Mission Report: Tanzania, November 2013

December 10, 2013

tims blog

Many years ago I was teaching a Bible class for young people in Gainesville, Florida. One morning a woman who was homeschooling her children told me how the utterly bored look on their faces had so discouraged her that she doubted her decision. But later on – and without any prompting from her – they recited the main points of the day's lesson with great enthusiam for what they had learned. She assured me that a teacher cannot judge a student by the look on his face.

Later that very same day a man invited me to lunch just to tell me what a complete failure I was as a teacher and minister. Just look at the blank faces on the kids, he said. I smiled, thankful and amazed for what God had prompted that mother to tell me just a few hours before!

The people who first tried to lead me to Christ undoubtedly gave me up as a lost cause. We humans do not really have the ability to judge the impact of our work. On the same hand, one expects to see some indication of progress for his efforts.

A few weeks ago I returned home from a short mission to see the Maasai in Matebete Village. I had just been there in April, and I planned to go again in January, so I really wrestled within myself whether a trip in November was necessary. Looking back I am convinced it was the Holy Spirit who directed my path because great things happened unto the furtherance of the Gospel among the Maasai.

I had two reasons for making this trip. I wanted to teach a class that had been omitted from the program last May, "The Prosperity of the Lord's Servant," and I wanted to meet with the elders to make an honest assessment of the accomplishments and failures in the nine years that WTWH had been ministering in Matebete Village. I wanted to hear from them what we could do to improve our efforts.

I felt my work in Matebete was at a crossroads. I knew I had to confront yet another controversy concerning financial mismanagement, and I wondered if this problem would ever go away.  Over and over again – not only in Matebete but in so many other places I’d poured my heart into – just when the work was about to take off, a problem involving money would completely undermine it. I began to understand why so many missionaries I've met hold such a low opinion of African Christians. Ironically, the people who have warned me most ademantly to be careful around Africans have been other Africans!

I could see only two options: I could embrace the racist idea that all Africans are untrustworthy and treat them accordingly. Or I could take responsibility for my part in the problem and make a change. An English proverb dating back to 1587 says, “A fool and his money are soon parted.” The way I see it, the fool (in this case, me) can either place the blame on others while claiming his own innocence, or he can take steps to end a foolish practice. In the end the solution was fairly simple. Mission funds are now given to a committee and not an individual. These checks and balances will help keep people honest. No one will be able to overcharge me or redirect mission money into his own pocket.

This should not have to be said, but I'll say it anyway. We, the children of Adam, are all natural born thieves without regard to the color of our skin or the flag we salute. If the Bible did not say, "Thou shalt not steal," we would rob each other blind without a moment's remorse. Think how "innocently" a young child will grab something that belongs to someone else. It is only because we know from the Bible that stealing is wrong that we fight to resist the temptation!

My class “The Prosperity of the Lord’s Servant” demonstrates that as Christians, our only avenue to financial peace of mind is through living honestly with each other and with God. 1 John 3:21 says, “Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.” It is difficult to expect God to be good to us when we know we have not been good to him.

* * * * *

I often hear Christians say they want to reach a new level in their service to God. I applaud this sentiment but I often wonder if they realize what they are saying. This new level doesn't come for free; it comes with the acceptance of a greater burden. Those who truly love the gospel will bear the burden of the gospel. They will sacrifice their temporal comforts in favor of a more noble, eternal cause.

Some people are put off by the idea of the burden of the gospel. They are quick to point out that Jesus said, "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:30). I don't challenge the authenticity of the Lord's words, but I do question their understanding of his words. Christ was assuring us that the yoke of faith is much easier than the yoke of the law, the yoke of bondage.

Galatians 5:1:
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

But the work of the ministry is just that – it is work. It is a labor of love. The only reward of an easy life is the momentary pleasure it gives you. God rewards us eternally for our living sacrifice in his name.

Hebrews 6:10:
For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

During my time in Matebete, I realized I have been trying to make the burden easy for the Maasai by bearing it myself. That may have been appropriate when the work was young, but as we begin our tenth year, it is appropriate no more. For them to reach the next level, and if I am going to be successful in passing this work into their hands, I must lead them to bear more of the burden themselves. If not, the work is guaranteed to stagnate. There is only so much that one man can do.

People like me find it easier to do things myself rather than ask for help. Leadership takes a vision for the future. It takes implementing short and long-term goals. Otherwise God's people will wander as sheep which have no shepherd. But what kind of goals should be set? These concepts came alive to me during my mission and I wrote down some on my thoughts in a sermon that I will share with you here.

My last few days in Matebete were taken up in a series of leaders' meetings. First I asked the Maasai themselves to share what the years of WTWH coming to their village meant for them. Here is a sampling. I also include a mission report from Reverend Paulo Kurupashi who served as my interpreter throughout the mission.

Our short and long-term plans for Matebete came together in a series of meetings, first with the directors of ITO and then with the members themselves. A great spirit of unity, cooperation, and excitement prevailed, and I look forward to seeing what the next ten years bring.

Here a link to the photo page for this mission.

* * * * *

I am very happy to tell you of three major accomplishments that have taken place because of people who were willing, able, and had the burden to help me in this work. My book on the Principles of the Doctrine of Christ will soon be published in Swahili, and is now available in German audio, and in Braille. Many, many thanks to Reverend George Ole Oripu, Beatrice Mantock, and Hellen Namuwawu respectively. This is very obviously work that I could not have done myself. I am so very grateful.

Beatrice's presentation is accessible on the web page of the International Church of Berne. Here is the link to Die Grundsaetze der Lehre Christi.

Thanks again for your interest, love, and support,
In the service of His Majesty, the King of kings,


Here are the links mentioned on this page:

As Sheep Which Have No Shepherd

Video Testimonies from Matebete Village, November 2013

Reverend Paulo Kurupashi's mission report

Photos from the November Mission to Tanzania

Die Grundsaetze der Lehre Christi




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