One of my favorite, but busiest times of year has arrived—campaign season! A steady stream of visitors began in early May and will not let up until the end of July. These visitors provide energy and encouragement as they work hard to contribute to the work taking place here. Meanwhile, the full-time missionaries busily tend to logistics, hosting duties, pre-campaign work, follow- up work, and generally helping out in any ways we can.
It began with a visit from our friends and fellow missionaries from Iringa in the southern part of the country. We enjoyed sharing strategies and tools to further the Lord’s cause throughout East Africa. Then my father, John Gaines, visited to teach a short course at the school and participate in Bible studies. While he was still here, the Bruton family from Evansville, Indiana came to conduct a campaign at the Kwa Mrombo congregation. Also overlapping is a group from Cottondale, Alabama. The Cottondale group is doing fruitful work in the Njiro Chini area.
Currently, a large group from Hoover, Alabama is here working with the Ilkurei congregation. This effort coincides with a children’s seminar and includes new- converts class, personal Bible studies, and a service project. We will be distributing 1,000 mosquito nets to the community along with a selection of Bible materials. This will provide good will and meet a need within the community. The season will continue with more groups from Oklahoma and Alabama. Our visitors keep us hopping, but we love being a part of so much great activity. It is also wonderful to become acquainted with good brothers and sisters from different parts of the world. How great it is to be a part of the family of God!
Preaching Student Spotlight: Elisha Daniel
Elisha comes to us from the Bonga congregation in the Manyara region. He initially came to a knowledge of the Lord through reading printed material. After some follow-up clarifications by the preacher at Bonga, Elisha was obedient to the gospel of Christ.
Having received the good news, he felt obligated to share it with others so he came to the Andrew Connally School of Preaching to learn to be an evangelist. Elisha’s passion for evangelism can be seen in the fact that even though school has let out for break, he is one of three students who elected to remain behind to help with the campaigns rather than return home.
Thank you for your help in training this promising young evangelist.
I love babies. I love kids of all ages. I wish all babies were loved and raised in Christian homes. I recently visited an orphanage in town. There are many in the country of Tanzania and I know of several in town. This particular orphanage cares for infants and toddlers. Many of their babies are abandoned on the steps of churches, in ditches, or recently a baby was found in a gravel pile with the umbilical cord still attached. These homes have a big job. Infants take a lot of care. I like to go and just hold and cuddle babies. Nannies are on staff rotation 24/7, but still there aren’t enough hands so volunteers to cuddle, read, play, change, and feed are greeted warmly!
There are so many beautiful faces, raised hands of babies wanting to be held, and sad eyes in the baby homes. It is easy to assume that mothers “didn’t want them” or are “bad” in some way. In reality, most of these mothers are desperate for help and have many times concealed a pregnancy until a baby was born and then left for others to find and care for. Sometimes mothers die in childbirth and the father will bring the babies to a home to be cared for while he works because he has no means of feeding them. There are other times the babies may have AIDS or other diseases that the mothers choose not to deal with or don’t live long enough to care for the children. However, few situations involve just not wanting a child. Every story is sad. These children live in a poverty stricken economy and would have little chance of survival if not for these homes.
On this particular day I was greeted at the door by the founder of the home and promptly handed Dawson. Dawson is only a few months old and was left on a roadside only hours after birth. Hopefully he will be adopted before he is 3! I held him for 2 hours as he slept peacefully snuggled into me. As do all newborns, he just wants to be held and cuddled, but is mostly in his bed or on a blanket in the floor most of the day.
What a blessing these children’s homes are to the community. What a blessing it is for me that I can go and hold them some during the week. I am thankful for those who have hearts that choose to care for orphans and their mothers. Please keep the babies, mothers, fathers, and that baby home caregivers in your prayers.
James 1:27 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
To see the Gaines’ report with pictures, please click here.
This has been an absolutely action-packed week. So much so that it will take both of us to tell you all about the week. I (Daniel) will start by telling you about the campaign at Ilkuirei, then Tiffany will tell you about some of the great things she was involved in over the last few days.
The Ilkuirei Campaign
We had 10-15 teams of campaigners and translators canvasing the Ilkuirei congregation. You'll recall that this is a baby church that was planted just last year. The Sunday morning attendance averages in the low 30's. That means we literally had more people working the area last week than we typically have in attendance on Sunday. Needless to say it was an exciting week for this young church.
Setting up Bible studies is not at all a challenge here. The limiting factor is time and teachers, not finding interesting studies. So when this type of manpower shows up then the contacts start flooding in. By the end of the week, the fruit began to pour in. After church this morning, we were thrilled to witness the 15th and 16th baptisms of the past 5 days.
