Enduring Relationships, Lasting Legacy

In the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, Sophia drafts a letter to a friend. She thinks about translating each word from her native Swahili as she carefully prints in English.

“Thanks for your letter… I failure to answer your letter immediately because my last-born Aman was very serious sick with malaria. I always remember your kindness and love which you show me… Many regards to your family and friends.”

Building relationships like that between Sophia and her American friend Eileen are the heart of Gerald Klonglan’s work in Tanzania. In fact, they’ve been the heart of his life’s work.

As chair of the Bethesda Tanzania Ministry Team at Bethesda Lutheran Church in Ames Klonglan (’58 rural sociology, MS ’62, PhD ’63) fosters the relationship between the Shighatini Lutheran Parish in Tanzania and Bethesda.

Klonglan is a professor emeritus of sociology and former associate dean for national programs and research. His boundless enthusiasm hasn’t diminished since his retirement in 2001. He contines to put his idealism and practical know-how to work bringing people together across continents for the betterment of society.

“It’s about accompaniment—walking side-by-side,” Klonglan says. “This is not a business trip or a vacation, it is a human development trip for both them and us.”

With apparent joy, he recounts how the relationship has grown and how the Bethesda team supplies basic needs and assists residents of Shighatini while learning from them as well.

“We no longer send missionaries abroad to ‘educate.’ We work with residents to support their needs as a society,” he says. “We bring experts with us to focus on improving health, agriculture and education systems. Projects are not pursued unless both sides agree.”

Bethesda’s projects in Shighatini benefit all residents regardless of religious affiliation. Together they have established gravity flow water systems, improved dairy production, introduced crops and improved poultry production. Their efforts have been funded privately by the Bethesda congregation and gifts from The Rotary Club of Ames.

Klonglan also helped form a nonprofit organization, Empower Tanzania, to connect communities in the U.S. with those in rural Tanzania.

Prior to his work in Tanzania, Klonglan’s career in sociology took him around the world and often to the center of history.

He is most recently known for his work in college administration establishing relationships with historically black land-grant colleges and the tribal colleges. And his efforts with funding agencies led the college to become number one in the nation for earning U.S. Department of Agriculture external grants in 1999.

In retirement, Klonglan is an oft-requested speaker on the legacy of George Washington Carver, he hosts groups for the ISU Alumni Association and he continues to foster friendships and serve communities like Sophia’s.