Reporting from Chimala
Greetings once again from Chimala, Tanzania! After being here almost seven weeks, it almost seems like Mary and I live here. The emails from home and the monthly bills we pay electronically, however, are constant reminders that we still have a home in Tennessee. But we’ve fallen into a good routine of life here making our stay both rewarding and enjoyable.
Chimala Bible Institute students (back two rows) and teachers and staff (front row).
God has been good to us. Since my last unofficial email report, our daughter Sarah confirmed a bit of news that we could not tell to anyone until she was certain: she’s expecting. And what’s more, she’s expecting TWINS! I told Sarah and Jeremy that I was in no hurry to become a grandpa. But I guess if I’m going to step through that ‘silver’ door I might as well start with two! So, I’m having to brush-up on my whittling skills. You know, every good grandpa has to know how to whittle something from a pocketknife.
Her due date, however, is not the best timing for me since it is toward the end of August and beginning of September. That is exactly the same time as the annual BVBID extension retreat and the new school year for the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Ukraine. Sorry guys, but there’s not much that can compete with the birth of my first grandkids; and especially if I want to stay married—if you get my drift.
The work of training preachers, church leaders, Bible teachers, and kingdom workers continues to go well at the Chimala Bible Institute—both in the English and Swahili programs. Garry Hill, Joshua Mwakyasima, Bernard Kulanga, and I finished teaching our classes for the 1st six-week quarter in the English program; and, Garry and I are now teaching our first of two short courses this week. Next week, Garry will have to leave early to attend a BVBID extension staff meeting.
Mary and I will continue working here at the mission until I complete my two short courses; and then we will begin our long trip home on the 12th of March. As anyone knows who has traveled here, making this trip to Chimala is not easy or cheap. Trying to be frugal, I consigned myself to the idea that Mary and I would return to Dar-es-Salaam by bus (Garry calls all Tanzanian buses “Ships of death”). I’ve taken the bus before with Denny Landon and thought it was fine. After further consideration, however, I decided that we would take the small Cessna turboprop flight offered by a small safari tour operator: Gazelle Tours. The new Songwe International Airport has not yet been completed in Mbeya (Will it ever?). But some of the previous Chimala Mission visitors have started taking flights from Gazelle Tours from Mbeya’s old grass strip saving a lot of wear-and-tear on the body—not to mention the greater safety. The opening of the new international airport, however, should bring in multiple air carriers and offer a little healthy price competition.
In a previous report, I mentioned the lack of rains in what is supposed to be Tanzania’s rainy season. Many of the farmers are concerned that if the rains don’t return their harvests will be jeopardized. But thankfully, it seems that in the past few days we have been having a significant increase in the rains. Southern Tanzania’s sandy soil quickly soaks-up the rain leaving only a few mud puddles.
Furthermore, this time of year is naturally a busy time for farmers as the outcome of the remainder of the year depends to a large degree upon what they accomplish in the fields now. That has a lot of effect upon our evangelism teams we put in place a few weeks ago. The original idea was to offer churches seminars stretching over the course of a few days. But the members have said they cannot possibly attend all the daily meetings at the present time due to this critical time for farming.
We completely understand and have adapted our seminars to several lessons on Sundays and a follow-up lesson on Wednesday afternoons. This seems to be very acceptable to the churches and still allows us to teach the congregations and train our students how to conduct the seminars. Some of the students in the four teams have stayed between the morning and afternoon services to conduct local village evangelism resulting in several restorations.
Getting these evangelism teams off to a good start has been a little slow. But my hope is we have planted a seed that will germinate and produce fruit in the Chimala Bible Institute for many years to come. As I see it—all stand to benefit: the churches, the students, the local staff, and the entire Chimala Mission. There is a deep need to restore our focus back to the original mission of Jesus—to seek and save the lost. Sometimes good-intentioned brethren lose their way and become distracted with lesser matters draining precious time, energy, manpower, and money. It is our prayer that our little seed planted will not be forgotten.
Last week, Boaz Kasiba, one of the local Chimala Mission preachers and CBI teachers told of a strange situation they experienced at one of the churches on the mountain behind the mission. He had been studying the Bible with several young men with some resulting baptisms. When they attended a congregation to begin worshipping, they discovered that many (if not most) of the men were “old drunkards” (to quote Boaz). Of course, this posed a difficult problem for these young new Christian men. How could they worship God acceptably with a congregation made up of unfaithful drunkards who were in the majority? The short answer is they may not be able to worship there with them at all. The other idea is to try to teach them concerning their sin and encourage them to repent. I don’t know how successful they will be since reasoning from the scripture requires a sober mind. But one idea they have is to gather together a united group of faithful Christian men and confront them about their sin.
I don’t know how the future will unfold concerning this situation. But it is surely not a common image in our minds to find a congregation of God’s people made up primarily of old drunk men. It is a sad state indeed, but this is a reality of sin and how Satan can so-deeply enter and pollute the hearts of men in an attempt to destroy both body and soul in hell. Pray for this situation.
In closing, please accept my continual thanks to all of you who in any way make possible the Lord’s work of training His servants. Our motto is and shall continue to be:
And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
2 Timothy 2:2