Swahili Sis

trusting . resting . following

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Last Video Update from Tanzania

May 8, 2017
Hello dear friends!

I'm back in Colorado, settled in my parent's basement.  It's still hard for me to believe I've said goodbye to Tanzania.  The ministry opportunity I was looking in to here in CO didn't work out, so now I'm seeking the Lord's direction for possible jobs.  In the meantime I'm relearning how to be American.  Enjoying things like carpet and dishwashers, libraries and mountains, church services in English and hanging out with my parents.

I wish I knew how to express just how much each of you has meant to me over the years.  Some of you have journeyed with me from the beginning, others joined more recently.  Some of you have given a one-time gift, others have supported me monthly.  Some have shot up "arrow prayers," others have gotten on their knees and begged God when I was in the midst of an intense spiritual battle.  Some of you have sent an encouraging note just when I needed it, others have sent packages filled with goodies.  Thank you to each and every one of you for traveling this journey with me!  May the Lord bless you over and abundantly!!!

Here's a link to one final video update from Tanzania. Celebrate with me!


Big News ~ The End of a Chapter

March 2, 2017
Dear friends, family, and ministry partners, 

Our lives are like a book, full of chapters.  I've come to the end of a glorious chapter in my life, and  another one is about to begin.  With many mixed emotions I finally send out this official announcement.  Many of you have already heard that I am leaving Tanzania.  Thank you to those who have already been praying, encouraging, and counseling me through this transition!  Please see the below letter for further details.  Many, many THANK YOU'S to each one of you for investing in my life and in children's ministry in Tanzania!  


Dear ministry partners,

After ten years as a missionary it is time for me to say goodbye.  Children's ministry is at a good place here in Tanzania, and it's time for me to be closer to my family in Colorado.  The last six months have been filled with prayer and seeking wise counsel; and though I'm grieving, I'm also at complete peace that this is the direction the Lord is leading me.  I'll be moving home the first week of March.

Some great things have happened in these years with children’s ministry.  We have new teachers in many of our village churches who are growing in their skills and confidence as teachers.  Also, my training partners, Justa and Happiness are planning to continue traveling together and conducting teacher training seminars.  There will be difficulties ahead I'm sure, but God is not leaving these dear people, and He loves Tanzanian children more than any of us ever could.  The Brouwers and Helsbys will continue to encourage and train pastors, as well as keep me updated on how kids’ ministry progresses.

I wish I could express just how thankful I am for each one of you, for your faithful and generous support, your many words of encouragement, and your holding me and this ministry together through prayer.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  I'm hoping to introduce you to many Tanzanian kids, and them to you, when we all meet "in the air!" 

As I look forward to beginning a new chapter in the states, I'm looking into the possibility of a new ministry near my parents in Colorado.  It’s a ministry involving missions and children's ministry, but also one for which I will need to raise support.  I'm waiting to see how God leads, but you may be hearing from me later this year! :-)

It has been a great honor to partner with you.

Because Jesus loves the little children,

Searching for Wisdom

December 12, 2016
Sara asked me if we could not give so many gifts/ rewards at Bible club for awhile.  I have a closet full of stickers and other little gifts, and I've been asked by a Tanzanian not to give them out!  Isn't that such a strange request?  But it does make sense.  When she had the kids for 2 months without me, there weren't as many presents, and there also weren't as many kids.  They don't need to get used to taking presents home every week!  And sure enough, we've been averaging 15-20 kids instead of 35-40 kids per week.  :-)

This month we've separated the older and younger kids for the Bible story time.  I have an excellent flashcard series on the life of Solomon, but it's way too difficult for little 5 years olds to understand.  Sara is teaching them, while I get to lead more of a Bible study style lesson with the older kids.  Man do I LOVE it!!!   I sit  down on a mat in the shade with about 10 3rd-6th graders, and we open our Bibles to the book of Proverbs.  It's like digging for treasure!  One week we looked at general verses contrasting the wise man and the foolish man.  We've also looked at what God says about money, friends, marriage, and raising kids.