Among those who were baptized this week, was a young lady named Angel. Regular readers might remember that I introduced you to Angel a couple of months ago. She is the young mama that I (and others) had several studies with. She has long understood her need for baptism, but has been prohibited by her fear of water. I am thrilled to report to you that yesterday she overcame that fear, and the angels rejoiced for Angel and for the 15 other souls that have been rescued from sin. I can hardly wait to see what else may come as the campaign follow-up work begins.
There was a standing-room-only crowd at church today. New Christians mingled with old members. Campaigners eagerly took note of the people who had accepted their invitations to come to church, and bid farewell to those with whom they had closely worked over the last few days.
It was difficult to get an exact count, but there were so many people there that we had to wash and refill the communion cups 3 times to serve everyone. It is such a pleasure to see the great things that God is doing here.
This evening our visitors from Alabama are returning home after a busy trip. At 7:30 in the morning, Cy and Daniel will meet to go pick up another group from the airport. It's great to be busy in work of the Lord!
I (Tiffany) have been involved in all aspects of VBS for years, from planning to decorating, to teaching, to feeding. VBS is a great tool to teach children and a method of sheer exhaustion for those adults lucky enough to help. VBS in Africa is a completely different creature. After doing all of the prep work (planning lessons, copying papers, cutting out crafts, writing puppet skits, preparing materials to take to the VBS site, and decorations of course) we crammed the car full and “toted” all of our goods and children to the church building at Ilkuirei.
I decorated as the children peeked in the door and windows. Our theme was superheroes of the Bible and we focused on young heroes Miriam, Esther, Daniel, and Jesus. The children and adults here had no idea what a superhero was. I had to really explain the concept to help them understand. The children piled in and sat, some in chairs and some on the floor. Older siblings held baby brothers and sisters as we began singing. We sang songs in Swahili and English. The children sang happily along. Abby played the part of Super Rafiki in our puppet skit. He was complete with cape and mask. The children loved the puppets! The most amazing part to me is how 50-75 children daily, ages birth to 15 sat silently as I told the Bible story. I never had to say “listen” or “shhhh” or get their attention in any other way than telling the story. Wow.
We also reenacted the story each day after our first craft. (By the way, doing crafts as the only adult with that many children…whew!) The kids loved acting out the Bible stories and did a great job answering questions about the lessons.
The toughest part by far was handling the snacks. (I know, crazy, right?) But, we are dealing with children that rarely if ever have kool-aid and cookies. If you aren't careful giving out treats like this can cause a stampede and trample the small kids so you have to be organized and stern. We managed to keep everyone alive while having snacks and the children left each day with bright red mustaches, just like a VBS kid should.
Our last day of VBS we learned about boy Jesus and how he grew to be the ultimate superhero. We talked about how we want to be superheroes for Jesus too and help to teach others about God! I made many felt masks and had many superhero capes made by the preacher’s wife to give to the children. They all ran around saying “shujaa mjuu la Kristo!” because they were superheroes for Christ! It was really fun seeing their excitement over the costumes.
I might add that all young girls translated for me for VBS. The oldest was 19 and the youngest 10! Victoria (10) translates for me a lot on Sunday mornings as my usual translator has just had a baby. It is amazing that such a young girl can play such a vital role in Bible instruction. I am really proud of her.
When VBS was over I was pooped, but it helped to see all of the smiling faces on the children and watching them run with their capes flowing behind them and laughing. They hugged me and said “asante sana teacher!” (thank you!) And, that’s all I needed.
Ladies Day in Masai Country
I was blessed to be able to teach a ladies seminar at Mtu Wa Mbu this weekend. I picked up my translator, Grace, and drove 1 ½ hours to Mosquito River only to find the preacher loading a dala dala to go out the one of the village congregations made up of mostly Masai. So, we followed him out to the site of the seminar. We arrived at what appeared to be an old run down and abandoned school. I was saddened to find that it was not abandoned and was in fact used daily. It was heartbreaking to realize that children were in such horrible conditions.
While waiting to begin the ladies picked brush from the ground and held it in a bundle and swept the floor of the room we were to use. When we began, I had a batik cloth that I laid over a bench to add a little color to the room. One of the ladies lead singing to start us off. It was absolutely beautiful and calming. I could feel the breeze slowly blowing through the windows (there were actually only bars over a hole with no glass…) Another, older bibi lead the prayer and then they turned things over to me.
I scanned the room and saw mamas nursing little ones, a number of children crowded in one corner, a large number of Masai women, and some other Tanzanian ladies from Mtu Wa Mbu congregation. Many of the faces looked worn and so tired. I gave my first lesson on Marriage and how we can treat our husbands in respectful and honorable ways. I was a little stressed by the fact that the Masai women seemed bored, and a couple were asleep. As a speaker, that doesn't really make you feel like you are rocking it out…
After the first session I asked if there were any questions. A Masai lady stood and said that the ladies were so happy for me to be there, but they were struggling to understand. I had a translator, so I wasn't sure what else to do. Then I found out that several ladies, including the 2 asleep and the few looking bored only spoke the Masai language. I was initially relieved that it wasn't what I said that put them to sleep, then I was shocked that they had stayed for 2 hours and understood nothing, yet had such strong desire to learn that they stayed 2 hours on hard, small, no back benches listening to words they did not understand in hopes that they would glean something of God’s word.
