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April 15, 2011:

There was a time in my early Christian experience that I used to bristle at the notion of being "used" by God. I equated being "used" with being taken advantage of, and that made the concept unappealing. But in the end, my resistance was nullified by truth. There is nothing more satisfying to the Christian heart than to know that you have been used by God as a vessel for his goodness. Of course, there is nothing to boast about. As 2 Corinthians 4:7 says, "We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." The strongest axe is powerless until the woodsman bears it.

Isaiah 10:15:
Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood.

And so, I begin my account of the marvelous things that occurred during our recent mission to Tanzania with the acknowledgement that the Lord himself is the author and finisher of such things.

Psalm 115:1:
Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake.

The entry I wrote prior to our departure (read it here) included the letter that Evan and I sent to the Maasai elders in preparation for this mission. We went to Tanzania expecting to receive as much or more as we came prepared to give. That expectation was fulfilled tenfold.

Evan and I left the USA on Tuesday, 29 March. As always, a great portion of a mission to Africa is consumed by travelling to and from our location. We flew from Baton Rouge to Houston, and from there we embarked on a 14-hour flight to Doha, Qatar, where we spent Wednesday night. On Thursday morning we flew from Doha to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, arriving in the early afternoon. After lunch, we took a 3-hour bus ride to Morogoro, where we spent Thursday night. On Friday morning, we again boarded the bus for the 10-hour ride westward to the town of Chimala, and from there we were driven to Matebete. Once there, we were greeted with hugs even before we were fully extracted from the car, and were serenaded with beautiful songs. It felt good to be back amongst our friends.

(In previous writings, I have fluctuated between referring to this Maasai village as Matebete or Madungulu. For a long time I thought that Matebete was the Swahili name and Madungulu was the Maasai name for the same village. But both names are Swahili. It turns out that Madungulu is a sub-district within the village of Matebete.)

Evan and I stayed at the home of Paraboy and Monika (Lobara) Kaney, the parents of our extremely essential co-worker, Evelyn. Once again, Evelyn did an great job of preparing for our visit, and Evan and I were both quite pampered during our stay. The food and hospitality were excellent.

Unfortunately Evan developed a stomach disorder at some point in our travels, and this definitely curtailed his enjoyment of the first few days. But Evan is not one to let things get the better of him and he made sure he was present during the important meeting on Saturday afternoon when we discussed the topics raised in our letter to the elders.

Rev. George Ole Oripu (whom I'd first met in 2005 in Mahango), summed up the elder's collective perspective, saying WTWH missions to Tanzania were fulfilling the vision left by the late Rev. Yohanna Ole Ngekee. We were reuniting the Maasai who had been separated into various sub-groups by the denominations. By teaching the Word of God, we were raising true disciples of Jesus Christ. Through our collective work, the Maasai who were as yet unreached by the Gospel would see that God belongs to every race, and that the Lord does miracles for his people.

Evan pointed out that this is why completing the Maasai Worship and Historical Centre is so important to our mission. We don't consider their heritage a detriment to their receiving the Gospel, but rather an asset. We glorify God, Evan said, by being true to who we are.

I raised a pointed question. Right now, the outer structure is about 2/3 complete and the furnishing has not yet begun. Given the importance of the completion of the Worship and Historical Center, and the substantial expense of our missions to Madungulu, I asked them if given the choice, they would rather that we sent money for the building or come on a teaching mission. There was some murmuring and nervous laughter. Then Paulo Kurupashi's mother said, "A building cannot teach us."

Upon further discussion it was suggested that, God willing, WTWH make two annual missions to Madungulu, in April and November of each year. But rather than venture off into other villages to teach (as we've done on previous missions), we concluded that it would be better to establish Madungulu as our teaching center and host people from other villages here. All in all, it was an excellent meeting.

On Sunday morning, I was invited by Rev. Wilbart Mhitike, pastor of the Lutheran Church in Madungulu, to bring the Sunday message. Rev. Paulo Kurupashi led the meeting and, as he would do throughout the week, served as my interpreter. I taught a message that I'd written for the Vine & Branches, "He Must Increase, but I Must Decrease."

From Monday to Wednesday, I taught my seminar The Principles of the Doctrine of Christ. This was my third presentation of this material in a little over three weeks, first in England, and then in Wales. By my judgment, it was my best and clearest presentation as well. I feel I am a much better teacher when I am working with an interpreter than when I am on my own (assuming, of course, that I have a good interpreter!). Under such conditions, I am constrained from being too "wordy" in my presentation, and more careful to look to the Lord for help in expressing eternal truths with simple illustrations. Each day was a joy, and in the final session, as I concluded my presentation on The Doctrine of Eternal Judgement, the Lord made his holy presence known to us in a glorious way that left us in reverent silence long after the class was dismissed.

You can read testimonies from the class here. Photos of the trip can be seen here.

Evan shared in the teaching as well, with wonderful presentations each evening and on the final morning of assembly. I am truly blessed to have such a man as my friend, pastor, and partner in this unique work. Even on a trip like this, when he was beset by illness and not one but two distressing messages from home, he maintained his faith and good humor. (Thanks be to God, what could have been grave events ended up as difficult but solvable problems).

Other special events filled our days. I was asked to join Rev. Mhitike in a ceremony of blessing and dedication of a newborn girl. This festive occasion involved beautiful singing and dancing and a very nice meal at the home of Anna Kisota, the new grandmother.

We held separate question and answer sessions, first with the men and then with the women of the village. They asked us about life in America and told us about life in a Maasai village. It seems like every topic under the sun was touched upon. At one point, the women asked for advice in dealing with husbands who were not interested in the Gospel. A line from the movie "My Big, Fat Greek Wedding" popped into my mind and I shared it with them: The man is the head, but the woman is the neck. And she can turn the head any way she wants. All the women laughed. It turns out there is a similar proverb among in Maasai.

Thursday night we gathered for a wonderful send-off and we were presented with beautiful gifts to bring home to our families. The depth of their gratitude was close to overwhelming for Evan and me. We all recognized that this mission marked a new beginning in our work with the Maasai.

Early Friday morning we left the village to take the bus back to the city. It was a rather strange trip. Not only was the bus hours late to pick us up, but the odd behavior of the driver added hours to the already long trip. Saturday afternoon we flew out of Dar back to Qatar, and on Sunday morning we boarded the 16 hour flight to Houston. One more flight brought us home.

I am very grateful to the supporters of WTWH whose donations finance these missions. I am assured you will be bountifully rewarded, somewhat now but especially in the great hereafter. Thanks also to the elders of Madungulu, most especially Eliakimu Kurupashi and the members of ITO; Philipo Kaney and the elders of HIMWA; and Anna Kisota and the women's prayer group KORDUNI. Thanks to Paulo Kurupashi for his excellent work as our interpreter, to Paraboy and Monika for their hospitality and Evelyn for all she did to prepare for this event. And to so many others, thanks for all your friendship means to us. Meisisi Enkai! Mungu arubariki sana! God bless you richly. Amen!

(Evan Pyle's mission report will appear in the next Vine & Branches)

In the service of His Majesty, the King of kings,




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