Thursday, November 14, 2013

It's Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Christmas

Sometimes it is hard keeping track of the holiday seasons, but based on random Facebook pictures it seems like the US is gearing up for yet some holiday cheer. Some go getters are putting up trees, lights, and cranking out the Christmas music. We have had our own Christmas season indicator reports from some of the areas that we have churches in. We have heard reports of murder, mugging, and robbing homes as people try to get the money to celebrate the holidays. I don’t want to make Tanzania look bad, but it is reality for some of our church members.  The drive to have money for the holidays causes some to do inhumane things to others. Lacking the chance for a white Christmas, these are some of the things that remind us that the holidays are just around the corner. They are odd indicators to be sure. I have never quite understood the drive around here to steal and kill in order to get money to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, but there it is.

For us though, they are reminders of why we continue investing our time, money, and lives into this area and our churches.  They are reminders of why we are looking to spend another holiday away from our families. They are reminders of what the most important things to invest in are. We have a firm belief that our lives are better spent investing in others than always thinking about ourselves. We believe that the treasures we are able to store up in heaven are not things, but the records of the lives of people that we have invested in. We have a firm belief that spiritual transformation is necessary before physical development can take place, and that is why we continue to work on investing in leaders, youth, and church homes so that foundations can be set, lives changed, and transformation can take place. Maybe in years to come Christmas here will be marked more with good cheer, good deeds, and people who understand why their Prince of Peace came to earth.

As the Christmas season is starting, even earlier this year, as I have recently learned about “Brown Thursday”, the opening of stores on Thanksgiving Day so that people can thank God for everything they already have before going out to buy more stuff. I only ask that you think about what you are investing in this year and how this action reflects our thoughts on the holidays. Here in Tarime it makes no sense to kill for money that will be used to celebrate the Prince of Peace. There it makes no sense to buy a lot of things to celebrate the birth of someone who said, “don’t store up treasures here on earth…but in heaven.” If you agree we would love for you to participate in #GivingTuesday, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, where you can support the work we are trying to do here (more information on the last page), but really we would be happy with anything you do this Christmas season to reflect the nature of the person we are celebrating. Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. 

**This was the article written for our newsletter. Because of the size of the newsletter (I think) it didn't reach a lot of people this month. If you are super interested in other things going on, please let me know and I will try to email out the short updates that we do at the end of the newsletter. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Being the One in the Back

Well, we made it half-way through. It is Saturday, the pastor seminar started on Monday and it will end on Thursday with a celebration at our house with all of the pastors that have attended the two week seminar. It has been a first in many ways, most of them good.

It has been the first time we have hosted a multi-day teaching by someone that is not me.
It is the first time that we have hosted pastors for a seminar from outside of the Mara Region.
It is the first time to really start looking out how this pastor’s college/education center that we want to establish here in Tanzania may possibly work in bringing in teachers, bringing together pastors, and taking another step in the right direction for the United Methodist Church in Tanzania.

The teachings have been amazing, with Claude Kayler, from Covenant Community Church in

Asheville, NC working through sickness, jet lag, and a language barrier to really try and connect with the pastors. From what all of the pastors are saying he has succeeded.

The pastors are connecting, getting to hear about common challenges, and looking at positive ways forward. They are excited about this chance, and have shared with me many things that will be incorporated into future trainings and conference wide projects, some of which are already in the works as early as this December, and others which are still mainly dreams.

One of the best parts of all is that I get to serve. Many times here I am the one up front, but this week I get to be the one in the back. I am making sure food gets delivered on time, things are bought and paid for, small problems (like a tooth extraction for on of our pastors) are taken care of,  and all the while great discussion and teaching is going on…without me. It has been a great time for me to be able to serve and receive the gift of being able to do for others, and to model our calling as Christians to be servants first.

All in all, it has a been a good, if tiring week.