Mission Report: Tanzania, May 2014

June 12, 2014

tims blogIt has been over two weeks since I got home from my trip to Tanzania, and I am just now starting to feel like myself. I think the stored-up fatigue from my four springtime missions came crashing down on me once I knew I was home for good (or at least, home for the summer). This most recent mission was the most draining on me, probably because it was the last of the four, but also because I had to organize two simultaneous missions: one for me, and the other for Evan Pyle and his daughter Christine. The three of us flew into Tanzania together and traveled as far as the Songwe Airport in Mbeya. At that point Evan and Christine went to Matebete Village, and I went on to Rungwe. Many thanks to Irene Lobara for making the arrangements for our interior flights between Dar es Salaam and Mbeya, for escorting the Pyles from Mbeya to Matebete and back, for making the arrangements for their food and lodging in the village, and for serving as their tour guide and interpreter throughout.

Evan presented a series of teachings that he titled, "Learn of Me." I am happy to recommend his mission report. Christine posted over 100 photos to her Facebook page, but I picked out 20 for our webpage photo album.

As for me, I was met at Songwe airport by Pastor Clement Mwaitebele, along with Pastor Emmanuel Mwasunga of Mbeya, and Pastor Joseph from Melela Village. I think you'll remember that Pastor Clement is the man who first invited me to Africa. I never knew exactly how he came to make that invitation, and I asked him to share it in a video testimony. He also talks about the events that led to the renewal of our partnership after an eleven-year hiatus. His wife shares her perspective as well. You can also hear testimonies from pastors Emmanuel and Joseph.

On our way from the airport to Rungwe we stopped at a print shop to make copies of the handouts for my seminars. About a year ago I started giving each student a syllabus that contains all the verses I use in the language the class is interpreted into. This year I've prepared such notes for my classes in Uganda, Greece, and Tanzania. The fact that I don't speak these languages makes the work difficult, especially in a language like Greek when I don't even know the alphabet! But I think the work pays off in the end. One of the many reasons I prefer the KJV Bible is its layout: each verse is separated. Most modern Bibles set the verses in paragraphs, and this makes it harder to locate individual verses. I want things to be as easy as possible for the interpreter, first, and for the students, second. I also prepared handouts like this for Evan's presentation.

The printing took a long time, and so we arrived in Rungwe on Wednesday evening. I shared a two-bedroom house with Emmanuel which was adjacent to the building where I stayed in 2003 with Evan, Steve Monahan, Jerome Lucas, and George Straub. A lady named Suzana cooked and cleaned for Emmanuel, Joseph, and me. Pastor Clement had determined (based on my preference for cooler temperatures and less mosquitoes) that we would spend our nights in Rungwe and make a daily commute to the class location.

The class in Kyela was scheduled to begin Thursday morning, and after about an hour's drive we arrived... to an empty church. The elders said they thought my classes began on Friday. I was annoyed and discouraged as this forced me to change my program into something less than I had planned.

We returned to Kyela on Friday and Saturday. I had a difficult time "connecting" with the class participants, and ended up cutting the lessons even shorter. In all fairness to them, as a teacher, I am what people diplomatically call "an acquired taste." I am not a prophet, but the Word of God is that "more sure word of prophecy" (2 Peter 1:19). By its very nature, it is prophetic and therefore confrontational. The Bible doesn't let people blame God, the devil, or other people for their problems, and some people don't like that. They want to name and claim their way into an abundant life.

After the class ended on Saturday we visited a group of orphans that Reverend and Mrs. Mwaitebele provide for. There are many orphaned children in Africa being housed by grandparents or other relatives who are quite destitute themselves. The Mwaitebeles dip into their own pockets to help these children with school fees, shoes, and uniforms. They also try to raise money from outside sources. I am sure a donation of any measure would be joyfully received. If you are so inspired, please write to Reverend Mwaitebele HERE.

I had no classes scheduled for Sunday, and planned to enjoy a day of rest. But arrangements had already been made for me to preach at a church in Mbeya, and afterwards do a water baptism service for a different group of orphans at a second location. When I learned of these plans on Saturday afternoon, I complained like a spoiled child. The fact is, I was already tired before I arrived in Tanzania, and the daily drive to Kyela and the difficult time I had teaching had depleted my last reserves. I told Emmanuel to cancel my participation at the church service, and he got on the phone to do so. But when he told me how disappointed they were, I gave in.

(Later I told Emmanuel and Clement that I am like an ox working in the field. I will do the hard labor, but I will complain the whole time!)

Actually, my "meltdown" led to a very profitable discussion about what I was trying to achieve in my ministry. Unlike a lot of ministers, it is not my goal to be seen and heard by as many people as possible. I am a teacher, not an evangelist or preacher. A real teacher needs real students. I don't want people in my classes who have one eye on their Bible and the other on their text messages. I don't want people who walk out of class the minute something "more important" comes along. I am looking for a select few who are willing to separate themselves from the busyness of daily life for a few weeks so we can really look into what the Bible has to say. I make a pretty big sacrifice to come teach them; is it wrong to expect the same in return? If they think I am too demanding, they can find another teacher.

