Columbia couple heads to Tanzania to work as missionaries

COLUMBIA—Chris and Katie Reid began living out a dream when they boarded a plane Dec. 28 bound for the east African nation of Tanzania.

The couple will spend three and a half years there working for Maryknoll Lay Missioners, a Catholic organization that serves poor communities in Asia, Africa and the Americas (

Mrs. Reid will work with women’s issues through the Caritas program of the Diocese of Mwanza, and Mr. Reid will assist the Buswelu Women’s Cooperative, helping groups develop projects to generate income and help bring their families out of poverty.

Since September, the Reids have been at Maryknoll headquarters in Ossining, N.Y., for orientation, studying theology and learning about practical concerns they will face once they begin work.

Once in Tanzania they will have three months of intensive training in the Swahili language. Maryknoll will also help them find housing in Mwanza, a mid-sized port city of about 2 million people on the southern shore of Lake Victoria. The Reids won’t be alone either, because three other lay missioners will be waiting to meet them.

The couple must travel light with only two 50-pound bags each allowed by the airlines, Mrs. Reid said. “We’re bringing what we need for ourselves: clothes, personal items, photographs and a few thank you gifts to give people,” she said.

Maryknoll has several cars in the country allocated to workers, but Mrs. Reid said they will rely on public transportation such as the minicabs, which are one of the main ways of getting around Mwanza.

The Reids, who each have a degree in social work from the University of South Carolina in Columbia, met nine years ago when they volunteered for Americorps.

In Columbia, they were members of St. Thomas More and, more recently, St. Martin de Porres Church. They worked as instructors at USC for several years while researching opportunities to serve overseas.

She is a cradle Catholic, he a recent convert. Both say work in Africa will help them fulfill a deep desire to serve others in need.

“I feel like both of us were called to Africa,” Mr. Reid said. “Very early on, I got obsessed with Africa. I read some books on it and just started paying attention to what was going on there, the stories of the people on the ground doing work there, and it lit a passion in me.”

Mrs. Reid said Catholic teaching on social justice motivates her. “I feel like in order for me to live my true Catholic faith, I have to work to create systems of change where people are treated equally,” she said. “Through Maryknoll, I’m able to fulfill that need and desire to work for and create justice.”

Mr. Reid is originally from Vicksburg, Miss., and Mrs. Reid hails from New Jersey.

“Our families have been very supportive in our choice, but it’s also been an obvious challenge for them because we’ll be far away,” she said. “It’s sad and hard for them but I know they’re proud of us.”

The Reids hope to use their professional and personal skills to help Tanzanians realize their own dreams for a better life.

“We’re not going to bark orders and tell people what they’re doing,” Mr. Reid said. “A lot of the work is just going and being with the people, making sure they have what they need and expressing God’s love through friendship and accompaniment.”