Friday, November 18, 2011

Return from East Africa

Expository preaching clasws in Arusha, TZ

Husbands' small group discussion in Nyeri, KE

EPI-Kenya leadership team

A Tragic Occurrence

Following our conference in Mwanza, TZ, Joram, Wilbert, and I took the 8-hour bus ride to Singida, TZ. Unfortunately, a tragedy occurred on the way. Apparently a boy was running across the highway, looking behind himself. The bus driver slammed on the brakes and jerked the wheel sharply to the left, but the corner of the bus hit the boy, killing him. That necessitated a 3 hour wait while the police were called, a bus inspector had to come, and a new driver had to be obtained. As I reflect on it, I have been involved in more than one accident or near accident, and have seen the immediate aftermath of more than one fatal accident, since coming here to Africa. What happened to the boy demonstrates ultimately the most important reason for turning from our self-centered ways (which the Bible indicates amount to idolatry) and receiving Christ as our Lord. That boy did not wake up and say to himself, "Today is the last day of my life." When he began to cross the highway he did not think, "I only have 3 seconds to live." Likewise, our death could come unexpectedly at any time, but then we face the judgment which will seal our eternal fate and destination. Christ alone can guarantee us eternal life rather than what the Bible calls the "second death." Given the incredible, everlasting stakes, to not seriously consider this and check it out evidences amazing blindness and hardness. Please don't be blind and hard.

Singida, TZ

In Singida we did Biblical Stewardship for about 60 pastors. During their small group discussion time, they were asked to talk about everything we taught up until that point: stewardship of the environment, of mind, time, body, and money and possessions, and focus on only 1 or 2 things that they thought were important and that they would apply back in their churches. One of the pastors suggested that I appoint different topics to each of the groups. I said that I wanted them to have the freedom to talk about whatever they wanted to and that, if they all ended up talking about the same thing, that would probably be the Holy Spirit trying to tell them something. Interestingly, all 3 groups focused on time management as the biggest problem which they had to address. We will see what comes of that!

Kateshi, TZ

We then went to Kateshi, about 2 1/2 hours outside of the city of Babati. Kateshi is hot, dry, dusty, and quite desolate. However, we had a good group of about 50 pastors, some of whom had come from more than 20 kilometers away to attend the 1 Timothy conference. Only 1 or 2 had ever studied an entire book of the Bible section-by-section from beginning to end before--and none had ever preached a series of sermons through a book of the Bible before. It proved to be a valuable learning experience. We received many questions, again centering a lot on polygamy. That is one reason I am glad that I have good Africans teaching with me, since they know the culture, speak the language, and can deal with many of the local concerns in a better way than I can.

Arusha, TZ

From Kateshi we took a 6 hour bus ride back to the "civilization" of the large city of Arusha, where I led an expository preaching workshop for 12 English-fluent pastors, and George Kariuki led a similar workshop for about 20 pastors who were not fluent in English. As has proven to be true in the past, the concepts and format of preaching that I was teaching the pastors were new. Old habits die hard (as the student preachers proved), but the critiques indicate both openness and learning. God-willing, I will return for "round 2" of expository preaching next year. Following the preaching workshop, all of the Tanzanians who were present (who constitute most of the Tanzanian EPI leaders) were to meet for a day to discuss organization, strategies, and finances. I look forward to getting their report. This indicates that they are serious about carrying on the work of EPI indigenously, which is certainly my goal.

Return to Kenya
George Kariuki and I then returned to central Kenya where George, his wife Lucy, and I conducted a Biblical Marriage & Parenting conference in Nyeri, KE. Husbands and wives met separately for small group discussions. Each group talked about things they don't like about the other, but also about things that they themselves will do to try to make their marriages better. After the group reports were given, and each side heard what the other had committed to do to make for better marriages, someone raised his arms to heaven and said something like, "PTL, if this happens then, Jesus, you can wait awhile to come back!"
My trip ended in Nairobi where I met with EPI-Kenya leaders (almost 30 people from aound the country). It was a very productive time of sharing and strategizing. I am now home until mid-January when I leave for Rwanda and Burundi.
I hope you all (in the States) have a wonderful Thanksgiving. We have been incredibly blessed by God. Let us not forget. God bless you. Jonathan

Report from East Africa

Zebras seen from the bus window (Serengeti Park, TZ)
Justus Wafula, JMM, Isabellah Inyele (Webuye, KE)

The "sacred watch" given us in Mwanza, TZ

The following was sent to friends and supporters mid-way through my recent trip to Kenya and Tanzania:

I am in Tanzania right now, although I began this trip in Webuye, western Kenya. We began with Expository preaching, round 2 (round 1 had been held in April). Half the group was Anglicans of the Katakwa Diocese, and half the group was Pentecostals. George Kariuki (KE national coordinator) and Joram Ibrahim (TZ national coordinator) were also present. I was impressed that most of the participants seemed to understand the concepts we were emphasizing (an issue-or-problem-based introduction; 1 main point [proposition]; an organizational sentence; and specific applications). The 3 student sermons reflected this better than had been the case during round 1. Some of the participants also told me that they had been trying to preach more expositorily in their churches, and had noticed a difference in their people's understanding.

Joram and I spent our last night at the home of my friend Bishop Zak Epusi, bishop of Katakwa. He is a good man and his and his wife Caroline's hospitality was much appreciated. Joram and I then took a long bus ride to Musoma, TZ, located on the south-east shore of Lake Victoria. There we were joined by EPI's other TZ national coordinator, Wilbert Seme. This was my first time in Musoma, and the 3 of us taught our foundational course of 1 Timothy to about 60 enthusiastic and appreciative participants. We then did the same course in Mwanza, TZ, located on the south shore of Lake Victoria. The bus ride to Mwanza passed along the periphery of Serengeti national park, where we were able to see wildebeest, zebras, baboons, and large storks from the bus window.

In Mwanza there were lots of questions (which is always a good sign), especially lots of questions concerning polygamy, which is an important issue here. I intend to prepare an addendum to my Marriage & Parenting notes concerning polygamy. I already have some material from Trinity (where I went to school) on the issue, and have received some more information from Theophile Rugubira (of Rwanda). Godfrey Ongiri, the organizer of the Mwanza conference also said that he would email me some material regarding the subject. I will send it to my African coordinators and organizers for their input before adding it to M&P and posting it on the website.

A relatively rare event also occurred in both Musoma and Mwanza. As you know, we do not go to Africa in order to fleece the Africans by taking offerings (although we do charge registration fees to cover the cost of the materials they receive). However, in both Musoma and Mwanza the local organizers spoke at the end of the conferences, and the participants of their own accord gave us offerings to express their appreciation and demonstrate their seriousness in taking our teachings to heart (about 40,000 Tsh [$23.50] in Musoma and 60,000 Tsh [$35.00] in Mwanza). These offerings helped to cover our bus fare. Even more touching, in Mwanza one man (I don't know who, but God does) donated his watch--probably the only watch he had. I have it in my pocket now, but will give it to Godfrey to give to a needy person. I consider it a sacred watch, and feel about it somewhat like David felt about the water that was given to him in 2 Sam 23:16-17.

Things like that are very humbling to me. One never knows the full effects that our teaching may have. Your prayers and support make this all possible.