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

In and Around Iringa

Other than all the Swahili grammar we are cramming into our heads, our trip to Iringa has provided a great opportunity to take a breath and enjoy what our new country of residence has to offer. We have found Tanzania to be much more diverse than we realized. The cooler weather is a welcome change. Some foods, which are otherwise unavailable in hotter climates (coffee, dairy, and even berries!), have also been a delightful surprise.

On a more significant note, the trip has broadened our appreciation for our Lord’s work in this country. We have encountered a number of Christians engaged in good works in various places. Their burden for God’s reputation and their experience have served to encourage and equip us with tactics worth exploring. Also, our drive through the heart of the country has identified countless villages yet to have any established witness to the gospel. We are left with the impression that God is working and that there is much work left to be done.

Since we couldn’t bring you with us, we hope you enjoy the following pictures.

Ruaha National Park

Iringa Town

May 23, 2013   No Comments

Language School in Iringa

We are finding language school to be very helpful for us. Up until our enrollment here our approach to language learning has focused on listening and mimicking Swahili speakers with some grammar work on the side. Learning in a classroom environment focuses on the grammar with a little practice to supplement. The advantage here is that we are now having explained to us all sorts of things we have been hearing everywhere but couldn’t discern the pattern.

Today's Lesson: Mahali Noun Class

Hearing things explained from a fresh perspective helps anyone get a better handle on the concepts. Meals, clean-up, and childcare are provided right at the camp we are staying. This helps Laura tremendously. As for me, I am excited that I have started reading more Bible related material. This means that I’m that much closer to being reading to converse about Scripture—quite a long way from learning how to order some bread!

May 23, 2013   No Comments

May 2013 Prayer Update

Ian is now one; the container has arrived; it’s time for a road trip! We’re taking the truck a two-day’s-journey south to the town of Iringa where we will stay for language school and some greatly anticipated leisure time. The whole trip will take five weeks. We hope that changing up the language learning method will help push us forward. It should be especially helpful for Laura to gain more hours in a day to focus on the language. But as productive as we hope it will be, we also pray that the change of scenery and a some planned time off will help recharge our batteries.

Here are a few ways you can be praying with us.

  1. We will be studying Swahili full-time at a language school for most of May. Please pray that this time is productive for learning the language and that our travel both ways is safe.
  2. The first complete revision of the churches’ doctrinal statements is now just about finished. We are thanking God for his blessing on this project. And, we continue to seek his favor as the churches seek a means to disciple their members using these statements.
  3. It will be some time before we will be able to benefit from worship services in Swahili as much as we’d like. Until then, we will do well to make the most of the spiritual disciplines as individuals and as a family. Please join us in praying that we would fervently and intentionally discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness (1 Tim 4:7).

May 10, 2013   1 Comment

Shipping Containers and the God Who Provides (Part 2)

When I announced our shipping container’s arrival I also introduced the notion that shipping containers and missionaries have had a troubled past in some parts of the world. The trouble revolves around importing a large amount of goods otherwise unavailable in remote locations. That stuff potentially creates tension between a good desire to enjoy what God has entrusted to us and a need to avoid the misperception that God’s provision isn’t necessary if a truckload of supplies can be called in at will.

In the worst cases that misperception mutated into a Christo-pagan cult preoccupied with goods coming on cargo ships. I don’t know of any cargo cults now in East Africa, but there is a strong tendency to consider Western religion as the magical source of material wealth. Adopting some level of Christianity can and has been thought to be the opportunity for Africans to tap the same power which has blessed the West (for more on this, see this video and jump to 2:30). As counter-intuitive as it may sound, good Christian generosity has made it more tempting to view Christianity firstly as a means to more stuff.

The more goods there are available, the greater the temptation is. We all probably understand this temptation. Who hasn’t wondered at some point when considering some überwealthy American, “If you can afford your own luxury jet, certainly you could help me out with something like my tuition!” We missionaries may not be people of great means by American standards, but we are überwealthy in the eyes of our African friends.

Our concern is that our message would draw more attention than our things. [Read more →]

May 7, 2013   1 Comment