Friday, August 30, 2013

We Are Building Our Church

Wilbert with 5000 bricks ready to go!
He sometimes gets up as early as 4 or 5 am and his neighbors say that they have never seen this kind of behavior from him. His name is Wilbert and he is the youth chair at Gamasara UMC. He is getting up at 4 or 5 in the morning to start making bricks out of mud. These bricks will soon be fired and ready to build with. Brick making is a fairly common activity around here and can generate good income and requires very little start up capital. The thing about Wilbert though is that he is not making bricks for himself. All of these bricks are for the church.  

Wilbert used to work for a gold mining company, but found that he was working long hours and not getting anywhere. After covering the cost of living so far from home and sending money back to his wife and kids he found nothing left at the end of the month. He came home feeling slightly defeated, and lost. Ever since he entered the church in Gamasara though, he has been a changed person. Never having gone to church in his roughly 30 years of life this has been a big, but welcome change to what his life used to look like, including the purpose with which he now lives. He says that he owes Gamasara UMC for the changes that have taken place in his life and this is one way that he can give back.

Gamasara UMC has almost completed the foundation of the church building and they will then be ready for walls. In the mean time church members have been making bricks, women have been bringing water to mix with mud, others have helped with mixing, but it has been largely the effort of Wilbert that has seen the completion of over 5000 bricks. YEAH, 5000! This work done by the church will save almost $450 on material costs and does not count the other volunteer labor they have been contributing for construction of the foundation. And this is the first 5000, with another 5000 planned after this rainy season to finish construction. That is $900 total that will be saved by the efforts of church members just on bricks. People who make on average $30-50 a month have made a big contribution to see their community have a church that cares about the people around them.

If you are as excited about the changes that our faith can make in someone’s life as I am I would invite you to think about your own contribution, either personally, as a church , or even as a Sunday School group. Can you match Wilbert’s effort? Can you contribute $450 to the building of the church in the Mara District?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Never Too Late

I have heard several pastors lately talk about retirement not being a Biblical practice, that we should never get so old that we stop sharing our faith, being active, and participating in the community. Personally I think these pastors have never met my grandparents. Grandma and Grandpa Soard have been retired for a while now and we are all still waiting for them to slow down. I think the crux of all of this is how involved we chose to be in our communities after the time when we stop working and “contributing” to society in the way that society sees as most productive. I have been privileged to know many people of retirement age, even those that have retired from a professional job, but that have not stopped sharing, being part of the community, and working to make the world around them a more love filled place.

Benard Anigra, one of the local pastors I get to work with is one such person. I have personally had the privilege to sit at his metaphorical feet and learn from his experience of applying scripture to his life and finding ways to live as a servant of God. He is approaching retirement age yet he is still working hard to raise his children well, grow spirit-filled Christians in his church, build a house, and he wants to start school to become a better pastor. He is showing no signs of slowing down or going into retirement. His latest plan is making bricks. He hopes to sell them to help pay for his upcoming wedding.

It is common here for people to become husband and wife without having a formal wedding either in the church or in front of the local government. One day they just start living together. Benard and his wife have always been faithful to each other and are raising their children in a great home, but they have never had a chance for their wedding to be blessed in front of God and the church. When Benard talks about the wedding, what they want to do, and why he is willing to work so hard to through an expensive wedding when he has already been with his wife for so many years, you can hear the love he has for his wife and family come out.

Benard remains an inspiring person and someone that makes me a little less afraid of growing up (a secret fear of mine). Maybe someday I can be just like him. Watch the video below to see a little of the craziness that is this pastor. He is the one dancing and his wife is the solo singer. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Home Life

I have been privileged to do some cool things in the course of the church work we have been involved in here in Tanzania and it is always exciting to see buildings, programs, and churches grow. As much as I am not one for big events, lots of fuss, etc. it is still exciting to see how many people come out for a big event or to see a church that is only two years old have to move because their current space is just too full of people. However, it is often the normal, boring, quite things that I think most show God’s love for His people.

A few weeks ago we had the privilege of being involved in some of this normal, everyday stuff, that will hopefully turn into a great love story at some point between God and a little boy. One of our churches in Tarime has a ministry of presence with the street children in Tarime. Basically we have some church members that keep tabs on them, keeping track of who is coming and going, how they are getting money for food, and being a surrogate parent when needed. It is not a ministry that we get to be involved in very often because of our crazy schedules and traveling. However, this one time the relationship between church leadership and these kids found that one of them has sickle cell and his blood count had become dangerously low. We were called in to see what we could help with. We contributed a little bit and he was able to go to the hospital and be tested for his blood type so that we could know if anyone in the church was a donor match. It turns out that I was a match. Long story short I was able to go to the hospital, donate blood, make sure he got some other medicine to help him produce more blood, and he spent three days resting and recovering at our house. It was nothing special, and we certainly didn’t act alone. He joined in with our other kids in playing and eating and on Monday of the next week we were able to reunite him with his grandmother, though there is still tension at home and still work to be done in restoring that relationship and the things that made him run to the street in the first place.  That is where the church ministry is stepping in to help make this transition possible, and hopefully as they continue to learn the church can continue to reunite families and children.

In the end it took some time, a little bit of money, but mostly being available to do the little things in the midst of big plans, meetings, and other “more important” things. It was a simple act to welcome another child into our home, it seems like on some days, between our children, Derrick’s friends, and visitors we have a pretty full house anyway. One more was not a stretch for us, and he did his own laundry J. We can only pray that this ministry, of which we were able to be a part, will result in a life long relationship of love between him and his Father. I pray that you can also find ways, ordinary, simple, right in your own home, ways to Be the Church. 

**no picture posted for obvious reasons
**If you want to head over to another blog that we facilitate you can see how you can support the Tarime UMC street children ministry, and other ways that the church in Tanzania is trying to Be the Church.  Check out the especially the T-shirt section.