At the end of July, I traveled to Tanzania to teach in the Andrew Connally School of Preaching for two weeks. I often teach in Bear Valley Extension schools. This particular school is doing a great job training preachers and church leaders, and the church is growing in Tanzania. American missionaries haves been serving in this region for many years, and currently three full-time American missionaries serve in Arusha, but two were on furlough in the United States. Only one of the three families actually works very much with the school and he was in the U.S. Cy Stafford and his good wife, Stephanie, keep busy with Bible studies and leadership training for the churches in the area. I ate lunch and supper with them every day, thus I ate good while in Tanzania. No weight loss on this trip as happens many times when we go to India.
Tanzania is below the equator, so this was winter time for them. Arusha is located in northern Tanzania at an elevation of approximately 4,200 feet. While I was there, it was unusually cool even for them. Most days the highs were in the 60’s, so a little jacket felt good. Corn is one of their main crops, and it was harvest time for them also, since they just let the corn dry in the field. Agricultural practices in the countries of Africa and India are such a contrast to the modern equipment here in the states. Harvest is often accomplished by hand and tillage is either done by hand or by very small tractors.
This school has both a graduate and undergraduate program. On this trip, I was teaching in the graduate program, and one student was actually from the neighboring country, Uganda. He traveled a long distance in order to attend the class. It was a good two weeks, and all the students were eager to learn. It was actually very quiet, because the undergraduate students were all home on break. Since I was there by myself, I had plenty of time to get some extra studying done.
Paula and I enjoy making these trips; however, the flying there and back does get tiring. My flight connections were terrible on this trip, but in order to get similar prices and better connections, I would have had to leave a day early and come back home two days later. I did not want to do that, so the flight time was long. From the time I left the school, it took about 48 hours to finally get home. That included about a 14 hour layover in a “luxurious?” Ethiopian airport. This included being awakened by four security personnel. I had just become comfortable to take a little nap, when I was awakened and was asked for my passport and a few questions, such as where I had come from. I have no idea why they woke me up to ask such questions. Regardless, that ended my naptime.
World Turmoil and Mission Work
People often ask us if we have problems with governments or terrorism. Fortunately, so far we have not had any problems, although one never knows what might happen. We try to be cautious, but we do not base our plans on maybes. Most of the time, government conflicts do not affect the common people and their lives. We have known of missionaries who were in countries when the governments were overthrown, but they made it without any significant physical problems. Obviously, the work was hindered, but physically they made it fine.
Since I traveled alone to Tanzania, Paula, like most wives, listened to the news nightly and heard the closing of various embassies as well as the fire at the Kenya airport. She was concerned
much more than I was, because if she had not told me, I would never have known of the closing of the embassies. We had much rather travel together, but sometimes circumstances make it necessary for us to separate. As you might expect, she worries when I am gone.
Churches Far and Near
I visited three different African congregations in my spare time, preaching a total of eight different times. One unique thing about worship in Africa is what they do when service is over. While
singing a final song, the leaders of the worship service go out first and form a line. From there all the others file out shaking hands with everyone and placing themselves at the end of the line. Everyone follows the same pattern until all are out of the building and has shaken everyone else’s hand, including children. Once that is done, everyone visits for a while then slowly leaves for home.
As we visit different places in the states, we sometimes notice that some congregations are very open, friendly and seem to be excited about serving God, whereas others seem to be in a routine with little zeal and optimism for the future. If we are going to win souls for Christ, we must be excited about being Christians ourselves, and exhibit a hope and optimism for tomorrow. It is not a matter of size. A congregation can be small and still be excited. Recently we visited one such congregation. It was small; nevertheless it was quite racially diverse. We visited on Wednesday night, and non-members were present. However, we did not fully realize this until most had left because there was such a relationship between all of them that it was not readily apparent who was visiting. If all congregations could have that kind of openness then growth would come more easily. Of course, it was obvious that they were busy doing something during the week. They also displayed a keen interest as we reported on the work in India and other places.
At the beginning of September we will journey to Denver to attend a meeting of all Bear Valley extension personnel. We will spend a couple of days talking about the various schools and future plans. We continue to be excited about the work of training preachers in the various countries and are very happy to be a part of that effort. Immediately upon returning from Denver, we meet Philemon in Nashville. The very next day we are planning a Tuesday night meeting with Philemon and several area churches in the Corinth, MS area. The meeting will be held at the Strickland Church of Christ near Corinth. We hope this will be an informal discussion of the evangelistic efforts of Philemon and how some of these might be applied by local congregations. He is a zealous evangelist and loves to talk about evangelism.
Near the end of September we leave for our fall trip to India. We will spend all of October in India, traveling to several different places, which is our normal custom. During the first week in November we will be in Sri Lanka. This will be our second trip to that country this year, and we have plans to go outside of the capital city and meet some of the Christians in the hill country. We have never been able to do that before, so we are looking forward to that. We plan on returning to the States on November 8th.
As part of this trip we will travel once again to Churachanpur in the state of Manipur. This region borders Myanmar, and the inhabitants of the two regions often cross the border. Philip, one of our co-workers in Myanmar, communicated by email that he had attended the Summer Christian Workshop in that city. He mentioned meeting Thang Lien who translates the Voice of Truth International. They are good friends as they went to Bible school together in Chennai, India several years ago. We continue to be amazed at how interconnected the brotherhood of believers is, especially in India and the surrounding countries.
The Work in India
Our co-workers continue to serve God untiringly in India. One of them, Rajanayagam, who we will be visiting on our next trip, reported 13 baptisms in June. He related one episode that we thought might give you an idea of some of the problems they encounter in India. Two men wanted to be baptized; however, they could find no water in which to baptize them. We will let him tell the story.
We decided to go to a nearby river, hoping we could find water easily, although the flow was less or nil. The river was very wide about 2 km. in that area. With the help of mobile torch light we started to walk in the river. It looks that we got the wrong side of the bank and so we had to walk and walk and walk in different directions to find enough water and to my surprise it ended in vain. At that time, we walked over 3 km. on sand, stone, bushes and rock and it took about an hour. There was not enough light to proceed further and I was tired as I was new to this situation. At one stage, I told them it is enough and let us go to Kangayam by hiring a vehicle. They said one more attempt and I had to say Okay. And after a walk of 30 minutes again, we were able to find a water stagnation place and I baptized them.
One of our co-workers, Joshua Gootam who is in his 60s, is excited about new horizons. He has recently come in contact with a part of his state that apparently has not been evangelized very much. He reported that in this region many have been watching his TV programs and taking his Bible correspondence courses. World Evangelism pays for the TV programs. In this region there are many very large independent
churches, and most all of them are receptive and want to know more. He reports that “these independent churches were started by devout men with half knowledge and are a hotch potch of denominational practices that need to be taught out through patience. These are a ripe field.” He is asking for additional funds to pay for his travel to that area to teach and preach on a regular basis. He is actually considering moving to that area and leaving his current work to his son, Ricky. At a time when most men are thinking of retirement and talking life easy, he is thinking of new challenges. We will also be traveling with him to Orissa on our next trip.
Jerry & Paula Bates