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Africa Inland Mission
August 12, 2017 8:32 pm
Published in: Ministry Life

(I insert this story here a bit earlier because the families of the “shooter” in the story are all to be at AIM Media about now. Maybe they will see it and it will jog their memories!)

It was time to replenish the meat in our refrigerators. Instead of visiting the town market and asking for pieces to be cut from the hanging beef carcasses (which may have been hanging in the open air since yesterday!!), we decided to have a day “off” and go hunting. After all, the good hunting grounds were not all that far away.

So, early in the morning we took off – myself and two other missionary men. We were in a Volkswagen Kombi, the kind that had a large sliding door on the one side. The missionary who wanted to do most of the shooting sat in the door-side seat in the 2nd row.

Government regulations prohibited shooting from a vehicle. The shooter had to be at least 250 paces from the vehicle so the shooter was prepared, when we saw suitable game, to slide the door open and drop out from the slow-moving vehicle. The antelope would usually watch the vehicle moving off and often not notice the shooter creeping up on it.

We noted a group of topi standing a bit out in the plain. It so happened that at the place where the shooter dropped out there was a thicket of bushes. He made his way toward the thicket, naturally thinking that it would help him get closer to the target.

As we moved off in the vehicle, we could see what was on the other side of the thicket. And, there stood a solitary rhino! It was clearly agitated, stomping around, having heard the vehicle and it was prepared for action. And, the shooter was slowly making his way toward that same thicket.

Quickly, we turned the vehicle around and drove back to where the shooter was. He saw us and motioned us to “get out of here!”. We got closer and I was told him to get back into the vehicle.

As he got back into the vehicle we were able to tell him that just on the other side of the thicket there was a huge rhinoceros. And that it was feisty! Without thinking, he said with some agitation, “I didn’t come out here to shoot a rhino”! Only after we drove on with him, so that he could see the back side of the thicket that he had been going to use for cover, did he really understand what we were talking about. And, no doubt, his agitation abated.

So we drove on looking for better hunting ground. But for a long time afterwards he was reminded of his near-rhino experience.

Oh, yes. We did get something for the refrigerators. He got a topi and I bagged an impala. Good meat; good eating; and a more-than-adequate supply which we were able to share with many others.

August 6, 2017 9:27 pm
Published in: Ministry Life

(And, maybe, this will be my last post about radio experiences – at least until I can think of more!)

As you may have read in previous blogs, intra-mission radio communication was a major service. First, we used VHF radio transceivers then the government approved single sideband radio transmissions. More fun – especially when a non-radio expert (that is I-or is it me?) was the go-to field missionary to try and keep things running properly. And, remember the experience when I erected a 75 ft. tower – and almost fell from the top? Only God’s protection kept me from falling when my safety belt failed.
Anyway, when we were still using the VHF system, the main town station tower beams had moved out of position. A strong wind storm had come through, rocking the tower back and forth and possibly caused the beams to move. Guess who had to climb up (and this tower was higher than that 75 ft. one!), swing the beams back into position and tighten the clamping bolts? Me.
So up the tower I went, step by step. By this time I had another safety belt but the “terror” carry-over from that previous experience made my “step-by-step” more hesitating.
But I made it.
Now I am up top. One hand holding a compass, the other trying to move the beams into the correct position as indicated by the compass. Done. Now to tighten the clamps.
Suddenly the tower itself started swinging back and forth. There was no wind and I looked down to see if all of the supporting cables were in place. One cable I noticed was whipping back and forth. Why?
Down on the ground I saw a you M.K. (Missionary Kid), swinging on the wire. I called down, “Quit swinging on that wire!!”. In a plaintive voice that M.K. responded, “Sorry, Uncle Rusty. I didn’t know you were up there”.
Now we weren’t sure if it was the wind storm which shifted the beams or previous whipping back and forth of the tower caused by a M.K.’s “recreation”.

