Saturday Morning Bible club
A new home means new neighbors. I’ve started a Bible club on Saturday mornings at my house. I went to six neighbors’ houses to introduce myself and extend an invitation to their kids. After three weeks we were already up to 30 kids! It’s never hard to find children in Tanzania. They are a wide open harvest field! So far Bible club has been great mix of kids: lots of Tanzanians and a few missionary kids, tons of elementary kids along with a few teens and babies, all ranges of economic background, all ranges of church background and knowledge of the Bible. Two Tanzanians ladies are helping me. We’ve started teaching chronologically through the Bible, 35 lessons from creation to the cross. I can’t wait to see what God is going to do!
Christ is Born
I love the holidays. I love to bake. I love getting together with friends. I love trying to figure out how to get a fresh Christmas tree here. I love to stop and reflect on the Gift that outshines any package under the tree. Thank you Jesus, for the manger that lead to the cross, that lead to the empty tomb! The Sunday after Christmas I got the joy of leading three 10-year olds to the Lord! Teachers Justa and Pendo have spent years planting seeds and watering in Sunday school. I happened to get the joy of plucking the fruit as a guest teacher. To God be the glory!
One side ministry I’ve taken on is piano lessons for missionary kids. I started a few years ago with one family, and now it’s grown to 14 students in one day. The majority of missionaries in Mwanza live in a neighborhood called, Bwiru, the neighborhood I just moved to. It’s fun to have kids coming in and out on Mondays. I’ve also really enjoyed doing something I’m somewhat competent in, something that doesn’t involve adjusting my language and culture. It’s one day a week where I remember my own “tribe” rather than always trying to fit into someone else’s “tribe.” J
Praises and Prayer
Rejoice with me: Grandma is with Jesus! I got to see her one last time this fall. She passed away a week after I returned to TZ. I want to love like Grandma loved. She’s was God’s humble servant to the end. I want to love like Jessica loved, my sister-in-law, who cared for her like she was her own child for the last three years.
Pray with me: This year I’m asking God for double fruit. Elisha persistently clung to Elijah till he was taken away, asking for a double portion of God’s power. In sort of the same way, I’m asking God daily for fruit, lasting spiritual fruit here in Tanzania, more fruit than ever before! John 15:16 says that I did not choose God but that he chose me to bring forth fruit. “Father, may lives be changed because I’m here in Tanzania. Bring more and more sheep into your fold. Transform our lives to be more and more like Christ.”
Tug-of-war and balloon volleyball. It doesn’t take a lot to get Tanzanian kids to laugh. We had a great weekend of children’s ministry last month when a team of 7 arrived from Montana. Our goal was simple, simple, simple. We played simple games, sang a few songs, and then told a story about Jesus. The team prepared a short skit, acting as I read the passage where Jesus heals the blind man. The kids loved it! We did this at 2 different churches. I was encouraged. Why do I wait for visitors to do things like this?
Back in the States
October in the rockies! Ahhhh… a break from the stresses of daily life in Tanzania. Sleep. Reconnecting with family, reminiscing with Grandma, helping Mom and Dad out at home. Shopping. Shall I continue? I’m so thankful for this month rest and regroup. It’s also been a month of praying… for family and children’s ministry in TZ.
Thank you to every one who prayed! The TZ presidential election was the closest it has ever been. Tensions were high. Many missionaries and other foreigners working in TZ left the country for awhile (myself included) until things calmed down. Those who stayed in country, stayed home for a week until ballots could be counted and results announced. All is well on the mainland. Still some unrest in Zanzibar.
*I’m heading back to TZ the first of November. The following week another team will arrive (from Montana). Pray for the Lord to work in and through them. Pray for energy for my teammates the Brouwers and Helsbys as they make preparations.
*I’m heading back to TZ the first of November. The following week another team will arrive (from Montana). Pray for the Lord to work in and through them. Pray for energy for my teammates the Brouwers and Helsbys as they make preparations.
*Pray for peace in Tanzania. Pray for newly elected President Magufuli and all the parliament members to lead honestly and do what’s best for their country. Pray for peace on Zanzibar.
*Pray for “fruit that remains” in Tanzania. That as Tanzanians know God more they would love Him more, and as they love Him more they would want to obey Him more. And pray for children’s ministry. I have some new ideas I’d like to try. Praying for wisdom, creativity, and boldness.
Because Jesus loves children,
Praising God for days past.
This summer was pretty crazy here as I’m sure for many of you in the states! Annalise finished out her time here well. The last few weeks weren’t as busy as the first few, which gave her some time to get some internship work done for college. It also gave her a glimpse of what normal life here is like, a slower pace of life that can be both wonderful and frustrating at the same time. J
After a few weeks of catching up on paperwork and shopping for a new house, my home came alive again with a mom and son duo. Megan and Blake from Virginia came out to experience a bit of Africa. One of the first things Blake said after getting off the plane was, “Teach me some Swahili.” He greeted people wherever we went. We passed out lots of tracts and kids loved playing with Blake. Megan also jumped right into life here. She shared her testimony at our pastor’s wives meeting. Her willingness to be honest and vulnerable helped several ladies share things about their own lives that I had never heard before. I love how God is writing every one of our stories. Each of our stories is unique, each of us a trophy of His grace!
After Megan and Blake left, I turned into a homemaker whirlwind. Working with plumbers and carpenters, electricians and painters on the new house. Last Wednesday was moving day! I feel so rich. The Lord has provided a beautiful new home in a quieter neighborhood. Even more than that I am surrounded by wonderful friends here in Mwanza who helped me move!
Praying for the days ahead.
