The past few days have been packed with lots of travel and stories to tell. I will try to keep my summary short. On Sunday (8/29) Pastor Mayhew, Pastor Gurath and I traveled six hours by car from Arusha to Korogwe where we met pastor Gondwe at a roadside restaurant. Pastor Gondwe was a teacher in the seminary before all the trouble broke out. He is well versed in English and a wonderful communicator of God’s saving word. He is was blessed with the opportunity to meet an Anglican pastor a year ago who was troubled by the fact that the Anglican church now accepts and endorses the ordination of gay pastors. One thing led to another and Pastor Gondwe began to teach seminars to Anglican pastors up in the hills/mountains that surround the city of Tanga. For some reason this area was predominately evangelized by the Anglicans many years ago and so most of the churches are of this denomination. Currently, Pastor Gondwe is working with 45 Anglican congregations and 42 Anglican trained pastors who wish to become Lutheran. He is taking them through a thorough study of Christian doctrine and he reports that the pastors and members alike are thrilled to be learning the truth of God’s word since most of the teaching and sermons they were hearing before were not based upon Scripture. Praise the Lord for this wonderful opportunity to proclaim His truth!
After we left Korogwe we traveled up into the hills for about three hours over some of the worse roads I have ever seen outside of Nepal. We arrived at the mountain village of Kwamkole where Pastor Cecil (who was formerly with the LCEA) is the pastor. He is assisting Pastor Gondwe in instructing the Anglican pastors and congregations. We attended the service where to two men were being ordained as pastors. We then traveled about an hour to a Massai village to visit another congregation that pastor Gondwe oversees. This congregation is made up of Massai people who are the herders of Africa. They live out in the bush and raise cattle and stick to the old customs of their tribe. Slowly, these people are being brought to Christ. They were very excited to have us visit their stick wall church and share the Word of God with them.
By the time we returned to Kwamkole it was very late in the evening and after some discussion (most of which we couldn’t understand) we were told that we would be spending the night in the Kwamkole. We fully expected to be sleeping on the floor of Pastor Cecil’s home and believe me, after the many hours spent in the car we were OK with sleeping anywhere. As it turns out, Pastor Cecil is also quite the business man. He has constructed a small hotel behind his house that he rents out to traders who pass through town. We didn’t know this as they began to lead us out of his home and down a narrow path between buildings and then down a slope to what seemed in the dark to be some sort of barn or shed for the animals. It was dark with no electricity so we were being led by flashlight and you could hear the chickens and goats be shooed away as we approached. Much to our delight we were led into an enclosed structure with eight small and basic rooms with nothing more than a bed, a mosquito net, and a small battery operated lantern by the bed. Definitely not the Hilton, but not bad at all. The communal bathroom consisted of two rooms…the first one had a hole in the floor with a foot block on each side (a squat pot) and the other room had a big barrel of water and small bucket to scoop the water over body for a bath. We all slept incredibly well! The next morning we arose to a beautiful scene as we looked out over the mountain side where we had just spent the night.
The next morning (8/30) after our 7:00 am breakfast we were on the road again driving over some the worse roads known to man on our way to visit four congregations. About 15 minutes into our journey we came around a corner and suddenly stopped when we saw a motorcycle lying in the road. There were a few people standing around a man in the ditch. When we all got out to see what was going on we found a man sitting in the ditch with the nastiest wound I have ever seen. It was a gash just above his calf muscle on his right leg. The gash was probably about 10 inches long. He also had a either a dislocated shoulder or a cracked collar bone. Needless to say he was in pretty bad shape. As the locals gathered and discussed the various ways of getting the man down the mountain and to a doctor I grabbed my first aid kit and a clean t-shirt from my suitcase and bandaged his leg and arm. It seemed that the general conclusion was that he couldn’t ride a motorcycle so he would just stay there and wait for a lorry (truck) to come by. We were pretty insistent that we take him in our vehicle even if it meant that we would have begin walking until they could come back and get us. It was decided that the pastor who was with us would hop a ride on a motorcycle and the injured man could ride in the vehicle. We gave the man some pain reliever, got him loaded in the car and began the three hour ride over extremely bumpy roads to the hospital. They kept telling us that is wasn’t far. After about an hour and a half in the car we could see that the bandage was completely soaked with blood and there was a large pool of blood on the floor so we had them pull over so we could take another look. It seemed that he was losing a lot of blood so I used my belt to apply a loose tourniquet above his knee, hopefully this slowed the bleeding. When we arrived at the clinic they took him in right away and we went on our way to visit a congregation near Mobosa. We passed right by the clinic on our way back to the main road and we stopped in to see how he was doing. We were told it was a good thing we got him there but nothing more than that. I don’t even know his name, but he has certainly been in my prayers.