July 30, 2017 8:08 pm
Published in: Ministry Life

A follow through to a previous blog (The Radio Engineer Died of June 11, 2017) – but a personal experience.

As you can see, the VHF towers were constructed of treated galvanized piping. They were triangular in vertical structure with cross bracing to bring stability. On the one side, horizontal “steps” were welded to provide the installer with climbing facility.

Without going into installation details, sufficient it is to know that the height of the tower was about 75 feet. The uppermost section was a solitary vertical pipe onto which were mounted two directional antenna beams. Since VHF communication was basically “line of sight”, one beam pointed toward the Mwanza town tower, the other toward Kola Ndoto, the hospital station. Of course there was some signal “splatter” so that other stations were able to hear and transmit also.

There were several stations that were off on a greater tangent to those directional signals. The Field Council decided that one of them, where one of the Bible Schools was located, should have its own transmitter. And, yours truly was asked to go there to install the transmitter and erect the tower.

The primary section of the tower I embedded in a concrete base; after curing, additional sections were added using a “climbing boom” and with a crew on the ground hoisting up the subsequent sections which were then bolted together. Permanent guy wires were installed at specified levels to maintain stability to the tower.

All was going well. I used my lineman’s safety belt because often both hands had to be used while placing the sections and bolting them together. But, in spite of having the safety belt, I was of the “timid sort.” I couldn’t bring myself to rely on the belt as I leaned back to do what needed to be done. I kept an arm through the triangular tower section “just in case!” And that proved my rescue! Even though the safety belt had provided some assurance up until now, my faith was really on my arm through the tower.

The last section, with the directional beams, was being installed. The crew on the ground hoisted it up to me at about the 70-foot level. I grabbed onto it but the wind swung it away. I leaned back, further than before, expecting the safety belt to hold me but I kept going. Madly, with the arm through the tower I grabbed onto one of the protruding uprights of the lower section. My safety belt clip had broken; one of the clips had come loose from the security ring and now the belt dangled uselessly from my waist.

I called to the crew down below to lower the beams. Trembling, I slowly made my way down the tower. Terra Firma never felt so good! I just sat there for probably 20 minutes or more until I stopped shaking.

But, there was work unfinished. I did my best to repair the safety belt and slowly made my way back up the tower. The beams were hoisted back up, the job finished (but with much fear and trembling!) and with great relief I tested the transmitter and found all was working well. Even the beams were pointed in the proper direction – and I did not have to go up again to make further adjustments!

Relief? YES. Thanksgiving to the Lord for His protection? YES. Another experience of His keeping power and faithfulness in all situations.

And, YES! I threw out that safety belt and got myself a newer one. That old leather one was probably from the “dark ages” anyway.

