Saturday, June 20, 2015

“The spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions. The nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we become.” ― Henry Martyn

Not all that many years ago, then Pastor Festo (now Bishop Festo) started a new church in the little village of Kabainja.  We had only been there once and that was after we had gone to Festo’s village of Karikakari, so we only the knew the way from Karikakari to Kabainja, but John had marked it on the GPS.  We went back several Sundays later to hold the very first service there.  We left the road and were driving across the barren landscape following John’s directions from the GPS.  At one point, he said turn right here, and I said, “Where?  At that donkey over there?”  But, I turned and we crested a small hill and there, under a lone, spindly tree with tarps spread out on poles, were about 150 people waiting to have worship in the middle of nowhere.  In reality, this spot was only one kilometer from the village, but where they wanted their church.  We had the services with great music because Festo had brought his entire choir (seven kilometers away) to sing and dance.  The services included baptism and Holy Communion, so they lasted several hours.  We did the baptism first, and I personally baptized 82 people.  After I would baptize them, they would go to Karen and she would lay hands on them and bless them.  Later, we had Holy Communion and invited everyone there to participate.  The church at Kabainja now has a building they build themselves and over 200 active members.  This was the second church that Festo had started after Karikakari.  He has now started seven churches and is the bishop of this area of the Mara Region.  He continues to be one of the real servants of God here and a good friend even though he speaks no English and my Swahili is still on about a fifth-grade level (I preach in it and no one complains about my mistakes).  Festo is one of the reasons we have grown from four churches in 2003 to 31 churches in 2015 and from 200 members to over 5,000.  We have had some bad pastors who have hurt the church (all moved on, quit, and one even left the country) but the church has always been able to survive and even thrive because of the truly good men and women (we have several female pastors and Festo’s sister is in seminary at Arusha) who serve God with no pay but with great love and dedication.  We are proud to have been a part of this expansion of the Kingdom, but I’m too old now to go out in the bush and baptize that many people at one setting any more.  I also have quit baptizing because it is important for the pastor of the church to have that bond with the congregation.  While I was baptizing (over 500 individual souls), I would ask what name the person wanted for his/her baptism and at least six were baptized with the name “Wiggins” at their request.  No one calls them that and it is only one name on their certificate, but it did make me feel good.  Now, there are two schools bearing our family name and one named for my sister (St. Penny's), one for my mother (also has a church named after her), one in honor of my Aunt Amelia (she wanted it called St. Teresa’s and so it is), and one honoring an uncle I never met (St. Charles’s School).  We forget what amazing changes have taken place because it has been over twelve years, but you just can’t stop the work of the Holy Spirit once it takes hold.  I am very confident about our case before the Tanzanian High Court (we will hear the ruling on Wednesday of next week) because God is with us.  If God is with us, who can be against us?  You can take that to the bank.  
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