My 2023 Mission to Tanzania

October 16, 2023

tims blog








The key to “a prosperous journey by the will of God” (Rom 1:10) is being led by God. But unlike the apostles of old, I am only vaguely familiar with prophetic dreams and angelic visitations. In order to avoid the trap of being my own shepherd, I decided many years ago that I would let mission invitations come to me instead of soliciting them myself.

In the summer of 2000, I taught a class on the gifts of the Spirit in Aeschiried, Switzerland. A man named George was one of my students. Two years later, on a day like any other, the Holy Spirit inspired George to take a different route home from work than usual, and this is how he met Rev. Clement Mwaitebele, a pastor from Tanzania who had come to Switzerland to find help for his church. George wrote me saying, “After I told him about your ministry, he asked me several times if it would be possible to introduce him to you.” I began a correspondence with Clement, and in July of 2003, I traveled to Tanzania along with George and three other men to teach in the towns of Kyela and Tukuyu. By the grace of God, the classes were fruitful and led to many other teaching opportunities for me. It was one of my interpreters who later brought me to the Maasai Christians of Matebete. It was also on that first trip that we met a young Ugandan man named Henry who was passing through Kyela on a prayer mission. Henry invited me to teach in Uganda, and we have enjoyed a very productive partnership ever since. Through Henry’s recommendation I received invitations to teach in Kenya, Rwanda, and even Nepal. None of these doors would have opened to me if I’d been busy plotting out my own path. I never would have dared to think so big.

I have often marveled at the grace of God upon my life. There is nothing about me that justifies my successful career as an international and interdenominational Bible teacher. I don’t have a charismatic personality. I don’t have the kind of credentials that make people want to hear what I have to say. So what is it? Am I somehow special? Or have I learned something that can help anyone in his own ministry?

This is what I know and this is what I believe: it is not the man; it is the message. It is the MESSAGE that brings deliverance. God doesn’t send people, per se. He sends his word.

Psalm 107:20
He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.

Isaiah 55:11
So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

Ever since my first trip to Matebete Village in 2004, the Maasai have credited me with restoring unity to their tribe. Christianity came to the Maasai through various denominations. Each one brought their version of the gospel message (which was well and good), but then used it to separate the people accordingly. Friends and relatives became strangers, unwilling to even greet one another in passing. But starting with my first mission to Matebete in 2004, Maasai Christians of every denomination came together to hear my teachings. To be sure, some came for the novelty of seeing a foreigner and others came hoping for a handout. But even after they realized that I’d only come to teach the Bible, they kept coming back for more, talking with each other about the things they were learning. And while no one was looking, the walls between them fell like the walls of Jericho.

As for me, I did not set out to unite the Maasai. I had no idea they were divided! It wasn’t me who united them. They were united by the Lord, and by the refreshment that comes with hearing his Word. Only the Word of God can knit hearts together in love. Without it, there is only contention and strife.

Colossians 2:2-3
2 That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;
3 In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Ever since that first visit, the villagers have given me an open invitation to return as often as I want. But this blessing could easily turn into a curse if I forsake the Lord’s counsel. I can make as many trips as I can afford. But if I want “a prosperous journey by the will of God”, I need the Lord’s direction.

What sign do I look for? For me, the key is having the message. There are thousands of potential teachings within the pages of the Bible, but only God knows the right one for the right people at the right time. Only that message will be fruitful. So for me, the mission begins when I know what the Lord wants me to teach. That discovery comes when I clear my head of my own ambitions and prepare my heart to do the Lord’s will.

Ezra 7:10
For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.

After I know what the theme will be, I start planning my lessons. A line from a Bob Dylan song reminds me that the most important part of the mission is accomplished before I ever leave my house. But I’ll know my song well before I start singing. On-the-spot inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but it is the gravy and not the meat and potatoes of a good teaching. I double-check the scriptures to ensure I am not pulling any interpretations out of a hat. I make sure that my lessons align with “the principles of the doctrine of Christ” (Heb. 6:1), and that the trail I am asking people to follow is laid out “precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little” (Isa. 28:13). I know that I’m ready when my presentation is so plain that even “the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein” (Isa. 35:8).

Early this summer, I was inspired to revisit a teaching series I hadn’t looked at for years, The Prosperity of the Lord’s Servant. It was really on account of my wife Nelly; she had reread my book and talked so enthusiastically about it that other friends reread it as well. I decided to design a PowerPoint presentation of this material for my home church. As the message took hold of me, I realized that I was being given an assignment: I was to take this message to the Maasai in Tanzania.

I communicated with my friends in Africa that I would arrive in the last week of September and teach over the course of three mornings. We’d use the rest of the time for fellowship and discussion. The idea was well received and I was told church elders from other Maasai villages would also attend.

