Wednesday, April 9, 2014
“Who will go for us? Here am I Lord, send me.” ― Isaiah (and Karen and Charles Wiggins)
Twelve years ago, while we were still living in the United States, I was asked to preach at a small, African-American church in Fayetteville, Arkansas. I knew several of the members and had preached there before and always liked it. We had just come back from building a church in the Amazon jungle and several of the people who had helped with that project wanted to come hear me preach, so I invited them. I explained to the all African-American congregation that the five white people down front were friends of mine who had just come back from building a church in Peru. After the service, one of the African-American members came up to me and asked if I would lead a team to Africa to build a church. The woman who asked me was Jimmye Whitfield who was, at the time, a United Methodist missionary serving in Musoma, Tanzania. She was back in America because her mother had been ill. Karen and I said that we would, indeed, come to Tanzania. A few months later, Karen, myself, and a team of twelve others all came to Musoma, Tanzania, to do some church building. We worked on the four churches that were there at the time in Musoma, a new church in Bunda, one in Tireme, and one in Magu. We were in Tanzania for about two weeks, but after the first two days (the first TWO days), Karen told me that God had told her that this area of Tanzania was where He wanted us to serve for the rest of our lives. Well, that was that. Who would have guessed that the two youngsters in the picture at the right (taken June 5, 1965) would become life-long missionaries in Tanzania. Bill and Jimmye Whitfield had served as missionaries in Africa for over twenty years, the last seven in Musoma, and they retired in 2004, so when we came in 2005, they had already gone back to the U.S. Sadly, Bill passed away last year, but he loved Tanzania, and Jimmye has come back to spread some of his ashes in Lake Victoria. She and a friend will arrive in Mwanza tomorrow and Shaban and John will pick them up and bring them here. We are so excited about seeing her again, especially since if it wasn’t for her, we wouldn’t be here. Her husband, Bill, and my good friend, Pete O’Neal in Arusha had been good friends from back in the sixties when they were both in the Black Panther movement. It will be good to see Jimmye and relive some of those very early days. She and Bill set a high standard for us to follow, and we hope we have been doing justice to the work they did prior to our coming. Before that church service in August of 2002, Karen and I had never even thought about coming to Africa, but God had plans for us and still does. We just keep saying, “Yes” and let Him worry about the details.