Sunday, November 2, 2014

What Do You Miss Most About America?"

     Furlough is just around the corner, so we are naturally thinking excitedly about getting back to the U.S.  People often ask us, “What do you miss most about home?” The biggest and most obvious thing is family and friends. There is just no way to quantify what it is like to leave them behind, and we absolutely can’t wait to see them again. But aside from people, here is a list (in no particular order) of five things that I miss most about life in the States.

1.  Reliable Electricity – When the electricity goes out I feel so powerless!  It’s not really a big deal at first. We just get out the lanterns and continue our business.  It doesn’t even scare the kids anymore. However, when we hit a stretch where there are long power outages for several days in a row it really, really gets old… fast. I’m actually sitting in the dark of a power outage as I write this (maybe why this made #1 on the list). We do have a generator, but unfortunately it has been broken more often than it has worked since we got here.
On the other hand – We do have electricity a lot of the time.  I can’t say the same for many of the people here. 

2.  Clean Water – Boiling water to drink or cook with is a chore that has to be done a couple of times a day.  After it boils then it has to cool and be filtered before we drink it.  When we wash dishes (by hand of course), we have to rinse them in bleach water to make sure that microorganisms don’t get left behind. The same goes for washing all produce that we buy.  Again, it is not really that big of a deal, but it does get annoying.
One the other hand – We do have reliable plumbing that brings water right to our faucets every time.  I don’t have to go far down the road to see people without plumbing at all.  They go to a public water supply and fill buckets with water to use.  Their toilets simply empty into a hole beneath the outhouse. 

3.  Blending In – It is easy to tell that we’re not from around here.  We stick out.  Every time we venture into public we draw eyes and attention.  I can’t walk down the road without children pointing and yelling, “Mzungu!”  That’s the Swahili word for a white person.  That’s novel and cute at first, but does get old after a while. People charge us more in the market because they assume money is no object for a mzungu.  We get asked for financial help constantly by both friends and strangers because people assume we can help.  Sometimes it would be really nice to not have the color of our skin be the first thing (sometimes it seems the only thing) that people see about us.  I miss walking down the street without a mob of people trying to sell me things because they assume that I’m a tourist.  I miss blending in occasionally.
On the other hand – Our standing out does open doors for the gospel.  Sometimes people will listen to us, when they wouldn’t listen to a local.  And we often do have the money to help, which is a HUGE blessing.  I really love having the opportunity to help those who aren’t likely to find help elsewhere. 

4.  Fast Food – I don’t mean the taste of fast food.  I like the taste of the food here just fine.  I mean the speed and convenience of fast food.  When traveling or just having a busy day, it would be really nice to have a McDonald’s value meal, being in and out with a meal to go in less than 10 minutes. Here if you eat out, then you probably need to allow for 2 hours almost anywhere you go.  Things just move at a slower pace, and people don’t get in a hurry.  That’s kind of nice SOMETIMES, but other times you have other things to do.
On the other hand – We have plenty of food.  It may come slowly, but it is coming.  We’re not missing meals or going hungry. I don’t have to travel far at all to see people who have to worry a lot more about their next meal than I do. 

5.  Traffic – Driving in town feels kind of like a video game – a very real and dangerous game.  The rules are just suggestions.  Two lanes can easily become four or more.  Motorcycles swarm around and through the traffic, operating on a completely different set of guidelines than larger vehicles.  It is not unusual that while I’m passing a vehicle for another vehicle to pass me. In the meantime, pedestrians are crossing anywhere they want.  Rush hour is beyond stressful, and nighttime driving is just unreasonably dangerous.  I can’t wait to get back the land of reasonable traffic patterns and somewhat sane drivers.
On the other hand – We are fortunate enough to have a good vehicle.  Most people have to ride on the dala dalas (crowded public transport vans driven by crazed maniacs) and piki pikis (motorcycle taxis driven by crazed maniacs).  Meanwhile, we have reliable transportation at our disposal 24 hours a day.  What a luxury!

     It is hard to feel sorry for yourself for very long here. Every time I think I’ve made a sacrifice for God, I encounter people who didn’t have those blessings to begin with. Every sacrifice, inconvenience, and annoyance has ultimately been well worth it to see the powerful ways that God is at work here.  It really is an honor to be His servant wherever He may send me.    

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sometimes You Just Have to Do What You've Got to Do

     If you've ever been to Arusha, then you know that one of the biggest hazards that we face is simply traffic.  Motorcycles (they call them piki pikis here) swarm around, in, and out of traffic like swarms of bees.  They mostly drive on the center and side lines of the road, but can swerve across the lane with no warning.  Yesterday, we fell victim to just such a maneuver.  A piki piki swerved right into us, knocking off the rear quarter panel of our vehicle.  Apparently, not seriously injured (thankfully!) the piki piki driver quickly disappeared.  

     So what could we do?  It just so happened that we had some duct tape with us, but... it was my daughter's PINK duct tape.  Urgh.  How unmanly can you get?  Oh well, sometimes you just have to do what you have to do.  So we taped it back on and went on about our day.  

So what do you think of our new detailing?  Looking forward to getting this fixed.

Revelation Class

     The school year is moving right along.  These men are just a few weeks away from graduation, but first they must conquer my class on Revelation.  It is proving to be a rich and rewarding study.  I hope they are benefiting from it as much as I am.

Would You Like a Visit?

