Thank you all for your prayers, and for your generous support of this trip. We were blessed from start to finish, are still overwhelmed by all we saw and experience, but want to share a few highlights with you.
There are three parts to the Missio strategy in Tanzania:
- Strengthen our relationship with the Student Center we support through Compassion International.
- Build relationships with local pastors to understand and meet any needs for ministry training.
- Investigate the possibility of bringing the gospel to an unreached people group (<2% Christian) just outside Mtwara.
These were our prayer requests:
- For the health and safety of team members - David Lindrum, Dillon Ramsey, Bryan Robbins, and Megan Trasport.
- For the Holy Spirit's guidance toward the things God has in mind, to advance his kingdom
- For our Compassion kids to feel loved
- For greater involvement with the pastor and church who run the Compassion center
- For clear answers to questions like, "How can we help well, without harming?"
- For local pastors to be open and eager to receive training
- For persons of peace among the unreached in the districts of Mtwara and Masasi
- For the people and resources needed to: train pastors, plant churches, grow Compassion’s footprint, improve the culture and economy.
- For Sylvester (local pastor), Brian Weaver (contact), their families, and their ministries
- For unity on the team, and a keen awareness of the Spirit guiding us; instructing, supporting, and loving us throughout the trip
All were answered above and beyond. No illness or injury. Daily guidance from the Spirit revealing opportunities we suspected as well as some complete surprises, such as pastors eagerly seeking training for their congregations in starting and running small businesses.
We spent hours with the Compassion staff and the pastors of the local church that runs the center; time which we wouldn’t have had without a series of unlikely events making it possible. We believe our Compassion kids felt loved and they had a fabulous time walking along the beach and having lunch at a fancy hotel.
We met with pastors from about half of the 20 Christian churches in Mtwara, from multiple denominations. They are most interested in training in how to share good news in a Muslim culture and developing leaders for planting new churches. Most of the meetings were translated in real time by Athanas Mtukwe, a recently retired professor from the Agricultural college.
At one point, when we were not officially meeting, I overheard two of the pastors talking in Swahli. The only words I was able to pick out were “Psalm 133” so I looked it up: “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.” This was one of many moments of great encouragement for me.
Our trip to Masasi did NOT come together. Instead, we felt led to the village of Nanguruwe where Pastor Benjamin has just planted a church. There are now 15 Christians in this village of 12,000.
Only Benjamin and Prisca, his wife, owned Bibles. Dillon’s grandmother had given him $200 to spend on Bibles in Tanzania. Finding Bibles for sale was a challenge but with the help of Pastor Frank we were able to buy 18 Bibles, cleaning out the stock of a Lutheran church’s bookstore, which cost exactly $200. Fifteen of those are on their way to Nangaruwe with the overflow going to the pastors helping us get them there.
A handful of needs emerged for training pastors, planting churches, growing Compassion’s presence, improving the culture and strengthening the economy. In a beautiful simplification, we came away with just a few strategies to pursue our many goals. For example: training pastors will grow churches and churches are the way Compassion serves communities. Providing training in starting small businesses to members of congregations is a way to build the church, fund more church plants, improve the economy, and enable Christians to serve across cultures.
And through all the twists and turns, strangeness and sweating, struggles to understand and be understood, and long, long travel days, our team of four grew rapidly closer with each other and with those we sought to serve.
One of the strangest aspects of this trip was the gratitude expressed to us by those who helped us the most. We can’t do what Compassion is doing, what Sylvester, Frank, or Benjamin are doing, nor what Brian Weaver can do. And yet, they saw us and the church we represent as an important part of enabling them to do their work. What a blessing it is to be part of a body, to belong to the King and enabled to do something much bigger than what any of us could do individually.
The most amazing part of this trip was seeing God’s hand in everything we were pursuing. We see real work to be done there and while we’re unlikely to be the lead on any of it. We are eager to play a supportive role in connecting other parts of the body to each other and fanning the flames on each return trip.
Perhaps my biggest takeaway is that God’s mission is being pursued everywhere: the things we most want to see happen in Mtwara, we also want to see happen in Asheville. I believe we can and should help the people building the church in Mtwara. And likewise, we can and should pursue the kingdom here and now.
Thank you for your prayers and for enabling this experience of protection, provision, and participation in the spread of the kingdom!