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