July 23, 2017 8:21 pm
Published in: Ministry Life

Communication and understanding implies correct interpretation of what is being communicated. Often, when one learns another language and feels a certain proficiency in it, they may think that the listener’s hearing of what is said is sufficient and they forget that maybe real understanding has not been done. Here are a few examples.
Case in point:
The missionary who is working on a project with an African and the workspace becomes crowded. Some tools or other things are no longer needed and he tells the helper to “take these things away”, indicating the clutter and meaning to remove them to another place. Later, the missionary finds some things missing, discovers that the African has them at home and accuses him of stealing. Outcome – he was told to “take them away” and he did! No stealing was done; he just fulfilled what was expected. (Or, did the language just give an excuse for him to get something he wanted?)
Case in point:
The missionary who told the local church congregation, “You build the church and I will help you with the roof”. Meant was, “I will ‘kumugunanha’ (help you) you with the expenses and work with you as you put on the roof. We will work together on it”. Understood was, “If you build the walls I will put on the roof and at my expense”. Outcome – a misunderstanding that had ill results for years. The church (mud brick) fell down 2 times in the rainy seasons, waiting for the missionary to fulfill his promise of putting on the roof.
Case in point:
You are going to town (70+ miles away) tomorrow early and an African asks to go with you. You say, “I will leave when the sun comes up” (expecting a cloudless morning!). You are ready to go at sun-up and he hasn’t arrived. Later he arrives, having caused a delay in leaving. Understood by him was that if he left his village “when the sun comes up”, no matter how far away it was, that he was fulfilling the expected. Outcome – In order to make sure I left my house “when the sun comes up”, I had to tell him departure would be “when the rooster crows” – but I had to soon modify that to “we will leave at the first crowing of the roosters” since they crow twice in the early morning – the first maybe a half-hour before the second. That way I could be sure that my passenger/s were “on time” for the early “sun-up” departure for town!
Case in point:
The African Central Church Council is meeting over a thorny issue. They ask for advice from the mission Field Council. After deliberation, the Field Council has a recommendation to offer the Church council. The offer is presented as “we think (“niganika” in the Sukuma language) … you should take the following course”. The Church Council exploded! The word “niganika” (I think) indicates that one has no fixed view, not a recommendation for action, and that you can change that thought at a moment’s notice. “We were asking for advice; you gave us nothing”, they said. Outcome – hard feelings and, for a long time afterwards, the Church Council did not seek advice from the Field Council for local church administrative matters.
Case in point:
The missionary family had been given beautiful set of crystal drinking glasses. They were rarely used and mostly seen as decorative things. One day they had notable guests for a meal and the wife used them at that time. The family had “house-help” and, after the meal and as things were being taken to the kitchen for clean-up, the wife told the young lady to “chukua hizi” (Swahili, “take these”), indicating the glasses since the wife’s hands were full of other dishes.
Go forward a day or two. My wife and I were visiting Nairobi, Kenya where this all happened. That family was going away and invited us to use their house. We did, for about a week, and left before the family returned.
Sometime after they returned, it was noticed that the glasses were missing. They asked the “house help” what happened to them and were told, “the guests using your house broke them”. The family was upset (naturally) but mostly because we had said nothing to them.
A week or so later, after a set of other circumstances, the police searched the house-help’s family home and found the glasses. Since they were unusual, the police asked where they came from. The young lady said the missionary lady had told her to “chukua” (take) them so she did – took them all the way home!
After the police visited the missionary lady and learned the real story, the “house-help” young woman was questioned and finally confessed. “Yes, I took them. I knew it was stealing”. The missionary forgave her since she readily confessed, but … Outcome – that young woman lost her job and reputation but also experienced forgiveness without which she would have landed in prison for a time.

July 17, 2017 11:39 am
Published in: Ministry Life

He was the son of one of the African Church’s local evangelists. He attended the church primary school, regularly attended church, went through the catechism classes and was baptized. After all, he was the evangelist’s son and it was expected of him.

When it came time for him to attend Middle School, he chose a boarding school quite a distance from home. That way, he figured, he could get away from his father and the religious pressures exerted on him. Though still young, he threw away any semblance of being a Christian. His next school, Secondary School, was even farther away. Now he could really live the way he wanted.

And he did. While he excelled in his studies, any evidence of a relationship to the Lord was missing and he lived a very wanton life. Because he was in the higher percentage of students when it came to studies, he was selected to go on to University.

While still at the University, walking across the campus one day after classes, he heard the sound of singing coming from one of the classrooms. And, the songs? They sounded just like the ones he had learned back when he was still living in his evangelist father’s home.

Surely there were no Christians on a University campus. This was “modern day” Tanzania. African Socialism, which stressed a break from religion and community disciplines, held sway. University was the place where protests were held and where new ideas and actions were formed. Surely “today’s” Tanzania would have no place for any idea of God – or god – or any religion.

He was drawn in by the singing and went to see what it was all about. He saw a room full of students, with some of them standing up front leading in the singing. Looking around, he could see no “old white-haired” preacher, African or foreigner, present. How could this be? Someone had to be forcing them to meet and sing.