I left home on Sunday, 24 September, and arrived in the village on Wednesday. As always, it was a long and tiresome journey. I flew from Baton Rouge to Atlanta to Paris to Zanzibar to Dar es Salaam. Then I flew from Dar es Salaam to Mbeya, and from there we drove to Matebete. If you are interested, go to your favorite map program and enter these coordinates: 8°45'22.76"S, 34° 1'26.00"E. The building with the green roof is the ITO teaching center that WTWH built in 2009. ITO is Ilaasak Tenebo Oninye, "Workers Together With Him" in the Maasai language.

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men


The title of John Steinbeck’s famous novel “Of Mice and Men” was inspired by a poem entitled “To a Mouse, On Turning her up in her Nest, with the Plough” by the Scotsman Robert Burns. The idea is that no matter how carefully you make your plans, something often goes wrong along the way. And one of the first things I learned after arriving in Tanzania was that a young man had died, and that his funeral and burial that would take place on what was going to be my first day of class. There was nothing to do but pay my respects to the grieving family – Shukran Mollel was only 32 years old when he died – and start praying about Plan B.


I began my presentation of The Prosperity of the Lord’s Servant on Thursday morning. I had the luxury of two seasoned interpreters to help me, Irene Lobara and Rev. Paulo Kurupashi. I taught three sessions separated by generous breaks: Treasures of the Heart, The Deceitfulness of Riches and The Prosperity of His Servant. The Maasai are no different from anyone else. It is extremely difficult for us to first acknowledge and then relinquish the faith we put into money. As Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle” (Mk. 10:25). We say we trust in God, but we pray he keeps our purses full. But if we will “receive with meekness the engrafted word” (Jas. 1:21), we can discover the peace that comes with trusting in God.

I never schedule afternoon teaching sessions. I know better than to try to teach people with full stomachs, and besides that, my body was still on Louisiana time and I can only push it so far. When the morning sessions were over, we gathered for a special meal hosted by Rev. Patrick Kinana and his family as we prepared to dedicate their new house.

Patrick served as the Secretary of ITO from its foundation in 2009 until 2012, and then as Chairman from 2012 to 2022.  In September 2022, he told me it was time for someone new, and I reluctantly accepted his resignation. To say that Patrick has been instrumental to the success of ITO is such an understatement it is almost sinful.
Patrick’s house had been destroyed by heavy rains, and I was compelled to do something about it. I learned that a modest home in Matebete costs about the same as a few months’ rent in a nice neighborhood in the USA, and I felt that this would be a wonderful way to show my gratitude for his faithful service. I had reservations: people being people, I knew there would be some fallout, and I didn’t want Patrick to be the center of controversy. But most of the villagers saw this as a blessing from God and they were elated for the family. This gift came as a complete surprise to Patrick. He had not (as many people wrongly imagined) asked me to build him a house. We never spoke about it. I did it because I believe God wanted me to do it.


There was a time in my life when I had a never-say-die determination to deliver every lesson I’d prepared. Now I try to avoid turning my meetings into an endurance contest. On the second day of class, instead of presenting three lessons I presented only one – “How to Be Abased and How to Abound” – in three parts. This ability to “go with the flow” comes with being prepared. Being prepared gives you the flexibility to “do as occasion serve thee” (1 Sam. 10:7).

Every church in the village designates a time for receiving offerings, so I didn’t feel the need to preach on the importance of giving. But within the Maasai community are varying degrees of wealth. This is becoming more and more apparent as the village develops into something quite unlike the quaint village I first stepped into 19 years ago. It is human nature to think that God shines his favor upon the wealthy more than the poor, but as Proverbs 22:2 says, “The rich and poor meet together: the LORD is the maker of them all.” If anything, God favors “the poor of this world rich in faith” (Jas. 2:5).

When Paul said, “I know how to abound”, he wasn’t saying that he knew how to attract money. He was saying he understood the responsibility that comes with having more than you need. When God makes someone rich, he expects them to demonstrate that their faith is still in him by being rich in good works.

1 Timothy 6:17-19
17 Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;
18 That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;
19 Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

Time will tell how well this message was received.


I spent two more days in Matebete before returning home. The rest of the time was spent in various discussions with the elders about the development of the work. They were keen to spread this spirit of unity far beyond the boundaries of Matebete, and looked to ITO as a vehicle to that end. I reminded them that spiritual unity is a by-product of walking in truth. When Christians try to manufacture unity themselves, they look for compromise, and that is how bad doctrine gets into the church. The unity of Ephesians 4 comes when Christians quit focusing on their differences and focus rather on becoming more Christ-like in their attitude one to another, and in their faithfulness to true doctrine.

Ephesians 4:1-6
1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

By the grace of God, a great deal was accomplished in a few short days. No one knows how long it will be before we hear the trumpet of Christ, but if these end times continue, I look forward to the next time God sends me to Matebete. Love and thanks to my special assistants, Irene Kisota and Paulo Kurupashi, to my hosts Paraboy and Monica Kaney, and to the Christians of Matebete who continue to be so loving and gracious to me. The same love and thanks to my friends around the world who love me and helped me make this mission.

In the Service of His Majesty, the King of kings,
Tim Sullivan

Click HERE to see photos from this mission and watch two video testimonies

Your comment are welcome! Email Tim HERE


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