Last week I said, "But maybe you're thinking, 'We're just kids, why are we reading verses about God's plan for marriage?'  Let me tell you, you're not that many years away from being a grown up!  It's better to understand now what God's plan is, so you can decide early on what kind of family you want to build.'"  One boy, Jeremiah, seems especially interested in soaking everything up!

Lord, use Your living and active Word of God in these kids' hearts.  May these lessons stay with them all through their lives.  And may they pursue You, "In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge!" (Col 2:3)

Village Children's Ministry 101

November 21, 2016
This is a pretty long post.  Not for the faint of heart. :)  Only for those really interested in what I really mean when I say, "I help train Sunday school teachers in village churches."

This month, I've been working at Kimaga on Sundays.  Pastor Zebron had been asking for help to start a kids class.  This village church has tons of kids, but no teachers... until now. :-)

Sunday #1: The first Sunday I brought two young ladies to help me teach (Mage and Sara- Tanzanians, both in the 20s).  I gave an announcement in church that we would be coming for a month, and hoping to start a kids class with the goal that it will continue after we leave.  But we can't do that without volunteers.  I invited anyone who might be interested to join us during children's church that first week.

We had 5 or 6 come out to watch us.  After class, I asked those who were interested in helping us next week to stay after class.  Three stayed.  Yay!  Our new teachers' names: Tobias, Yudita, and Nyanda.  Mage, Sarah, and I were so excited.  God was answering our prayers!  We gave them each one small task for the following Sunday- lead a song, open in prayer, lead a game.  I've learned it's much better to start small.  Don't want to overwhelm them before they even get their feet wet.

Sunday #2: Two of the new teachers did their part, very hesitatingly, but they did it.  (You do have to admit, it is a bit intimidating to stand up in front of 80 children!)  The third teacher didn't show.  I wondered if he just got scared.  Maybe we'll just have 2 teachers.  Mage, Sara, and I taught most of the class.  They taught a lot more than I, as they can speak the local tribal language.  I've also found that if at all possible, new teachers need to watch their fellow Tanzanians teach.  I, as the foreigner, am much more intimidating and distracting (not on purpose, mind you).  They just get way more encouraged to see their fellow Tanzanians do it.  SO thankful for Mage and Sara this month!!!

After class we sat and prepared next Sunday's lesson.  This time they were given a bit more work- teach a memory verse, direct the "craft time" (Craft time in the village= draw a picture in the dirt). 

Sunday #3:   Just Sara and I went to Kimaga this Sunday.  Mage was fighting malaria.  She took a round of medicine, but her strength hasn't returned yet.   Wow, 2 answers to prayer.  Tobias returned.  He wasn't shirking or escaping last week after all, his father had sent him to herd the family cows.  Three teachers, yay!  Yudita taught the memory verse.  This is the day I realized, this girl has some teaching skills!  She's a natural.  I love, love, love watching this happen.  People you never expect, all of a sudden bloom.  Our gracious God gives everyone gifts for His service, even way out in the middle of a village no one has ever heard of in Africa!  The boys were both there, pretty shy but there doing their part.

After class, preparing for next Sunday.  Kimaga teachers were given almost all the work.  Yudita agreed to teach the Bible lesson.  The boys were each given 2 tasks.  Tobias and Nyanda have such a great heart.  They want to teach, but they are so shy.  (I'm pretty sure that will disappear once we visitors aren't there.)  They also are still struggling with reading.  They can read, but it's just very slow.  And when it's that hard to read, reading comprehension is scant.  I'm thinking they will start as awesome assistant teachers!  And maybe this will be the motivation they need read more at home.

I also brought out the set of pictures, and showed them how to find the pictures that correspond to the lesson, then we practiced cutting them out.  (also not something they are comfortable doing)

After everyone had their assigned jobs, we did a quick "dry run through."  I find that sometimes the hardest part for new teachers is just to start.  The song leader gets up in front and just stands there.  He can't come up with those magical words, "Let's stand up and sing a song."  So we practice our starters.  "Now let's sing a song."  "Bow your heads, let's pray."  I've found that for village guys who spend their days with cows and working in the fields, the simplest approach is the best.  Maybe after they've taught a year (or a few), we can look at how to come up with creative, capture-your-attention, introductions.  For now, "let's sing a song" is perfect.

