The year 2014, in retrospect, was a difficult year in many ways for us. Joyce had final doctor’s appts in January so we could get clearance to return to TZ. We returned to TZ in mid-February and hit the ground running. Unfortunately, Joyce was not to the “running stage” yet and in trying to set up the house and make the many repairs to the house that were needed she found herself needing to rest almost every day at first. She is doing much better these days.
We have done a lot of traveling including a trip to Mbeya (2 day drive one way) for the Diamond Jubilee (75 years) of the Tanzania Assemblies of God. It was an awesome week.
Other trips were made to Ukerewe Island for a seminar, Tabora for a Women’s Conference, Nairobi twice (12 hour drive) for medical tests, Dar Es Salaam for a TZ Field missionary conference and several other shorter trips to minister and visit the Buhangija School for the Visually Impaired.
My younger sister, Donna, passed away on November 13; I traveled to the states and spent almost 8 weeks there to be with her. We knew she was terminally ill with liver cancer and many other medical complications. I spent almost 7 weeks with her day and night at the hospital; rarely leaving.
Yes, it’s been a rough year but God has been faithful and we have seen his work go forward here in TZ. We are looking forward to 2015 with anticipation of what God will do for us, in us and through us as we continue to submit our lives to HIM.
Christmas in Tanzania is never about decorations, gifts or even family get-togethers. Traditionally, Christmas is spent at the church all day celebrating the birth of Jesus. Often there is a meal after the first service that they all share together. However, it’s not the American tradition of turkey, dressing and all the trimmings. It’s usually more along the line of rice, beans, cooked greens, ugali and some kind of meat which is usually goat. Gifts are not exchanged, rather, they celebrate God’s gift to the world, Jesus.
Often on Christmas Day or the week of Christmas they have outdoor evangelistic services or week long seminars in their churches – the focus is always Jesus. Pastors often travel away from their families to hold these meetings so they are not with their families on Christmas Day. If you were to tell them, which I have in the past, that Christmas is a time to be with family they will disagree with you. Christmas, they say, is about sharing the Good News of Jesus.
I think the Tanzanian Christians have a better grasp of how to celebrate Christmas than we do.
This is a picture of the first Assemblies of God pastors in the Mwanza area. The picture was taken by retired missionary, Norm Correll, in 1964.
In October, Tim* hosted two teams from Priority One. This group has focused on Tanzania to help the TAG (Tanzania Assemblies of God) reach some of it’s goals for the Decade of Harvest. They are helping in the areas of leadership training and various other teaching/preaching opportunities. In addition, they have been a great help to the national church in the area of financial assistance. One of their projects is to buy a motorcycle for each of our sectional presbyters throughout Tanzania; this involves the purchase and distribution of several hundred motorcycles. Most of our sectional presbyters have no means of transportation other than the public bus system. This mode of transport does not allow them to reach their remote pastors and churches scattered among their section. The motorcycles will allow them to be able to reach every pastor and every church.
There were two teams of men, each team came for about a week. The second team arrived the same day the first team left. Tim was busy handling all of the logistics of getting each team where they needed to be at the right time but God brought it all together. One group spoke at the Lake Zone Conference held in Mwanza and the other group taught at the Western Zone Conference held in Tabora. A total of 15 motorcycles were presented to Sectional Presbyters during the conferences. The teaching and ministry from these men strengthened and encouraged the pastors. They were a wonderful blessing to the pastors in these two regions.
*Joyce was in the states for almost two months beginning the middle of September to be with her terminally ill younger sister. Donna passed away on November 13 and Joyce returned to Mwanza on the 17th.
Yesterday I visited a missionary lady, Janet, from the UK who was passing through Mwanza on her way to another town. She became sick and ended up being taken to the local hospital from her motel.
Her missionary colleagues from another region contacted Lisa, our renter, and asked if she could assist Janet since she didn’t know anyone here in Mwanza. I went with Lisa later in the evening to visit her.
The hospital rooms at the huge government hospital here in Mwanza are stark and far below the standards that those of us from developed nations are accustomed to.
