The pastor for the district had been very ill (actually, bedridden) for a long time. He was unable to perform even the pastoral responsibilities of chairing the church councils or to conduct the Lord’s Supper. The African church leaders had no one to replace or assist him in any church functions. Even the preaching in the main church was mostly done by one of the elders.
At that time, I had been appointed the Mission’s Field Director (later called Field Secretary) and our family had been moved to Mwanza which was the central town for all Field activities. I remodeled the former bookshop to make it into a Central Church Office and had been given a room in that building for Mission office matters. There I cared for much of the legal matters regarding the Mission in Tanzania and matters relating to missionary personnel.
Having now moved into “administration”, my involvement in direct church matters was very sporadic. Yes, I did quite a bit of preaching in various churches but that was at their invitation and without actual continuing responsibility. Yes, I was invited to “sit in” on church council meetings and give input but actual leadership responsibilities fell to the African pastors of the areas.
The leading pastor of the African church asked me if I would be willing to be appointed pastor of that sick pastor’s area. By road, it was about 50 miles from our home in town and my actual presence there would be limited. But, because of the pressing need, the church leadership felt sure I would be able to help the church “out there”.
And, me? It didn’t take me long to agree. After all, our previous 20+ years in ministry had been mainly in direct church work. Administration was not my forte, but it had to be done and I had been chosen. So, in anticipation, I agreed. The leading church pastor went out with me, introduced me as their interim pastor and committed the ministry to the Lord.
And I had a ball. The pastoral area had, I believe, about 17 small out-churches and it was a joy to visit most them. Rain or shine, mud or dust, floods or ruts – for over 2 years my trusty vehicle took me to all those places. It was a joy to share God’s Word with them in each place, to encourage the evangelists and church leaders and – of course! – to fellowship around those good African meals that were served. Baptisms, the Lord’s Supper, church councils, opening a couple new churches, assignment of new evangelists – all part of ministry. It was further fulfillment for that which the Lord had taken us to Tanzania.
Fast forward – 20+ years later. I heard there was a Tanzanian student at Columbia University in South Carolina. When I finally got the phone number, I called. As I explained who I was the student, on the other end, excitedly broke into the conversation and said, “I know who you are. You came to my village church in Usamao and preached.” He was now here in the USA studying Bible theology and has now gone back to minister in church life out there. Praise the Lord