Sunday, December 29, 2013

THE GATEKEEPER


     To get to the area in which we live, you have to pass through a gate.  There are several men who share the duty of keeping the gate.  We have made it a point to stop and speak to the guards every time we pass through.  Sometimes it's a quick greeting, and sometimes we chat for a few minutes (as best we can with my limited Swahili and their limited English).  We've learned their names and use them each time we see them.  We have given them biblical reading materials which they have happily received.  They have read them and shared them with each other.

     Today as we came home, one of them asked where we had been.  We said we were on our way home from church.  I asked him where he went to church, and he told me.  Then he let me know that there was a rumor that I was a preacher.  (I hadn't mentioned that to them yet.)  I confirmed that I was and told him that I was with the kanisa la Kristo.  On his own, he said, "I want to go to church with you Sunday."  I was thrilled and told him what time services were.  I don't know if he'll show up or not, but the conversation was an encouraging reminder that we always represent our Lord to others.  Even in the little things, like the way we drive through a gate.  We would all do well to keep that in mind more often as we conduct the business of everyday life.  People are watching!  And God is watching too.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Taking a Ride With Some African Missionaries

Here is one of the roads that we commonly drive on.  To be fair, there are some good roads here too, but this gives you a sampling of some back road driving.  Maybe another time I'll post some urban footage for you.  That's a real adventure!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

ANDREW CONNALLY SCHOOL OF PREACHING UPDATE

provided by TZ2000 director, Cy Stafford


We rejoice knowing we partner with others of a like-minded faith. In an effort to carry out
God’s will, “seeking and saving” the lost of this world, we know that training men in their
own country that they might in turn take the saving message of the Gospel to others, is
perhaps one of the best ways to “evangelize” the world.

Total number of graduates: 134 (undergraduates), another 20 from the Masters program. It is our hope to have our largest ever intake in Feb. 2014 with an enrollment of 30 new students. We are thankful for the 10 Short Course teachers that came our way this year, they are such an asset and encouragement to the team and school.
The following numbers are from 14 of our graduates (representing about 10% of
graduates)
1. Campaigns - 57
2. Baptisms - 278
3. New congregations established - 47
4. Active Christians - 881
5. Backsliding Christians - 148
6. New born Christians from Christian families - 28



2013 Highlights

In the Arusha area (not included in the above numbers, we conducted three Safari for
Souls campaigns resulting in 84 new converts.

At the ACSOP we hosted the annual Tanzania Leadership Conference. This year we
had around 140 participants from over 56 different congregations, and from 7 different
nations.

We also host the annual Tanzania Christian Camp. This year we had between 80-90
young men and women from many different congregations. The Lord blessed His
church with an increase of 17 souls from this camp this year.

We will also be hosting our annual Future Preacher’s Training Camp this week, we expect around 35-40 young men.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

TANZANIA CHRISTIAN CAMP


     Being south of the equator, our seasons are opposite of the calendar back home.  Thus, rather than summer camps, "Christmas camps" are common here.  People have some time off and some locals go on vacation or send their kids to camp.  One of the events that we were really looking forward to this year is Tanzania Christian Camp.  

     This past week a group from the U.S. was here (Ben Thompson, John and Denise Rice, and John Tyler Rice) to help bring the Bible camp experience that so many American young people love to Tanzania.  There were 84 campers between the ages of 15 and 25 that showed up for a week of fun and spiritual growth.  Tiffany and I had the opportunity to participate as teachers and counselors, and it was a wonderful experience.  Of those 84 campers, 64 completed their memory verse assignments - not a bad ratio.

     I'm also happy to report that that so far 17 baptisms have resulted from the camp!  It is so wonderful to see people responding to the Gospel message.  It was also encouraging to see that some of the greatest evangelists of the week were the male campers.  Several of them were very active in having Bible studies with other students, a good many of whom were baptized subsequently.  What a wonderful example of young Christian leadership!  

     Now please enjoy some pictures to highlight some of the week's events:

A young lady enters into Christ through baptism

These young people all had their sins washed away during camp!

Tiffany teaches Bible class
Ben addresses the campers.
  Anita and Paulina dish out some physical food to go along with the spiritual feast.  It takes a lot of beans and rice to feed a crew this size!

Beautiful singing is a staple at Bible camp.  TCC is no exception.
Students search their Bibles as they ponder the message being taught to them.
Craft Time!

