earthen vessels, East Africa, and the gospel
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Posts from — January 2013

Laura’s Kiswahili Studies

My language work has been slower in progression compared to Matt’s. However, I am learning Kiswahili (the Swahili word for their language). Twice a week my friend Jeni helps me learn more of the language by doing exercises with me at my house. This seems to work well, since I have Ian, and she has Yeremia, who is just 4 weeks younger than our little guy. They are already friends! The boys sleep or play while we discuss Kiswhahili together. Jeni has been a great help, and a good friend.

Laura studying Swahili with Jeni

Laura studying Swahili with Jeni

Lately, I have started more work in a Kiswahili grammar book; Jana Eads has volunteered to watch Ian for about a hour two times a week so that I can have some focused time doing book work. Also, Peter, the man who helps in our house, is very patient in teaching me more Kiswahili. I only speak to him using the language, so that is challenging and helpful at the same time! I have the opportunity to speak Kiswahili every day when I greet the gardeners and others I may meet. And, of  course, church is a huge example of a language learning opportunity every week. The entire service and the fellowship after the worship time is all in Kiswahili. I am thankful for the grace God is giving me to slowly learn this language.

January 23, 2013   No Comments

Update on Pastor Elias

Last week I mentioned that Elias was in need of surgery to relieve a hernia he has been suffering from since December. The situation is looking better now, though he experienced another episode Wednesday. He is now at a medical facility in Sengerema, about an hour’s drive from his home in Nyakaliro. Unfortunately I don’t know when he will have his surgery, nor do we know how long his recovery will be.

We are encouraged that God has worked to provide for the cost of Elias’s treatment through the giving of our Tanzanian brethren. The church in Nyakaliro took up an offering on Sunday (the 13th). They were very generous. The church here in Shadi also agreed to contribute to the financial need. In addition, they are interested in sending a group to help Elias care for his field since he is currently unable.

We are grateful that this week there have been multiple examples of believers taking initiative to respond to the need. Though there will probably be financial needs that have not yet been satisfied, Elias should be receiving the medical care he needs. And, the occasion is providing opportunities for the saints to encourage each other in the Lord. Thank you for praying.

January 19, 2013   1 Comment

A Visit to Encourage Elias

This past Sunday (the 6th) Dan Eads and I made a visit to Nyakaliro. Dan preached there and in Luselelo, but the occasion of the trip was to visit Elias, the pastor of the church in Nyakaliro. Sometime in December, Elias began suffering from a hernia. For a man who makes a good portion of his income from physical labor, a hernia can be a difficult situation in more than one way. We came to encourage him.

Rob, Elias, and TCF

Rob, Elias, and TCF

During the day a call was placed to a doctor-friend in Mwanza who was able to provide a sound prognosis.¬†Elias will need surgery, but, thankfully, his condition is not urgent. For many of our Tanzanian friends, the regular procedure for health problems involves trying traditional medicine first. It’s cheaper; and, it appears to help in many situations. Especially in the villages, Western medicine is not usually considered until traditional treatments have been exhausted. Far too often Western medicine fails simply because treatment began too late to do any good.

Elias has survived a round of traditional treatments which have been far less than pleasant. Currently, he is able to be be active in ministry as long as it doesn’t involve physical labor. He will need help to harvest the crops that are now in the ground. The problems of paying for surgery and getting it done at a reputable clinic are still looming ahead.

The cost of getting the surgery done at any place worth considering is out of the reach of a pastor’s income. How we, as “wealthy” white people, get involved is a complicated issue. Ideally, our help would not interfere with the church’s opportunity to support their pastor and see God supply through their own generosity. Our help should supplement their giving, not the other way around. Lord willing, Elias will receive the treatment he needs and many of God’s people (not just the white ones) will have a good view of God’s grace at work.

We left at 6:40am and returned about 9pm. The drive was rough on roads that were being washed away by the rains that day. I spent most of the day trying to piece together bits of Swahili conversation. It was a long, hard, day…but don’t let me ever fool you. Next to these Tanzanian pastor I’m getting to know, my job is easy.

January 9, 2013   No Comments

January 2013 Prayer Update

We recorded a short video as our monthly update for January. Watch it here if you can or follow the link below to see it at

  1. Being surrounded by people troubled with different kinds of illnesses and chronic health problems makes us all the more grateful for our health. Everyone is still adjusting to the new environment, but all-in-all we have so much to be thankful for.
  1. Another session of Bible Institute begins the third week of January. Church history and homiletics are being taught. Please pray that God’s word would be faithfully communicated and received.
  2. This month the pastors will also be meeting to consider more opportunities for discipleship in the churches. Pray for wisdom and fruitful discussions so that missionary team and the pastors may work together so that believers may be equipped for every good work and ready to give a defense of their faith.
  3. The most productive days for language learning demand stamina and humility. Please join us in praying for God-enabled wisdom and endurance.

January 2, 2013   7 Comments

Merry [Belated] Christmas

[Do to technical problems operator errors we are posting our Christmas letter a week late, but the sincerity is just the same.]

The Gass Family, Dec 21, 2012

The Gass Family, Dec 21, 2012

This past year has held great change for us as a family. We are so grateful to God for blessing us with Ian David in April. Another big change was moving to our new home, which we are glad to be settling into. We are grateful to be celebrating Christmas with other believers at church, with our teammates over a nice meal, and also as a family as we are able to enjoy some of our favorite holiday pastimes (like cheesecake coffeecake and hot chocolate). Although we miss our family back in the States, we can celebrate Christmas here in Africa, because Christ came to Earth for all peoples, in all lands.

We wish all of you a merry Christmas and a blessed new year!

Matt, Laura, and Ian

January 1, 2013   3 Comments