     We do have a few slots left in our schedule for our upcoming visit to the U.S.  If you would like for me to come by and visit with your congregation, then contact me, and we will work it out.  

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Little TLC

Tanzanian Leadership Conference

Daniel teaches a lesson on the importance of prayer, and Michael provides translation

     Last week the brethren of East Africa got a little TLC.  Of course, I'm talking about their time at the Tanzanian Leadership Conference.  Church leaders from 3 East African nations gathered at the Andrew Connally School of Preaching for four days of fellowship and lectures aimed at improving leadership skills.  This year's theme was Lessons on Leadership from Nehemiah.  It was an enriching endeavor as Nehemiah does prove to be an excellent case-study in leadership.

     This was my first experience with TLC.  I found it to be kind of like an African version of Polishing the Pulpit or the Freed-Hardeman Lectures.  Many of the attendees were alumni of the school.  This was a great time to catch up with them, and see how their work is going.  There were also Ladies sessions, and Tiffany was honored to be among the women who taught lessons.  We were also glad to have American visitors, Ralph and Cindy Williams, and Garry Hill, participating in the event.

     Times like this offer encouragement in knowing how the church is thriving across East Africa.  We expect that God will continue doing great things hear, and that the harvest will continue to be abundant.  Take courage, my friends, to know that the kingdom is thriving and that victories are being won each day.

clockwise:  Cy Stafford addresses the attendees as Charles Heberth translates, Christian sisters work the registration table, Ralph Williams presents a lesson with translation help from Gasper Maurice, attendees listen to the speaker

Friday, October 3, 2014

An African Missionary Talks about the Global Pandemic

The Pandemic

      There is a disease that is wreaking havoc in Africa.  It is causing unbelievable amounts of suffering in those who have been infected, as well as emotional damage to those who love them.  Living in Africa, I have had the great displeasure of witnessing first-hand those who are suffering from this disease.  I’ve seen some who are desperate for a cure for their condition, seeking urgently for some relief.  I’ve also seen those who are not yet aware of the severity of the disease.  These have no idea what is coming if they don’t receive treatment soon. 

     This disease has even made appearances in America and other parts of the world.  Efforts to contain it are extremely important, but it seems to spread so very easily.  I’m very concerned about what it means for the future.  A true pandemic may be inevitable and unavoidable. 

     Untreated, this disease has a 100% fatality rate.  Many treatments have been tried, but there is only one that is effective.  There was one man who seemed to have immunity to the disease.  Transfusions of this man’s blood have proven to be a remarkably effective treatment.  So far, the only known power for cure is in his blood.  Without it the disease will spread unchecked and result in untold devastation for countless people. 

     It is hard to admit, but I, myself, have been infected by the disease.  I am happy to report however, that the treatment has proven quite effective in my life.  For this reason, I am anxious to spread the cure to as many as possible. 

     By now you realize that I’m not talking about Ebola, AIDS, bird-flu, swine-flu, anthrax, or any similar disease.  The disease to which I refer is much deadlier, and much more widespread.  It is sin.  All adults have been infected (Romans 3:23).  It is ultimately fatal (Romans 6:23).  The only cure is the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:7), and healing can be found nowhere else (Acts 4:12). 

     This knowledge is why I am an evangelist, and why I think you should be too.  I don’t mean that you have to stand in a pulpit, or be on a church payroll.  I only mean that you should be doing what is in your power to spread the word to those who are within your realm of influence.  If you knew the cure to Ebola, would you keep it from your friend who was infected?  How much more then should you share the life-giving knowledge that can rescue others from the death that comes from sin?

     I am not afraid of Ebola.  I am not afraid of terrorists.  I am not afraid of poisonous snakes.  I AM afraid of meeting my Lord unprepared (Matthew 10:28).  I AM afraid of what will happen to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus (2 Thessalonians 1:8), and I long and pray for their salvation (Romans 10:1). 

     The world is so distracting, but let’s do our best to keep the perspective that comes from setting out minds on things above rather than things on earth (Colossians 3:2). 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

That's Different

     This picture shows a scene that takes place every afternoon.  Children that are fortunate enough to go to school are making their way home for the evening.  There are no car lines full of parents waiting to pick there precious ones up and take them home or to a variety of extra-curricular activities.  There are no big, yellow school buses delivering loads of children safely to their doorsteps.

     These children are simply turned loose and sent home.  Some will walk.  But many will hitch rides with passing vehicles, or take a dala dala (vans that serve as public transportation here).

     I've heard stories in the past few months of parents in the US facing criticism and legal problems because they forced their children to walk to destinations less than a mile away.  I don't know the details of those situations, and my purpose is not to comment specifically about them one way or another.  It is just interesting to observe how starkly different life is for people living in different parts of the world.  Even though we live in the same time, and the world is smaller than it's ever been, people's lives can be so varied that they can't even fathom what it means to live another way.

    When it comes to most aspects of life, it is just fine that we live differently.  Cultures need not be the same.  The differences add spice and variety.  It is really a shame the way that mass media is facilitating the disappearance of local cultures as they meld into a homogeneous global one - but that's a topic for another time and place.  

     Really, I have two points.  First, it is healthy for us to open our eyes to the fact that the way we are living life is not the only (or even necessarily best) way to live life.  "Everybody" doesn't in fact have the latest gadget, nor does everybody even know it exists.  (You should see the Tanzanians marvel at the GPS in my car!)  Everybody doesn't share the same interest.  (The poor folks here think that footballs are round with black spots.)  And that's okay.