We were under the impression that the congregations we were to visit were fairly close together since we were supposed to visit four. As it turned out, our travel times were grossly misjudged because Pastor Gondwe uses a motorcycle to visit all of these 45 congregations in the mountains and he is able to travel much faster by avoiding the many big rocks that protrude in the middle of the road and the many washouts and other obstacles. He is also able to cut through the forests rather than stick to the main road. A long story short…we arrived the second congregation we were supposed to visit at 5:30 pm instead of 11:00 am as we were told. The congregation sat high in the mountains and is a former Anglican congregation that has joined the Tanga district of the CLC. They are very excited about what they are learning from God’s Word. They have begun constructing a new church building by making bricks themselves. They have the walls about three quarters of the way built. They would very much like some assistance from us for the roof once the walls have been completed. We felt really bad about being so late when we saw the joy in the hearts of God’s children as we approached their village. They met us about a couple of miles away from the village with singing and clapping and waving branches of leaves in the air as they formed a procession on the way to their village and their new church. It was quite a humbling experience so see their joy in the Lord and their commitment to serve Him when they have so little to begin with. The name of the village is Kissani…please remember them in your prayers.
After our brief visit at Kissani we drove 4 hours or so down through the mountains again, mostly all the way in the dark and then onto the city of Tanga. Pavement has never felt so good!
We checked into our low-budget hostel for the night, took much appreciated cold showers, and fell right asleep under our mosquito nets in spite of the clanging of pots and pans and other things right outside our window until late into the night.
The next morning (8/31) we gathered for an abbreviated Pastoral Training Seminar in Tanga with 20 pastors (mostly from the new hill congregations that have come over from the Anglican church through pastor Gondwe). The seminar was cut short due to travel constraints, the court hearing in Moshi, and the bus schedules. Our time in the Tanga district was cut short because of the unexpected death of Pastor Jeremiah’s niece. Unfortunately we only had time for one person to teach and pastor Gondwe thought it important to go over some of the differences in doctrine concerning the sacraments of the church so Pastor Mayhew (our part-time visiting missionary to East Africa) taught for two hours and then answered questions. A report on the work in the Tanga district was then read by Pastor Cecil. I addressed the group of 20 pastors (less than half in the district) on behalf of the CLC and our Board of Missions, applauding their zeal for the Gospel ministry and their love for the truth of God’s Word. Then I spent a bit of time explaining to them the expanse of work that the Lord has given us to do throughout the North America, India, Nepal, Burma, Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, Congo, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and soon to add Zambia. They were a bit disappointed that I wasn’t able to promise that we would be able to fund all their worthy goals, but I think they understood that the fellowship we share in the truth of God’s saving word is far more precious than the finances of this world and that the Lord will bless our joint efforts to defend and proclaim His truth.
Our trip back to Moshi that afternoon was pleasantly uneventful and on paved roads. The next morning (9/1) were up early to meet with the pastors of the Moshi and Himo districts to discuss the court hearing that was scheduled for 11:00 am. We discussed what might be asked and how their advocate/lawyer expected things to go. We walked out luggage down to the bus office and purchased tickets for the 11:30 bus with the assurance that they would wait for us. We arrived at the court house and met briefly with the advocate. He went over all the questions that I would be asked and then we compared notes to make sure that my testimony was ready. Within the first few minutes of the hearing the other side dropped their suit in light of the testimony that they expected to hear and asked for two weeks to re-file and new suit. I was told by the judge that since the suit was dropped, my testimony was not needed and she thanked me for coming. The advocate seems to think that this will most likely be the end of it. I was asked to make a written testimony with all the details we had discussed and to send it to them to be used when they make a
formal appeal to the Moshi District Land Tribunal to get the land registered in the name of the CLC. The pastors and members of the Himo congregation turned out in great numbers and were very pleased and happy that the suit against the pastors was dropped.
We hustled out the door of the court house and across the street and down to the main road where our bus said it would pick us up on the way out of town. We hopped on and headed to Arusha, about an hour away where we would catch the Impala express to Nairobi at 2:30 pm. We made it with plenty of time and even had a couple of minutes to make a quick email check in the lobby of the hotel where the bus departed from. Then it was 7 long hours on the bus. We arrived at our hotel in Nairobi around 10:00 pm, had a bite to eat, had a wonderful warm shower, and went to bed.
We arose bright and early to get ready for the East Africa CLC Pastoral Conference with pastors and evangelists from Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda in attendance. We heard essays from two pastors and me along with devotions and singing today (9/2). We also enjoyed the opportunity to visit and get to know each other over tea breaks, lunch, and in the evening after our last essay.
Today we met from 8:00 till noon because many pastors had to catch a 1:00 pm bus back home. This afternoon we have nothing scheduled so we will spend some time looking into portable internet options for Pastor Gurath and I plan to check out a hostel called the Wildebeest Inn with an eye toward the 2012 Mission Helper Trip to East Africa.
We head to Etago and Kissi Kenya tomorrow (9/4) where we will attend worship service on Sunday (9/5). Our next stop will be Moi’s Bridge where I am sure the people of Emmaus Milimani Lutheran Church are anxiously awaiting the installation of Pastor Gurath as their temporary resident missionary for the next 6 to 13 months. It should prove to be an exciting few days. I am assuming that internet access will be sparse, so this might be the last you hear from me for a few days.
Remember to check out Pastor Mayhew’s blog at: http://lutheranmissions.org/eastafricavisitation2009/