Monday, September 22, 2014

“And that is how change happens. One gesture. One person. One moment at a time.” ― Libba Bray

The picture at the right is of the brother of the pastor who was killed in a house fire recently.  He had saved his wife and daughters and went back for the Swahili Bibles that were all his church had.  The roof collapsed on him, but his body shielded the Bibles and they survived.  Today, we gave two goats (one a pregnant female) to his widow which his brother picked up and which will allow his family not only to survive, but in time, to thrive.  In the past we gave away about one or two goats a year, but this year, thanks to a huge donation from the grandchildren of Charles and Adrienne Lyons of Houston, Texas, we are giving away thirty.  These two today are numbers 24 and 25.  It’s amazing how one small (to me, at least) gift like this can change the lives of an entire family.  There has also been a two-day meeting going on here to change the constitution of the Methodist Church in Tanzania.  When we started, several years ago, we just copied one from a Methodist church in another country, but many things needed to be changed to make it fit us.  One of the changes we made was to allow for the election of bishops for five years and allowed for reelection for a second five year term but then to go back to being pastors.  The conference also honored Bishop Monto and myself as we were the first bishops and made us Supervising Bishops with a single term of 25 years.  So, if I make it to the age of 95, I will have to step down as bishop.  We did elect three new bishops for our church, Bishop Festo will serve the church in the Mara and Mwanza regions, Bishop Nyansa will serve in Arusha but under a six-month probation period, and Bishop Kitunda will serve the area near the Kenyan border.  I am so proud of Festo who has started seven churches since we have been here and has three preschools operating is his area.  I was able to give him a purple bishop’s shirt that was too small for me and gave him the money to have it altered to fit him which pleased him a lot.  He is one of the good ones.  He told me that we are more than friends and colleagues—we are brothers which is a huge compliment in this society.  His father once said that my Swahili was “charming” which I think was a compliment.  The Tanzania Methodist Church with which we merged last year now has grown from two to seven bishops who will come here to Maisha Na Maji the first week in October to meet with our bishops and settle any polity differences we may have and to assign responsibilities for different areas of work within the church and within Tanzania.  For the Methodists among you, think of “bishop” here as like a District Superintendent in the U.S.  Karen is meeting this afternoon with the parents of the preschool students in the school here to settle any differences that have arisen (there have been some problems with money given to the church) and to put in writing how we are to operate, what we are to charge, and to whom it is to be paid.  Bishop Monto will be here to chair the meeting, keep a written record,  and to make sure everyone knows exactly how the Methodist Church will be involved.  There have been many changes in the last year and some have brought wrinkles that needed ironing out (and one big stain), but by the middle of October most of the ironing will have been done—till the next problem arises.  The church is stronger, more active, growing, and serving more people than ever before.  Ten years ago, we had four churches and 200 members, now, with the merger, we have over 130 churches and almost 12,000 members.  God is at work here and we are blessed to be a part of this expansion of the Kingdom as well as to assist with education, health, clean water, remembering the widows and orphans, and to imitate Christ as often and in as many places as we can.  Things have not gotten easier for Karen and I as we grow older, but we persevere for we didn’t answer God’s call only if it was convenient and came with no obstacles or pain to overcome.  We also have John here who has been an absolute angel taking care of us and his missionary responsibilities.  When you say, “Yes” to God, all that is expected is obedience and availability, and we have given ourselves to His work with our hearts, our minds, our money, and our labor.  We are truly blessed and grateful that we have been able to be a part of the incredible and blessed changes that have come since we have been here.  Thank you, Lord, and thank you to everyone who has helped, prayed, contributed, done work here, and still sends packages and support.  We love you all. 
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