     Secondly, there is one aspect of life that is not open to variety and personal preference.  That is Jesus.  Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.  He is not one of many paths, but rather he is THE way.  He is not one of many possible truths, but rather he is THE truth.  He is not one of many acceptable lifestyles, but rather he is THE life.  These points are absolute and non-negotiable.  This conviction is at the heart of missions, and the heart of the Christian life in general.  Spreading Christ must be a high priority for us all, both home and abroad.  Let's not allow ourselves to be so distracted by the differences that don't matter that forget the only one that really does.

Would you like for me to visit your congregation during our next furlough? 
 Dates are still available so contact me if you are interested.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Adjustments and Providence

Adjustments and Providence

     One of the greatest challenges that we have faced as a missionary family is trying to do what's best for our oldest child.  Our youngest two kids are ages 3 and 2.  They have each other to play with, and have a pretty great life aside from being separated from extended family.

     But our 12-year old, Abby, is very isolated.  Really she was the one who got the worst deal out of our decision to move to Africa.  When we first got here, there was another missionary family here that had some sweet kids near her age.  They hit it off and became fast friends.  Several months ago, that family returned to the States to begin a new phase of their lives.  Since that time Abby has had a very difficult time.  She is a social being, but she found herself alone without readily available English-speaking peers.

     We have tried to get her involved in various area activities hoping that she would find a friend, but it just wasn't happening.  What could we do?  There are several international schools in the area.  These are expensive private schools where classes are taught in English and many of the students are expats.  We are happy with the education that Abby is getting from home school, but felt strongly that she needed some peer interaction.

     Enrolling Abby in international school full-time was financially out of the question.  Even if we could afford it, I don't think that's what we would have wanted to do.  But we worked out to send Abby for some elective-type classes like art, music, and drama on a part-time basis.  It was still expensive, but we felt that the sacrifice would be well worth it if Abby would be happier.

     It's only been a week now, but so far it seems that the plan has been a success!  Abby came home from her first day ecstatic that she had found an American friend - another girl who new about basketball, R5 (one of Abby's favorite bands), and SEC football (the other girl is a bulldogs fan, but we're willing to overlook it).  It also helps that the school has lots of British touches that my Harry Potter-loving daughter loves (ex: houses, a house cup, a head boy and head girl, prefects, uniforms, etc.).  All in all, we've had a much happier girl on our hands.

     Now, enter the providence of God.  A couple of days ago some friends who are among our most generous supporters sent us a message saying that they wanted to contribute to Abby's tuition.  Through conversation they found out that the expense was "X" number of dollars.  They answered back that it was a strange coincidence, because they had precisely "X" number of dollars available to give to a good work!  I should be accustomed to it by now, but no matter how many times I see it, I still marvel at the ways God works.  His providence is amazing!  Mungu ni mwema!

Preachers' Wives Training

     Yesterday, Tiffany was in charge of the monthly preachers' wives class.  She taught lessons on "Faith and Works" and "Using a Prayer Journal."  Twenty area wives were gathered for fellowship and Bible study.  These gatherings have been a valuable source of togetherness and growth for the preacher's wives in the Arusha area.

Back to Ilkiurei

     After enjoying our special series at the Arusha congregation, we were happy to be back "home" at Ilkiurei today.   But sadly, while we were back "home" we learned about a little boy who isn't.  One of our members has a 7 year old son who ran away from home 3 weeks ago and hasn't been heard from since.  Please say a prayer for this little boy and his mother.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Tidbits from the Week

     We live in a place where scenes like that above are common place.  Don't get the wrong impression.  Everyone doesn't live like this, but there are plenty that do.  We were recently challenged to accept the Ice-Bucket Challenge.  We obliged, but added out own twist.  In light of the fact that clean water is a precious commodity here, we chose to use dirty water for the challenge.  (You can see it here)  Then we donated a large container of drinking water to each of the families at the Ilkiurei church on Wednesday evening... NONE of whom even have running water at home, much less clean water.  With the heavy load of water, we gave everyone a ride home.  (Not to neglect ALS, we completed the challenge with a small donation to pro-life ALS research at the Mayo clinic.)

Romans Class

     This quarter at the Andrew Connally School of Preaching, I have the pleasure of teaching the book of Romans.  It is a challenging and rewarding study as we wrestle with the roles that law, grace, faith, and obedience play in the scheme of salvation.  Romans 3:23 reminds us that sin is a universal problem that every person must deal with.  Meanwhile, Romans 1:16 lets us know that the gospel is the power of God until salvation for everyone who believe.  What a wondrous and precious thing the gospel is! What a privilege to be able to preach it, and to teach others who will preach as well!

The One-Cup Issue

     This month I have been teaching a special series on the Parables of Jesus at the Arusha congregation.   However, for the last Sunday of the month, they asked me to deal with a specific "hot topic."  The brothers that bind the belief that the Lord's supper must be taken with a single cup shared by the whole congregation have caused a good bit of division in some parts of the country.  They have recently begun to make a little noise here in this area as well.  So as a preemptive measure, the brethren wanted to study the issue clearly.   It was well-received, and we will continue to prize very highly the unity of the brotherhood.