This happened week after week. And week after week found him observing. Finally, he decided to join with the group and find out what it was all about. And he found that there were students who were Christians and who were not shy about their faith. And, suddenly, his heart was touched and he himself was saved – or, like the prodigal, “returned to his Father”. His whole attitude and actions and life was changed and now he too, there on the University campus, became a vibrant testimony for the Lord.

Skip forward a number of years. He graduated from University with a doctorate in Psychiatry; went overseas for a number of years for further specialized training; came back to Tanzania to work for the government in the big hospital in the town in which we were living.

And, he continued to be a real witness for the Lord. Because of his experiences in Secondary School and University and how he found the Lord under those unusual circumstances, he was well received by the secondary school students in our town. He was always ready to help with student ministry; his testimony and messages always had a tremendous impact.

Fast forward again. His goal of having a good job, a house that didn’t have a grass roof and to have a car were now realized. His job was well-paying, he had a cement house with glass windows and a tile roof, his car was a Mercedes.
But work seemed to be secondary to him. He helped Africa Enterprise in its revival meetings as well as helping us with the local student ministry. Gradually the Lord “tugged” on his heart to enter full-time Christian ministry. He gave up his good-paying government job, he sold his house and his Mercedes (and bought an old Fiat) and became a full-time evangelist for Africa Enterprise.

God’s grace was extended to him and his family in many ways and for years they have had satisfaction in ministry – all because of a heart that, in spite of deliberate hardness and wandering, was open to God’s calling.

July 2, 2017 4:42 pm
Published in: Church Ministry

Petro was an evangelist out on the largest island in the south of Lake Victoria. He was out of his tribal area, among a people who were traditionally looked down on by the Sukuma people but he had been taken there by the missionaries to work at the mission church school since he had a real teaching gift. And he was very effective.

But there was a problem. His wife was barren. Though they had been married for a good number of years, they still had no children of their own. And, in the eyes of both his own tribe and the tribe among whom he was working, a married man without children was still a child himself. He had not yet proven his manhood! I am sure both Petro and his wife tried every kind of medicine available, both traditional and more modern. Nothing.

“Prove yourself!” The pressure grew. Satan started working on him and putting into his mind what other men do to prove their manhood. He resisted. He fought. He yielded. He “fell into sin” and impregnated another woman. A child, his but not his and his wife’s, was on the way. The other woman accused him. The church leadership met to confront. First, he denied but the Lord God convicted him and he later confessed.

Removal from church leadership was determined. Shunning, on the part of missionaries with whom he had worked, was his lot. No matter what he did, he could not seem to be able to shake his reputation of “spiritual unfaithfulness” and he languished in church inactivity.

At least 15 years later, Carol and I and the family moved to a “new” area. We were to construct a school, establish a mission station and church and work with the few African evangelists who were already in the area. And, Petro was one of them. He had moved into this remote area, not only to try and “shake” his reputation, but mainly to be able to begin again in ministry. A small congregation was now meeting at his home compound and a number of new believers were growing in the Lord. Petro was also very active in visiting the local primary schools and teaching Bible to the attending students.

When we started the new Salawe mission station, with the prospects of a large full primary school (grades 4 to 8), the African evangelists in the area selected him and his family to move to near where the station was to be and designated him to be the Salawe station evangelist. He was also to be the Bible teacher in the school being established.

Petro was a most faithful and fervent worker for the Lord during our years there. I could not have asked for one better – one who had endured much to serve the Lord; one who was thoroughly versed in local customs and culture; one who was always ready and faithful in whatever work was needed. During the construction of the school, church and other station buildings, when we often had over 40 workmen on the job, he usually conducted the morning devotions with the men and was always available for witness and counsel.

Faithful? Yes! And the Lord had now given him a family! His first son he named “Isaka” (Isaac); his second son “Emanueli” (Emanuel) in recognition of God’s faithfulness in spite of his own unfaithfulness. Petro and his wife – yes, her name given to her at her baptism many years before was “Sara” (Sarah)! – are high on my list of the glowing embers of the fire of African servants of the Lord.

