Saturday, July 10, 2010

Return from East Africa

Peter Kololi teaching in Singida, TZ Bus accident on the way to Tanga, TZ

EPI team on the east coast of Kenya

Tanzania and Kenya
One week ago I returned from Tanzania and Kenya. This ministry is all about equipping the African pastors so that they can become better teachers. To that end, I always try to have a number of Africans teach with me whenever possible. In Dodoma and Singida, TZ, Wilbert Seme, Peter Kololi, and Peter Minja all taught with me. At our final conference in Kilifi, KE, 4 Africans taught with me: Ernest Mwilitsa (my host); Michael Taari from Nairobi; George Kariuki from Murang'a; and Obed Magoko from Karatina. They did excellent work. A number of people commented to me especially on Michael Taari's applications and examples drawn from real life. That is why I always tell my African friends: "You can teach this material better than I can, because you know the language, you know the culture, and you know the people because you are one of them."
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
Equipping the African church leaders enables the work of EPI to spread to new places indigenously, without my presence. A perfect example of that is what is happening in DRC. Theophile Rugubira of Rwanda and Martin Odi of Uganda led an all-African EPI team to Bukavu in eastern DRC, and just completed EPI's second all-African conference there. Here is part of Martin's report to me on the work in DRC: "The work in DRC is excellent. In my opinion I am praying that the Good Lord will provide more funding to us to teach in Congo than any other place in the great lakes region of Africa, apart from the mentoring classes we want to do in all places. I think the DRC is more hungry and thirsty for these teachings than any place I have ever been in my life! and I mean it. Brother Theo will give a better report than me. But it is awesome! Wow, the army chaplains where drinking everything we said, and have invited us to talk to them in all places. There is a wide open door of ministry in this area than any other."
The value of translating EPI's written materials
An important part of the equipping process is providing the African pastors with excellent biblical materials, and then translating them into their own languages. Thus, while I am home I spend most of my time researching and writing. The value of this was brought home to me in an email I recently received from a Kenyan pastor, Samuel Mwangi. He said this: "I have gone through the EPI website and read some of the materials you have posted in it. I am greatly impressed by the level of research potrayed by those Pastoral Training Materials. They are simple to understand and relevant to our context. The depth and the organisation of the materials is commendable. It is easy to read and its stimulating. Any serious minister will find the truths you have written relevant. You have done an in-depth look at the themes you selected. It is a carefully structured research work. Your work covers a wide range of spiritual issues touching the pastoral ministry. Your resources are the kind of materials I have been longing to come across for my spiritual growth and also for those the Lord has entrusted to my care. It will help us equip a generation of church leaders."
Fun on the road
African travel often presents some challenges. This time, on the lengthy bus ride from Singida to Tanga, TZ, there was a large, disabled lorry parked on the road. As our bus approached it, another vehicle was coming in the other direction. Consequenly, the bus driver slammed on the brakes and jerked the wheel to the left (vehicles drive on the left-hand side of the road in TZ) to avoid smashing into the back of the lorry. The result was that the bus went off the road and into the ditch. The bus ended up at an angle, but fortunately did not fall on it's side. Thanks be to God that no one appears to have been hurt (with the possible exception of one woman who had leg problems, but I don't know if that preceded the accident or not). The accident happened at night. We were still about 30 miles from Tanga. Everyone had to find alternate modes of transportation. Passing motorists picked up some people. I was able to call my friend Joram Ibrahim who, fortunately, owns a car and was able to come and pick me up. I often think that it is the prayers of you, my friends and supporters, that make a difference in situations like this. Thank you.

Report "from the field" (Tanzania)

George Kariuki receiving gift from Arusha, TZ TOT participants Tanga, TZ TOT participants
Dar es Salaam conference in outdoor church

The following report was sent while I was in Tanzania about 3 weeks ago:

The flights from Appleton to Nairobi seemed particularly long this time, inasmuch as I had to leave the day after my daughter's wedding (the wedding itself was a beautiful outdoor wedding at Calumet County Park). George Kariuki met me at the airport. I was the recipient of typical African hospitality, as we were feasted at the home of George's brother-in-law Daniel and his wife Katherine, even though we didn't arrive there until about 10:30PM. Unfortunately, we had to leave early the next morning for the 8 hour bus ride (over horrible roads) to Arusha, Tanzania. In Arusha we conducted our first of two Biblical Stewardship TOTs. Although I generally insist that TOT participants be fluent in English (because TOTs are designed for smaller groups, and a premium is placed on discussion and Q&A), some of these participants were not too fluent in English. Consequently, we conducted the TOT in Kiswahili (I didn't, but we had a translator for me). As a result, I decided that George Kariuki should lead most of the sessions (in Kiswahili), which he did. George is an excellent teacher. All of the participants commented on how valuable this TOT was. Stewardship is one of our core courses, and essentially amounts to applying Christianity and biblical principles to most major areas of life (environment; time; mind; body; money and possessions; and the church). Applying this has the potential of profoundly changing lives. These TOT participants are now in the vanguard of changing people in the churches to a better way of living, which will affect not only the churches but Tanzanian culture.

We then travelled to the east coast of Tanzania, where we did another Stewardship TOT in Tanga, for pastors from both the Tanga area and from Zanzibar. Several of the pastors seemed quite moved by what they had discussed--especially the role that the church should be playing in the lives of the people. Three of the pastors said that, based on what they had learned, although their churches did not currently have formal budgets, they would now be adopting them (the Stewardship materials include information for both household and church budgets, including sample budget forms).

We are now in Dar es Salaam (the national capital) where we have just completed a pastors conference on 1 Timothy. Wilbert Seme and Joram Ibrahim, both Tanzanians, taught with me, and did excellent work. Although we have been in Dar previously, this was a new venue. This work is particularly important here in eastern Tanzania, since Muslims constitute the vast majority of the population here (about 85% in Tanga; 96% in Zanzibar). Consequently, the churches need to be equipped and strengthened so that they can work together and help to meet the important needs in this difficult part of the country.

Pastor Wilbert Seme has been coordinating our work throughout Tanzania. He has been doing a good job. However, he does not have high fluency in English. Having to work through a translator inhibits our ability to communicate well. I am happy to say that Joram Ibrahim of Tanga has agreed to be my Tanzania national contact person and will work with both Wilbert and me (Joram will act sort of as a CEO and Wilbert as a COO). They both will join me and the other national coordinators for a strategizing meeting in Kampala in October. This has been an answer to prayer. I think that, as a result of this trip, we will be able to put into place some good regional leaders throughout the northern half of Tanzania. Since Tanzania is the geographically largest country of East Africa, and has the highest Muslim population of East Africa, establishing a solid organizational foundation for EPI here is of great importance.

Tomorrow we take the lengthy bus trip to Dodoma, a regional capital and site of a large university. From there I plan to go to Singida and then to Kilifi, Kenya (just north of Mombasa, on the coast).