Two campers have a person Bible study during some free time.
It takes a lot of water to meet the needs of camp.  When the local supply is insufficient, then a truckload has to be purchased.
John Rice wrapping up a powerful sermon
Daniel teaches class while one of the campers serves as a translator.
Tiffany's class is reminded of the importance of supporting one another through this activity.
Tiffany poses with her class
The campers get to decorate their t-shirts to help remember the week
Abby shows us her finished product
Daniel and Gasper pose with their campers

Saturday, December 7, 2013

OUR NEW HOME


After a slow and grueling search, we have finally found a place to call home!  We just don't have any furniture to put in it or a vehicle to get us to it, but hopefully those things will come soon.  It's a little small, but it has a very safe feel to it.  I think the family will be very happy living there.  As you can see in the picture above, the children literally danced for joy at having a place to call their own after months of living in transition.

On a different note, we are happy to welcome Ben Thompson and the John Rice family.  They have arrived safely for Tanzania Christian Camp.  I'll post more details about that later in the week.  This looks like it is going to be a very eventful, and wonderful week.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

GRADUATION DAY 2013

The Andrew Connally School of Preaching graduating class of 2013
     Saturday we were able to be a part of this year's graduation ceremony for the Andrew Connally School of Preaching.  It was exciting to see 14 men preparing to embark on their new lives as ministers of the Gospel.  Randy Pyle and Tom Brandon from the Meridianville, AL congregation were here to teach a short course on church leadership and were also able to be a part of the festivities.  

     A village leader was also there to offer congratulations and be a testimony to the good relationship that ACSOP has with the surrounding community.  Good Christians also tend to make good citizens and are a blessing to their communities.  Righteousness does exalt a nation as Proverbs 14:34 reminds us. 

    Additionally, there were three men who graduated from the Arusha Bible School.  None of these men were Christians when they enrolled in the school, but they wanted to know the Bible better.  During the in-depth Bible study that they did at school they discovered the truth of God's Word and were led to Christ.  Their conversions serve as a testimony to the power of the Gospel for anyone who is willing to give it honest study and "search the scriptures".

Randy Pyle, minister at the Meridianville church, addresses the graduates.


Tom Brandon, elder at Meridianville, AL joins Ahemidewe Kimaro (Dean of Students), Christopher Mwakabanje (Swahili Director), Jimmy Gee (ASCOP Director), and Cy Stafford (TZ 2000 Director) in presenting the graduates with their degrees.

I offer some final words of encouragement to the new graduates.

Here are the names of the men who graduated in this year's ACSOP class:
Albert Donasia Jacob Shirima (Valedictorian)
Ayubu Z. Laizer
Njile Makungu Kazungu
Godwin Elisha Malley
Godlisten John Mbise
Jackson K. Andrea
Josephat Mkwaya Mzima
Joseph Zephania Mhilu
Justine K. Nkelego
Maurice Gasper Wissibo
Naaman O. Sheiza
Philemon David Jakobo
Remmy Mwaituka Simkoko
Silvester Bahati Kanego


These are the graduates of the Arusha Bible School:
Clement S. Masimba (Valedictorian)
Happygod Silas Maleo
Amani Fransis Kimario

Please join with me in praying for these men as they move on to new phases of their life and service to God. 






Tuesday, November 26, 2013

GIVE ME A DRINK



The small boy in the picture above is on his way to the village water supply to get water for his family's daily needs.  Water is a very basic need for human survival.  His family may boil and drink it or they may use it to wash clothes or for other hygienic needs.  When he gets to the water supply, this is what he finds:




Many other villagers are gathered around waiting to collect water from the public source, which is only turned on during certain times of the week.  They'll come with push carts and buckets to get as much as they can carry.  Even for those who have running water in their houses there is a shortage right now.

As I pass by this scene about a mile or so from our home I am reminded of the encounter that Jesus had with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well.  That woman had similarly come for the tedious, but essential task of collecting water.  There Jesus offers her "living" water:
Jesus answered and said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life."   John 4:13-14
The woman perhaps imagines something as glorious as a typical American water faucet that spews forth an abundance of clean, drinkable water on demand.  At the very least she would love to be relieved of this burdensome task.  She responds by saying "Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw."  Through further teaching she would come to understand that the spiritual water that Jesus provides is even more essential and satisfying than the physical water she was seeking.

As I watch men, women, and children going to collect water, I reflect upon the living water that they need most.  I am reminded of the greatness of Christ's gift and the importance of our mission.  Let's all do what we can to point spiritually thirsty people toward Jesus.

 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

SUNDAY IN KISONGO


     Today I had the opportunity to preach at the Kisongo congregation.  This is the church that is located adjacent to the school of preaching so there were lots of preaching students present.  This provides a more biblically knowledgeable audience than is sometimes available.   
     Randy Pyle and Tom Brandon from the Meridianville congregation in northern Alabama arrived late last night to teach a short course here this week.  We enjoyed hearing Tom teach Bible class this morning.  We're looking forward to getting to know them a little better this week.
    Speaking of Bible class, Abigail Gee taught the children's class today.  I think you'll enjoy this clip of Josiah and his classmates singing Jesus Love Me in Swahili  (see if you can pick out Josiah in the crowd...):





In Tanzania everyone greets everyone else at the end of services.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

ARUSHA COMMUNITY FAIR

Today we had the opportunity to attend the annual Arusha Community Fair.  This is a huge event for the community and was a nice opportunity to interact with a lot of people.  The church had a booth set up and was distributing free Bible study materials.



