earthen vessels, East Africa, and the gospel
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Posts from — October 2012

Good Video on Prayer

To advance the gospel is to engage in global spiritual warfare. Nearly all the pictures in this video are of people who have been involved with the preaching of the gospel in Mwanza, Tanzania–missionaries, Tanzanian church planters, new believers, Bible students, and pastors.


October 22, 2012   No Comments

Church in Sengerema Nears Chartering

On Sunday, October 7, we joined the believers in Sengerema for a special worship service. Hamisi has been preaching through the congregation’s proposed statement of faith as they have anticipated chartering. The day we visited Dan was asked to preach on the last remaining doctrine in their statement. After the service, the church celebrated with chai and mandazi.

Technically speaking, the church didn’t charter on October 7. The plan is to walk all the adults through the doctrinal statement before asking for the group’s consent to it by congregational vote. The vote will take place after the core group has the opportunity to propose modifications.

In many ways this body of believers is already functioning as a church—in fact, I have frequently referred to them as a church in most of my pre-field meetings. Even on the day we attended, the congregation visited one of its own who recently lost a close family member. During that visitation, there was fellowship, worship in song, a gift given to the grieving family, and a short message from the Scriptures. The basic significance of chartering is that this congregation will begin operating “business” autonomously rather than as an arm of its mother church in Nyakaliro. In this regard, we are rejoicing that these believers are laying a great foundation for church “business” in godly relationships and careful attention to the Scriptures.

October 19, 2012   No Comments

A Foreigner’s Brief Guide to Weddings in Tanzania

Giving of Vows

Last Saturday we attended a wedding at the church here in Shadi. Establishing a marriage covenant between two believers is certainly an occasion worth celebrating. And, celebrating is something Tanzanians do well. In comparison to the African interpretation, the typical American church wedding would seem short and bland to our African friends. For us, this was a prime opportunity to better understand how important community is here.

In case you are considering having your destination wedding in Tanzania, here are few things to keep in mind:

  • First of all, weddings are all-day affairs. Announcing a starting time is optional. Just expect everyone to show up sometime in the middle of the morning and stay well after the sun goes down.
  • You may feel like the pace of the procession is obnoxiously slow, but drawing out the procession is one way to celebrate the occasion. There is no hurry; we have all day (literally).
  • After the bride and groom themselves, the most important piece of the whole day is the choir. Your special day would be incomplete with anything less than a dozen or so choir specials sprinkled throughout the service and reception.
  • A wedding is a joyful occasion, but the bride and groom must refrain from smiling. To suggest that you are joyful about leaving your parents would be disrespectful—a more serious crime than being the only one with a straight face in your wedding pictures.

Bride and Groom in Procession

  • Be thankful that there is no rehearsal. Just remember that if the generator or sound equipment fail multiple times during the service, go with the flow. This is normal.
  • If you decide to serve cow for your wedding reception, you may notice something on your plate that resembles gray fuzzy coral. This is cow intestine. Please, enjoy it. I did!
Beef stew for wedding

Kettle ‘o Cow

Lenard feeding his wife cake


October 11, 2012   2 Comments

Pre-Field Ministry by the Numbers

By all accounts, our pre-field ministry was short and blessed by God. The whole experience of itinerant meetings for “partnership raising” is so peculiar that it is hard to convey the extraordinary ways in which God has provided for us. Needless to say, there are a number of unique issues that arise from spending so much time traveling and entering a new church situation week after week. Some of these issues are purely logistical but others have to do with learning and accommodating the customs particular to each church we visited. The simple fact that we now have a regiment of like-minded people praying with us, we have our daily bread provided, and we finished the process without a catastrophe is a testimony of God’s kindness toward us.

Since it is good practice to point out God’s grace (e.g., 2 Cor 8:1), I hope that by sharing a few numbers pertaining to our pre-field ministry, you can get a better sense of the big picture and, perhaps, appreciate God’s kindness a bit more.

The Brevity of our Deputation

Given that our starting point was March 11, 2011, the day of our first church meeting, and that our end point was our departure on September 11, 2012, our pre-field ministry was only 18 months long. We understand that the national average is between 3 and 4 years.

Safety over many Miles

  • 19,857 miles driven for ministry purposes–that’s averaging over 250 miles every week
  • less than $900 in non-routine repairs
  • 0 traffic accidents; 1 train accident; 0 significant injuries
  • dozens of cups of coffee consumed

Finding a Few Needles in the Haystack

  • 600 churches contacted
  • over 1,500 emails or phone calls made (yes, I actually logged most of them)
  • meetings with 37 churches (6% of contacts)
  • We are now fully supported with just 18 church partners (3% of contacts)

Miscellaneous Reflections

  • Any success that these numbers represent was not as much a matter of strategy and skill but rather providential timing and God’s blessing.
  • The experience as a whole is much like riding a roller coaster: there are so many unexpected highs and lows. We will remember our pre-field ministry with gladness for the many answers to prayer and the thought that we shouldn’t need to due this again.
  • Finally, we are encouraged by the number of churches moving towards supporting fewer missionaries at higher levels of involvement. I trust that this trend will help make our experience less exceptional.

October 8, 2012   2 Comments