One of the most often asked questions about our Tanzanian Mission work is, “what’s it like where you are evangelizing?” I can tell you that the “local” environment has been pretty much the same over the past 6 years in the areas we have been visiting. People live in homemade “mud-brick” huts with straw roofs that are usually inhabited by some sort of swarming bees. The areas around and in the homes are dirt, often swept clean and smooth with straw brooms. There are no amenities – modern or otherwise. A tree limb fenced storage area often accompanies the “hut” for an animal (a cow or a goat) and the staple crop, potatoes, is usually piled in an area adjacent to the door of the hut for ease of peeling. Potatoes are THE crop – there’s some cotton and maize, but in these areas, you have to grow what you are going to eat and cotton, is, just a little stiff to chew and well, maize isn’t exactly tasty! Most of the time there’s a campfire burning – and generally people are seated on a log around it. That’s it – and yet, somehow people always manage to greet us with smiles, extend a hand of welcome and women curtsy in honor of our arrival. What a blessing to visit these people in their native land and to be greeted in such a wonderful fashion!
On the last day of evangelizing – in fact, at the very last hut, our team came upon a group of 5-7 women and children who were sitting in front of a hut. Our evangelist was told that they were mourning the death of a 2-year-old child and that the men were in back of the hut mourning together as well. We said a quick prayer, asking God to be with them, and moved to the back to talk to the men, numbering around 11 (the women also followed us to see why we were there). After another prayer, our pastor and evangelist greeted the men and told them we were there to tell them about God, his Son, Jesus Christ, and the wonderful gift of salvation! After some internal “back and forth” discussion, our local pastor called me forward with his loud voice and spoke these words of evangelistic action: ”Mike, they are ready to hear God’s word!”
Six years ago, I would have cringed at the thought of doing this - inwardly, I would have thought, “God, anything but this – this isn’t my thing – don’t You have another job I can hide behind?” But that’s the beauty of this story. You see, after trying to run from God’s work (aka Noah!), the Holy Spirit has truly blessed me with a love for DOING this work. You see, this is EXACTLY what John 3:16 is telling all of us to do! By now you might be thinking, good for him, but not for me – I’ll stick with potlucks. Well, I would suggest you consider that old saying we’ve all heard at the potluck table: “try it – you’ll like it!” Evangelizing in Tanzania is not for everyone – it’s a long trip to a far away land and it has its challenges. But, really, can’t you evangelize to people right where you live? Can’t you share the good news with a neighbor or friend? Can’t you invite someone to church? The answer is yes to all three – God has already equipped you with the tools to do it through the Holy Spirit! Instead of running away from people, run towards them with the wonderful news of Jesus’ death and resurrection! Yes you can do this – right where you live!
One last comment – on that day, after evangelizing to the leader of the men’s group, we baptized approximately 18 men, women and children at that one hut. What a wonderful opportunity, what a wonderful blessing and what an amazing demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit! All Glory be to God in heaven!