Monday, October 31, 2011

The Man I Admire

Anyone who has ever read this blog and thought, “Whew, I could never do that.” Please hold your applause until all names have been announced. I have had the privilege this year of meeting a man who has surprised me with his dedication and his ability to persevere with very little help or encouragement. Jacoba Korinda is a local pastor who pastors a small church in Ingrachini, Tanzania. Don’t even try, you won’t find it on a map. This village is almost an hour off of the main road.

Jacoba has the spirit of a pastor and the mind of a leader. Since the time when he was first selected to lead this newly planted church in Ingrachini he has continued to recruit help in building God’s kingdom. He has recruited and held together four evangelists who have managed to start churches in four other villages also off of the main road. All churches, except the one in Ingachini itself, meet outside. The church in Ingrachini is hardly a building, with four brick walls and a tin roof that is always threatening to blow off. The seating inside are logs on the floor and the only Bible or song book in the house belong to the pastor. Yet it is a church in every sense of the song we all sang at VBS growing up “I am the church. You are the church. We are the church together.” Jacoba has continued to be a faithful leader of all five churches despite a rocky last few years. He still visits and lifts up these other evangelists and leads them to continue with their ministries. And he does all of this using one leg and a stick as the other leg is damaged from a childhood disease. However, this does not stop him from visiting the other churches at least once a month or standing up strong at the front of the church on Sunday and leading songs, prayers, and preaching the sermon. In fact, he made it to Gamasara to greet me at least three times before I ever made it to Ingrachini.

The thing that most strikes me about Jacoba is his desire to improve himself as a pastor and his ministry to God’s kingdom, and how hard it has been to try and achieve that desire. He is shy to the point of embarrassment about not knowing as much about the United Methodist Church as he should since he works for it, yet no one has ever done much to teach him. Hopefully all of this will start to change next year. Pastor Jacoba has been invited to Morogoro, Tanzania to enter pastor’s training school. It will take eight years since he will only go for two months a year, but Jacoba did not hesitate. He is as excited as any student who has been accepted to Duke, Asbury, or Chandler about starting this new part of growing as a minister of God. I am very happy to see what he can do with this next stage of schooling and ministry.

*If you are interested in helping sponsor Jacoba with his schooling please let me know. It is only $200 a year for transport, lodging, food, and school fees.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Church Finances in the Majority World

*I use the term majority world because the majority of the world’s population lives in a developing country and also because most Christians live in a developing country.

So a few weeks ago Gamasara United Methodist Church had the great opportunity to host a seminar for local pastors and church leaders in the Mara District. Since I am the local pastor in charge of Gamasara UMC I had the “privilege” of making all of the arraignments for the seminar. Arraignments included food, lodging for all out of town guests, and trying to keep the seminar schedule going.  Having filled the role of youth director for 4-5 years before coming to Tanzania these types of details were not unfamiliar to me, however the setting, I can say, is quite different. The planning began with the church council and we set out the menu and the sleeping arrangements. It was not anything extravagant, rice and beans for dinner and mattresses on the floor of a school classroom for sleeping. I was a little worried about how all of this would be received. When the pastor’s should up they were not happy with the arrangements, they were thrilled. They were very excited with how much food there was and that with the mattresses we also provided sheets. The life of a village pastor in Tanzania is not exactly glamorous.

That weekend we were able to facilitate the training of 5 local pastors, 10 local church leaders, and 1 future pastor on the history of the United Methodist Church and the organizational structure of the current church in Tanzania…all for $150. The moral of the story that I gained is that a lot can be accomplished for God’s kingdom with only a little money, the challenge is that often even that little money is not available. For example, the weekly offering at Gamasara UMC right now, a church of over 50 adults is $8. For many of the churches that came to receive training that same $8 is their entire monthly offering.  This makes it difficult to do too many seminars in one year, considering we spent over 15 weeks worth of offering on one seminar. Luckily the pastor at Gamasara works for free ;). However, as with most ministries the cost and effort are well worth it. Any time we are able to train people what we are really doing is spreading out the knowledge of a few to the many who want to use it. We are also empowering them and giving them the confidence to return to their churches and do some of these essential tasks. The leadership of the church is being multiplied. There are still more people that are interested and willing to receive training as worship leaders, Sunday School teachers, Bible study leaders, and evangelists. All we have to do is make the resources available.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Family Reunion

Matiko on the left; Majaliwa on the right

I don’t know what you think about family reunions. For some people they are a cherished annual ritual and for others they contain the dread of hosting the family Christmas dinner, having the mother-in-law visit, and attending your 10 year high school reunion all rolled into one event. Last week I saw a family reunion that could only have resembled the joy of heaven. Matiko has been a child at Angel House for over a year now. He is doing well in school and should finish nursery school this year. The police brought Matiko to Angel House after discovering how his step-father had disciplined him by sticking his hand in a fire. Well Matiko was not the only child in the house. Last week his older brother Majaliwa was also brought to stay at Angel House. He also has burn marks as well as a scar from a knife going all the way through his arm. None of that, however, was evident when Matiko saw Majaliwa coming through the gate. He was wearing one of the biggest smiles I have ever seen on his little face. Majaliwa was no less happy as he picked up his little brother in a big bear hug. The smiles are still going on now. I hope they will always continue as Majaliwa becomes the newest addition to the Angel House family and reconnects with his own little family here in Tarime.