earthen vessels, East Africa, and the gospel
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Category — Family

The Three Gassitos

It is our delight to share with you that Nia Joy Gass was born at 2:45 pm, Saturday, February 3. She is beautiful, and all are well.

3 Gassitos

Nia (pronounced NEE-ya) has roots in Welsh or Swahili. In Swahili, her name means “purpose” or “intention.” More specifically, our Tanzanian friends will understand that her name is an allusion to God’s purpose.

God’s Intentions

As it turns out, God intended to keep Nia in the hospital for nine days after birth. She contracted a dangerous but somewhat common infection. Her antibiotic treatment concluded on Monday, and all tests suggest that we need not be concerned regarding long-term consequences.

We made the trip to Nairobi for the hospitals and doctors here just in case we find ourselves with such problems. God’s intentions were (in part) to remind us of our need for Him. Please join us thanking God for His kindness and answer to our prayers!

Laura and I would also like to publicly thank our coworkers and friends here in Nairobi for all the support that they’ve provided as we have been living between the hospital, government offices, and our suitcases. We couldn’t imagine handling this without them!

We’ll stay here in the diaspora until Nia’s passport is ready for our move back to Tanzania.

February 14, 2018   1 Comment

Visitation with Ian

Ian in town
Sometimes I get the privilege of putting on my missionary hat and my daddy hat at the same time (though neither hat actually comes off at any time, right?). Last Friday, Laura and Kyla went into town to join the fellowship of missionary ladies for their monthly Bible study. This typically leaves us guys at home to our own devices, except that Fridays have now become the day each week I go out to Usagara with Wiliam for visitation. This week we all went together.

Wiliam, Ian, and myself during an evangelistic visit in Usagara

Wiliam, Ian, and myself during an evangelistic visit in Usagara

We successfully made visits and shared the gospel in spite of a few “tummy” problems. Ian gets the chance to make new friends; and it’s good for all of us to be reminded that we are all people with multiple important hats to wear. Wiliam, who has a wife and a few boys of his own, has been making weekly trips to Usagara for this ministry. His family stays back in Shadi while he camps out his weekends an hour’s drive away from home. Despite our differences, we can all relate to the need to share the gospel and the desire to see family after a few days away.

November 23, 2015   2 Comments

2015 Furlough Wrap-up

Before beginning this furlough a Tanzanian neighbor asked if we were planning to drive back to the States. As it turns out, we accumulated more than enough miles driving between churches in the States to make it from Mwanza to Detroit and almost halfway back!

We would like to acknowledge God’s graces over the many miles we have accumulated this year. Despite the difficulty of continuous moving with two small children, we found our visits to partnering churches to be very encouraging. We have been reminded of the many people praying for us with an understanding of our work and non-work needs–even praying for us in ways that we have not explicitly asked. Moreover, you have all been such gracious hosts, accomodating us in many ways. It seems that you are all reading the same good book on best practices for missionaries on furlough.

In 5 months’ time we were able to meet with 21 churches for ministry reports and various other ministries. We enjoyed many of your cheeseburgers along the way. Thank you for working with us and encouraging us in the Lord. We have just now clocked one week back in Tanzania, settling back in and gearing up for some big projects ahead.

The following pictures are a sampling of our family and ministry experiences since we began this furlough in February. (You may need to follow the link to the website in order to view all of them.)

July 26, 2015   2 Comments

December 2014 Ministry Update

Thanksgiving week was extra blessed with thanksgiving for us this year. As normal, we celebrate Laura’s birthday on the 26th. But this year, two days before Laura’s, we celebrated the birth of our baby girl, Kyla Marie.

Kyla Marie Gass

Kyla, 2-weeks-old

A Thanksgiving Season

I am excited to report that God has been graciously heeding our petitions on the ministry front as well as on the home front. Before the Thanksgiving Holiday is completely overtaken by this month’s celebrations, let me pass along a list of the top reasons for our thanksgiving this season:

  1. God granted Laura a healthy pregnancy and preserved us through the exciting final hour of it in the midst of Nairobi’s evening rush hour traffic. We are so very grateful for God’s strength, a beautiful healthy baby girl, the provision of excellent health care, and all of you who have prayed us through the new experiences.
  2. The paperwork gauntlet which follows birth abroad has been fairly smooth; more importantly, it is nearly complete (after nearly 4 days of errands). I am certain that extra reserves of patience were tapped only by God’s grace.
  3. Our trip to Nairobi has provided a timely opportunity for spiritual refreshment and restrengthening. As we have prayed, God has renewed our strength and prepared us to finish our final weeks of this term in Tanzania. (This stuff is also worth thanksgiving!)
  4. Dan Eads has reported that meetings for reading and discussing God’s word with Tanzanian church members have been blessed by God in the ways we have asked. Some believers are renewing their commitments to Bible reading and prayer regarding the challenges their churches are facing.
  5. Also, progress has been made in reducing the land taxes for our property in Shadi. The matter isn’t over, but the Mwanza City Government has responded positively to the initial petition.
  6. The Shadi neighborhood hyenas haven’t been seen for several weeks now.
  7. We are so very grateful for our friends who have helped us in this season. God has used fellow missionary friends here to make Nairobi feel more like home. New friends we have met through Emmanuel Baptist Church have encouraged us with words and extra hands. And, of course, God continues to remind us of all the prayer support coming from our friends in States.

