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Africa Inland Mission
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.

May 28, 2017 7:43 pm
Published in: Ministry Life

Here it is. I promised I would give a couple motorcycle experiences. The biggest difference from the pedal-powered bike is that you didn’t have to pedal and you could travel at a faster speed (usually). Moving along on the well corrugated roads meant that you had to move pretty fast to keep from being shaken to pieces. I usually tried to follow the cow paths or foot paths that often paralleled the main road- they were a lot smoother. At the same time, that bee you ran into that was flying tail-end first and had it stinger ready for your chin really disrupted the journey! And, those “dog/spinning wheels/flapping trousers” (previous blog “village dogs seemed always to be enemies of spinning wheels and, plunging out of a village, would attack the bike’s wheels trying to bite them. It didn’t matter, front or back, but they always attacked with fury. As I kept on riding, and when they found they could not “catch” a wheel, they often turned on me – on my ankles, flapping trousers or legs that were moving in the pedaling or on the footrests on the motor bike” problems continued but I was able to outrun those nasty brutes!
     My experiences began with a little 125cc Triumph. I think it had been used by at least 6 owners before it became mine and had a lot of engine problems.
Once, after a light rain, I was tooling down a foot path and I saw a bicycle coming up my direction. He moved the same direction as I did to let him pass; I moved the other direction and so did he. I moved back – hit a muddy patch and laid my bike down. I went flying but was unhurt (after all, the ground was soft and how fast can one travel on an African foot path?!?). The African on the bicycle jumped off his bike, let it fall to the ground and took off yelling, “I killed an Mzungu (white man), I killed an Mzungu!” Across the field he ran, yelling.
I stood up and, I guess, my yelling was louder than his. I yelled that I was unhurt and that he shouldn’t be afraid. He stopped, heard my voice and slowly made his way back. I showed him that I was uninjured and we had a good conversation. Soon both of us were on our respective ways. The next Sunday he showed up in church. I wish I could say that he accepted the Lord but I can’t. He shook my hand warmly and thanked me for not holding the accident against him.
     My next motorcycle was a 350cc Matchless – a beauty! Much heavier, with a stronger engine and could travel faster. I even used it to take long roofing timbers to a remote school which I was re-roofing. The stuck out fore and aft on jury-rigged supports. Of course I had to watch the turns on those narrow African foot-paths but I managed! I wish I had a picture of how I did this!
Remember my blog from February 18, 2017? “About 30 miles away, on one of our other mission stations, the resident missionary saved “good” eggs for us. I usually dropped by to pick them up to take home when I went the 70+ miles to town for supplies. They were always well packed, wrapped in newspaper so they wouldn’t break on the rough roads we traveled.
     This time, my safari to town was on my Matchless motorcycle. On my way home I stopped by for any eggs saved for us. There was a tin box full with the wrapped eggs and I tied the box onto the motorcycle carrier. Off I went, down the bumpy road, across the rough mbugas (seasonal cotton-soil swamps), through the forest and on home about 30+ miles away. All arrived safe and sound — or, rather, I did.
     What I didn’t realize was that anything carried on the carrier over the back fender of the motorcycle at least doubles any road vibrations and bumps. And the eggs were back there! When I arrived home I opened the tin box to take out the eggs – they were well scrambled! And well mixed with pieces of news paper! What a mess – and waste!” Live – and, I hope, learn!
    Then, later, we also had a little 75cc Honda – you know, the ones that were advertised as “You meet the nicest people on a Honda”? Anyway, it was good for short, quick trips and Carol used it from time to time (it was more lady-friendly) until – !!! I heard her come back from an outing followed by a loud yell. I ran out and saw the motorbike had fallen over as she tried to put it on its stand and the hot exhaust pipe was resting on her foot – and she was wearing flip-flops! I don’t think she rode it too much after that.
But this little bike was great, better than the Matchless, for getting to outchurches during the rainy season – mostly in getting across the flooded swamps. There usually were large clumps of grass in the swamps, growing up from the clay, and by pushing the Honda, with the engine running I was able to get across – from clump to clump – to the other side.
When the water in the swamp was deep, I had with me a long leather strap with a strong brass buckle that was about 2+ inches wide. I was able to pass the belt under the engine, buckle it and put my shoulder through the looped strap and lift the machine and walk carefully across. OF COURSE, I was a lot younger and stronger then (and wish for a return of those days)!
Transport, no matter of what kind, proved essential in ministry. I think back to “old time” pioneer missionaries who walked hundreds of miles in ministry as they visited villages and out churches. It made one give thanks for “progress” and especially for the Lord’s provision.