I quickly found someone who could translate from Swahili to Masai. The ladies then began asking questions about Biblical marriage. I knew that the Masai have many wives to one husband. I worried that I would offend them but I turned to 1 Corinthians and had them read for themselves. They expressed their deep unhappiness in marriage because their husbands are chosen for them and they are beaten if they try to refuse him. They are treated poorly and worked hard. There is little romance or love in the marriage at all. They are in a terrible situation. They are sad, lonely, and often jealous of the treatment of “other” wives in the tribe. They asked what I would do in their situation to have a more Biblical marriage. I countered with, “Well, what does the Bible say we should do? That’s what matters.” They understood that to be Biblical they must leave the marriage and cleave to God because only the first “wife” is truly married to the husband anyway. However, this would mean being shunned from their tribe, their way of life, their means of making a living, and their well being. They have a lot at stake to follow Christ. It is a difficult challenge for them that needs prayer.
After our Q&A I worried they would be angry with me for speaking against their marriages. On the contrary, they each came up and hugged me and kissed both my cheeks. Their eyes streamed tears as the translator told me that they were thanking God for sending me to teach them His word so that they can follow Him. Mungu ni nzuri! God is good. I paused as they broke for lunch to say a silent prayer of thanksgiving for my own marriage and the fact that I had married for love.
Lunch was cooked outside with a few big pots over a fire. The ladies poured water over our hands from a bucket to wash them before eating. We had some kind of meat stew over rice. There were no utensils, as is normal at these large functions. Everyone eats with their hands. Yes, me too. The children were waiting eagerly to eat as the adults eat first and the children are given the plates of the adults with the leftovers and devour it like wild animals. The older siblings feed their baby brothers and sisters and give them drinks. When I realized the children were waiting for our leftovers, I was suddenly very full and they were exceedingly thankful for that.
During lunch I took some photos of the children. They love to look at themselves on the screen of the camera. One little baby was absolutely terrified of me as I was the first Mzungu (white person) she had ever seen. She would look at me and scream and hide under her brothers robe crying. Poor baby. Others tugged on me wanting their own “picha.” The Masai ladies are generally very spooked around cameras, but I asked to take a picture of one and then showed her and she giggled like an 8 year old girl at her image. It is so difficult sometimes to break the barrier between cultures, especially such drastic differences as Masai women and a little Alabama girl, but when you do you are rewarded with great warmth and friendships.
As the second session began Grace and I asked Naomi to join us so that the Masai ladies could understand the lesson too. I passed around a bag of “pipi” (candy) for them to eat as I spoke. There were grins all around as this was a big and unusual treat. I began my first ever double translation lesson. When going through 3 translators you have to be extra careful with your sentences. They need to be well thought out and have enough substance to sustain. It takes awhile to get through 3 people saying the same thing, lol. I wondered frequently during that lesson about the gossip game people play to talk about gossip and how well what I was saying was making it through 2 translations. I kept plowing through and 2 hours later, we closed the lesson. All eyes were alert and all ears were listening the entire lesson.
Before the lesson was over, however, a Masai man stumbled, drunk into the room and was yelling and pointing. I just knew that someone had relayed my morning message about Biblical marriage to him and he was coming to take me down. Fear rendered me almost paralyzed as he pushed toward me and grabbed my Bible from my hands and sat on the front row. I could see the preacher running toward the building through the window as the man continued his yelling. As the preacher ushered him out I could hear through sobs, “Mzungu Mama!” The Masai ladies were all laughing because he was crying because he wanted to stay to hear the white lady talk. I was relieved that I wasn't going to be burned at the stake in a Masai ceremony that night and returned to my lesson as I heard his wails grow faint in the distance.
As usual we ended with questions and answers. After answering numerous Bible questions I opened the floor for any mzungu questions they had. The questions ranged from “Is everyone in America rich?” to “What do you eat?” and everything in between. As I talked about the differences between America and Africa, one Masai mama said, “I wish I had been born in America.” (told to me through 2 translations) I looked around the room and saw only souls. No matter where we are born or where we end up, we are each a soul created and loved by God. None of us can control where we are born, but we can indeed control where we end up.
As I drove home past Masai huts with small, naked children wearing only beads outside them, I thanked God for reminding me that my problems are few and His love is amazing. Mungu akubariki.
To see this report with all the pictures connected to it, please click here.