Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Report from Tanzania & Kenya--Part 1

John Setser, Jason Nate, & Justus Wafula

Bishop Justus Wafula & Rev. Wilbert Seme

Tanga, TZ TOT Class

On July 6 I returned home after having spent one month in Tanzania and Kenya. The following is from the email update I sent about half-way through the trip:

I arrived in Nairobi, Kenya with my friends Jason Nate and John Setser, who were helping me as presenters at our first conference. The next day we (along with Justus Wafula who was also a presenter, and Wilfred Seme our host) took the bus from Nairobi to Arusha, Tanzania (8 hours to cover 150 miles), then from Arusha to Babati, TZ (4 hours to cover 100 miles). The main reasons for such amazingly slow travel are frequent police checks, speed bumps and, in TZ, an unpaved road for the last 50 miles into Babati. The Tanzanian buses also are all SRO. As they say, "this is Africa."

As had been true two months ago in Kenya, prayer and fast action saved me, if not from death, then from robbery. After our successful conference in Babati, we returned to spend the night in Arusha, in anticipation of leaving the next morning for Moshi, the site of our next conference. We all got to the hotel, which seemed all right to me. Justus said he had a bad feeling about the place, especially when he saw a hole, large enough for a man to get through, in the bathroom ceiling. However, it looked like construction to me. Nevertheless, as we were settling in, Wilbert (who lives in Arusha, so was not staying at the hotel), returned with Emmanuel, who had driven us to the hotel, and Frieda, Emmanuel's daughter. They said to pack our bags, as we were leaving for another place right away. Apparently, as Emmanuel and Frieda had been driving off after dropping us at the hotel, they saw some young men looking at them and talking on their cell phones. Several young men then tried to block their vehicle and then gave chase. Frieda later told me that robbers (particularly if they are in cahoots with the hotel security personnel) drop down through holes in the ceiling. Hence, she persuaded her father to call Wilbert. They came to fetch us and took us to a better place.

Just as "bad money drives out good," so "bad culture drives out good." The reason, I think, is mankind's inherent bent toward sin as a result of the dynamic presence of indwelling sin in all of us. Although the US has done much good throughout the world, I am sorry to report that we have exported much cultural nonsense (and worse) to East Africa. On television, gangsta rap music videos are ubiquitous. Most of so-called "Christian" TV shows are nothing but "prosperity gospel" charlatans. These are the last cultural and religious influences that Africans need as role models. Further, wherever one goes, TVs and radios (including in the buses) are turned up to one-notch-below-deafening levels. Frieda told me that this is because people want to emulate what they think the US is like. Another person told me that the sound levels are because TV is relatively new, so it is flaunted.

In contradistinction to all of that, our conferences and TOT have been going well. Most of the pastors conferences I am doing this trip are on Biblical Stewardship. Our teaching on stewardship of the environment, the mind, time, the body, finances (personal and relative to the church), and the mission and purpose of the church, are received like light into a very dark place. This is a very practical course. The pastors uniformly evince excitement about such things as planting trees, cleaning up their villages, taking basic health measures, etc. The thing that excites me is that they are starting to have a greater vision of the church. The local church can be more than just a place entertainment on Sundays. Instead, it can become a teaching center, a leading if not central place in the village for community development, health information, financial management training, and other practical disciplines that will transform lives physically and materially, as well as spiritually.

In Moshi, only 3 of approximately 100 churches represented at the conference had church budgets. Now they have information about how to budget and the importance of budgeting. A good Christian doctor also addressed the conference about dealing with people who have HIV/AIDS. I am sure that as a result of that conference, he will be invited to speak at many village churches, and will convey vitally-needed health information to the people (and perhaps may do some free medical clinics). In Arusha I also met with some men who have experience in translation. My goal of getting all of my conference notes translated into Kiswahili now has a real prospect of being realized within the next 1-2 years.

I am now in Tanga, TZ, on the east coast (next to the Indian Ocean). We have just completed a TOT session (on 1 Timothy) with 13 good pastors. It went well, and the pastors clearly learned much. They are looking forward to carrying on this teaching themselves, just as the pastors at the conference in Moshi enthusiastically expressed the desire to reach their villages with the transformative teachings on stewardship which they had learned. I will finish our conference on Stewardship here in Tanga tomorrow, and will then head to Zanzibar for a week. There we will be doing back-to-back conferences on 1 Timothy and Stewardship. Zanzibar is a strategic place in which the Christian pastors receive virtually no outside training and equipping. This will be our first conference in Zanzibar.

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