Saturday, November 10, 2012

Return from East Africa

 Baboon by the road in Tanzania
 Jonathan bringing Stanley and Livingstone together in Ujiji, TZ
 Leaders' meeting participants in Kigali, RW

Two days ago I returned from East Africa. The following is a synopsis of the last part of the trip.

Katoro and Mwanza, TZ
We did biblical stewardship conferences in Katoro and Mwanza, TZ.  Katoro struck me (and the rest of my crew [Dickson Laizer, Joram Ibrahim, and Godfrey Ongiri]) as spiritually "hard ground." We had not been to Katoro before. It was hot, dry, dusty, and dirty. We did have fish soup for breakfast at what appeared to be the one OK restaurant in that town (Mama Nasoro's). I thought it was somewhat discouraging, and the pastors all seemed to be a a very low level.Godfrey Ongiri will follow-up, so I hope that good will come of it.

Mwanza, which is located on the southern end of Lake Victoria, was also somewhat discouraging. It did not seem to have been particularly well organized. There were only about 32 participants at the stewardship conference, and the majority of them were not pastors (but were elders, deacons, worship leaders, wives, and others). The teaching went well. Godfrey is from Mwanza, so should be able to follow-up fairly easily.

Kigoma, TZ
The situation was considerably different in Kigoma. The stewardship conference was well organized. In Kigoma there is a good inter-denominational pastors fellowship--so we had pastors and leaders from all denominations, Pentecostal and non-Pentecostal. There were even a few Roman Catholics. We had over 75 participants, and they purchased about 90 of the Biblical Stewardship books. This group was enthusiastic, asked lots of questions, and appeared to learn a lot. It is an area I certainly want to return to. 

Kigoma itself is located on the shore of Lake Tanganyika. It used to be the transit point for the Muslim slave trade. The Muslims (who have enslaved far more people than Westerners ever did) would kidnap the Africans from central Africa and force them to march across the continent to the east coast, where they would then be shipped to the Middle East and other points. Kigoma has a very high Muslim population. I had not realized it, but Ujiji (just outside of Kigoma) is the place where Stanley met Livingstone and uttered the famous line, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume." On our last day there we visited the site where that occurred.

Kigali, RW
This trip ended with an important meeting in Kigali, RW of top people from all of the countries of  East Africa with whom I work. Dr. Frank Cummings led a two-day strategic planning summit meeting. We even had three representatives from the newest country in the world, the Republic of South Sudan. Most of the participants never had attended a strategic planning summit before. We focused on our mission and vision, our strengths and weakness, and ended by developing the beginning of an action plan. This was designed, in part, to help the Africans to develop a sense of "ownership" of this mission.

The meeting was successful. I just received an email from Ernest Mwilitsa of Kenya. He echoes the sentiments that others who were at the meeting also expressed:

>>We thank God for using you to give us that good opportunity to meet our fellow labourers in the Lord. Matters discussed were very important to us and the future of EPI. It is our prayer that we continue to have such meetings every year.

From the look of things, that is a real milestone and road map to our future.I believe with such exposure many people will work hard to make EPI a success. You might not know the impact of EPI in East Africa,
but I want to assure you that it has transformed many ministries.<<

Back Home
I have much work to do now that I am home. Frank is on his way back home even as I write this (he led a two day advanced biblical counseling workshop in Kigali after the summit meeting ended). Later in the year I will post a year-end summary. God bless you all.

Field Report from East Africa

Kitui, KE conference participants
 TOT in Eldoret, KE

 The following is the report I sent from the field while I was in East Africa recently:

I am now in Tanzania in the process of doing four conferences on biblical stewardship. Next up will be an important meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, of about 25 leaders from all over East Africa, including Southern Sudan.

Kitui and Eldoret, KenyaI began this trip in Kitui, KE, about 200km east of Nairobi. I had never been there before, but the groundwork had been laid by good all-African teachers. That, of course, points up the importance of equipping the indigenous pastors and church leaders, so that they can teach this material well to others.

George Kariuki, Robert Mwago, and I did a biblical stewardship conference to about 36 participants. The number was fewer than had been anticipated, primarily because it is planting season in Kitui. The fact that such seasons may vary slightly from area to area even in the same country is something we need to take into account in scheduling.

The conference itself went well. We were transported and assisted by Bishop Nicholas Mulea. The host pastor, Rev. Syslvester Kiema, is part of an inter-denominational pastors fellowship that includes several of the participants. He encouraged me by saying that they would be meeting to discuss how to implement what we had talked about in the conference. That is vital.

From Kitui we took the long bus ride to Eldoret in western Kenya. There, George, Bob Mwangi, and Dickson Laizer and Joram Ibrahim of Tanzania all taught a biblical stewardship conference, while I led a 1 Timothy TOT for about 14 pastors. We had spirited discussions on a host of important issues facing the church. We raised issues that generally are not thought about too much. People were challenged. I think it will make a difference. I hope so, because in my view the church, as the embodiment of the gospel, is the last, best (and only real) hope for humanity and our different societies. But to realize that hope, the church needs to change and start applying the gospel in ways that it clearly is not doing now.

Musoma, TanzaniaMusoma, along with my other Tanzanian venues, is near Lake Victoria. As I write this, we have finished a stewardship conference with 30 serious and committed pastors and an important bishop. They were challenged in many areas, and I think all see the need for change and for much greater involvement of the church in "real life."

Please pray for them. I am now in Mwanza, TZ. We have a 3-hour trip early in the morning to our next venue. Also, please pray for the strategic-planning summit coming up in Kigali in less than 2 weeks. I will report again after my return home. God bless you, Jonathan