Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Tanzania Mission Trip 2008

Nine people from the Mid-South District LCMS begin our journey to Tanzania on May 28th arriving as the sun was setting the next night in Arusha. The next day took a short air flight to Mwanza where we were greeted by representatives from the East of Lake Victoria Diocese (ELVD). We began our drive to Bariadi on the far eastern side of the diocese arriving at the church long after dark to be greeted by the congregation and choir singing to us. We were directed to a school room to have our first sample of the authentic African food. The women’s ministry prepared our meals over cook fires in the Pastors front yard. It was good and no one went hungry.

Something we were exposed to first hand was the value of the Mission Training Centers (MTC) and the Church Planting Ministry (CPM). The Mid-South Districts helps support 8 current MTC centers and 3 more are on the planning board. Pastor Mkaro conducts MTC training at the Bariadi district for four days once a month for the evangelists working in his area. One such man is Emmanuel Mbjoe and his day is spent walking to the villages to introduce them to the gospel. Most days he walks 15 to 30 miles. He is also the coordinator for CPM in the area. He goes into the villages to find a “Man of Peace’ who is willing to share the Word with family members and do Bible storying. Many of the Sukuma live in family groupings of 3 to 5 homes in close vicinity. The gospel message is then spread to the immediate family members living a little further away until the whole clan hears the gospel message. The effectiveness of the CPM can be readily seen in the village of Sunungu where last year the first person was baptized and this year the church has over 400 members. The “Men of Peace” often become leaders or evangelists and may continue to receive training to become pastors.

Each day Pastor Mkaro took us to another of his 11 sub-parishes where we heard the choir sing and dance. We were able to share the gospel with church members and curious onlookers. In the evenings we were able to sit under the stars with them and watch an outdoor movie. Mobile movies are such an effective tool to sharing the gospel outside the local congregation. Few people we visited have electricity or any of the conveniences we enjoy and few have any transportation at all, including bicycles. This does not seem to hinder the Sukuma, once they hear the gospel they are eager to share with their extended family.

The needs of the congregations include Bibles and hymnals, building supplies, medical care as the nearest hospital is 15 to 20 miles away, bicycles and motorbikes for evangelists. They need generators, DVD players, projector and current DVDs for the movies.

We are planning next year’s mission trip to an island in Lake Victoria, called Ukerewe in early June. This island, the largest in Lake Victoria, about 25 miles north of Mwanza and is 300 square miles in size. Projects include putting roofs on churches and conducting a mini vacation bible schools. Why not join us?

Bob Allen, Director of World Missions, Mid-South District LCMS, 615-672-0923 rjallen@prodigy.net

Monday, September 1, 2008

Notes from Francie's journal-first trip to Africa

6/1/08, Sunday: Wow ~ where do I begin? Today has been a Hugh Experience! Full of amazing worship and Great Hospitality and Enormous Love! I began my day be waking up at 6:15 after sleeping a few hours. We arrived just in time for church that started real close to 7:15 and the service … although I couldn’t believe it … ended around 9:40 am. It was filled with Beautiful music and good preaching. During the service there was a special ceremony to rededicate a lady and her family. She had become a Christian a while ago … but sometime before March began hearing voices telling her she was useless and had no purpose for living so in March she was finally at the point of trying to commit suicide. The pastor began counseling with her and reassured her that God did have a purpose for her being her. If I understood they felt she was actually possessed by an evil spirit and they prayed for it to leave. Today she along with her husband and four children stood before the church and claimed God’s as truth to live in them!

The next part of worship was the time of offering. Let me tell you it was vastly different. First it is at the end of the service and they receive 3 different offerings. The first is an offering of Thanksgiving and the other two are designated offerings for specific ministries. The other difference is that they (the congregation) actually bring their offering to the front. The plate or in this case wooden box isn’t passed through the congregation. They have a special stand that holds the offering boxes … and they place one at a time in and the congregation then line up and file past the box to leave their offering … (not just money – some left fresh eggs, fruit and this Sunday the family that was rededicated to God brought up a goat one of the elders of the church took her up and tied her to the alter rail up front.)

The services end differently here too. Or at least this is how we ended this particular Sunday. After the church service was over the Pastor led the congregation out and there was an auction for all the items that were given during the offering that was not cash. The goat (the big ticket item) was sold along with a bag of oranges to the highest bidder for 45,000 shillings as a gift to the American guest. So we will either have fresh goat meat for supper or maybe will give it to someone in need … just kidding. Seriously if it were a male goat we might have had goat but it was a female and they are too valuable because they produce milk and more offspring’s.

Following the service, auction and fellowship time we had breakfast ~ another good one, by the way. Oh by the way anyone curious Pastor Harold was kind enough to share with the entire congregation that I was single ~ no offers yet but possible interest?!

Something else I forgot while in the 1st service we were part of the service, Pastor Don Schmidt did the preaching and Bob Allen helped also. I was asked to teach the congregation the song “Hallalu”. So with the help of the mission team we did just that.

Soon after breakfast we loaded up the truck and headed out of town to Nyangokolowa to join another congregation who had been patiently waiting on us for close to 3 hours. Amazingly enough they were still there and excited to see us. Just like it was at Lyalu the longer we were there the more people showed up.

Last week the Bariadi church had an attendance of 236 and this congregation at Nyangokolowa had 156. And mind you this congregation doesn’t have a building they meet in their service is simply under a tree in the middle of God’s Creation.

We were blessed to be a part of yet another wonderful service. It also contained beautiful music, proclamation of God’s word and the act of worship through an offering. The special treat today was the confirmation class singing and dancing for us 20 out of 56 in the class shared their gifts with us. Following the special 16 of that class were baptized and even some younger and older not in the class were baptized. We finally ended around 1:30 pm.

After church we were asked to go and see the location for the new church building. They had raised enough money to begin the foundation and start making their own bricks. Someone in the church had donated the land to build on and let me tell you the pictures I have of the view don’t even begin to show the beauty of the view from the new church. While we were there they had a special tree planting ceremony. The local church members were charged with the care of this newly planted tree. It is to be the symbol of our friendship with this congregation. Tom Bolt was given the honor as our oldest member “Babu” (grandfather) to actually place the tree into the ground.

After this short time seeing the progress of the new church building and planting the tree our group was invited to one of the Elders home for lunch. Let me just say IT WAS GREAT! I think this meal is the best we have had so far! (looking back I think it was the BEST all around). We had cooked cabbage with carrots, Chips (“Irish” (European) potatoes {like French fries ~ only better}, Rice cooked with carrots, bananas, some kind of meat (which I chose not to take), and a Cold Drink. Again it was really good!

Following lunch, taking some pictures, good conversation and making new friends we went back to the place we had the church service. There we divided into three groups, adult, children and youth. In each group we shared bible stories, talked about our lives and at least in the children’s group learned some songs. At last our time had come to an end at Nyangokolowa all of us except Bob and Don headed back to town to eat and rest. The others stayed to show another movie to those who gathered after dark. It was still fairly early in the afternoon, so Mimii, Nancy, Susie and I decided to take a walk around town. It wasn’t a large town so we walked through it with little trouble before the sun went down around 7pm. All of the ladies then gathered on the balcony back at the hotel to visit with each other. Finally around 9:30 / 9:45 we were picked up to go have supper with the others who had returned from the movie. We made plans for the next day and decided to start later giving Pastor Harold time to do some of his own church work before leaving with us.