We take for granted that certain things will be provided for us during our hospital stays. The following things ARE NOT provided for you at our local hospital:
Toilet paper, drinking cup, water, food, mosquito net (yes, the screens have holes in them), towels and washcloths, soap, any kind of personal hygiene items or even those lovely hospital gowns. A patient must have family prepare food for them or arrange to have food brought to them twice a day.
Janet was laying in a bed directly on the mattress with no bottom sheet because the one she had got soiled and had to be removed but it wasn’t replaced. Visiting hours are from 4pm – 6pm; you can also bring food in the morning. You may have one person stay with you at all times because they will need to care for your non-medical needs. There are no “call buttons”.
So, as much as I dislike hospital stays in general, I am thankful I have never had a stay in one of our local hospitals.
Sundays in Tanzania can be quite long these days. Many churches have two services now; an early English service and the second service is done in Swahili or a combination of Swahili/English. Throw in an hour of Sunday School and a few other events/activities and you can have a really long day.
This past Sunday was an example of one of those EXTRA long days. We left the house at 6:30 am for the 30 minute drive to the TAG church in Nyegezi Corner. The first service was at 7:00 and usually finished around 10:00. Sunday school is normally from 10:00-11:00 but this Sunday they used this hour to raise funds for their building project.
This process in and of itself can be quite lengthy. The name of every member was read and they were told how much they were to give. Yes, that’s right, they were TOLD how much they would give. Then each person was given the opportunity to publicly ask for their designated amount to be decreased or increased.
The second service started at 11:00 and we made a quick trip to the pastor’s office for some chai and chapatis (hot tea and tortillas). The second service went until 12:45 (mercifully, Tim shortened his message a little) and then another fund raising hour for the second service followed.
In addition to the services and fund raisers, there were 7 offerings taken. One of the Associate Pastor’s five year old son was rushed to the hospital in the night and died shortly after arriving there so they were announcing visitation that evening at the home of the bereaved as well as taking up an offering for the family.
We always go prepared for 3-4 offerings, but seven offerings had us scrambling a bit since it is expected of us to give in the offerings. Thankfully, Tim had extra cash with him.
After the final offering and “amen” we were served a nice lunch of rice, meat in gravy and cooked greens. We were given a tour of the new buildings going up on the property. We were thrilled to see how this church has grown, we first attended a service with them years ago when they just had a small tarp covered building with walls of reeds and grasses.
We finally reached home shortly after 3:30 pm. It was a long day but a good day in many ways. I think after two years of being stateside I have to become accustomed again to the long Tanzanian Sundays.
Recently, Peter Ash, founder of “Under the Same Sun” visited one of our TAG (Tanzania Assemblies of God) churches near our home. “Under the Same Sun” is an organization that works on behalf of people with Albinism (PWA) living in Tanzania.
PWA in Tanzania are hunted and killed for their body parts which are used in potions to bring success and wealth. There are over 200,000 PWA in Tanzania; they are shunned by their society and often by their families and live in constant fear for their lives.
Peter Ash spoke about the importance of churches becoming involved in the plight of the PWA in Tanzania; providing them with the love and care that they need and being “safe places” for them to go to for fellowship and spiritual guidance. To date, churches have ignored the plight of the PWA in their country and their communities.
Our prayer is that all of our TAG churches will accept the challenges of ministering to people with Albinism. We hope they will reach out with the love that God has for all people and become sanctuaries of peace and security.
Just this past week, a woman with Albinism in the Simiyu region outside of Mwanza was hacked to death with machetes. The attackers cut off her leg and some of her fingers and she did not survive the attack; her two children are now without a mother.
She was the 67th PWA to die since 2000 due to injuries from attackers. Many more people with Albinism live today without fingers, toes, arms or legs from attacks that did not result in their deaths.
It is time for these horrendous crimes to be stopped and those who are guilty to be punished to the full extent of the law. It is time for the Christians of Tanzania to open their eyes to the plight of these people and become involved in helping them.