Monday, January 12, 2015
“Let go of what you think you know. Something amazing happens when you let God and trust.” ― Tammy L. Kubasko
When we allied the Methodist Church in Tanzania with the Tanzania Methodist Church (the names are a bit confusing) in the summer of 2013, we got access to the Methodist School of Theology in Arusha founded and paid for by the Korean Methodist Church. It meant that any of our pastors or evangelists could get a two-year degree in theology, church leadership, or other areas for free. The Korean church would pay for their tuition and room and board. Thirteen of our pastors and evangelists jumped on that bandwagon. Sadly, nine of those only lasted one or two semesters before leaving school either because they couldn’t stay away from their families or they didn’t have the academic qualifications to make it. Still, that left four who now only have one semester left before receiving their degree. Of course it falls to me to pay for their bus fare to and from the school, and Bishop Festo will be here today to get the $200 it takes to get them there. In May, we will pay again to bring them home. One of the things I really like about both the Methodist Church in Tanzania and the Tanzania Methodist Church is that neither has professional clergy. Every bishop, minister, or lay pastor must be responsible for their own living expenses—no church or church organization pays them anything. Individual churches will help with food, but as this is one of the poorest countries in the world, the idea that the poor should pay for their pastors is just not realistic. Each man or woman serving (we have several woman pastors) earns a living or has a small farm (shamba) where they grow enough to feed themselves and to sell some at the market. Where I help out, and one of the reasons they made me an honorary bishop I suspect, is that I help pay for the school fees for their children, pay for the food and drink at meetings held here in Bunda (that would be all of them) and assist with bus fare, medical costs, and sadly, occasional funeral costs for family members or the pastors themselves (we have lost two pastors since we’ve been here). I don’t mind at all, as the money is going to good use. We also pay for the teaching seminars and teaching materials for those nine churches with preschools and assist with the costs for the occasional church roof or cement for bricks. Of our 24 churches, only eight have buildings, the rest meet under trees with tarps stretched out for shade or to keep the rain off. It is only in January that the financial burden gets hard for us for in January all school fees have to be paid as well as the bus fare for the seminary, and there is usually a big meeting in late January where we have to provide room and board for the meeting attendees. We often pay as must as $3,000 or more in January to help out which is a big burden on us, so we must put back some each month to take care of the big first of the year expense. There were more costs than usual this month and I didn’t know how we were going to cover all we had promised we would do (and we have always done what we have said we would do)—and then I got an email from my sister saying that there was still a little money left in my mother’s estate and we would get it this month. Just enough to cover all the extra expenses. Coincidence? I think not. When I was first asked to be the guest preacher at a three nation conference (Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya) in 2003 and did not have the money to travel from the U.S. to Africa, I asked the theme of the conference. It was “God Will Provide.” The money arrived from several different unexpected sources and so I spent a month in East Africa, preaching for a week and then traveling through Tanzania training lay pastors. We have had many such “coincidences” here when the money we had was not enough but what we needed arrived from unexpected sources. It seems that if you are doing what God has called you to do, whatever the cost to you in money or physical suffering, God does indeed provide and has once again. Faith is sitting down to an empty table knowing that somehow the food will arrive in time. We have that faith. God does provide through all kinds of angels and actions. We no longer use American money, but we certainly believe the words on it, “In God We Trust.” You should, too.