Saturday, March 29, 2014

Mosquito River Bible School

Clockwise: Daniel addresses the graduates;
the graduates stand to receive their certificates;
the graduates pose outside the church building.

     The Mtu Wa Mbu (which means "Mosquito River") congregation began an intensive Bible school last year.  Don't confuse that term with the way it is used in America to refer to Sunday morning and Wednesday evening Bible classes.  This Bible school requires students to study for 8 hours a day, 3 days a week, for 1 year.  Such Bible schools are used with great effects in our area.  Similar schools have existed in Arusha, Moshi, and Kisongo for years.

     These schools are open to the general public and are tuition-free.  They are a great evangelistic tool, targeting those who have a serious thirst to know more about the Bible.  They also accelerate the maturation of new converts by giving them more organized Bible study in a single year than many Christians might get in 10 years of church attendance alone.  This also better equips the graduates for the tasks of teaching Bible class and of sharing their faith with others.

     Julius Gasper, the preacher at Mtu Wa Mbu and director of the Bible School, invited me to be the keynote speaker at their inaugural graduation.  I was honored to be a part of the event.  The program also featured a local government official who offered his support to the new school, pointing out that such institutions improve the community.  He is quite right.  Truly, righteousness exalts a nation and sin is a reproach to any people.

     After the graduates received their certificates, then their well-wishers hurried forward to congratulate and decorate them with various brightly colored items to drape around their necks.  It added a very festive flair to the occasion.  Afterwards, we were treated to an authentic African lunch which is always one of my favorite parts of any event!

     I wish the best for the school as it gets off the ground.  Right now their facilities and resources are extremely limited, but hopefully it will be able to advance with time.  In the meantime, I pray this group of graduates will be useful in the service of our Lord.

Clockwise: A graduate is presented with his certificate and a gift;
supporters hurry to congratulate and decorate the grads;
my "boutonniere" - I love the creativity using ribbon that was available;
they served us a yummy lunch afterwards complete with two kinds of rice, stewed bananas, and a potato. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Welcome to the Family Brother!

     It has been a great day here in Arusha.  This morning on our way to church, we were stopped by the guard at a security gate that we have to pass through each day.  He has been filling out Swahili correspondence courses that I have been giving him.  I thought at first that he was wanting the next lesson in the course.  But he excitedly proclaimed that he wanted to be baptized after work today.  We rejoiced together over the decision.  After finding out when he would get off of work, we went on our way.
     We were there promptly when work was over to take him to the school to be baptized.  We introduced him to the students and to Ahimedewe (the evangelist at the Kisongo congregation), who warmly received and encouraged him.  Then we watched as he reenacted the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ by being baptized.  He then returned home with the bounce in his step that comes from knowing that his sins have been washed away!  Praise God for making moments like this possible by His grace!

Daniel looks on as Kennedy, a 2nd year preaching student, baptizes John Peter

John Peter and Daniel
Watch the action here:

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Hungry for More

Eager Students
     One of my favorite tools for evangelism has become correspondence courses.  My broken Swahili, coupled with the broken English of others, is enough to exchange regular pleasantries with those who live and work nearby.  Throw in a few small acts of kindness and relationships begin to grow.
     Sometimes this leads to Bible studies, but these are dependent on the availability of a translator.  However, I can readily give them tracts and Bible courses written in Swahili.  I have been very pleased with the eagerness with which these are received.  Just today, a man returned the last lesson of a 12-part series of correspondence courses to be graded.  He proceeded to beg for a lesson on another topic.  He left rejoicing when I gave him a few more tracts and promised to look for some more material to share with him.
     This case is hardly exceptional.  There are several men that seek out a new tract or lesson from me every time we see each other.  I can scarcely keep up with their thirst for more Bible knowledge.  It is energizing and encouraging to see this hunger for God's Word.

Bringing in Reinforcements 
     After visiting Njiro Chini last week, we were back at Ilkuirei today.  Three of the second year students at the Andrew Connally School of Preaching have been recruited to help out at Ilkuirei.  They will help with translation and leading in worship service, as well as doing some personal work as time permits. This will be good experience for them, and some very needed help for the congregation.
     Also, all of the windows are now in place, as well as ceiling tiles in the newly partitioned off classroom.  The sound quality of services was noticeably better.

On a Personal Note
     Our daughter, Abby, celebrated her first birthday in Africa last week (12th birthday overall).  She was sad that her family couldn't be with her, so we wanted to do what we could to make it extra-special.  Saturday we took her for a drive through Tarangire National Park.  You know how sometimes you take your kids to the local national or state park to spend a Saturday?  Well this was just like that... except with elephants and lions.  
     Then tonight she had a small gathering of friends at our house.  There are so many things that she has had to give up.  But there are also so many wonderful experiences that she is gaining in return.

Have a fantastic week!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sunday in Njiro

Worship service today at Njiro Chini 

     We were excited to be able to attend worship at the new Njiro Chini congregation today.  Currently they are meeting in the home of Elly Martin until more permanent arrangements can be made.  This is where the concentrated evangelistic focus has been for the month of February.  Christopher Mwakabanje gives the following synopsis of the month's efforts:
February evangelism went very well. A total of 53 Bible Studies were set up, 9 are faithfully attending our regular worship services. Among the 53 Bible studies, 39 are very active. It requires more human resources on follow up. We had one baptism so far. The attendance on Sundays has grown up to 19 people on the 3rd Sunday.”

Meanwhile our daughter, Abby, decided to try teaching the children's Bible class by herself for the first time.  She hopes to eventually get to where she can do a cradle roll class on a regular basis.  We're very proud of her heart and desire to serve.

Abby tries her hand at teaching Bible class

     After a great worship service, Elly and his sweet wife, Neema, provided lunch for everyone.  That's one benefit of visiting a very small congregation!  We enjoyed ugali, rice, beans, a banana and meat stew, and various other goodies.  It's always good to have a chance to visit with the Martin family.

Tiffany with Neema Martin

Enjoying some good, authentic African cooking

Banana stew?  Yes, please.

     Monday we will bid farewell to the group that has been visiting from the Town Acres church of Christ in Indiana.  We've worked them hard, and have enjoyed getting to know them.  We pray they have a safe journey home to their families.
Nathan Bailey, Brian Howard, Mariah Dickey, and Dennis Dickey

     I hope you enjoy your time with God and His people this week!