School Party

    Our friend and sister in Christ invited us to attend a large celebration at her child's school.  We love opportunities like this to experience the local culture and to show ourselves to be members of the community.  We couldn't stay for the whole event (it was an all-day production), but enjoyed what we did witness.  The children showed off a program that they had prepared and school officials made speeches.  Of course it was all followed up by an African feast.  

     It is important to be seen in the community.  Taking an interest in local activities is not only enjoyable, but it also opens up opportunities for the Gospel.  People appreciate when interest is shown in their lives, and a rapport is built.  We try our best to be mindful of who we represent at all times, after all we don't exactly blend in around here.  Anything we do in public might create an opportunity or a barrier.  

     You may not stand out from your community as readily as we do, but the same is true of your public behavior.  Do all in the name of the Lord.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Place to Lay Their Heads

Elly stands beside his handiwork and this family has a place to sleep.

     Extreme poverty is a part of life here.  We are surrounded by it on many levels and many fronts.  Recently we became aware of a sister in Christ whose already impoverished situation had taken a turn for the worse.  Her husband abandoned her, leaving her with no source of income and 4 children to care for.  That includes twins that are still nursing.  

     Without income she was unable to pay rent and lost her very humble home.  Her church family is helping her in various ways, and she has a roof over her head, but that's about it - a roof, four dirt walls, and a dirt floor.  When we visited her, we were very saddened to see that there was not a single piece of furniture in her home.  All five of them were sleeping on a palate on the dirt floor. It is winter here and it does actually get pretty chilly at night.  

     We couldn't stomach seeing our sister live this way.  Some kind and concerned brethren in America provided funds to buy her a bed.  Given the lack of space, we decided that a bunk bed was the best way to get this family off the ground.  Our brother and expert handyman, Elly Martin agreed to build and deliver the bed. 

     Like many others in the community, this poor sister still faces many hardships.  At least now she and her babies now have a place to lay their heads at night.

     It is such a blessing to be a part of the family of God.  Keep taking care of each other.  Keep loving each other.  Keep being the hands and feet of Jesus.

Some of the Bible studies we had this week.

      Conducting personal Bible studies might be my very favorite part of my job.  Walking an eager student through the Bible's teachings about God's love for them and His will for their lives is a great joy.  People are often willing to stop whatever they are doing and study.  One lady (pictured above left) always receives us eagerly.  On this occasion she was doing her very best to listen and participate while controlling her 3 small children.  No stranger to this struggle myself, we read the situation and made the study brief.  However, eager to learn she still wants us to continue coming to study.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

This and That

The Kisongo Church of Christ is the setting for this year's East Africa Gospel Meeting

East Africa Gospel Meeting

     This week saw the culmination of months of planning on the part of our local brethren.  The Kisongo congregation, with the support of all of the area congregations, hosted this year's East Africa Gospel Meeting.  Brethren game to visit from several East African countries.  It was a time of reunion, professional development, and evangelism.  Each morning was spent in lectures centered around the theme of "The Promises of God."  Then each afternoon, the participants went out and conducted Bible studies in the area.  It is an interesting approach to a Gospel meeting.  Next year it will be hosted in Uganda.  

Being Ever-Ready

     You never know what's going to happen on the mission field.  Due to unforeseen circumstances, no translators showed up for Wednesday evening services.  In fact, apart from an American visitor (Jerry Bates) and myself, there were no men around at all, but there were plenty of women and children.  What to do? What to do?  There is a crowd gathered but I had no way to teach them.  Time to improvise!

     Victoria, a 10-year old little girl, knows some English.  She helps Tiffany in the children's class, but has never translated in to an adult audience.  Yet she bravely agreed to give it a try.  Jerry and I excused ourselves while Paula Bates did a short class for the children, then Tiffany shared some thoughts with the ladies (while holding a sleeping toddler).  The day was saved thanks to a child stepping out of her comfort zone, and two godly ladies ready with the Word of God in there hearts.  

Teacher Seminar

     A strong emphasis on children's Bible school is not really a traditional part of the culture here.  So this is an area that training is badly needed.  Great strides have been made, and the local women are trying hard.  They have been making use of the resource room that has been set up at the Arusha Bible School.  Saturday, Tiffany conducted a teacher training seminar for the ladies at the Arusha church.  It was well attended and appreciated.     

Ladies work on a make-and-take at the teaching seminar. 

August at the Arusha Kanisa la Kristo

     This month, I have been invited to teach a Sunday series at the Arusha church on the parables of Jesus.  This week we focused on the trio of "lost" parables in Luke 15.  I am enjoying the study and it is always great to get to visit with other congregations in the area.

1. East African Gospel Meeting   2. Tiffany teaches while holding Josiah and Victoria translates  3. Daniel teaches at the Arusha Kanisa la Kristo

Saturday, July 19, 2014

African Roadtrip!

     Last week we had the honor of being invited to attend the wedding of one of our local brothers.  He was going to be married in Chimala, a village in the southern part of the country.  It was going to be an awfully long trip, but we relished the opportunity to witness this aspect of Tanzanian culture and to strengthen our relationship with this good family.  Chimala is also home to one of the oldest mission points in the country, and we have long desired to visit this work.  Additionally, our new friends the Evans family and John Strong work in Iringa (located between us and Chimala).  It is always a great idea to visit with other missionaries when the opportunity arises in order to trade ideas and encourage one another.  With the chance to accomplish all of these things at once, we decided to take our very first African road-trip! Let me tell you, it was A LOT different from any road-trip I've ever taken before.  Take a look at these images from the trip, then let me tell you all about it.