The Helsbys are hosting a building team the end of this month to install a roof and windows on Pastor Mussa’s new house. We’re planning several kids ministry days while they are here. I’m praying that the Lord’s love would shine through them, and the Word would have its way in many kids’ hearts. Tanzania is heading toward a big election in October. Praying for a peaceful transition of a new president. In a few weeks I’ll be heading home for a month for some family time. The original plan was to go home for Christmas, but with the elections coming I thought it wouldn’t hurt to be gone in October instead. Praying for rest and sweet times with family. One final ministry request: Kimaga is one or our recent church plants. Our team spent the month of August there, and children’s church grew from 30 to 120! We’re off to another church this month, and my heart aches for all those kids who have no teacher. Praying that God would call and equip several to take over this class.
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: 1Pe 2:9
May we all show forth His praises!
I have had the privilege of hosting Annalise Kester this summer. She’s a missions major at Bible college, and is spending 2 months with me to get a feel for life and service on the mission field. I must say, it’s been fun having a ministry partner. I’m trying to convince her to stay longer. J
Trip to the Islands
One of our first big adventures together was a 4-day trip to a few of the islands on Lake Victoria. (There are over 50 inhabited islands on the lake!) We got to join a missions team from the states that was visiting some village churches. We rode on a local fishing boat. We got to see the home and church of retired missionaries, Arnold and Dorothy Egeler, my mentors and Swahili language teachers, who served and loved the people in that area in the early 60’s. And we got to see what God is still doing through His Word and His faithful servants on the islands of Ukara, Ukerewe, and Sizu.
Annalise and I also put together a VBS for missionary kids at my house. We ended up having so many helpers that we didn’t do much but teach the Bible time. Nine leaders for 11 kids. Can you get a better leader-to-kid ratio than that?!? We had crazy hair day, played water games, did crafts, laughed at skits, sang loud, memorized verses, and wore mustaches. In older kids Bible class we looked for glimpses of Jesus in the Old Testament. There are so many events, people, and prophecies that point to Christ. I’m never more blessed by the Word than when I’m teaching it to kids!!
~That the last few weeks that Annalise is here would go well, and that God would continue to guide and direct her regarding her future.
~This fall’s ministry of Sunday school teacher training, and hosting more visitors.
~After 7 years in one house, I’m planning on moving to a different neighborhood here in Mwanza. Closer to the Brouwers and Helsbys. Pray for grace as I adjust to a new home and neighborhood. I’m looking forward to a quieter neighborhood (away from city-wide crusades, political rallies, and midnight disco music.) But I am going to miss my large yard and the benefit of fewer power cuts and water rationing.
Thank you to each one of you who read these letters. Thank you for praying. Thank you for giving. If you prefer to receive these updates by email, send me quick note: Lnewland@bimi.org.
Weekend Trip to Kahama
Most of our village churches are an hour’s drive away. Not Mwendakulima. This young church plant is 4 hours away, near the town of Kahama. Pastor Ezekieli had been asking us to come help his new Sunday school teachers learn how to teach kids. Last weekend my fellow teachers, Justa and Happiness, each with a baby on her back, and Stephanie, a visitor from the states, piled into my car for a 4-day adventure. I’m at a loss to describe that crazy weekend in one paragraph! J Suffice it to say we taught 7 people all day on Saturday, watched them teach kids on Sunday, then finished up with a few more sessions Sunday afternoon. They were all brand new to teaching. The church is only a few years old, so except for the pastor and his wife, they are all brand new believers! Pray for this young church and its new Sunday school teachers. That God would use the Bible lessons in their own hearts, and then use these new teachers to reach many kids in Mwendakulima!
Pastor Ezekieli’s story
I’ve known Ezekieli for quite a few years now, but have never heard his story. During our seminar our lunch breaks were 3 hours long (we gave them 2 hours, but it’s Africa J), to give the attendees time to go home and make their food and ours (cooking rice and beans over an open fire is the opposite of “fast food.”) This gave us some good time to sit and chat with Pastor Ezekieli and hear his story.
He and his 2 younger brothers grew up without a father. For years his mother was dependent on the charity of family and friends, some nights spent without a roof over their heads. When Ezekieli was around 10 years old he started providing for his family by herding cows for some neighbors, earning $2 a month. During his teen years he loved to go to every crusade of every visiting preacher. He thought, “I’m going to do that someday,” then he would go back to his cows and practice preaching to them! In his early 20’s Ezekieli was invited to another crusade. “No thanks,” he said, “I’ve already seen it all.” “No, this preacher is different,” his friend insisted. He went, and that’s where he met Pastor John Naftary, our lively Tanzanian pastor in Bariadi. Pastor John led him to the Lord in 2003, and took him under wing. Ezekieli wanted to go to Bible college, but he had never been to any school, had never learned how to read. When he was given special permission by missionary Greg Wagoner to come to Bible college, he was so grateful, he started teaching himself how to read. He carried a notebook and pen everywhere, asking everyone, “What does this mean?” or “How do you say that?”
Now Ezekieli, age 35, has a wife and 2 ½ kids (one on the way J ). He moved his family (including mother and brothers) to a whole new area of Tanzania 3 years ago for the sake of the gospel. He has started one church and a vision for many more in the coming years. Thank you, Heavenly Father, for saving and calling Pastor Ezekieli and all our young Tanzanian pastors. Help them to stand strong, preach the Word, and not be swayed by any of this world’s temptations.
