Saturday, November 18, 2017

Meet Bhoke from Our Father's House

Meet Bhoke! Bhoke is about eleven years old but appears to be about six. Bhoke's trouble started with the fact that her father's main way of getting money is stealing. When Bhoke was quite young, her father taught her to steal. Her father’s first two wives died and while he was married to his third wife, he got caught stealing. While her father was in jail, Bhoke’s stepmother beat her and punished her by withholding food because Bhoke caused trouble by stealing and wetting the bed. Bhoke ran way from her stepmother and was found by Our Father’s House staff who attempted to reunite her with her family. Her father was out of jail but neither her step-mother or father would take her back- ironically, because of her stealing.

Mwita, the director of Our Father’s House, decided to take Bhoke into his home and for a few weeks she did well in a family environment, but decided to steal from the family one day. Understandably, Mwita’s wife was upset and concerned that there might be more stealing, so Bhoke left the house of her own accord. Mwita found her and explained that she is welcome to return, but she is scared to return because she knows she upset his wife.  Currently, Bhoke is still living on the streets or at different houses for a day or two at a time. Despite the circumstances, Our Father’s House has hope that Bhoke will break her habit of stealing and find a family.

Will you join us in prayer for Bhoke? That she might break this habit of stealing and find a loving family to live with? Please prayerfully consider sponsoring her or another child in the ministry. 

If you want to sponsor Bhoke or make a one time donation to Our Father's House please click here. Make sure that you click on the "in honor of" box and put down Bhoke's name. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Simply Being a Pastor

Yesterday could be considered a fairly large waste of time. I worked for about three hours in the morning on emails, plans, and communications. That was it, all I was afforded was three hours. So many things did not get followed up, so many ideas not put down on paper, so many emails not sent to people that are important to our work and the support of it.

The rest of my day was spent sitting and listening to people talk, and try on occasion to insert a hopefully wise sounding word. People talked about worries, they talked about dangers that stressed them out. They wanted assurance on a variety of issues. People talked about how they had been hurt, and in rare moments admitting how they may have hurt someone else. We explored together what the church could look like fully formed, and I saw first hand the struggle of trying to find the 1 out of 99, especially when it meant having to humble oneself. All of these words, so little measurable progress, and at the end of the day more than a little frustration with a long list left undone.

Yesterday I was not a development coordinator or the principal of a college. I was not a great administrator and I was not able to make significant contributions that will take our organizations far into the future. Yesterday, I simply tried to be a pastor to the people that needed me. It is something that in the midst of job changes and moves across several locations in the last year that I don’t feel like I have gotten to do nearly enough. Maybe I will try it more often ;).

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Quick Life Update

Since I am not so great at blogging regularly I figured I would try to give a short update on what is going on, and also ask for your prayers for this current time in our lives.

Our family was given a gift this past year of getting some time to rest and be rejuvenated after seven years in Tanzania. From December 2016 until May 2017 Liz and the kids were in Jackson, TN. The kids were able to attend school and we were able to get to do many things that are harder to do in Tanzania. Liz and I thought it was great, I am not sure the kids enjoyed all of the dentist appointments, but it was needed and their teeth look great. I was in and out during this time, but was able to spend a good part of that time with them in Jackson.

June – August of this year we spent on the road speaking to different churches and small groups about our work in Tanzania. While I cannot began to thank everyone who hosted us, came to hear us speak, or shared their kitchen table with us for means and conversation. There were so many who cared for our children, made them feel special, ensured that they had fun, and generally spoiled them. I hope that you all get a chance to read even this little thank you and know how grateful we are. I look forward to continuing relationships with the groups that we were able to connect with and look forward to our next trip to the US.

The beginning of September I (Eric) returned to Tanzania by myself. During our time in the US we applied for Derrick to become a US citizen. A process that was supposed to be fairly straight forward and quick has proven to be anything but. As of right now Derrick cannot leave the country without running the risk of having to start all over again on his application. So we are currently waiting. Waiting on answers, waiting to be reunited, just waiting, something I know Liz and the boys feel even more keenly than I do.

That is where things stand for now. Prayers are appreciated that we can be back together as a family soon.

Friday, March 10, 2017

International Women's Day

I am so grateful to be back in the US with my family. I am excited about this time for us to do some of the work that we need to do as a family to prepare for a return to ministry later this year.