It also was a great chance to sample local fair and shop for crafts.  Coincidentally, it was Tiffany's birthday.  I claimed that I had called ahead and arranged the fair in her honor.  She may or may not have believed me...
It even offered our kids their opportunity to see Santa Claus in Africa.  He may not have been exactly what we would have found in an American mall, but hey, this is Africa!    :)



Friday, November 15, 2013

MEET OUR NEW FAMILY DOCTOR

Today we took a trip out to beautiful Monduli, just down the road a little way, to see Tanzania Christian Clinic.  This is a clinic run by Dr. Smeltzer from Florence, AL.  Our coworker, Stephanie Stafford, does volunteer work as a nurse there a few days each week.  We feel very fortunate to have an American doctor close enough to provide regular care for our family.  

Tanzania Christian Clinic
Tiffany and the boys meet Dr. Smeltzer
 


Tiffany was also excited to meet Penina, a Tanzanian midwife



Wednesday, November 6, 2013

THE JOURNEY

Last Friday night we put the finishing touches on our packing.  We then went to bed with our hearts and minds filled with a wide variety of thoughts and emotions.  Over the next few days we would leave family and familiar behind and move to the other side of the world.  We had been planning the journey for what seemed like an eternity, and now it was finally here.

(It took 3 vehicles (Janie's, Bambi's, and Jared's) to get all of us and our stuff to the airport.)

Saturday we went to the airport and said our goodbyes.  

(Kids, the device in the background is called a payphone.  They were once quite common)

Finally back at the gate we sat to wait for the plane. Out of caution we had given ourselves an abundance of time, so now it was time to make a couple of toddlers wait in the airport for a couple of hours.  Fortunately, God was already looking out for us.  Just as the boys were getting restless we found a playground inside the airport just a little way from out gate!  What a relief it was for the boys to get to burn a little energy!




 After 12 hours in the air and plenty of time in airports, we were glad to have an overnight layover in Istanbul.  This gave us a chance to relax, recharge, and regroup a little bit.

(There's nothing like gorging on Halloween candy after a long day of flying!)

It also gave us the chance to see a few sights as we stretched our legs.  The hotel was within walking distance of some beautiful and historically rich scenery. Such as the famous "Blue Mosque":


And the Hagia Sophia:


Then it was time to check-in for the final leg of our journey.  Moving a family of 5 take A LOT of luggage!  I thought you might enjoy seeing the mountain of stuff that we had to keep up with during this trip:


Relieved to have most of our travel logistics behind us, we took one more 8-hour flight to get to our new home.



We landed in Tanzania a little after 3:00 a.m. and our teammates, Cy and Jimmy, were there waiting to pick us up.  Our son, Josiah, proclaimed, "It's Afka!  I finally found it!"  All in all the trip went about as well as we possibly could have hoped.  The babies were great, logistics went smoothly enough, and we were safe and sound. God has taken good care of us so far.  I can wait to see what he has planned for us next!





Wednesday, October 16, 2013

OBSERVATIONS FROM A SOON-TO-BE MISSIONARY


1. Time flies when you’re moving to Africa – The list of things to be done seems endless, and the time to do it is fleeting.  We also wish we had more time with our friends and family whom we love.

2. Time drags when you’re moving to Africa – It seems like we’ve been talking about and planning for this forever!  We can’t wait to get through this transition and get into the work that God has in store for us.

3. We can get by with less than we think — It has been 4 weeks since we packed up our beds, living room furniture, and many other possessions to send them ahead on the container.  It has been 2 weeks since we sold off our dining room furniture and everything else that we’re not keeping.  Yet life has gone on and, though not ideal, we’ve been just fine.

4. Prayer is powerfully important – This mission wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without lots and lots of prayers, both by us and others.  Also, it won’t be successful without continued prayers.  Please keep them coming!

5. Walking by faith is difficult, but exhilarating – So far we’ve seen God at work throughout this process as we have raised funds and made plans.  It seems like He gives us just enough light to see the next step, but not much more.  Yet each step has landed safely.  We feel assured that God will continue to walk with us as He has already, provided we trust in Him.

6. Fund-raising is hard — The positive side is that it gives people a chance to be involved in missions in an important way without having to go themselves.  If more people sought out that chance, then there would also be more people willing to be missionaries.

7. Leaving a great church behind you is hard, but having a great church behind you is wonderful — Lehman Avenue has been a great place for our family to be, and it is very comforting to know that they are there to be our anchor in the U.S..