From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same
the LORD'S name is to be praised. Psa 113:3
Pole pole ndio mwendo. This is part of a Swahili proverb that means: Taking things slowly is real progress. This has proven true for me in teacher training. We’ve tried different methods for training: a whole week seminar for everyone, one day seminars in each church, and meeting weekly with individual teachers. All are good, but I’ve seen the most fruit from the slowest and most time-consuming method: one-on-one training. I’ve tried this at two churches so far. I’m so thankful for Mihayo, Shidja, and Ema (at Kikano) and Naomi and Flora (at TX) for their willingness to meet every week! They are each getting more comfortable preparing lessons and teaching. Weekly visits have turned into once or twice a month!
The teachers at Kikano are about ready for new curriculum (they’re on their 2nd time through their 2nd book, they’ve been teaching 1 ½ years now!) I subsidize 50% of the cost of SS curriculum, but still Kikano’s teachers are stuck. They are all teenagers with no way to earn money, and their church doesn’t seem ready to invest in materials yet. So, we’re going to try something new. I’ve given Miyaho, Shidja, and Ema the task of memorizing the books of the Bible. They seemed very excited. I’m heading back this Thursday. We’ll see if they have earned their new book yet. J
The TX Sunday school teachers are almost finished with their first book (they’ve taught 6 months now!) The last time we met Naomi (pastor’s wife) approached me with a new idea. “What if we start getting our church teens involved in helping us teach? If we have a helper, Flora and I could take turns teaching and staying in the service to hear the sermon. I don’t know, what do you think?” I just about overwhelmed Naomi with my response. “Yes, it’s a great idea! Love it!” The Sukuma people here in the Mwanza region are very passive, and they always defer to the white missionary or anyone with more education or money. I’m constantly trying to hold back on my own ideas and defer to their ideas for the sake of building their confidence in taking initiative. Hearing Naomi express her idea, was a true moment of triumph for me!! Pole pole ndio mwendo. J
THANK YOU! I just got back from a week break on the island of Zanzibar because of your generous Christmas gifts. Zanzibar is the “zan” in Tanzania. It is a group of islands in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Tanzania. Zanzibar grows loads of spices, cloves being their main export. My friends and I took a spice tour, visited several historic monuments connected to the slave trade, petted giant tortoises, and went snorkeling among coral reefs in gorgeous turquoise water. We also took turns getting slapped by jellyfish, scraped by coral, and I even stepped on a spiny sea urchin. L (Can’t have vacation without some stories to tell!) Five days on the beach was worth every bit! Thank you SO MUCH for my vacation!
Blessings to you all,
Nov/ Dec 2014
Christmas Illustrated by a Tanzanian
The Sunday before Christmas I stopped in at Fumagira to see how their children's class was going. Despite heavy rains, a smelly outhouse, and eardrum-bursting speakers, I drove away grinning from ear to ear J …and I'm still smiling. J Two teen boys, who attended our teacher training day in October, were on the schedule to teach Sunday school; Amosi and Paulo did a fantastic job!
Amosi, the taller one, taught the little kids under a mango tree. There were about 35 preschoolers in his class that day. It started to rain so we all ran into the big kids’ building. We sang, and then Amosi pulled out a visual he had made. On one side was a drawing of Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus along with some cows in a cattle stall. He had drawn, colored, and cut out the picture out of cardboard. On the other side was a guy holding a banner with two Scripture references: John 3:16 and Mark 10:13-14. He wrote the word “Crismas” underneath (spelling is a pragmatic thing here, whatever works… go for it!) Amosi talked about who Jesus was and how He came to save us from our sins because He loves all people, even children (referring to Mark 10. The same passage I had taught on in our Oct. training J). The colors of the word "Crismas" had a meaning, he continued to explain. First letter was blue, meaning the sky where God lives. The last letter green, meaning the earth where we live. And the middle letters red, representing the blood of Christ who brings man to God. He then explained that Jesus was given another name at His birth. He called up the pastor's son "Ema" and asked the meaning of his name. ("Ema" short for Emmanuel is a common boy's name here.) None of the kids knew it’s meaning. He referred back to the colors of his word "Crismas" and explained. God (blue) with us (green). God became man.
Joy! What a GLORIOUS mystery! GOD with US!
Joy! Amosi came up with this beautiful Christmas lesson all on his own, even his teaching visual. He used all his own supplies, came up with memorable colors, and taught the clear meaning of Christmas ... all without asking for money or materials. Do you see me jumping for joy!?! Thank you, Jesus!!
Thank you, Heavenly Father, for such a Christmas gift! May Amosi and Paulo teach kids for years to come! Help them to stand firm and resist the temptations that are so strong during their teen years. Guide and strengthen Happiness (pastor's wife) as she continues to oversee children's ministry at Fumagira.
And thank you, Heavenly Father, for every one who has given so that I may live here. May more and more Tanzanian children hear and understand and put their faith in Emmanuel. May I be faithful each and every day to follow You, may children’s ministry continue to move forward here in Tanzania, and may YOU get all the PRAISE!
“Why have a children’s ministry?” “How is teaching kids different than teaching adults?” These are some of the sessions that Justa, Happiness (Tanzanian pastor’s wives) and myself are teaching during our Sunday school teacher training days. The last two years we have taught one week-long seminar in the city for everyone. This year we’re trying something new. One-day “seminars” out at each church. I’ve already seen a big difference! Even though it’s only one day of training, and going to each church is much more time consuming for us teachers, this year’s training has been much more effective. We’ve been to four churches so far, and between 7-10 people have come to each seminar, many of them brand new to teaching children!
Being out in the village I’ve had to adjust to “village time”, which means we usually don’t get started until about noon. We take the first hour for teaching and discussion. Then we spend several hours introducing the Sunday school material and splitting up into groups to practice their lesson for the next day. After lunch (at 3 or 4pm, provided and prepared for us by ladies at the church), we teachers teach a demonstration class to all the local kids that have gathered. The next day, I go back to that same church to watch the new teachers teach their first lesson, and help them with any questions they might have.
