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.


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Guest Post: Reflections on My Visit by John Gaines

Daniel offered me the opportunity to write a guest post this week so I could share with you my impressions from visiting Tanzania and experiencing the mission work firsthand. 

This is my 7th time to travel to Africa, dating back to a survey trip to Cameroon in 1980 a few months before we moved there to fulfill a two-year mission commitment. My only previous trip to Tanzania came in 1999 when I traveled with Cy Stafford to investigate the possibility of joining him in the early days of the Tanzania 2000 work here in Arusha.  Ultimately, I did not commit to come to Africa at that time, but I saw the tremendous potential for what Cy and Stephanie were planning to undertake.  

Now 15 years later, it is easy to see how much progress has been made.  All the missionaries who have served here have contributed to some remarkable progress in the Lord’s work. The Andrew Connally School of Preaching has been training preachers for most of that time.  Teaching a short course this week to the second year English-speaking students gave me a chance to learn the high quality of young preachers who are graduating from AC SOP.  I am highly impressed with these young gospel preachers and what they are going to be able to do for the church in East Africa.  I’ve also met several graduates of the school who are already involved in various aspects of planting and strengthening churches in the area around Arusha.  New congregations are being established and the cause of Christ is prospering.

If you will pardon me for exhibiting some natural fatherly pride, I must take time to tell you what a fantastic job Daniel and Tiffany Gaines are doing here.  They are just a little over six months into their three-year commitment, but they have acclimated themselves to living and working in Tanzania very well. I know well from personal experience that those adjustments are not easy to make. Daniel has made good progress toward being able to communicate in Swahili. He is still studying and wi+ll get better, but he is already comfortable communicating in basic conversational Swahili. Daniel is involved in the work of neighborhood congregations around Arusha. He tries to carry out some evangelistic Bible studies each week as well as carrying a teaching load at the school.  While Tiffany has her hands full homeschooling a middle-schooler and being Mommy to a one-year-old and a three-year-old, she finds time to get involved in Bible teaching activities with women and children.  Bias freely acknowledged, but I think they have become very effective in the work they came to Africa to do.

I know they are grateful to everyone who has supported their work and made it possible for them to be here.   Please let me assure you that your support is a great investment in reaching souls and in building up the kingdom.

John Gaines