      First of all, this trip was much more interesting than the typical interstate trip.  The cross country scenery was amazing, and we saw a variety of African lifestyles along the way.  Unfortunately, our Tanzanian road map doesn't make a distinction between nicely paved roads and long, rough dirt roads.  This resulted in us driving for one stretch of over 100 miles on a dirt road.  Can't say I ever did that back home.  Fortunately, the traffic was very light on that road... with the exception of giant buses driving way too fast as they carried their passengers on cross country trips of their own.  Several times we just had to pull off the road to avoid being flattened.

We saw plenty of casualties of reckless driving along the way.

     One of the really enjoyable aspects of the travel was the wildlife encountered on the way.  At home we were accustomed to seeing the occasional deer or raccoon.  Here we had to stop to let zebras cross the road, and a variety of other animals as well.  We even encountered a sign detailing the fines incurred by running into different animals.  Running into an elephant or giraffe will cost you $15,000.  However baboon roadkill will only set you back $110.

The signs are there for a reason.

     The convenience that we missed the most was fast food.  Aside from a bag of peanuts from a village street vendor, we pretty much only had the food that we carried with us.  There were very few restaurants along the way, but being out of our home turf we had no way to know if they were safe or not.  They would almost certainly have been extremely slow anyway.

     However, we planned for this situation, and Tiffany packed picnics for us.  We stopped at a pretty little spot along the way and prepared for a pleasant meal of peanut butter sandwiches.  Little did we know, we had chosen a spot in the middle of a path that the Maasai used for their livestock.  So as Tiffany was making the sandwiches, a small herd of cows and goats came walking right through our picnic!  Oh well, TIA (this is Africa)!

Tiffany smiles through it all!

      The other thing we had to be conscious of was gas, or petrol as it is called here.  Gas stations are a little farther between each other here so we start looking for one when we get down to half a tank.  At one point things did get a little close.  We were about 50 miles from the nearest petrol station and we needed some fuel.  We found a garage and asked them with broken Swahili if they knew where we could find petrol.  They misunderstood and thought we were searching for a man named Petrol.  They asked, "Who does Petrol work for?"  I was thinking, "I hope it works for me because I need some fuel!" Eventually we solved the miscommunication, and they sold us 10 liters of petrol that they happened to have on hand.  Just another TIA moment!

     We arrived in Iringa and had a great visit with our friends, the Evans family and John Strong.  It was wonderful to see their work and spend time with our fellow soldiers in Christ.  They were very hospitable to us, and we look forward to the next time we'll see them.

We shared a dala-dala adventure with John and the Evanses
     We were thrilled to get a chance to visit Chimala Mission.  My family almost moved there to work when I was in 8th grade.  I couldn't help but wonder as I toured the facility what life would have been like if those plans had come to fruition.

     Chimala is an extensive work that provides many services to the community.  There is a hospital, nursery school, primary boarding school, secondary boarding school, and a biblical institute.  They were gracious enough to let us stay there for the night.

     Finally, it was time for the wedding.  It was a festive blend of western and local traditions, and was something that we were fortunate to be able to witness.  It was scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m., but in true Africa fashion things didn't get started until about 1:00 p.m.  Time moves at a different pace here, and things are more laid back for the most part.  Fortunately, we were warned to anticipate this so we arrived late anyway.

     When we arrived, the atmosphere was festive.  The women from the local congregation had gathered in front of the building, and wearing matching dresses for the occasion formed a joyful chorus. Their singing filled the air and notified the neighborhood that something special was happening that day.  This inside of the church building was filled with brightly colored, satiny material and flowers.  When the bride and groom arrived, the fanfare hit a crescendo.

     The whole experience was designed to be fun for everyone.  Things began with the men from the wedding party entering the building.  An emcee jokingly rebuked them for leaving the women behind and sent them back out.  The men returned with their female counterparts.  The emcee then rebuked them for forgetting the bride and groom, and sent them all back out to enter properly.  This set the tone for a fun and spirited ceremony.

The ladies from Arusha wore matching dresses and Josiah meets a local little boy
     After the ceremony, a procession went to another location to take pictures of the happy couple.  Following the photo session, we all went to a family member's home for a reception.
Reception #1
     Here people had the chance to greet the newly weds and present gifts.  Rather than being all wrapped up to be opened later, gifts were proudly paraded around in the open and celebrated.  Then we all shared a meal together.

Reception #2
     Then we went back into the village where a facility had been rented out for a second reception.  Here more gifts were given.  The guests were all introduced to one another and given a chance to address the crowd.  I was asked to speak on behalf of the Arusha residents and offer some biblical thoughts to the couple.  Cake was cut, and general festivities continued.  The cake tradition is a little different here.  There were three cakes.  One was presented to each family, then the bride and groom fed cake to each other.  Remaining cake was smashed and passed around the crowd where guest sampled pinches of it (kind of like passing the Lord's Supper).  I finally excused myself at 10:30 p.m. and they party was still going strong, with a full meal waiting to be served.  It was certainly a full day of celebration, and an amazing event to witness.  I wish the very best to the new husband and wife.