(pictures borrowed from the Internet)

May 22, 2017 1:18 pm
Published in: Ministry Life

There were 2 main reasons that necessitated travel by bike – bikes using pedal-power or bikes using motor-power. The first was when the roads were flooded and the swamps impassable and, secondly, when trying to visit otherwise inaccessible villages. I guess I could add a third reason – that is when going with a group of church leaders in which a bicycle would be used to be part of the group. After all, if I used my motor-“bike”, I would leave them far behind!
Both type of bike conveyances had their own pluses and minuses. But there was one characteristic/problem that plagued both – village dogs seemed always to be enemies of spinning wheels and, plunging out of a village, would attack the bike’s wheels trying to bite them. It didn’t matter, front or back, but they always attacked with fury. As I kept on riding, and when they found they could not “catch” a wheel, they often turned on me – on my ankles, flapping trousers or legs that were moving in the pedaling or on the footrests on the motor bike. I soon learned that when I went somewhere by bike I had to take a stick with me to fend off those angry brutes! That makes for interesting riding – as one USA pastor said, “One hand on the throttle, the other on the club!” Good thing a motorbike had a foot brake!
Another difficulty, especially when using pedal-power, was that African paths are often loaded with thorns and you know what thorns do to bicycle tires. This was always a problem (to say nothing of the hot sun, tall [I mean 5+ ft.!] grass loaded with grass seed, sand, slippery clay after a rain shower plus a lot more!) and an anticipated hour’s trip could end up taking all morning. Repairing punctures (using spit to find the tube puncture if there was no water around) and using up the repair solution and patches or the “gun-powder” vulcanizing patches. I learned that, in order to be able to make forward progress after a myriad of repairs, to find a water source, take out the tube valve stem, suck up water and expel it into the tube then pump in some air. Fill it about half full of water. I guess the water molecules, sticking together, reduced the size of the puncture and slowed down the loss of air so that you could get at least a couple more miles before you would have to do it all over again.
Then, again, (I only had to do this once!) when all else fails – remove the tube leaving only the tire. Then pack firmly the tire full of grass, reseat the tire and put the tube around your neck and continue on your way.
Or, if all else fails, walk. And push the bicycle and hope to get hope to get home before sundown!!
Some of my motorcycle travails will follow possibly in next week’s post. Keep looking.

May 13, 2017 7:59 pm
Published in: Church Ministry

Raphael came to us from ‘way down south in Tanzania; down near the coast of the Indian Ocean and was from another tribe. He was a trained teacher, experienced in primary school administration and was assigned to head up the school at Salawe, the location which would later become a full-fledged mission station.
I had been assigned to build that school – to secure the land, get the needed buildings up, which included teachers’ houses and provide desks and other needed furniture – and to oversee its activities. This was to be done from our current mission residence, about 45 miles (about 4 hours!) away. More fun. Another missionary had started the construction work.
Before Carol and I moved to that place, administration both of area churches and of the schools was done from the Kijima station where we lived. I was responsible to deliver the teachers’ pay each month and, besides other preaching trips, went out at the end of each month to do this.
There were two major seasonal swamps between Kijima and Salawe and, when it rained, it was difficult to get through. If it rained hard at the end of the month, I often had to wait for several days before going in order for the water to go down and roads to dry out a bit.
This one year was a very wet year. It was impossible to get my Land Rover over the second swamp so I set up “office” in the forest and made arrangements for the teachers to meet me there to get their pay.
Bible education was one of the classes at that new school. Raphael, being headmaster, kept me informed of everything happening. He was very keen on the spiritual well-being of the students.
On one of the days when the teachers had to visit my “forest office” to be paid, Raphael was the first one there. He could hardly contain himself. With great joy and enthusiasm his first words were, “This month, six boys came over onto the Lord’s side.”
Great news! Together we thanked the Lord and knew that the school would be a great outreach to young people to hear the Word of God.
Later, Carol and I moved out to Salawe – first, living in a tent, then in a small teacher’s house and later into a newly built residence. During all that time Raphael remained as head teacher. He and I worked together, our children played with his children. Thank you, Lord, for relationships and friendships built.

