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.
Our good friend, Seni, lost his father on Tuesday of this week. Tim was at the hospital with Seni when his father passed away. He was a precious man who lived to be over 95 years old, almost unheard of in Tanzania. Seni’s parents and his wife’s parents all live with him; there is no government assistance for the elderly and no nursing homes. A good Tanzanian would never shirk their responsibility to their parents or relatives by taking advantage of those options even if they were available.
Isaak Seni was ready to go to heaven. When his family visited him the day before he died, he told them all “Goodbye” and that he was going to see Jesus. When they brought his wife to the hospital to visit him the morning he died he thanked her for many wonderful years of married life and then bid her “Goodbye” as well. He told her, “I am going to see Jesus, I won’t see you again here”. He died a few hours later from complications from surgery.
They had an outdoor service for him early Friday afternoon at Seni’s home. There was a large crowd of people there to celebrate the life of this man. Few tears and much rejoicing that their loved one was in heaven with Jesus. After the service here in Mwanza the body was to be transported over 140 kilometers away (about a three hour drive on mostly dirt roads).
Our STL vehicle was transformed into a hearse to carry the casket and body to it’s final resting place in a small village on the family farm. Tim spent the night there last night and slept in the STL car which became his hotel room once the casket was removed. They were to have a funeral service there today for those in the village who knew and loved Isaak Seni, he had a large family and many live in that village.
Tim will return today sometime after the funeral service there in the village.
Isaak Seni was a poor Tanzania farmer who, with his wife, raised nine children. He had only a few years of formal schooling and never did anything that could be considered extraordinary in his life. He had never been further than a few hours drive from his home and village. He was a simple, humble man who loved his family and loved God. The amount of people who came to the funeral and who visited the family to pay their respects gave testimony that he was well loved and respected by all who were blessed to know him.
One of the many challenges that a missionary faces is “distance”. It comes in all forms but is always a challenge.
One distance is the distance between where you are currently ministering and the place where all your family and friends live. For us in Tanzania, home is half way around the world in the U.S. We have family spread over the states of Washington, North Carolina, Missouri, Michigan, Alabama, and other states. So, even when we live in the states distance between our families is still a challenge.
Another distance that challenges us is the vast size of the region that we cover – it is about the size of the state of Indiana. Our furthest point from here in Mwanza that we visit is about 10-12 hours away on the western side of Tanzania. If we have a Mission meeting in Dar Es Salaam on the eastern coast of Tanzania it takes about 14-16 hours of driving which means we break it up into two days. The roads are mostly paved these days but some of our region is still remote enough that we can spend hours driving on bumpy dirt roads.
When we need to seek medical attention, we will travel to Nairobi Kenya. Kenya is the country right above us and it’s about a 10-12 hour trip depending on road conditions and how long it takes us to cross the border. We will be going to Nairobi, Kenya at least three times a year. Joyce has to have pretty extensive lab work done since her bout with cancer last year which cannot be done here in Mwanza. Nairobi, Kenya is our closest laboratory facilities that can do the necessary lab work.
Our nearest Assemblies of God missionary is in Dodoma, Tanzania which is a 9 hour drive from Mwanza. Fortunately, the road is completely paved now between here and there or it would take us hours longer.
Many of the churches we will visit on Sundays will be a 1 hour drive from our house and sometimes further.
We rarely can tell you how many miles (kilometers) a place is from our house but we can tell you how many hours it takes to get there. The distance between places to eat and/or take a bathroom break are hours apart usually. We travel with food and have learned that sometimes you just have to find a secluded place along the side of the road for a bathroom break.
Distance plays a major factor in the life of the missionary. In Tanzania, we are thankful for our trusty STL Toyota Land Cruiser. It is a blessing!