     What a trip! :)

Sunday, July 6, 2014


     Several months ago, I told you about the security guards in our area.  To review, there are a number of security gates in the area that we pass through on a regular basis.  It has been our practice to preach the Gospel "as we go" into all the world.  In other words, we like to look for doors for evangelism in our everyday interactions.  The guards rotating through these security gates provide a constant supply of prospects that I encounter on every venture from the house.  In the past I have told you about how much I like sharing correspondence courses and tracts because they easily help overcome the language barrier that I face.  There is no telling how far these materials reach by the time they are passed from person to person.

     The first of these guards that I met after we moved into our house back in December was a man by the name of Elibariki Daniel.  We exchanged pleasantries regularly and built a friendly relationship.  I frequently gave him Bible tracts which he accepted gratefully.  Unfortunately, he was transferred to another post before things were able to progress beyond that.  All I could do was hope that the seeds planted would take root one day.

     Then, about a month ago he was rotated back to our area.  I was thrilled to see him again!  He quickly completed a 12-lesson correspondence course, and was ready for more.  We arranged for a visit to his home for a personal Bible study with Elibariki and his wife, Rachel.  We traveled far up the side of Mt. Meru.  We even traveled beyond where the dirt road ends.  I was actually driving on a mountainside footpath, going where no SUV had ever gone before.  I marveled at how far this man traveled to work each day on his bicycle.  With the help of Ahimidewe, the evangelist at the Kisongo congregation, we had a great Bible study, searching the scriptures for the answers to their questions.  When we were finished, the couple recognized their need for baptism - but they weren't ready yet.  Tomorrow, maybe.

     So the next day I checked in with him.  He said he would when he got off of work that day.  So we made arrangements, but when I went to pick him up I found that he had a family emergency to attend to.  Hoping that he didn't just have cold feet, I prayed that everything would be okay.

     Then this morning I received this text message, "Hi Mr. Daniel.  It's me Elibariki.  How about today to be baptized?"  I couldn't have been happier!  There is never a better time than today to be baptized!  Arrangements were made, and this evening I had the pleasure of watching this young man be baptized into Christ Jesus.

     Before we parted ways for the evening, he assured me of Rachel's intentions to be baptized as well.  I pray that faith continues to grow in this small household, and that God blesses them.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Taking the Messiah to the Masai

Pictures from some of last week's Bible studies in Usa River
     It is wonderful to see people responding to the gospel of Christ!  Follow-up work continues in Ilkiurei and a campaign has wrapped up at Usa River.  Over the past few weeks hundreds of Bible studies have been conducted and dozens of baptisms have resulted.  

     Two of those baptisms were Masai men named Simon and Obeti.  They were eager students of the word, and readily accepted what the Bible had to say.  Some of our visiting campaigners were a little shocked when we had to spend time in serious Bible study with these men over the question of whether or not a Christian can drink blood.  After all that's not a question that comes up very often back home in the States.  They're not vampires, but part of traditional Masai culture is drinking a beverage that consists of cow's blood mixed with milk.  

     These men had a great attitude and can't wait to share what they have learned with their family.  One of them plans to enroll in Bible school, then go back to his home village to plant a congregation among his kinsmen.  What a fantastic plan!

A man responds to the invitation this morning

     As we extend the invitation at the conclusion of services here, the process works a little differently than back home.  Rather than coming to the front of the auditorium, he or she is asked to remain standing at the conclusion of the song as everyone sits down.  The minister then comes to them to see what their need may be.  

Josiah stands in line to shake everyone's hands after Sunday services.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Images of the Week

Abby stands in front of the Usa River church building

     The Lord continues to bless the work here in wonderful ways.  After a big campaign at Ilkiurei a week ago, the very important follow-up has been going strong this week.  There were enough new contacts made to keep us busy for a long time.  We enjoyed seeing lots of new faces at worship this morning.  It is so great to see all of these baby Christians beginning their journey of spiritual growth!

     Meanwhile, a team from Oklahoma has arrived and is conducting another campaign at Usa River.  We've divided our time between the two efforts so as to maintain maximum involvement.  The effort is going well and there are already several baptisms that have resulted.

     Now I thought I would just share with you some interesting images from the past week.  Enjoy!

Sometimes parents have to stay on top of their kids during worship... sometimes it's the other way around.

A child sits patiently and quietly during a Bible study

Studying the Bible in this lady's yard

Abby tagging along on some door-to-door evangelism.  It's a great experience for her.

This is the 1st live turkey that I've ever seen in Africa.  Where was this guy at Thanksgiving!?!?

A sweet little girl, named Gladness, plays with Abby's glasses during church this morning.

Rice, still in its husk, is being spread out to dry.  Once it is dry then a machine will remove the husks and leave behind the grains of rice - a very important staple of an African diet.

Look closely at the white sign.  In the slums of East Africa I found... an business!

Sunday, June 15, 2014


     This has been an absolutely action-packed week.  So much so that it will take both of us to tell you all about the week.  I (Daniel) will start by telling you about the campaign at Ilkuirei, then Tiffany will tell you about some of the great things she was involved in over the last few days.

Baptisms today:  Without towels readily available,
a dry piece of cloth called a kanga serves to warm our new sister on a cool day.

The Ilkuirei Campaign

     We had 10-15 teams of campaigners and translators canvasing the Ilkuirei congregation.  You'll recall that this is a baby church that was planted just last year.  The Sunday morning attendance averages in the low 30's.  That means we literally had more people working the area last week than we typically have in attendance on Sunday.  Needless to say it was an exciting week for this young church.