*That all the new teachers would be faithful in their new ministries at Kitongo, Igekemaja, Fumagira, and Mayoka. That God would use His Word to strengthen their faith and encourage them in their walk. That many new kids would come to church, understand the gospel, and put their faith in Christ. Also that I would follow up well with each church through phone calls and visits.
*For the churches we haven’t been to yet, that the Lord would use us at Bundilya in November. And for His direction for when we should go to Igoma, Welamasunga, Kikano, Nyamasale, and Bariadi.
Together for Tanzania's children,
|Learning a new kids song at Igekemaja|
|Happiness teaching at Mayoka|
|Tons of kids had gathered for our demo class at Kitongo|
|Sundi teaching the younger class at Fumagira|
Allow me to introduce you to one of our new Sunday School teachers: Mama Yohana. One of my prayer requests I mentioned in the last prayer letter is for direction in ministry. Thank you for praying, He is answering! At our church in TX (pronounced “T, X”- it’s not the original name of the village, but a name that some foreigner gave when he moved there.), there hasn’t been a kids class for several years now. I told Mama Yohana, the pastor’s wife, that I’m ready to help anyone who will volunteer to teach kids. She stepped forward herself along with another young mother, Mama Paulina.
Mama Yohana (Naomi) is a mother of 7. Her parents died when she was little, and no one offered to continue paying for her schooling, so she only made it up through 1st grade. A wife and mother living in a little village far from the city, she was laughed at one day by other women because she didn’t know how to write her own name. She proceeded to find someone in her village to teach her to read and write. Quite the feat, considering her circumstances! In the meantime her husband, Mussa, moved to the city with three of their children to look for work to support the family. He got saved and started going to our Bible college. Mussa then brought the rest of his family to the city and led his wife and older kids to the Lord! Mussa and Naomi now sell fish for a living, and Mussa is the pastor out at our church in TX (about 15 minutes out of town). It’s still difficult for Mama Yohana to read. We are meeting every Friday afternoon now with Mama Paulina to prepare for Sunday’s children’s class, and we have to go pretty slow (something I’m not very good at), but they are getting it!
Two weeks ago was their first time standing in front of children. I taught the Bible lesson, but they did all the rest- leading the singing, teaching the memory verse, and playing a game. For those of you who have taught kids, do you remember how difficult it was the first time you ever taught? I’m so proud of these ladies and excited to see what lies ahead!
For Tanzania’s children,
|Mama Paulina, Mama Yohana, and me. Taken by 8 yr old Paulina who had never held a camera before! :-)|
Hello from Tanzania! Allow me to share an update by way of a random list of praises and prayer requests:
Praise- I arrived safely back in Tanzania with all my luggage! Woo hoo! I spent some time with a friend first in Dar es Salaam (on the other side of the country). I slept a lot that week, getting over jet lag and a rather exhausting furlough, then flew to Mwanza. It is such a blessing to get settled back in my Mwanza home and catch up with many friends.
Prayer- The dry season started early this year, in fact there really wasn’t much rain all spring. The air is dry and everything is dusty. The villages are starting to struggle for water. Crops are failing and people are walking long distances everyday for water.
Prayer- I’m having issues with my residence permit. Pray that our immigration office would follow through, and that I could finally have in hand a 2-year permit that I have been waiting 1 ½ years to obtain. Thankfully there is no confusion about payment and they have not tried to get me with any fines or bribes. J
Praise- Yesterday I visited two of our village churches (Kikano and Igekemaja) to observe how their kids classes are going. It was a real delight to sit and listen to several kids quote memory verses. Three years earlier the church didn’t exist. There was nothing in their village. Now kids are being taught memory verses by their older teen peers. Woo hoo! There is still much to do, but praise God for what he is doing!!
Prayer- This week, several volunteers and I will be teaching VBS at a nearby orphanage. I get to teach 3 Bible sessions everyday, 50 kids total, about the armor of God. We’ll probably be done by the time you read this letter, but please pray that God would continue to use his Word in the hearts of the precious kids at Tumaini Children’s Home.
Praise- July 12-22, the Brouwers and I get the privilege of hosting a team from Chilhowie Baptist Church in Chilhowie, VA. Led by former Tanzanian missionary Fred Conley, the team of about 10 people are coming to see what life is like here in Mwanza, to visit many of our village churches, and to take part in Fumagira’s 10th anniversary celebration. Two ladies from Ray Avenue Baptist Church in Salina, KS are also joining the team and will be staying with me. What a treat to have some of my friends from one “world” come see what life is like here in my other “world!” J (Who will be next? All are welcome!) J
Prayer- I need direction from the Lord as to what He would have me focus on this term. Should I continue with the same annual seminar and one-on-one training or try some new methods? Should I teach Bible in a school and which one? Which churches should I spend my time helping the next couple months and years? As I seek counsel from my teammates and the Tanzanian pastors, I would greatly appreciate your prayers.
Furlough #2 is done.
Three and a half months on the road and I’m officially done! I visited 29 churches in 9 states, driving over 13,000 miles. Whew! I guess it’s OK to admit that I’m tired; tired of traveling, tired of the busy schedule, tired of living out of my suitcases. But it’s a good tired. J I’m SO thankful for the generosity of so many of you! I couldn’t have afforded such a journey without your generous love offerings and hospitality. The Lord knows each one of you and how you gave. I pray that He repays you back many times over!! THANK YOU!