I am also excited to watch, even from afar, as International Women's Day is celebrated by the Emmanuel Center for Women and Children. When we started three years ago the dream of changing how a village viewed and treated the women and children that make up such a large part of the population and did not make up a proportionate amount of the leaders and decisions makers on a family or community level seemed so far fetched. We started small by building relationships, starting small income generating projects, and proving ourselves trustworthy in the eyes of the village. Now, almost three years on, the Emmanuel Center took the opportunity afforded by International Women's Day to start the community wide education that we have wanted to do for so long. The discussion and education on women's rights, female circumcision, gender based violence, marriage rape, child marriage, and many other issues that affect women all around Gamasara that was long awaited started today.

 T-shirt says, "Women, stand up for your rights"

And the best part is that I wasn't even there. I wish I was. I wish that I could have seen it, this small, yet incomparably important step. I wish I could share with you the taste, smell, and feeling of such an important day, to stir you up through my writing to the same level of excitement that I myself feel, yet I can't. I am not there. And yet one of the most exciting parts of the day is that I am not there. This event, planned, organized, hosted, and run by the Emmanuel Center was planned, organized, hosted, and run by local leaders in Gamasara, women standing up in their own community and saying that we have an important voice that needs to be heard. I am personally not a fan of the concept of being a 'voice for the voiceless.' I much prefer to work to give the voiceless their own voice and move them past feeling like they have no voice worth listening to. That has happened today. Women planning and creating their own platform in order to talk about their own issues, and over 80 people showed up. Not bad in a village that doesn't exceed 2000 people.

Now, if I had to guess I would say the day was probably not flawless. Simply the fact that the request for approval for funds to be withdrawn in order to purchase t-shirts for the event came less than 12 hours before the start of the event itself gives a small pictures of how the overall day went. However, it still happened. The community still showed up. And women who were once considered to hold unimportant opinions where today able to speak on their own issues in a public forum. It may be a small forum and I am sure there are some things to work out before we do it again next year. Yet any progress we see in the future would have built on this first day and I could not be prouder of the women involved in the Emmanuel Center than I am today.

Many blessings to them and all women celebrating their worth and importance today.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Forrest City FUMC Team

This week we have been blessed with a great team from Forrest City FUMC along with a great addition from a neighboring CME church who was a true blessing. The team has exemplified the saying, “Blessed are the flexible for they will not break.” Despite the inevitable challenges and last minute changes that are a part of any mission trip they have smiled, laughed, encouraged, and served their way through this week.

They made it just in time for the opening of Wesley College on Friday, followed by two days
of great worship at Nyagesi UMC and P.P.F. UMC. Worship was a great chance to connect to the churches, share a meal, and start to learn about the ministries of local churches here in Tanzania. The
team showed their hearts early on when they spent more time talking about what they learned and how they wanted to take back some of what they saw in worship in Tanzania, than they did about things that they felt like needed changing here.

The team leader, Bro. Bill, who also happens to be Liz’s dad did an amazing job of setting the tone for the first term of Wesley College. Monday of this past week was opening day and he spend the first three days in the morning talking about the foundation that spiritual formation provides a pastor in service to the church, community, and God. I cannot think of a better way to start these students’ theological education than that.

The rest of the team, Hank, Maurica, and Evelyn, spent their morning teaching and loving on the children from Lumala UMC. The children were taught new songs for church (in Swahili), and learned more about the love of God. At the end of the week as we sat reflecting they were recalling the names of some of their favorite children. It was a great reminder to see how love and attention can cross language barriers.

The afternoon was spent with church leaders from almost all of our churches in Mwanza learning about the fruit of the spirit. It led to many great discussions and questions as the team and the church leaders learned from each other. Some of the questions where ones I had not heard much about before and it was good that the team created a place to discuss and dig into what the Bible says about spiritual matters, prayers, and the importance of using Biblical metrics, not worldly ones, to measure our maturity in faith.

The last day of work ended with the team getting to experience dagaa for the first time, the videos are worth viewing, and dinner back at the house with some of the friends they had made through the week. Nothing warms my heart more than to see a diverse group around the dinner table with the commonality of faith and shared humanity to bring them together as friends.