     Setting up Bible studies is not at all a challenge here.  The limiting factor is time and teachers, not finding interesting studies.  So when this type of manpower shows up then the contacts start flooding in.  By the end of the week, the fruit began to pour in.  After church this morning, we were thrilled to witness the 15th and 16th baptisms of the past 5 days.

     Among those who were baptized this week, was a young lady named Angel.  Regular readers might remember that I introduced you to Angel a couple of months ago.  She is the young mama that I (and others) had several studies with.  She has long understood her need for baptism, but has been prohibited by her fear of water.  I am thrilled to report to you that yesterday she overcame that fear, and the angels rejoiced for Angel and for the 15 other souls that have been rescued from sin.  I can hardly wait to see what else may come as the campaign follow-up work begins.

Standing Room Only!

Worship Today

     There was a standing-room-only crowd at church today.  New Christians mingled with old members.  Campaigners eagerly took note of the people who had accepted their invitations to come to church, and bid farewell to those with whom they had closely worked over the last few days.

     It was difficult to get an exact count, but there were so many people there that we had to wash and refill the communion cups 3 times to serve everyone.  It is such a pleasure to see the great things that God is doing here.

  This evening our visitors from Alabama are returning home after a busy trip.  At 7:30 in the morning, Cy and Daniel will meet to go pick up another group from the airport... It's great to be busy in work of the Lord!

Isaac refills the communion tray


     I (Tiffany) have been involved in all aspects of VBS for years, from planning to decorating, to teaching, to feeding. VBS is a great tool to teach children and a method of sheer exhaustion for those adults lucky enough to help. VBS in Africa is a completely different creature. After doing all of the prep work (planning lessons, copying papers, cutting out crafts, writing puppet skits, preparing materials to take to the VBS site, and decorations of course) we crammed the car full and “toted” all of our goods and children to the church building at Ilkuirei.

     I decorated as the children peeked in the door and windows. Our theme was superheroes of the Bible and we focused on young heroes Miriam, Esther, Daniel, and Jesus. The children and adults here had no idea what a superhero was. I had to really explain the concept to help them understand. The children piled in and sat, some in chairs and some on the floor. Older siblings held baby brothers and sisters as we began singing. We sang songs in Swahili and English. The children sang happily along. Abby played the part of Super Rafiki in our puppet skit. He was complete with cape and mask. The children loved the puppets! The most amazing part to me is how 50-75 children daily, ages birth to 15 sat silently as I told the Bible story. I never had to say “listen” or “shhhh” or get their attention in any other way than telling the story. Wow.

Singing and Puppets with Super Rafiki!

     We also reenacted the story each day after our first craft. (By the way, doing crafts as the only adult with that many children…whew!) The kids loved acting out the Bible stories and did a great job answering questions about the lessons.

Reenacting the story of Esther

     The toughest part by far was handling the snacks. (I know, crazy, right?) But, we are dealing with children that rarely if ever have kool-aid and cookies. If you aren't careful giving out treats like this can cause a stampede and trample the small kids so you have to be organized and stern. We managed to keep everyone alive while having snacks and the children left each day with bright red mustaches, just like a VBS kid should.

     Our last day of VBS we learned about boy Jesus and how he grew to be the ultimate superhero. We talked about how we want to be superheroes for Jesus too and help to teach others about God! I made many felt masks and had many superhero capes made by the preacher’s wife to give to the children. They all ran around saying “shujaa mjuu la Kristo!” because they were superheroes for Christ! It was really fun seeing their excitement over the costumes.
Superheroes for JESUS! (Shujaa mjuu la Kristo!)

     I might add that all young girls translated for me for VBS. The oldest was 19 and the youngest 10! Victoria (10) translates for me a lot on Sunday mornings as my usual translator has just had a baby. It is amazing that such a young girl can play such a vital role in Bible instruction. I am really proud of her.
When VBS was over I was pooped, but it helped to see all of the smiling faces on the children and watching them run with their capes flowing behind them and laughing. They hugged me and said “asante sana teacher!” (thank you!) And, that’s all I needed.

Ladies Day in Masai Country

     I was blessed to be able to teach a ladies seminar at Mtu Wa Mbu this weekend. I picked up my translator, Grace, and drove 1 ½ hours to Mosquito River only to find the preacher loading a dala dala to go out the one of the village congregations made up of mostly Masai. So, we followed him out to the site of the seminar. We arrived at what appeared to be an old run down and abandoned school. I was saddened to find that it was not abandoned and was in fact used daily. It was heartbreaking to realize that children were in such horrible conditions.
The school where we held ladies day and Abby sitting in one of the classrooms ironically playing her ipod.
First world meets third world.

     While waiting to begin the ladies picked brush from the ground and held it in a bundle and swept the floor of the room we were to use. When we began, I had a batik cloth that I laid over a bench to add a little color to the room. One of the ladies lead singing to start us off. It was absolutely beautiful and calming. I could feel the breeze slowly blowing through the windows (there were actually only bars over a hole with no glass…) Another, older bibi lead the prayer and then they turned things over to me.
I scanned the room and saw mamas nursing little ones, a number of children crowded in one corner, a large number of Masai women, and some other Tanzanian ladies from Mtu Wa Mbu congregation. Many of the faces looked worn and so tired. I gave my first lesson on Marriage and how we can treat our husbands in respectful and honorable ways. I was a little stressed by the fact that the Masai women seemed bored, and a couple were asleep. As a speaker, that doesn't really make you feel like you are rocking it out…
Teaching the first session with Grace translating and Masai Mamas snoozing away.