One benefit of furlough (or home assignment) is that we missionaries get a chance to step away from ministry on the field for a bit and evaluate. It’s a great chance to think through what’s working and what’s not working. To reprioritize. Thinking about my third term… I want to do more, trust more, pray more, witness more. I don’t want to get so bent out of shape over cultural differences. I want to go deeper in relationships. Live with abandon. Love with abandon. I want to accumulate less stuff and be more generous. I want to see those around me as God sees them. I want to walk in simple dependence on the Holy Spirit’s leading each day. Would you pray with me for these things?
Another thing I’m praying about is transitioning back to life in Africa. Do you know those awkward moments that are a part of starting a new job or going to a new school? It takes awhile to get into “sync” with new schedules and new people and different expectations. But after a few weeks or months, it becomes “old hat.” That’s how I feel every time I move back and forth between the US and Tanzania. Last December, moving back to the states was exciting and a bit awkward for the first month or so. Now I’ve been here 6 months and life seems normal. Moving back to Tanzania, I’ll go through the same “transition phase” again where everything will feel out of sync and awkward over there for awhile. Feeling awkward and out of sync is the normal part of life for every missionary that I’ve met. Pray for us! J Thankfully I’m told that every furlough, the transition gets a little easier.
I fly out on June 4th. The Brouwers are also finishing up their furlough and will arrive in June. We have new teammates too! One couple already on the field and one new family joining our team. Pray that we would grow in unity as a team with one heart, one purpose: spreading the gospel in the villages of Tanzania and discipling young Tanzanian believers.
Together for HIM,
In just 6 weeks I’ve driven through the snow-covered rocky mountains, got my car stuck in in Missouri, and seen the damage caused by an ice storm in Tennessee. My car has been covered in a thick layer of ice in Atlanta, then a film of salt in Tennessee, and finally freezing rain in Virginia. I guess that’s what I get for planning my furlough for winter time. Praise to His Name that through it all, I have stayed safe, and only 1 meeting has had to be rescheduled due to weather. Rather a miracle, isn’t it?
Life is made up of feasts and famines. In the life of a missionary, furlough is definitely a feast time. So many friends, so little time. I stayed with one fellow single gal, and heard her story of how God is moving in her heart toward missions. I joined in on an 80th birthday lunch, and then “hung out” with the birthday girl all afternoon. I taught 10 precious preschoolers at a daycare, and gained a new pen pal at a nursing home. I hunkered down with a fellow missionary and her mom for a week during an ice storm- bundled up, drinking coffee, and playing games. I got to stay up late chatting with a college buddy, marvelling at the new home and multiplying family that God has provided. Then just last week, I stayed up till 1 in the morning chatting and laughing at a “girl party.” One could feel downright guilty for all this “feasting.” To have dear friends all over this great country, am I dreaming?
Ephesians 5:20 reminds me to give thanks “always for all things.” Today I give thanks for YOU. Thank you for praying. Thank you for giving. Thank you for the notes of encouragement. Thank you for the bed. Thank you for the food. Thank you for the gifts. I’m spoiled. Thank you.
I’ll continue to visit churches for the next 2 months, mostly in Ohio. After a month back in Colorado with family, I’ll hop on a plane in June back to Tanzania. Filled up with all this feasting I’ll be ready for the famines ahead- not to be pessimistic, just honest. J
Nov Dec 2013
Heri Ya Krismasi na Mwaka Mpya!
Dear friends and family,
Heading into this Christmas season, I’m finishing up here and heading back to the states for furlough. I’ll be home for the holidays, woo-hoo! I find I keep having to reign in my thoughts and emotions. Hold on, it’s not the holidays yet. Finish well.
That has been the “mantra” the last few months. Finish well. Through plumbing problems and traffic jams… finish well. Through the last special children’s Sundays and teacher training sessions… finish well. Packing, hosting, teaching, and visiting… finish well.
And all of a sudden, the end has come. One week left before I get on that plane. Did I trust the Lord for each day? Did I say good byes well? My second term is over. Did I finish well?
The apostle Paul did: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” Our Savior did, “It is finished.”
As we finish out the year 2013… and in whatever “race” you find yourself today… may we all trust God’s strength and grace to finish well!
Christmas greetings to you all!
Together in Him,
September/ October 2013
Our Sunday school teacher training seminar finished well. This year we only had 11 attendees from 4 churches, but I think I saw God at work more this year than last. One teenager, Sarah, shared a testimony the first day. She had already decided not to attend when God clearly spoke to her heart several different times the week before the seminar, that He wanted her to teach kids. She finished by saying, “So here I am, ready to learn.”
Another woman also felt compelled by God to come. Mama Odetta, a widow and mother of 4, shared this testimony at the end of the week: “When I was invited to this seminar I thought, I don’t know how to teach kids. I wouldn’t know what to do. When I asked my neighbor friends they all said, ‘You should go. We’ll take care of things at home for you.’ I felt led to come, but still didn’t think I could teach kids. Then in our session on teamwork I learned that if I taught Sunday school, I wouldn’t be alone. I would be joining a team of teachers, and we could help each other. That’s when I thought, Maybe I can do this. So now, if you’ll help me, I want to try to teach Sunday school.” It was a joy to watch Mama Odetta teach her first Bible lesson during the seminar!
After such a small turn out this year for our seminar, Deli and Justa (fellow teachers) and I had a long discussion. The result being that we’ve started a new “mini-ministry,” special children’s services at each of our churches. Some children lead the song service, others sing, others quote scripture and do a skit. After Justa or I give the children’s lesson, the pastor finishes with a message about God’s view of children. The kids go home with a few gifts.
So far we’ve been to 3 churches, and 4 more scheduled before I head home for furlough. These services have been such a BLESSING. God has again shown Himself faithful to answer prayer for guidance and creativity in this ministry. To Him be the glory!!
