Saturday, January 24, 2015
“I have noticed over the past three years that most African Christians depend on their bishops or pastors for directions in life more than their lecturers, politicians and nurses. I think if every bishop and pastor should have the fire of the Holy Spirit coupled with spiritual integrity, Africa will shake!” ― Israelmore Ayivor
Today was a big day here. We consecrated two new bishops for the Methodist Church in Tanzania, Bishop Festo for our area, and Bishop Kitundu for the Musoma area. These are both very good men who have served the church as pastors and before that as evangelists since 2002. Of course, our entire denomination is only 5,000 members strong and there are many churches in America with more members than that in a single church. Our bishops are more like District Superintendents in the United Methodist Church, overseeing about a dozen pastors and evangelists or so. You have to remember that there were no Methodists of any kind here before 1995, so the longest serving pastor cannot even have served for twenty years yet. By 2003, there were only four churches and about 200 members. Now, we have 26 churches and almost 5,000 members. We are proud to have been a small part of that phenomenal growth. Mostly, the church has grown by evangelists (lay pastors) riding bicycles from village to village—all unpaid. No one is paid here from the bishop down to the choir director—every office is served voluntarily and will remain so. At its core, the church here is very close to the church of the first century, often beginning by meeting in houses and then stretching a tarp from the side of the house to hold more people. If churches have buildings (only about six or seven do), it is because the people made the bricks themselves and provided the labor to erect it. We have helped purchase cement, and reinforcing rods, and the occasional roof, but most of the church still are “praying under a tree” as it is called here. Some use school rooms or abandoned stores if they can find them, but most use tarps tied to poles and trees. It is fitting that the consecration service today was held under tarps tied to poles. We are very basic here. The picture at the right shows my lovely wife, Karen, next to Bishop Sistini from Shinyanga, then Bishop Monto (the presiding bishop), and then Bishop Byamungu from Dar Es Salaam. The three current bishops are all staying with us for a few days. The new bishops, Bishop Festo and Bishop Kitundu will be holding services tomorrow at three different churches in each area going from one to the next all day long. No rest for the weary. We have been blessed to have these fine servants of God working beside us these past ten years and are very happy that they are now Bishops and will provide excellent leadership for the next five years of their terms. On a personal note, my retirement funds will not be disturbed by recent events which were because of miscommunication which was mostly my fault, so I am content with what happened and am looking forward to continuing to serve as an unpaid Individual Volunteer Missionary of the United Methodist Church of which I am still a member. I would rather have malaria once a year than have to do the work required of an American United Methodist Bishop. They need your prayers and your support. In the meantime, I will continue to do what I can where I am with what I have. Thank you and God bless you to all who have held me in your prayers. Please don’t quit.