May 3, 2017 10:51 am
Published in: Ministry Life

Sorry I am  late this week. In fact, I am writing this from hospital where I have been for the last few days. So this will be my last post for a while – with apologies to all. All of who know the Lord as our Savior rest in the assurance of His continual care and we can leave these “ups and down” in His hands.

When we were assigned to open a station in a new area, the cultural chief and headmen were the “rulers” in that chieftainship. The colonial government worked through those men – they adjudicated disputes and maintained order; independence and its new administrative changes had not yet come to the country.
When I first went out to that area to survey for the new station location, I had to deal with the chief and his local headmen. Because of a major mistake I made in my survey, I had to return a week later and in his court, before all assembled, I apologized and expressed my mistake. (This story is included in my book “Around the Campfire”). It seems my apology and acknowledgment of making a mistake so influenced him that he opened his arms in acceptance and always welcomed me into his living compound. In fact, whenever I had to attend his court for any reason, he had me sit among the tribal elders and headmen even if I was the one seeking a decision on some matter. It was a real honor – I can only pray that all said and done gave a positive reflection of our Lord and of His Salvation freely offered to all.
Cultural protocol called for the headmen to adjudicate most matters in their own village/villages. Plots for garden, personal disputes, abusive drunkenness, stolen cattle – these were some of the many things they had to deal with. If, however, they were unable to resolve the matter, it was then referred to the chief’s court and final decisions or judgement would be pronounced. Several times, while just “driving by”, I was hailed and told that the chief would like to see me. He took me into the court and even though I was not a contributor in discussions or judgements, was able to sit though the entire case before him.
I saw a man, who was guilty of a major offence, fined a several thousand shillings (the currency in use at that time). The guilty one just had one question – “four-legged shillings”? He had a lot of livestock and wanted to know if he could pay in kind. The reply was “Yes” and several elders and headmen were assigned to ensure the value and completion of the transaction.
I saw 2 men, violently angry with each other – so angry they had to be restrained – who, who when judgement was pronounced. left the barazza (judgement hall) and walked away holding hands!
All those experiences in what was then the “chief’s court and compound” provided not only recognition and acceptance there but acceptance as we visited surrounding villages in evangelism. Only time will tell what eternal results came about as the Gospel of Salvation was preached and explained. Njima, Salawe is always well remembered by us not only because it was home for about 10 years or because of our blood-sweat-tears that were shed there in activity but because of relationships developed and because of the many who prayed for our Lord to work for His Glory out there.
It was an encouragement to go back to visit after more than 30 years of absence. The African pastor told of how the church had grown, the many new churches started and of individuals who were now in leadership in church matters. TO GOD BE THE GLORY!

