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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Operation Bootstrap Africa founder dies

Simonson created grassroots agency in Tanzania and Madagascar

J. David Simonson, 80, the ELCA pastor and missionary who 45 years ago founded Operation Bootstrap Africa, died Aug. 16 at home in Arusha, Tanzania.

He also launched the MaaSae Girls Lutheran Secondary School in 1994. Maasai leaders made him an honorary lifetime elder in the Arusha Tribe.

Operation Bootstrap founder David Simonson
Operation Bootstrap Africa founder David Simonson enjoys a moment in 1990 with friends in Tanzania.
Operation Bootstrap Africa, a grassroots nonprofit agency, "partners with communities in Tanzania and Madagascar to help educate their children," reads its website.

Today it continues to help communities build classrooms, pay for teachers, and provide college and university scholarships for some of the world's poorest children.

In 1954, when Simonson applied for missionary service in Tanganyika (Tanzania) through the former Evangelical Lutheran Church, the application asked: "What does Jesus Christ mean to you personally?" Simonson wrote, "Everything."

From 1965 to 1996 he served the church in Tanzania in various roles, preaching, providing pastoral care, building schools and churches.

His entrepreneurial hand touched other initiatives, including the Selian Lutheran Hospital and the Purka dairy farming promotion project, always in coordination with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania . Today, that church, with 5.3 million members, is the second largest in the Lutheran World Federation.


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