Sunday, April 27, 2014

Wedding Bells Are Ringing!

Abigail Gee and Adam Rymon exchange vows

     Marriage was our theme for the week!  On Friday, I had the privilege of performing the wedding ceremony of our young teammate, Abigail Gee, as she became Mrs. Adam Rymon.  Adam flew in earlier in the week so that the two could be married right here in Africa, as friends and family from America watched via the modern marvel of the internet.  Tiffany gained her first experience as a wedding photographer, and did a fantastic job.

     The Tanzanians in attendance were fascinated by their first "American" wedding.  I thoroughly enjoyed talking to them about the differences in wedding customs.  Weddings here generally take around 6 hours, sometimes more.  I heard more than one Tanzanian man comment on how much they loved the short American wedding.  I don't know how the women felt about it.  Although, not knowing what to expect several guests did arrive late only to be surprised that they had missed the whole ceremony!  Time just moves at a different pace around here.  However, they did not arrive empty-handed.  They kindly showered Adam and Abigail with Tanzanian-style gifts that the couple will treasure.

     Overall, it was a beautiful event and we wish Adam and Abigail the very best.  We appreciate their asking us to be a part of their special day.

Marriage seminar

Daniel and Josephat speaking at the seminar

     The next day, Tiffany and I traveled to Moshi to conduct a marriage seminar with the congregation there. More than 30 people showed up from Moshi and the surrounding areas to listen to lessons designed to strengthen their marriages.  Tiffany did a session with the ladies on how to respect their husbands, while I talked with the men about how to better love their wives.  The local preacher, Josephat, did a mixed session on conflict resolution, and I did two other mixed sessions.  The ladies fixed a yummy lunch of rice and beans, and we had a couple of bonding activities.

     One of my favorite parts was the question and answer period.  This gave me the chance to hear some of the real issues that people are facing.  Some of the questions were quite typical, but others took me a little more off guard.  One man asked me if he could divorce his wife if she went crazy.  Hmm... that could be quite a can of worms!

     There are many aspects of marital relationships that are culture-dependent, but the Bible still offers timeless advice that applies anywhere.  God created marriage and he still knows the best ways for his designs to operate.  Mission work has reinforced my appreciation of the universal nature of the Word of God.  It is relevant to life anywhere and at anytime.

Enjoy more pictures of the seminar below:

The crowd taking notes on the lesson

Lunch time!  Karibu Chakula!  
Tiffany talking to a sweet little girl

Scenes around the building

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Working Together

     Yesterday, I attended the monthly Arusha evangelism meeting.  This is the time each month when representatives from all of the churches of Christ in or near the city meet together.  On this particular occasion, I was the only foreigner in attendance with about 10 Tanzanian evangelists.  I was fascinated as the men reported on their work and discussed strategies for evangelizing the city.

     I could not help but wonder, "Why don't we do this more in the U.S.?"  I have attended many preachers meetings in different parts of the U.S., and generally find them enjoyable and worthwhile.  However, they mostly are centered on professional development and networking.  What if preachers and elders of all of the area congregations met on a regular basis to discuss the furtherance of the gospel in their area?  What if they made concrete plans on how to work together and support each other?  How much more could be accomplished by conscious efforts to work together strategically?  What if EVERY church leader viewed their congregations as teammates in the work of the kingdom, rather than competitors in the race to be the biggest congregation?

      Congregational autonomy is one of the hallmarks of New Testament Christianity as we find it in the Bible.  But just because each congregation is self-governing, certainly doesn't mean that they cannot work together for God's glory.  I am certainly not suggesting that it never happens, only that it would be great if it happened even more.

     In the meeting yesterday, not everyone saw eye to eye on every strategy.  There was discussion and debate.  But in the end, there was unity.  The result was that every preacher there committed to spending two Saturdays each month for the rest of the year evangelizing in the area of a new church (Njiro Chini).  How many churches back home would like for their preacher to spend that much time working to build up ANOTHER congregation in the area?  It doesn't make much sense in an "every church for itself" mentality, but it makes perfect sense in a "let's build up the kingdom!" mentality.  Just some food for thought...

     How is the unity and teamwork in your neck of the woods?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

When Did This Become Ordinary?

     Today was a pretty typical Sunday.  Tiffany taught the children's Bible class, then I preached.  We visited with our friends and talked a little church business.  Then we drove home.  The day seemed very ordinary and natural.  

     At some point in the past few months, a change has taken place.  We are no longer going to church "in Africa".  We're just going to church.  We are no longer driving around "in Africa".  We're just driving where we need to go.  All of the children are still in the same Bible class, regardless of age.  The songs are still in Swahili.  I still preach through a translator. People still drive on the left side of the very crowded road.  However, the same sights and sounds that once seemed strange and exotic have become normal and commonplace.  How did that happen???

     Through time and repetition people can become accustomed to most anything.  It occurred to me that sin operates in much the same way.  Being surrounded by patterns of behavior, dress, and speech make those things quickly seem normal, even if they are in fact a perversion of how life ought to be.  Once sin loses its shock value, then it is only a short journey onward to being considered acceptable.

     Of course the cultural differences that we face are pretty harmless because we are not dealing with right and wrong.  However, sin is extremely dangerous, and our attitudes toward it are of great importance.  Sin is INEVITABLE, but it is never ACCEPTABLE.  This is true in society at large, as well as in our own lives.  We must carefully guard our hearts to avoid becoming so accustomed to sin that it seems like "normal" behavior.  As Proverbs 4:23 says it, "Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life."    

Taking a Break

     School was out last week, as the students received a week off in between quarters.  We have been very busy lately, and took the opportunity for some much needed time off ourselves.  Mental and physical breaks are vital to longevity in the work of the Lord.  Even God rested after a busy week of creation, and Jesus often withdrew for revitalizing alone time.  We owe many thanks to Nathan and Jessica McVeigh for keeping the kids for us while Tiffany and I had some time to ourselves.  Now we are refreshed and ready to tackle a new quarter.  

Prayer Request

     I have a prayer request to share with you.  We have a sister in Christ - let's call her "Naomi" (not her real name) - who is in great need of prayer.  She lives in desperate circumstances with her small children and her drunkard husband who practices witchcraft.  Her circumstances are having serious effects on her mental stability and her children's health and safety.  Pray that God will help her family, and that if there is a way for us to offer real help that He will make it clear to us.