Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Gift of Encouragement

I have been to Africa four times on mission trips. This year was my second trip to Tanzania. I always wish I had something concrete to offer on these trips such as medical training. I say I am just an all purpose helper with no special talent.

But on each trip something happens to confirm that everyone has a talent that can be used. On this trip, the first village we visited was Lyalu. I am always attracted to the mothers with their young children. Two sisters, Sarah and Esther, seemed to be very attached to me. They wanted to sit near me, touch me, hold my hand and liked it when I held Esther’s baby, Peter, just four months old. They wanted me to go to their home and say a prayer of blessing. Sarah wanted me to come to her house to eat. This shows favor to them and they consider our time spent with them a blessing. I have been told in the past that I have the gift of encouragement. This gift should not be underestimated.

All our communication was through an interpreter but toward the end of our visit, Esther gave me a message through this interpreter. She said that my visit was a gift from God to encourage her to stay true to Christianity and not fall back into the witchcraft. This area is well known for practicing witchcraft and consulting the witchdoctor. Just like when we become Christians, the world and all the influences in it try to suck us back into our sinful habits and ways. These dear ladies were being tempted to abandon the ways of Christ for the traditional beliefs including witch craft. If you think that this pull is not strong, you would be wrong. There is great peer pressure since belonging to a tribe and being accepted is of the utmost importance in this culture. To be separated from the tribe is the worst punishment you can have. I have heard it said that in Africa, evangelism is a mile wide but discipleship is an inch deep. Just as in America, we cannot bring someone to Christ and abandon them at the cross to mature on their own. The hard work of discipleship is necessary.

It is our custom to leave our clothes at the conclusion of our trip as their clothing source is very limited. The following day, Esther and Sarah, walked a long distance to the church service in Bairiada. I think it was to continue to see the American guests. After church I talked to them and told them I wanted some of my clothing to remain with them. I also had two receiving blankets for baby Peter. They were thrilled. Maybe the dresses will be a reminder for them that they have Christian sisters standing with them in prayer. May they continue to stand for Christ and not be lured back into the ways that lead to destruction.