     After the first session I asked if there were any questions. A Masai lady stood and said that the ladies were so happy for me to be there, but they were struggling to understand. I had a translator, so I wasn't sure what else to do. Then I found out that several ladies, including the 2 asleep and the few looking bored only spoke the Masai language. I was initially relieved that it wasn't what I said that put them to sleep, then I was shocked that they had stayed for 2 hours and understood nothing, yet had such strong desire to learn that they stayed  2 hours on hard, small, no back benches listening to words they did not understand in hopes that they would glean something of God’s word.

     I quickly found someone who could translate from Swahili to Masai. The ladies then began asking questions about Biblical marriage. I knew that the Masai have many wives to one husband. I worried that I would offend them but I turned to 1 Corinthians and had them read for themselves. They expressed their deep unhappiness in marriage because their husbands are chosen for them and they are beaten if they try to refuse him. They are treated poorly and worked hard. There is little romance or love in the marriage at all. They are in a terrible situation. They are sad, lonely, and often jealous of the treatment of “other” wives in the tribe. They asked what I would do in their situation to have a more Biblical marriage. I countered with, “Well, what does the Bible say we should do? That’s what matters.” They understood that to be Biblical they must leave the marriage and cleave to God because only the first “wife” is truly married to the husband anyway. However, this would mean being shunned from their tribe, their way of life, their means of making a living, and their well being. They have a lot at stake to follow Christ. It is a difficult challenge for them that needs prayer.
The sweet women at the seminar. The women on the left are Masai and sat through 2 hours of speaking they did not understand in hopes that they could hear something about God to their understanding.

     After our Q&A I worried they would be angry with me for speaking against their marriages. On the contrary, they each came up and hugged me and kissed both my cheeks. Their eyes streamed tears as the translator told me that they were thanking God for sending me to teach them His word so that they can follow Him. Mungu ni nzuri! God is good.  I paused as they broke for lunch to say a silent prayer of thanksgiving for my own marriage and the fact that I had married for love.

     Lunch was cooked outside with a few big pots over a fire. The ladies poured water over our hands from a bucket to wash them before eating. We had some kind of meat stew over rice. There were no utensils, as is normal at these large functions. Everyone eats with their hands. Yes, me too. The children were waiting eagerly to eat as the adults eat first and the children are given the plates of the adults with the leftovers and devour it like wild animals. The older siblings feed their baby brothers and sisters and give them drinks. When I realized the children were waiting for our leftovers, I was suddenly very full and they were exceedingly thankful for that.

     During lunch I took some photos of the children. They love to look at themselves on the screen of the camera. One little baby was absolutely terrified of me as I was the first Mzungu (white person) she had ever seen. She would look at me and scream and hide under her brothers robe crying. Poor baby. Others tugged on me wanting their own “picha.” The Masai ladies are generally very spooked around cameras, but I asked to take a picture of one and then showed her and she giggled like an 8 year old girl at her image. It is so difficult sometimes to break the barrier between cultures, especially such drastic differences as Masai women and a little Alabama girl, but when you do you are rewarded with great warmth and friendships.
My new Masai friends

Sweet children at the seminar

     As the second session began Grace and I asked Naomi to join us so that the Masai ladies could understand the lesson too. I passed around a bag of “pipi” (candy) for them to eat as I spoke. There were grins all around as this was a big and unusual treat. I began my first ever double translation lesson. When going through 3 translators you have to be extra careful with your sentences. They need to be well thought out and have enough substance to sustain. It takes awhile to get through 3 people saying the same thing, lol. I wondered frequently during that lesson about the gossip game people play to talk about gossip and how well what I was saying was making it through 2 translations. I kept plowing through and 2 hours later, we closed the lesson. All eyes were alert and all ears were listening the entire lesson.

Teaching with 2 translators English to Swahili to Masai

     Before the lesson was over, however, a Masai man stumbled, drunk into the room and was yelling and pointing. I just knew that someone had relayed my morning message about Biblical marriage to him and he was coming to take me down. Fear rendered me almost paralyzed as he pushed toward me and grabbed my Bible from my hands and sat on the front row. I could see the preacher running toward the building through the window as the man continued his yelling. As the preacher ushered him out I could hear through sobs, “Mzungu Mama!” The Masai ladies were all laughing because he was crying because he wanted to stay to hear the white lady talk. I was relieved that I wasn't going to be burned at the stake in a Masai ceremony that night and returned to my lesson as I heard his wails grow faint in the distance.

     As usual we ended with questions and answers. After answering numerous Bible questions I opened the floor for any mzungu questions they had. The questions ranged from “Is everyone in America rich?” to “What do you eat?” and everything in between. As I talked about the differences between America and Africa, one Masai mama said, “I wish I had been born in America.” (told to me through 2 translations) I looked around the room and saw only souls. No matter where we are born or where we end up, we are each a soul created and loved by God. None of us can control where we are born, but we can indeed control where we end up.

     As I drove home past Masai huts with small, naked children wearing only beads outside them, I thanked God for reminding me that my problems are few and His love is amazing. Mungu akubariki.