As you might guess, both the Sunday service and the baptism turned out to be great blessings to me. In the morning I taught at a church called Deliverance Gospel Ministries International in Mbeya which is pastored by a young man named Kelvin Lwando. After the service, we shared a quick but tasty meal – quick because we had to get to the baptism. A group of children welcomed us with songs and waved branches, and we all walked down to the river where I baptized six children. The children and their caregivers were very lovely to me. Afterwards they presented me with a gift of three hard-boiled eggs. I don't know if I've ever been so touched by a gift.

On Monday morning we drove to Katumba to begin the second seminar. Pastor Clement had tried to ensure that this class would run according to schedule, but once again we arrived at an empty church; this time there was confusion about what hour we would begin. But we used the extra time to our advantage. You see, after our discussion the previous day, and having heard my class in Kyela, Clement understood the kind of class situation I am looking for. I do better in a classroom than in a church. Because he is President of the Moravian Church in Southern Tanzania, he has access to many teaching facilities. We visited their theological college in nearby Tukuyu, and I spoke to students in an English class, and a class on the Gospel of John. I was also introduced to some of the administrators, and we enquired about using this campus for future events. The chief administrator invited me back to teach his students as well.

Pastor Mwaitebele is retiring from his presidential duties at the end of 2014, and we decided to forego scheduling any more events until 2015. Even during the three days of my teaching in Katumba, his administrative duties – which included attending two funerals, and a leaders' symposium – kept him away from class. I am thankful and happy that he wants to use his skills as an organizer and administrator to help me as much as possible.

(Many years ago, I worked for a man of God named Reverend B.G. Leonard and his ministry, Christian Training Centre of Texas. To say he impacted my life is the epitome of understatement. One day he told me that if he had four more workers like me, he could take his message around the globe. He told me that what set me apart is I didn't have my own agenda. I wasn't using his name to advance my own program. Now that I am leading my own ministry, I better understand what he meant. You need people who believe in you and in the value of your message, and want to help you get it across.)

All in all, the majority of people who attended my presentation in Katumba only came for a portion of it, which is why those 'group photos' can be so misleading. But the ones who stayed for the entire seminar said they were very enriched by it.

My wife Nelly is a fantastic cook – and I have the struggles with my waistline to prove it! But no matter how much we rave about her meals, she is certain to point out everything that didn't turn out as well as she hoped. Nelly has a perfect meal in mind, and she measures her output against that ideal.

As a teacher, I suffer in the same way. I know what I want to accomplish on my missions, and I measure my results against that. Of course I am happy when people are pleased, but pleasing people is not my aim. I am happy that Christians are being united, but uniting Christians is not my mission. I want to help people lay up many rewards in heaven through their service to God here on earth. I know that my audience is made of people who already love God and want to serve him. But they don't realize they are being held captive by ignorance and doctrines of devils, and that is why they are so afraid. I want them to see God as one who can be trusted with absolute confidence in every situation. I want them to see that without such trust, they cannot hope to serve him.

I have hit this mark in certain sessions of my classes, but never in the whole class, and certainly not in the entire series of five classes that comprise my Ministers' Training Series. I realize that what is required is the intervention of God. But let's not get lost in mysticism. God intervenes in our life through the revelation of his Word. We need to learn that Word. But first, we need to put ourselves in situations where we can listen!

Anyway... I think I am getting closer! I am confident that I have the right message. The right situation and the right students are also key. So I am very excited about the events we have penciled-in for 2015.

One thing I learned on this trip is that I had vastly underestimated Reverend Clement Mwaitebele's dedication and faith in God. Having a position of high authority in a large denomination (or in a small non-denomination for that matter) can lead someone to compromise both his integrity and spirituality. Reverend Mwaitebele recently faced such a challenge when authorities of the Moravian church told him the Africans could either accept the modern, "more enlightened" view of love and acceptance, or forfeit financial support from abroad. He told them, as did Peter and the other apostles not so long ago, "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). Men and nations can sanction whatever and whomsoever they please, but they cannot change the mind of God. He is our judge, and he alone determines what is acceptable and right.

Psalms 2:2-5:
2: The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying,
3: Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.
4: He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.
5: Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.

Even though such times have been long foretold, it is somewhat shocking to realize that we live in days when quoting the Bible is being equated to "hate speech." It is even more unnerving to see how many Christians are delighted that our churches are moving in that direction. Come quickly, Lord Jesus, before we all fall away.

I want to thank Pastor Emmanuel for the good work he did as my interpreter. And many thanks to Pastor Mwaitebele for the work he did to arrange these classes, and to feed, house, and transport me during my stay. May our God reward you for your labor of love and sacrifice. Thank you for your enduring friendship to me and Workers Together With Him.

I do not regret the 11-year gap between this visit and my first. I needed all of those 11 years to mature, to lose my naivety about mission work, and come into focus about my message and ministry. The Bible says that "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28), and I believe that.

At this time I expect to go on two more missions to Africa this year, one in Melela Village in Tanzania, and the other in Mbale, Uganda. I will keep you posted.

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


Click HERE to see the photo page from Tim's classes in Kyela and Katumba.
Click HERE to watch video testimonies from Tim's class.

Click HERE to read Evan Pyle's report on his mission to Matebete Village.
Click HERE to see the photos from that event.

Your comments are welcome! Click here to write an email to Tim.

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