt Regina, my cousins, and the leadership of Teamwork Ministries and the City of Hope are bravely and passionately living out the fulfillment of Chacha and Regina’s vision for the children and greater community in a little village in northwestern Tanzania. In February, the Dr. John Chacha Secondary School opened its doors, to provide quality secondary education to all of the young people at the City of Hope and the community. Now all of the students who were walking several miles every day to reach the nearest government secondary school simply have pass through the back gate at the City of Hope, and they’ll arrive at the new school.
There is still more I could say, but I think this is enough for now. I’m so glad we can continue to celebrate the life of a man who impacted so many people around the world. And I’m thankful for the family that he’s left behind, and for the incredible people that they are. I love you all so much, Regina, Mwita, Monica, Imani, Susan, Tenzi, Rose, and Sarah, and I know Chacha would be so proud of the ways that you serve the Lord and His people in Tanzania.