Friday, August 31, 2012

How Many People Does it Take To...?

Yesterday I met another one. This makes the second or third I have met in person while several others have been just stories to me. I am talking about people that have tried to lead the United Methodist Church in the Mara Region. For some I would imagine that they have just found the Mara Region a hard place to do church work, and it is for various reasons. Some have attempted to step into church work for their own profit and were eventually found out. This one yesterday has become a fixer of things -  bicycles, motorcycles, when I met him he was working on cutting a key using files and various other simple machines. Maybe he was one of the good ones if he was still trying to create something, even something physical. All in all this string of people is overwhelmingly…comforting. 

Liz and I, after a month of being back, are getting stuck under a mountain of work, expectations, and needs. And then there is anything anyone outside of Derrick and Kaleb wants us to do :). This is a hard place to do church work and there is so many things that need done, people helped, families and communities restored that are broken. And I know so many of them personally. Sons that want a father, women that want loving husbands, husbands that want work to support their families, men that want to be free of the sin that controls, and old shoe cobblers that want a hot meal every once in a while. The comfort comes because in all of this I can see that God is bigger than it all. Despite a string of leaders that have come and gone the church is still standing. People are still being lifted up in prayer, orphans are still given a home, widows are still having a house built for them, new churches that we pray to bear fruit are being raised up in farm fields. And I know that the old cobbler got at least one hot meal. God is bigger than my concerns or fears or anxieties. God’s purpose has continued, using whoever was willing to answer His call at the time. He has even managed to use the growth wrought by those who only wanted to grow their own kingdom. He is bigger than it all, and yet shows up in the smallest of details – like my sermon prep for Sunday where we will be blessing a new church plant. 

He will continue with me and the many efforts of the amazing people we work with. And after we are done here God will still continue on, never abandoning his children, simply waiting for the next person that wants to answer His call.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

God's Good Giving

“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”  ~ Matthew 7:9-11

As I was making Derrick’s breakfast yesterday, his regular peanut butter and jelly sandwich (and really the Peanut Butter should be capitalized because getting it is the whole point of him asking for a sandwich) I had one of those neat, now that you’re a parent revelations. He had a rough time sleeping the night before and I wanted to do something to help getting up that morning a little easier. With this in mind I gave him a little extra peanut butter hoping that it would do something to brighten his morning. It was then that I remembered a verse that I had read a little earlier this week. As much as we want to give to our kids what they want, how much more does God want to give good things to us. 

This verse and my new understanding of it is coming true before my very eyes as we have started to visit churches and see the spiritual growth and ministries that has taken place as we have been in the US. Ingrichini has started a sewing ministry where they are teaching job skills while people in the community have been introduced to the heart that the church has for its community. Masalula has seen an increase in spiritual growth and they are building up a nice stockpile of stones and bricks for the church building they hope to one day build. The stockpile was started and grown almost entirely by the women of the church showing their strength in both body and spirit. Tarime started a church choir and has continued to grow as a new church. Gamasara has held women’s seminars on health and child care as well as helping other churches with their choir and lay speakers that have traveled around sharing their gifts. 


The church leaders here, and we ourselves, know that this is only the beginning. We are starting our work here with prayer and the faith that God wants to give the church in this area even bigger gifts of growth in spirit and ministry. I am sure he has things in mind that we are not even thinking about ourselves yet. Even though we are just getting started, I am excited about what is coming.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Do You Know Their Name?

It's always interesting when one of your lessons comes back to be found within your own life. This last week we've been unpacking suitcases and trying to get settled in while still catching up with people and having a few preliminary meetings to see what's been going on with the different churches that we work with in Tanzania.  One of those meetings was with a local pastor who was recently ordained in the conference. He came to meet with us even though one of his children was sick so when he left the meeting he went straight to the hospital where his wife had taken their child. He called as I was in the middle of finding one more shelf to unload a suitcase onto to let me know he had made it and that they were about to head home with the child and NO treatment. They didn’t have the money to pay so that the hospital would start the treatment. All of that time, energy, and travel with nothing to show for it.

As Liz and I spoke at churches this summer we were able to speak to a youth group and the main point of our talk was this…mission starts with relationships. Many people are very willing to give, help, and do what they can for others. Liz and I have seen this time and again with short term mission teams, churches we speak at, and the generosity of people this summer as we tried to prepare for our first biological child. The challenge that I think most people have to living missions on a daily basis, the tragedy of the middle class/upper class church is that many good Christians don’t know any poor people. I don’t mean that they don’t know what part of town the poor live in, I mean they don’t know any of their names let alone the names of their children or what may be happening in their lives. They don’t have a relationship with someone who lives on the edge without all of the safety nets that we are accustomed to. They don’t have a colleague or friend that will call them needing help with a $20 hospital bill. Possibly equally sad is that so few of the poor have a Christian friend that they know they can call and receive that help. These types of relationships are the start of missions and missional living. If you really want to help someone, if you really want to be God’s light in the world, you have to know something about them and what they need or what they are struggling with. This is the beginning of being able to display God’s love to someone else.

Mission starts with relationships, and is not all about money. Find somebody this week that is different than you, find somebody that needs something you can offer. I think you will be surprised at how many times that same person has something that you need. The challenging part is stepping outside of our comfort zone to get to know people that are not like us, that may need us. Jacob was able to get the help he needed and his child got the treatment that she needed. I did not have to hesitate because I already know Jacob and his family, and that caring for his family is just an extension of my relationship with him. If mission starts with relationships, who are you going to introduce yourself to this week?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Being Loved

“There is no way that we can thank the people over the last 5 months that have shared with us their homes, food, cars, families, prayers, printers, internet, storage units, and support. We have had the privilege of being loved.” 

That was my Facebook status the day that Liz and I flew out of Little Rock, AR and headed back to Tanzania. It has been a week since we left the US and what a week it has been. We have come home to things needing repairs, bills needing paid, things needing purchased, and we have barely had time to settle in before work that has piled up as we have been gone threatens to overwhelm. However, we have also been greeted by friends that have dropped by to talk, visit, and hold Kaleb. Reconnecting has been a joy in and of itself and again, in a different country, many miles away from one home we find that we are loved.
We are back in Tanzania and will be here for the next three years. I am sure there will be many things to write about, joys and heartaches, fun times and stressful ones, and many things that never make it on this blog.

The one thing that makes so much of it worth it, that makes everything so special, the thing that is a comfort in times of trial and a joy in times of peace is that we know that we are loved. Thank you to everyone that has reaffirmed this in our lives. 

*There are so many more people who could be pictured here, including everyone we have seen since coming back to Tanzania, but have not gotten a picture of. Thank you to all.