June 25, 2017 9:55 pm
Published in: Church Ministry

There was a missionary man in Tanzania who was not endowed with much on top of his head. In other words, he was bald with only a narrow fringe around the edges. But, he was well respected and had been on the field for many years – evangelism, church planting and was now teaching in the church Bible school – and had been very effective.

I was at a church meeting when the African pastor was announcing the upcoming general conference. This missionary was to be the main speaker. The pastor tried to let folks know who the speaker was to be. “You know, the man who opened the mission station “ ‘way out near the Masai’ ”. Blank stares.

“The man who now teaches in the Bible school”. Blank stares.

“You know, the man who has a face from here to here”, indicating from the front of the head to the back. Ah, now they knew! Many voiced approval and anticipation.

Now, we knew that the Africans knew us from our distinctive appearance, actions and reactions. And, the Sukuma word for what we term as the face included any part that extended up from the lower part of one’s actual face up through all of that which had no hair. Though the word “wanga” is the word for baldness, the description given as “face” brought understanding to everyone.

Nuances of language and descriptions!

June 18, 2017 7:59 pm
Published in: Church Ministry

We all know that past experiences give insights into new ones. Even throughout the Scriptures, memorials were set up to provide reminders of things which had happened and of the Lord God who provided and protected in that experience.
Another perspective – I was sitting, waiting with a number of church leaders, for a meal in an African home after a long church council meeting. It was late in the afternoon, not dark as the sun had not yet set. Looking around the room, I noted a number of colorful calendar pictures and some dried (or wilted!) flowers on the walls. These were all there to decorate the otherwise drab room (clay-plastered mud bricks, dirt floor, grass roof).
However, in the center of one wall was a photograph, probably 10×14 inches, in a frame surrounded by fresher flowers. It was of a young man probably in his early 20s and was a picture of the eldest son of the family who had gone far away, down to Dar es Salaam, to attend university there. To the family, it was a reminder of their loved one who was far distant. Most of the men with me commented on the picture – how he had grown and changed and they laughed at the full beard he now sported.
Dinner was served – ugali, rice, chicken, gravy, greens – all the nice trimmings that make up a Sukuma meal! The food was served by a young man, clean shaven and very much at home.
The men looked at him, looked at the picture, and started talking excitedly. They recognized that the young man was the same one in the picture but now without the beard. The father Simoni (Simon), who was the evangelist of the village church, got up from the dinner group, went over to the wall and took down the picture and said, “Since he is now here with us we do not need to look at the picture. Now we see him face to face.”
The son had returned that day and that sumptuous meal was not only for us as church council members but a celebration of his return – the fact that “we now see him face to face.” The young man sat with us and we shared food together. Conversation was about his university experiences – a nice change from all the council talk!
So – that picture on the wall was a memorial or reminder which had served its purpose. Its purpose had been met – not to forget but to keep alive the hope of his return. And his picture was taken down because he returned and “we now see him face to face.”
O.K. The possible applications are many. I believe the greatest application is that now we “see” our Lord through His Word and in prayer, guided by the Holy Spirit, but wait for the promise of His return when we shall see Him “Face to Face”. What a great promise and expectation for us to experience!