April 24, 2017 8:03 pm
Published in: Ministry Life

It was the end of the school year for the extended primary school at the station on which we lived. The head teacher, and the other teachers and staff, worked with the students to plan a “end of year” program and party.
The school served grades 4 through 8. Each grade developed their own program – and, of course, vied to make theirs the best and take home the prize. The prize was to be Fanta Orange (a mild orange-tasting soda) and maandazi (African doughnuts). This, to the winners, was something to strive for.
For the life of me I cannot remember the skit/programs the other grades put on. But grade 8 nailed it – and the whole crowd, both students an lookers-on laughed loudly and gave them a resounding ovation.
The sun had gone by the time grade 8’s slot came up. Through the darkness, by the light of a pressure lantern, several boys brought out a table and chair. The lantern was placed on the table along with a spoon and an upturned metal pot.
Another young man appeared, dressed in what was supposed to be official uniform. He sat down at the table, started tapping with the spoon on the metal pot and writing on a tablet which he had brought with him. It became obvious that he was supposed to be a telegraph operator. He was “receiving and sending” messages to and from far away places.
With a shriek, another boy entered as an old man dressed in skins with a feathered headdress and a cow-tail whisk in his hand. He was obviously supposed to be a community “witch-doctor”. He came with a small bucket which, it turned out, was said to contain some fresh meat.
As he did so he said to the telegraph operator, “you know my son has gone to study at University in “Bulaya” (England). “Yes”, replied the telegraph operator. “Please send him my greetings”. Tap, tap, tap. Message went.
“Did he send a reply”? Tap, tap, tap. Reply came. “Yes, sends his greetings to you also”.
“Tell him that I am sending him some meat because I hear the food in Bulaya isn’t very good”. Tap, tap, tap. “Done. I have told him and he is expecting it in about 2 weeks if you send it by airmail”.
“Send it now. It will spoil if he has to wait 2 weeks”.
Tap, tap, tap. The “witch-doctor” looked into his bucket and saw the meat still there. In anger he said, “I told you to send it now”! The poor telegraph operator tried to explain that he could only send “words”, not actual things.      The old man was not mollified. “I demand you send it right now! The Bazungu (white people) have always said they can do wonderful things. If you can talk with my son, you can certainly send him something”.
The crowd watching the skit were in hysterics. Shaking his whisk in the telegraph operators face he said, “if you don’t send it I will “kuloga” (bewitch) you and your family”. The crowd roared – was it in embarrassment because that actually happens when the desires of the witch doctor are not met.
The poor telegraph operator leaned back in his chair to escape the flailing whisk. He toppled over backwards onto the ground (all this was happening out on the soccer field), gathered his wits and ran away into the darkness, leaving the irate witch doctor muttering to himself as he gathered up his bucket of meat and stalked away. The crowd loved it! Grade 6 took the cake – prize, rather. It was an enjoyable evening for all.
And for me – a crowd like that presented a real opportunity to witness, to present the message of Salvation. No, I didn’t preach. The hyenas were soon to begin their howling and folks had to get home but no way were they to go home without at least a Witness Unto Life.
P.S. – this was all pre-independence when the African population took liberties to criticize the British colonists. Tensions were running high to “kick them out of our land” and even primary schools were not immune from this attitude.

April 17, 2017 6:53 pm
Published in: Church Ministry

It was a very busy day – Holding several open-air evangelistic meetings where the story of creation and God’s plan of salvation were explained. A counseling period with those who indicated a desire to accept the Lord as Saviour. Packing up the loud-speaking system. Bumping over remote “non-roads”. Going without a noon meal.
But it was all rewarding and the evangelist and the others with me on this outreach safari were very satisfied with the entire day’s activities. Now we all were looking forward to a good African dinner and a restful night. After all, we were to do it all over again the next day in another area then the following day in another area then the following day…! We were on safari for 2 weeks.
We had made the evangelist’s home compound our starting point that morning. Before we left in the morning he had given instructions regarding the evening meal and made instructions as to the housing for all of us.
Now, some supporting information. In Tanzania there was a plant that produced very small red peppers – chili peppers. And they sure were hot! If one used them in cooking they had to make sure very few were used otherwise ??? – You can guess it.
Enter our evening meal. “Bugali” (stiff corn-meal mush), boiled chicken and gravy, heaps of boiled rice, sweet tea at the end. Man, nothing better!
But this time, the first dipping of the “bugali” into the gravy, caused sharp intakes of breath and frantic requests for water – which, of course, brought no relief. The meat could hardly be chewed without “hot-mouth” results so was basically swallowed quickly. The rice had to be eaten plain without pouring the gravy on it because of the fiery peppery taste. Tears streamed down the cheeks of each one of us.
The evangelist left to go out to the cooking hut to find out what happened. Even he had never experienced something like this. He came back in and reported that his wife, who was in charge of the cooking preparations, had instructed that “because the “nzungu” (foreign) missionary was eating in their home, make sure to put in plenty of pepper because that is what foreigners like”! And they did with abandon!
Wow! Me and hot peppers don’t get along that great! But, we survived. The kindness and concern of our hosts was most encouraging. And it was all a part of ministry. But that day the admonition to “endure all things” took on a new meaning!