Sunday #4:  Final Sunday.  Mage spent more time in the hospital last week, not able to go out with us again.  Kimaga teachers carried the class, Sara and I tried to keep our mouths shut (harder than you think!)  I'm not sure of the words- fulfilling, exciting- to watch our new teachers in action.  My heart swelled up with pride.  It takes a lot of courage to do so much in a few weeks.  We expected a lot from them, and Yudita, Tobias, and Nyanda, rose to the challenge.  I feel like a mother hen, proud to watch her little chicks grow and develop their skills! :-)  Don't get me wrong- there's plenty more work to be done!!  But still, I'm pretty confident Sunday school will continue at Kimaga.  Thank you, Jesus!

We met one last time after class, to prepare next week's lesson together.  That's when I discovered I had left their teaching visual at home.  They need it next week, and we won't be there!  Sad.  But Nyanda offered to ride his bike to Kisesa (the closest "big"" town) on Tuesday, and I'll bring the picture to him there, so I don't have to travel the whole way out. 

I left them with a teacher book and set of pictures that will last them a half a year, as my gift to them.  One other problem, only one of the teachers has a Bible, Yudita, and it's just a NT.  A couple years ago, I would have just given them all Bibles or at least one to share.  But I'm getting wiser the longer I'm here.  I already sell Bibles at half price.  (Always travel with a box in the back of my car.)  If they really want it, they can find a way to get one.   (I learned this after watching all of our village churches somehow coming up with several hundred dollars for speakers and microphones.)  They can find $4 for a Bible if they really want one.

Sara and I left, tired and happy.  Sara has been gone from her own church for a month now, she has a lot of roles that others have been filling in for her (teaching kids, helping lead singing, singing in the choir, helping children quote verses for the adults).  I think she's pretty excited about getting back to her own church next Sunday.  :-)

The weeks leading up to Christmas, I hope to visit and encourage several of our other village churches where I've already started kids classes in years past.  Then Sunday I'll be back at Kimaga for our big 7-church joint Christmas celebration.  That will be a crazy Sunday school class! :)  I wonder if Yudita, Nyanda, and Tobias will be up for the challenge. ;)

Double Portion

July 9, 2016

Last night we finished up another week of Bible college.  The morning and evening chapels our young preacher boys and newer pastors get the chance to preach.  Last night was Ngamba's turn.  He used the story of how Elisha stuck to Elijah's side those final days before being taken away by a flaming chariot, not letting anyone persuade him to leave his side.  Ngamba told all the young preacher boys that this was a perfect picture of how they needed to stick close to their mentors.  He talked about how he has been "glued" to Pastor Pelegrino these past few years, asking questions, seeking help, and listening to whatever he says.  Then he shared how much he's been blessed in his family and in his ministry because of it.

I'm not normally a "big picture" gal.  It's just not my personality or bent.  I'm all about "one step at a time" and "what needs to be done here and now."  But last night as I listened to Pastor Ngamba humbly share, I looked around at the crowd of 80 students, at least half being young 18-20 year-old men, and I got a lump in my throat.  If even half of these young guys have the same heart as Ngamba, what potential!  What an unstoppable "army" for the Kingdom!  This little group of Bible college students could EXPLODE in a handful of years!  (then of course my highly practical mind started laboring over where in the world they will sleep at Bible college?  They are already packed in the little "dorm" rooms as it is!)  :)

Then Ngamba pointed to the back at me, "Dada (sister) Lisa was my teacher.  I never thought I would be a pastor, didn't really even get why I should read my Bible.  Then dada Lisa started teaching me to teach kids in Sunday school.  That's where it all began."  The Word started coming alive to him as he started studying it in order to teach kids!  And now he is a pastor!  Oh my exploding heart!

And as if that wasn't enough, the Holy Spirit reminded me what has been my prayer since last November... a double portion of fruit... from that very story of Elijah and Elisha.  It's as if He was telling me, "You bet I've been hearing your prayer.  See Ngamba?  And he's just one example. I've had big things planned way before you started praying, oh you of little faith."  I started picturing all these young guys at Bible college as pastors who were mentoring other young men, churches popping up in villages all over this region, and children in all those villages hearingthe glorious life-giving truth of the gospel!  