June 11, 2017 10:15 pm
Published in: Ministry Life

Back a few years ago, missionaries in Tanzania relied on what was called “Radio Call” for inter-station communications. Even some stations ‘way out in the bush’ had a transmission/receiving set – but that necessitated a gas-powered generating machine to keep the radio battery in operating condition. As one who was involved in keeping the network operating, I often found that drained batteries were the problem. Some folks charged them infrequently, no matter how long the radio sets were operating, and that drained the battery more quickly.
In the beginning we operated the network using VHF transmitters. These “line-of-site” transmitters were fairly strong and, atmospheric conditions permitting, well used. One, “line of sight” bounced the radio signal off a cloud and disrupted a police chase in South Africa, much to their ire! A radio technician with Missionary Communication in Kenya came down to set up most of the transmitters and erect the towers. He and I often worked together and he gave me instructions on maintaining the towers and how to keep the VHF transmitters tuned up so they gave maximum output power. I even had to erect one 75 ft. tower on a distant station, but that is another story!
Our mission station in Mwanza town was the central operating point. They set the operating schedule and what other station spoke when- except for emergencies when they could break in out of order. It operated quite smoothly and was a real help in communicating information or requesting help. Once, there was an urgent call for penicillin to be sent out to the station where the missionary children were attending their boarding school. Of course, with everyone listening in, parents were concerned thinking that there was a problem in the school. Later we found out that visiting friends from the USA had been taken to the Serengeti Park to see the animals and, on the way home, saw a warthog family. One of the small ones had gone down a hole and one of the guests thought he could pull it out – so he reached into the hole and was promptly bitten on the hand. The penicillin was for him!
The Mwanza transmitter was down, blanking out almost all of the network. I was asked to come in to see what I could do. All checked out well; I could find nothing wrong. The set would not transmit but it could receive fine. What to do? Call the radio engineer from Nairobi. In a few days he came and delved into the innards of the set, in the transmitting section. He seemed stumped but after about an hour or so announced, “I found the problem. The engineer is dead”.
Consternation was, no doubt, evident in our faces as he went on to explain. A small lizard had taken up residence in the set and had passed across some electric contacts at the moment when the “transmit” button had been pushed – and was “fried”, with the contacts now insulated by its body. Removal of the “engineer” and cleaning of the contacts soon had everything back in operating order.

June 4, 2017 8:41 pm
Published in: Uncategorized

One of my “mentors” in ministry was Jushua (Joshua – I wrote about him before at the beginning of 2017). He was pastor of a district about 30 miles from the mission station and whenever I had to go there for primary school maintenance or supervision he always was there to welcome me. No matter what the issue, his quiet and calm spirit pervaded every discussion; his spiritual insights and counsel were the foundation of every decision.
Even in church work, when he preached, he always used illustrations from life to underline his main thrust. I can remember vividly one of these as he challenged those listening to walk uprightly before the Lord God. His illustration went thus:
“The dry season wind blew well into the normal rainy season. Everyone in the village was in great difficulty because of the scarcity of water. Women, whose job it was, had to leave early in the morning to collect water from the ponds before the cattle arrived to muddy things up.
“A man went into the bush to gather firewood. In the distance he saw a tree with green leaves and, when he came closer, noticed that there was some green grass at the base of the tree. He started digging and soon water started seeping into the hole. He enlarged the hole, water trickled in and soon it was filled with water. In the nearby bushes, he cut some thorn branches and used them to protect and cover his new water supply. When he returned to the village he told no one about it, not even his wife. He just told her that from here on he would get water for their use.
“While it was early in the morning, while the hyenas were still howling, he would get up and go to his “private spring” and would then creep back into the village and hide the water in his house. Throughout the day, he and his family had sufficient water while the rest of the village suffered.”
The pastor paused and asked,
“What do you think will happen to the man when the rest of the village finds out about this?”
All the hearers started to say what would customarily follow – ostracism, forced departure from the village, burning down his house, even possible death through witchcraft – the pastor had made his point.
He emphasized that those who know Christ have the message of Life that is desperately needed by others. They must always be ready to share the knowledge of the source of Eternal Life and of Salvation in Christ. He warned them that if they did not share and make the message available to all, their very testimony and life could lose credibility and the Word of God could be brought into disrepute.
To us who name the name of Christ, we need to always keep this in mind. Jesus said, “You are my witnesses… .” Our Lord has “chosen us” and “ordained us” that we should be an example of real Christian living and testimony and so draw other peoples’ focus to our Saviour; to the “Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world.” May we be faithful in living and in witness and thus be God’s voice to others that they, through us, may find the Saviour.