*Pray for God to work through the remaining children’s services in the villages of Igoma, Kikano, Fumagira, and TX.
*Safety and strength for my coming furlough (mid Dec through the first of June). I’m looking forward to being home for awhile and seeing many of you!
*We are already planning our next teaching training seminar for Sep 2014. Pray that God would call more Tanzanian laborers for the ripe harvest field of the children of Tanzania.
July/ August 2013
Teacher Training Progresses
Greetings from Mwanza! It’s hard to believe, but I’ve been here almost 5 years now…
a testimony to your generous support and prayers and God’s all-sufficient GRACE.
We are gearing up for our 2nd annual teacher training seminar (2nd week of Sep.), but I am keenly aware that one-on-one training is much more effective wherever feasible. These days I’m teaching Sunday school along with 4 young teachers in one of our new village churches (Kikano). This month we’ve started something new, weekly one-on-one training. J Wednesday afternoons I take the 1-hour drive out to Kikano to meet with these 4 teachers to prepare for the coming Sunday.
Mondesta, Mihayo, Shija, Emmanueli (13 -17 yrs old), and I meet together in one of their homes from 3:30-6pm. Meeting in their homes has in itself been good for me to understand their lives and family backgrounds a bit more. For example, only two of these 4 teens are in school, and three are being raised by their grandparents. In our prep time, we talk about last week’s class, pray for each other and the kids in our class, and prepare the Bible lesson, review questions, and memory verse for the coming Sunday.
Reading as well as reading comprehension is a real struggle for many of our Sunday school teachers, and added to that is the fact that each week’s Bible story is usually brand new to the teacher’s themselves. Thus, we go very slowly on Wednesdays. We read the passage in Scripture several times, and I make sure they understand the story well. We also memorize the memory verse together, and then practice all parts of the Sunday school out loud… all in the shade of one of their huts (usually with various family members of all ages listening in). J
In just 3 weeks I’ve seen these teachers’ confidence boosted by leaps and bounds! Can you see me now? … It’s Sunday morning in Kikano. There I am, sitting on the last of the row of benches in the shade of the mango tree, beaming with pride as I watch 13-year old Shija help about 30 kids learn their memory verse, I Cor. 15:3 “Kristo alikufa kwa ajili ya dhambi zetu, kama yanenavyo Maandiko.” (Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures.) Yes, Shija, a young believer who herself just learned the difference between chapters and verses in the Bible. J
I wish I could express the fullness of my joy, for it is your joy too! Thank you for your part in making the Sunday school class of Kikano possible. There is no other place I’d rather be!!!!!
Only by His GRACE,
Quick Trip Home
Since the last prayer letter, I’ve been to the states and back. Whew… my mind is still trying to catch up with all that has happened. My grandpa passed away mid-May and I got the chance to go home for a month to be with family. What a BLESSING to be home to say good-bye to Grandpa. I’m so thankful for a whole month to reconnect with family members, some that I hadn’t seen for years! Even more, I rejoice that we as believers do not grieve without hope. Grandpa is now face to face with the Savior that he loved so much! J See you soon, Grandpa!
A Chance to Step Back
Although unplanned, the trip home turned into a nice break… refreshment and rest and good food! It was also a good chance to step away and re-evaluate a bit what I’m doing and where I’m heading with children’s ministry here in Tanzania. There is still much to do. Would you join me in praying for the following requests?
~ There are still hundreds of small communities near Mwanza without a gospel witness. Pray that the Lord of the harvest would continue to call and equip Tanzanians to reach out to neighboring villages. Pray that these “home missionaries” would be grounded in the Word and strong in faith and committed to follow Christ wherever He leads.
~As more churches are planted, pray that the CHILDREN would not be forgotten. Almost half the population of Tanzania (47%) is under the age of 15. Pray that God would call and equip His people to reach the next generation. Pray that our pastors would be burdened for the children and willing to sacrifice to see them reached.
~Pray that the Lord would continue to guide and enable me as I seek to train and equip children’s workers. Several Tanzanians and I are preparing another week-long teacher training seminar, scheduled for September. Pray for God’s strength and guidance for this seminar. (There’s a LOT of prep work yet to be done.) Pray that many would come and they would leave with a new (or renewed) excitement about doing all they can to reach the kids in their own villages.
~Here are some specific prayer requests regarding the children’s ministries of specific churches.
Ibungilo- good solid children’s class, but need more teachers to be able to split the class up for more age-appropriate teaching.
Fumagira- averaging 60-70 kids, need a 2nd classroom and teachers committed to splitting into 2 classes.
Igoma- small but solid class, helpers need to grow in their confidence and ability to teach.
Igekemaja- another solid class, but only one teacher, need materials and more volunteers.
Mayoka- 2 teachers, solid class, need more training and materials.
Kitongo- need a place to meet, teachers are young but faithful.
TX- 1 young teacher, need adult volunteers, training, and materials.
Nyasaka- 1 young teacher also, need adult volunteers, training and materials.
Nyamasale- children’s class fizzled out due to disagreement among adults, pray for unity among the church and a renewed burden for their children.
Kikano- new class, lots of energy, several young teachers, need training and materials.
Bundilya- new church, no children’s class yet.
Thank you, thank you for your partnership and prayer! Together we are planting, watering, and trusting God for the increase!
