Saturday, July 5, 2014
“The bicycle is a curious vehicle. Its passenger is its engine.” — John Howard
Mission work could not accomplish much here in Tanzania were it not for the bicycle. Fittingly, on the first day of the Tour de France, today’s blog is about the humble bicycle. The bicycles here are not like those of America and other developed countries. No ten-speeds, five-speeds, or even three-speeds here. The Cadillac of bicycles in Tanzania is that pictured at the right with one of our evangelists. If we give an evangelist a bicycle, he can cover four of five villages instead of just one. The bicycle you see in the picture weighs about forty pounds (the ones in the Tour de France weigh about five pounds or less), has only one speed and the brakes work for a while but have to be replaced frequently. This is also true of the tires and tubes because punctures are common, so the inclusion of a pump on this bicycle makes it special. This bike, made in China and called a “Phoenix” pronounced “fonix” here, also has generator-driven lights (which are important), a luggage rack (also important—note the stack of Bibles on the back), and a bell to warn walkers that the rider is approaching. There are few roads connecting villages, but there are always walking paths with a familiar bicycle rut in the middle of each path. Bicycles are used to transport goods to the markets and as taxis. It is not uncommon to see bicycles with as many as seven baskets of tomatoes on the back, or milk cans, or bundles of sugar cane. While it is mostly flat around here, there are many hills that force cyclists to walk their bikes to the top and then to speed almost uncontrollably down the other side. Starting a new church in a village calls for several bicycles to carry the song books, the keyboard, speakers, and amps. You will also see bicycles loaded with small children to get them to the new church site quickly as well. The congregation of the founding church will all walk singing following the bicycles to the new village. We have seen this done time and again and always with the result that a new church was started. A bicycle like the one pictured costs $150 in American money. We have given almost thirty bicycles to our evangelists and pastors since we came nine years ago. We are still doing it whenever we get the funds to do it. Right now, we need three more for new evangelists in new areas. A good bicycle can mean two new churches in a year or two. Not a bad investment for expanding the Kingdom of God. The evangelists also like them because it increases their status in a culture which already respects and honors pastors and other workers for God.