earthen vessels, East Africa, and the gospel
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Posts from — June 2017

May-June 2017 Prayer Update

Here is the latest digest of ministry happenings and prayer requests. You may follow the embedded links for more details.

Hamisi leads Bible Institute class

Hamisi leads Bible Institute class

Church Planting on the Far Side of the Gulf

Pastors and Bible Institute students from Nyakaliro and Lusolelo are making great efforts to preach the gospel in Bukokwa and Mbugani. By God’s grace people are responding in faith. I made my first visit to these two locations on May 20 and 21 and wrote about the experience here.

The group meeting for Sunday worship in Bukokwa already fills their tent. Meanwhile, a core group is also forming in Mbugani. Members of the church in Lusolelo are traveling a relatively great distance to continue evangelism and encourage those who respond.

Church Fellowship and Construction

As the number of churches grows, so does the cumulative ability to expand the reach of the gospel. Where no single church may have the resources to send and support evangelists, they may collectively. Cooperation is an exciting prospect. It is also potentially complicated. How do 6+ churches agree where to plant a new church? And while American churches are partnering with them to that end, each of the Tanzanian churches has a vested interest in how shared resources are used. At the risk of being crass, there are many hands in the pot! So who decides how big the church building should be? Who decides whether a given piece of land is worth the asking price?

These are some of the questions confronting the churches as they are formalizing the fellowship between them. For us, organizing the fellowship is one way we missionaries are shifting more of the responsibility to answer those towards the churches—those effected most by such decisions. I have written more about these developments here.

One of the recent test cases of collective decision making is the construction in Usagara. There the road to building a permanent structure for meeting has felt long and hard. Construction was progressing on pace with the support of all the churches, but a week ago the government ordered that we wait. It is a relief to us missionaries and a mark of maturity for the Tanzanian churches that they are initiating the steps necessary to reconcile with the government.

Bible Institute

The first group of Bible Institute students completed the first four foundational classes on June 2. We teachers observed the achievement by washing the students’ feet. These students will have the opportunity to move into 2nd-level courses in August, beginning with Bible interpretation. Meanwhile, other students have just begun working on their homework for Spiritual Growth and will enter the class on the church.

Prayer Requests

  1. The first meeting of the new church fellowship is Thursday, June 22. Please pray that this and subsequent meetings would continue to move the churches towards greater maturity and unity in Christ.
  2. Our coworker, Beth Roark has made an unplanned trip to the USA for necessary medical treatment. We thank God that she is currently doing well and seeing excellent doctors. Please join us in praying for wisdom and effective treatment. Also pray for those filling Beth’s shoes while she is away.
  3. We as a fellowship of churches and a missionary family are all working through various demands from the Tanzanian government. We personally would like to move on and put these matters behind us. But above all I would like to ask that we pray for God to be honored in all of our interactions with government officials. Despite my good intentions these interactions too quickly bring me to the end of my patience.
  4. The gospel of Jesus Christ is being proclaimed in Tanzania! Pray that more who hear the good news in Malimbe, Bukokwa, and Mbugani, would be saved from their sins and gathered into God-honoring churches.

June 18, 2017   No Comments

The New Church Fellowship

In a recent prayer update I provided a few reasons that make revisions to the Tanzanian church constitutions is a big deal. Here, I’d like to emphasize the “big.” To clarify, the churches didn’t just update the language of their constitutions. They also chose to draft a governing document for their church fellowship at the same time. Up until now the churches have informally encouraged and helped one another. This could have continued indefinitely except for government policy that will require them to organize and register as a group of churches. For now we missionaries are satisfying those requirements on the churches’ behalf. Organizing the churches into any form of fellowship is a necessary step towards their maturity—hence my “big deal.”

Church Summit, May 2017
Church Summit, May 2017

At about 7:00 pm on May 4, the second of the two-day church summit for revising and writing these documents, there was a spontaneous celebration and a sigh of relief. We had worked through both documents and survived the intense discussion!

The Form of Fellowship

The churches have decided to work together for the following purposes:

  1. guard the doctrine and teaching among the churches
  2. start new churches and motivate evangelism
  3. help solve biblical conflicts between churches
  4. pray for one another
  5. care for God’s property (i.e., land and buildings)[1]
  6. help one another in times of disaster and danger

The Next Step

Pending the agreement of each congregation, the first ever meeting of the Fellowship of Grace Baptist Churches of Tanzania[2] will be 22 June. Please join us in praying for the success of these meetings.


  1. Some day this will involve paying property taxes and reporting all of fellowship finances to the government.  ↩
  2. Or, as they will be known in Swahili: Ushirika wa Makanisa ya Kibaptisti ya Neema Tanzania  ↩

June 11, 2017   No Comments

Western Church Planting

Mbugani
My last trip to the west side of the Gulf became my first opportunity to see the progress of church planting in Bukokwa and Mbugani.

Open Air Meeting in Mbugani

Mbugani is a Swahili word roughly translated “in the remote place.” But that name was given to this place before it became a large village. The members of the church in Lusolelo chose Mbugani for its size and need for a gospel-preaching church.

The most notable point about the location is perhaps the ambitious faith of the evangelists, for Mbugani is at least ten times the size of the little village they are coming from. Beyond that is the great distance they must travel to reach their target. Mbugani is more than an hour’s drive from the church in Lusolelo. The pastor bikes the distance several times a week while others are traveling by foot—a hike that must take at least 3 hours. And even so, there is no shortage of people willing to cover the distance, camp away from home and make evangelistic visits.

Evangelistic Meeting in Mbugani
outdoor meeting in Mbugani

The Saturday of my visit (May 20), we held the first open air evangelistic service there. Turnout was actually poor due to multiple funerals in the family of our host, but I hear that response to the gospel is enthusiastically positive.

Worship Service in Bukokwa

Although I have participated in evangelism in Bukokwa on multiple occasions, that weekend was my first opportunity to meet with those who have responded to the gospel there. I preached from Luke 18 and excellent village hospitality before making the six-hour-drive back home (that’s unusually long).

Before the Worship Service in Bukokwa
before Sunday worship in Bukokwa

The group of believers now meeting in Bukokwa is eager to call a minister and identify themselves as a church. They are only waiting for the church fellowship to formally organize before moving forward.

The quick development in Bukokwa has something to do with the involvement of Bible Institute students from Nyakaliro. It was the students who did the work of evangelism in Bukokwa–and they did well! Pastor Jonas says that the students’ enthusiasm for their ongoing studies has spilled over to the group from Bukokwa. And as a result, there are now more students enrolled in the Institute from Bukokwa than Nyakaliro. This multiplication of disciples through these churches is the reason for the massive uptick in student numbers this year. Praise God!

June 4, 2017   No Comments