We celebrated this Thanksgiving in Nairobi. God willing, we will be back in Tanzania before Christmas. Kyla’s passport is on its way. Once it arrives, we should be only a day or two away from returning to regular family and ministry routines back in Mwanza.

Prayer Update

The work we are endeavoring to do here is simply impossible apart from God’s grace flowing through the power of prayer. I trust that by sharing our prayer requests in a manner that resembles a shopping list doesn’t keep us from missing the wonder and necessity of laboring together in prayer. Here are a few ways you can continue praying with us:

  1. Please consider the preceding list of answers to prayer in thanksgiving to God.
  2. Continue praying for us as we lead church-wide and small group discussion meetings in the Tanzanian churches. May God open up His word to His people, granting them wisdom to honor Him and faith to trust Him (consider e.g., Col 1:9—14).
  3. The upcoming months will involve more traveling and readjustment as we return to Tanzania and continue preparing for furlough (which begins in early February). Please pray with us for safety in travel and God’s blessing as we endeavor to strengthen our gospel partnerships.
  4. Please pray for us as we learn to be a God-honoring family of four living in Tanzania. May God grant us strength to endure the new challenges and grace to honor Him in our home.

December 11, 2014   1 Comment

Kyla Marie Gass

Our baby girl arrived Monday evening just before 6 o’clock PM. She and mom are both doing very well. Thank you all for praying for health and safety!

We had been praying specifically that when the time came, we would be able to make it to the hospital safely. Similarly, friends who have come here for their children’s births shared how they prayed: that “the hour” would not come during the Nairobi rush hour. While they were able to make their trips to the hospital in the middle of the night, God chose to keep us safe through the middle of that notoriously bad Nairobi rush hour traffic. We are all glad that is over with and that the result is simply beautiful. Thanks again for praying with us.

November 25, 2014   7 Comments

Another New Arrival

The Gass Family

We are happy to announce that we are expecting a new addition to our family! Baby Gass is due to arrive the end of November. We are so thankful to God for answering our prayers! Please continue to join us in prayer:

  1. We plan for the delivery to take place in Nairobi, Kenya. This means that we will need to travel there in November or possibly October, either by plane or truck. Please pray for wisdom and safety in travel, as well as a safe and healthy delivery.
  2. A significant amount of paperwork goes into having a baby in a foreign country. Please pray that the required paperwork will go through smoothly after the baby’s birth.
  3. Please pray for a healthy pregnancy for both me and for the baby. Everything looks good so far.
  4. Please also pray for strength for me to continue to fulfill my responsibilities in our home and with language learning. I need God’s grace to daily love Ian, especially when I am tired and not feeling well.

Thank you!

May 30, 2014   3 Comments

Karen and Rachelle

Since January of this year, we’ve had two new members of our team here in Mwanza. Karen Streeter and Rachelle Miller joined us as volunteers for Tumaini Children’s Home. They have been a blessing to Beth Roark as they have relieved her of much of the less administrative work that goes into the day-to-day responsibilities of the ministry. Also, since the children began attending a private school, their level of education has improved and so has the amount of their homework load. Karen and Rachelle, along with Beth and Maiwe, help the children with their homework on weeknights. On the weekends these two ladies have developed classes to tutor the children in areas in which they need more practice.

Karen, Rachelle, and Ian

Ian with Karen (left) and Rachelle (right)

Rachelle and Karen have also been a wonderful blessing to our family. They have become good friends to me, and Ian loves them too! He gets very excited when “Kayen” or “Shelle” come over or volunteer to take him on a walk. This has been a great help to me as well. They have volunteered to watch Ian during my language lessons on Mondays and on Wednesdays when they are available. Their help has made it possible for me to concentrate on language during those times, rather than chasing after Ian while attempting to learn Swahili.

We are thankful Karen and Rachelle have joined us here, and I am happy to say that they have committed to minister to the children of Tumaini at least until the end of this calendar year!

May 27, 2014   No Comments

Moshi and Back Again: An Unusual Tale


Dan Eads kindly agreed to fly back to Moshi with me to help retrieve our truck that was left there while flew home for Christmas. With the hope that we could make the most out of an unpleasant situation, Dan and I planned to look into some work related errands en route. Some of our Tanzanian associates would help to follow up on some orphans living with extended family and the group of us could survey that area for church planting needs—all along the way.

These plans were formulated on Christmas Eve as we realized that repairs on the truck were being completed late on that day. It was feared that more problems could (re)surface on the 640-mile drive back to Mwanza, leaving me stranded on Christmas Day without any help. A week later these concerns were validated somewhere in the middle of nowhere between Moshi and Mwanza. But of course, God has his purposes in derailing our plans. Many of those purposes we may never recognize, but after the ordeal we can say that our perspective of God’s grace has deepened. And, there is a good story to tell… [Read more →]

January 5, 2014   No Comments

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