Here’s the building you built! This church was started a year ago, and their new building is done thanks to your generous and faithful gifts! THANK YOU! The building dedication service was so exciting. Several other churches traveled with their choirs out to Bundilya to help celebrate. If only you could have been here... how they sang! (Check out the video on my blog, swahilisis.blogspot.com) I taught the children in the shade of a thorny acacia tree (we had to break off the low branches so no one would get poked in the eye! J)
Over the years my teamates, the Brouwers, have helped me gain an awareness for how we help our churches and pastors financially. We are continually praying for wisdom on how to give without creating a dependency on us and our money. We missionaries cannot possibly meet all the needs that each church has; and the more we do help, the more they rely on their missionary instead of their God. When we missionaries leave, will these believers have a strong enough faith to stand on their own? One thing Bill has decided we can do is build buildings, since it is a one time big expense and it benefits the whole church. And even in building, the church members help by carrying water or sand and things. Pray that God would continue to guide and give wisdom in how to best help those around us, how to give in a way that helps these believers to seek their God and depend on Him.
Several months ago my friend, Justa, came to me with a question. They wanted to take their teen group (her husband, Deli, is pastor of our city church) on some outings to encourage them and widen their view on life. I suggested they should look into Tumaini Children’s Home. After several months of planning and preparing, Justa and Pastor Deli escorted 19 girls (they couldn’t afford to hire 2 vans, so they decided to just take the girls) out to visit the 50 kids at Tumaini. They presented some gifts, a big bag of rice and lots of laundry soap. They played games and ate and sang. Then all the older ones walked up to the top of a nearby hill to a local restaurant. We drank sodas and I shared a devotional on friendship and what “loving one another” looks like. It’s thrilling to me that our churches are growing in this area of financial independence. I agreed to pay for sodas, the rest they did all on their own!
Glory to His Name,
“Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” My heart has been stirred recently by these words from the Great Commission. All things? How can I teach others to follow “all things” when I don’t know if I’m following them all myself? I don’t even know that I know them all. Since then I’ve been reading through the gospels with the simple question, “What have you commanded me to do, Jesus? Am I doing it?” This has developed into our new theme for the year at WYK (teen girls group), “Following Jesus.” We’ll be studying various passages from the book of Matthew. I hope to use more of a discovery method of teaching (if I can restrain myself from talking!), so that the girls will start getting used to reading the Bible for themselves. Please pray that, as we study short passages on the life of Christ, the girls would get excited about reading the Word on their own, that they would grow in their love for Jesus, and that they would develop a passion to follow Jesus and “all things” He’s commanded.
Swahili Refresher Course
Last month, my friend Beth and I spent 3 weeks at a language school to improve our Swahili and correct some bad habits. We spent lots of time conversing with our teachers, reviewing grammar, and memorizing new vocab. We also learned some proverbs. Swahili has a rich heritage of proverbs and sayings. I have a dictionary listing over 3,000 proverbs with their literal and implied meanings. Proverbs are a common way to communicate here. They are used to warn, to teach, or to rebuke. Just a few words can speak volumes. One of my new favorites is: “Mtoto humleavyo ndivyo akuavyo.” How you raise a child is how he will grow.
Your generous gifts are heading off toward another building project. Two new village churches are in progress. They both have been meeting under a tarp for over a year now, and the national leaders and missionary Bill Brouwer all agree that it’s time to build. I haven’t even been to Bundilya yet, but your gifts are building their church! And they are SO excited. I hope to visit soon. From all the new believers at Bundilya, THANK YOU!
Ahhhhhh… Do you hear that? That’s me taking a deep breath after a crazy month! Around here December is not just about Christmas, it’s also prime time for children’s ministry. Tanzanian kids don’t have summer vacation like American kids. Instead, they get two separate months off, June and December. This December children’s ministry switched into “high gear.” Here are a few highlights:
VBS at Tumaini Children’s Home. The week before Christmas I joined the staff of Tumaini for a week of games, crafts, Bible time, and more with 50 kids. What a fun, crazy time! Our theme for the week was giving. What God has given us and what we can give others. This Christmas season, I missed being home with family (I really tried to come up with a good enough excuse to fly home for a few weeks! J), but I was also filled up with JOY at the chance to teach about the greatest gift of all…IMMANUEL, God with us.
Teen Rally. We finished up the month with a teen rally at the local church there on the same property as Tumaini Children’s Home. The Tanzanian pastor and his wife, along with another missionary Dan Eads, and I spent two days with about thirty teenagers, playing games and studying the book of Proverbs. I spent three session with the girls. We looked at a few topics like humility, diligence, guarding our tongue, and purity from the lives of Ruth, Abigail, and Tamar. I have discovered that the tragedy that Tamar suffered speaks volumes to teen girls here in TZ. We talked about how important it is to be wise and to protect ourselves as girls. (For example: accepting any gift from a guy, even a soda, is dangerous.) The girls brought up some good questions, and I was grateful that the pastor’s wife was there to help emphasize (and adjust- culturally) some of my answers. J
Stepping into a new year means reflecting on the past and planning for the future. I’m halfway through my 2nd term as a missionary and I find myself questioning, “Am I really doing enough to deserve the title missionary?” Even as I write it, I know it’s a stupid question. Serving God is not about titles. Serving God isn’t even about what I’m doing. Micah 6:8 says that all God wants of me is .. “to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.” Serving God is about walking with Him. My prayer for 2013 is that I would learn to simply walk humbly with my God, trusting Him to use me however He leads.
Thank you for all your Christmas greetings and gifts! This year may the Lord use you in AMAZING ways as you walk humbly with Him.
Together for HIM,
Sunday Ministry- Igoma
On Sundays I travel to different village churches to encourage them in their children’s ministry. Each church is at a different place in their desire to teach the kids and in their ability to do so. Lasting change takes time. My goal is simply to observe how that church is ministering currently and challenge them to take a few steps of growth.