I'm thinking triple or quadruple portion might just be on its way.

Now for a little slideshow down memory lane...

This picture was taken in 2009, I had been in Tanzania only 10 months.  Ngamba is the one crouched down on the left.  This is before he agreed to try teaching Sunday school.  :-)

Here he is a year later (2010) helping me teach kids in a new village church plant.

And here he is last year.  I got to watch him in action, an amazing teacher!  He was just asked to be his church's pastor a few months before and he came back to visit his Sunday school kids. 


Hanging Out with Kids

June 7, 2016

Bible club is going well.  The first hour the kids play around in my "parking lot" while we wait for others to come.  I enjoy those early moments when there are less kids, and I have time to "hang out" and play and cheer them on.  Many of them soak up the positive attention like sponges.

This Saturday we will be finishing up our survey of the Old Testament and jumping into the life of Jesus in the New Testament.  I can't wait to start making connections between some of the stories of the OT with the life of Jesus.  

Last week was the first time the kids recognized that some of the great OT were pointing to Christ.  We read through a list of some of OT messianic prophecies, and then I said, "Hmmm, I wonder who this is talking about?  Whoever it is is going to suffer a lot."  Hands went up all over and several blurted out, "Jesus!"


Singing in Jail

May 18, 2016
Simon holding picture of another of a guy he led to the Lord

Simon is one of the guards back at my old house.  He came by the other day to buy some Bibles.*  It started raining, so we ran to my front porch for cover.  Then it really started raining.  We ended up chatting for over an hour.  He proceeded to tell me the following story...

One evening about 8 o' clock, I was sitting and chatting with some neighbors.  All of a sudden somebody was shining a bright flash light in my face.  "Hey, who's there and what are you doing?  Don't you know it's rude to shine a light right in someone's eyes?"  He put the flashlight down and and barked, "What did you say to me?"  Then I realized my mistake.  It was a policeman.  He grabbed me and put handcuffs on me.  "How dare you talk to a policeman that way."  He made me get in the back of the police truck.

I was driven to the police station and they decided to lock me up.  They confiscated everything I had on me which wasn't much.  I didn't even have my cell phone to let my wife know what had happened.  "Please, what have I done?  I'm a Christian. I haven't done any crime."  He replied rather harshly, informing me that there was no singing or preaching allowed and threw me in the jail cell.  

The place stunk!  Raw sewage, flies, packed full of people.  Some smoking pot that they had sneaked in with them.  After a little while I asked myself, "What am I afraid of?  What's the worst they'll do to me, beat me?  I was beaten plenty of times in school, I'm not afraid of being beaten."  Then I announced to everyone, "I'm going to sing now."  I started singing and praising Jesus.  A police officer yelled, "Hey you, stop that!"  I replied, "You can handcuff my hands and feet but you can't handcuff my mouth."  And I just kept singing.  Soon other prisoners were singing with me.  We had quite a choir going.

After we sang awhile I asked the guy next to me, "So, what are you in here for?"  After he shared, I started to give him the gospel.  "You know, it doesn't matter what you've done.  There is a love that's bigger than that.  Jesus loves you and is ready to forgive you.  He died for your sins and mine."  Then we prayed together and I moved on to the next guy.  "So, what are you in for?"  All night long I prayed with guys and we sang more.  The next morning I was released and sent home.  
Simon is not a pastor; he's never had the chance to go to Bible college.  But he loves Jesus and he loves telling other people about Him.  Oh, for the same boldness to tell others about my glorious Savior!

*One thing I've been able to do because of generous gifts of churches and friends in the States is help get Swahili Bibles into villagers hands.  Most of our churches are in villages, and most villagers are farmers who live off the land.  A Swahili Bible costs $5-15 in town.  I buy boxes of Bibles and travel with them in the back of my Rav4, selling them for half price.  Whatever church I'm at, they know that I have Bibles at a reduced price.  If I were to guess we've "sold" 300-400 Bibles so far.  :-)