The last two months I’ve been at Igoma. The pastor’s wife, Anna, has faithfully taught the kids class for years, but it was clear to me from that first week that she was getting burned out. Only 7 kids showed up that day. The second week, Anna didn’t come. She stayed in the service to hear the preaching; she saw my coming as her chance to take a much needed break!
“Lord, how can I best help this struggling children’s ministry?” I prayed. And, He answered! Over the next few weeks, He gave me several ideas. I asked Anna to hang in there and teach with me the next two months. We started by meeting together each Sunday morning before church to pray for the children by name. And each week were adding more names to our list! The last 3 weeks we were averaging 20-25 kids a Sunday.
The Lord touched Happy’s heart, Anna’s daughter, to volunteer to help, and another teenager, Starin. Three teachers, woo-hoo! I wrote out a schedule of who would teach each week. The four of us taking turns, so that I could observe them and they could hopefully glean some ideas when I taught. We sang new songs, the kids acted out some of the Bible stories, one week they got candy for answering a review question, and every week we took some time to play a game.
Yesterday was my last Sunday at Igoma (probably for at least a year, since there are a lot of other churches to visit.) I said goodbye to all the kids, and left them a couple pictures of our class. The four of us teachers sat down after church. I helped them write out a teaching schedule, and challenged them to take time to prepare their lessons well.
Building a biblical foundation in a child’s heart doesn’t take months but rather years. I’m learning that helping a village church build an effective children’s ministry takes just as long.
THANK YOU for partnering with me to reach the kids of Tanzania!
~Took some time off, flew to Dar es Salaam for a week. Your support also gives me a chance to get away and refresh my batteries… thank you!
~The children’s ministry at Fumagira is doing well.
~My mom’s health is good, she continues to be cancer free!
~Igoma children and Sunday school teachers.
~I’m off to the village of Nyamasale next month, and working with Justa this time. Pray that the Lord would direct and empower us to best help their beginning children’s ministry.
Sunday School Teacher Training Seminar
Thank you to all who gave and prayed for our teacher training seminar. It went so well. Definitely the highlight of my “missionary career” so far!
One of the goals for the week was that our teachers would grow in their ability to prepare and teach a Bible lesson. We looked at the basic parts of a lesson, and how to choose one main truth and apply it to the children’s lives. We worked through putting a lesson together and adding creativity to keep the kids’ attention.
Another goal was that our teachers learn how to PLAY with their kids. We had a session on the philosophy behind playing games in Sunday school, and during the week we taught them several new games.
11 churches represented
13 new games played
180 cups of tea during morning “chai break”
37- age range between the youngest attendee (12) and the oldest (49)
1 1/2 hours- the time it took a brother and sister to walk every morning (and then again in the evening!) in order to attend.
After two days of instruction and practice, the teachers were given the chance to try out what they had learned. It’s one thing to sit in a class and discuss how to teach; it’s another thing to stand up in front of a bunch of little faces and say something meaningful. Justa, my Tanzanian teaching partner, and I gave a demonstration that morning, and then the rest of the morning and early afternoon, the attendees in their four teams prepared their own class. It was such fun to watch everyone in action that afternoon, teaching the story of Jonah and playing games with neighborhood kids.
One main truth we emphasized throughout the week is that every child has the same basic need: LOVE. Even if we as Sunday school teachers mess up the Bible lesson and forget how to play a game… if we’ve loved our kids, then we’ve succeeded. If nothing else, I pray that this is the lesson that will not be forgotten from our 2012 seminar.
Partnering together for Him,
Bible College: Just finished our summer term. The 2nd week we had 2 guest speakers who taught on Jewish history and culture, including: how the Jewish feasts point to Christ, the 70-weeks prophesy of Daniel, and a genuine Sader meal!
Hosting an intern: What a joy to host Leslie Cook for two weeks, a student at West Coast Baptist College. We’ve tried our best to give her an authentic taste of life in Tanzania. Leslie took 20 hours of Swahili, and then read her testimony in Swahili in 3 different churches. We spent 2 full days in the village where she was ready to try anything… carrying a baby on her back, eating ugali, experiencing a village outhouse, and playing mancala in the dirt. J
Teenage girls ministry: Our group officially has a name: Warembo wa Yesu Kristo… for short, WYK. (“The beautiful girls of Jesus Christ,” it sounds cool in Swahili I promise). Last Saturday we finished the book of Esther by having a special celebration. We followed some of the traditions that Jews these day practice for their holiday “Purim.” We chose a poor grandma of one of the girls, Bibi Rosemary, to go visit. We brought her some gifts, we ate together, and then read the book of Esther, booing every time we came to the name “Haman.” Leslie was their too, so the girls got to ask her questions about what life is like in America and visa versa. Two of the older teen girls also had the chance to witness to Bibi Rosemary in their tribal language, and she got saved!
*The biggest fire Colorado has ever had recently ripped through the foothills near Colorado Springs. Because of the hard work of some 1,500 firefighters, only 346 homes were destroyed. The Lord protected my mom and dad and their house (thank you, Lord!), but pray for the many who have lost everything.
*Children’s ministry at Fumagira. We run an average of 60 kids each Sunday. It’s time to split into smaller classes. Pray for wisdom as I start training several new young people who have volunteered to teach, and pray for the right timing to start building 2 more classrooms.
*Our Sunday School Teachers Training Seminar is officially set for Aug 6th-10th. I still have much to do! Pray for time to finish translating materials and collecting supplies. Teachers have been invited from around 15 churches. Pray that God would work in the hearts of those He wants to attend, and that their church congregations would be touched to give to help with their travel and food expenses. Also, I’ll be using a more interactive method of teaching. Pray that the attendees will quickly warm up to the small group activities, skits, and discussion groups that are planned.