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The eV&B Bulletin

Tanzania Mission Report

eV&B Bulletin: February 4, 2009

eVB logoThe January 2009 mission to Tanzania was a great success and for this I offer thanks to God and to everyone who kept us in his or her prayers. At our last church service in Baton Rouge before my departure, I said that my theme for this mission was Acts 20:22, "And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there." I went to Tanzania without a sense of foreboding but having no idea what to expect. This would be my first trip to Tanzania with neither Evan Pyle (whom we both knew was not called to this particular mission), nor Ans Mwambepo (who is no longer a part of this work). It was only when Daniel Bucher of Switzerland heard that I might be traveling alone that he volunteered to accompany me. sanctuaries. To make matters worse, the Maasai are sent to areas that are basically uninhabitable (which is why no wild animals live there). Without proper representation, the Maasai people had no means to protest their treatment. HIMWA was founded to fill this void and also to facilitate the evangelizing of the Maasai.

We began our meeting with a visit to the gravesite of the late Rev. Yohana Lewang’an N’gekee. God used Pastor N’gekee in a mighty way to bring the Gospel to the Maasai people. Breaking with their traditions, the elders decided that he should be buried in a place of honor behind the church.

When the meeting resumed, I presented the elders with a gift of $500.00 toward the completion of the Maasai Worship and Historical Center which will be named in honor of Pastor N’gekee. This building is the shared vision of the Pastor, Mr. Kurupashi and many others including the ministers of WTWH who want to ensure that the rich history of the Maasai people is not lost in the changing world. I was very glad to see that the chosen site was just behind the village meeting tree. We walked over to see the work that had already begun and prayed for God’s blessing. Over the course of the next week, the outer walls would be erected. There is still much to work to be done. The bricks were the least expensive component of the process. Tin sheets for the roof, lumber and glass will add a considerable amount

Three separate flights took me to Amsterdam where on Tuesday morning, January 13, I met Daniel for the ten-hour flight to Dar es Salaam. Our plane arrived in Tanzania late that night and after an oh-so-short sleep, we boarded a 7AM bus southwest to Chimala, another ten-hour ride. We arrived in Chimala around 5PM and within an hour we were transported to Matebete village. Even before I was fully out of the car, village founder Eliakimu Kurupashi wrapped his formidable arms around me in a bear hug. It was good to be back. After a brief welcoming meeting at the church, we gladly settled in for the night.

On Thursday morning we met with our hosts, the elders of HIMWA (Huduma ya Injili na Maendeleo Kwa Wafugaji). HIMWA is a pastoralists’ organization founded to represent the Maasai in land issues with the Tanzanian government. For several decades the government has been relocating the Maasai out of their settlements with little or no compensation to expand its wildlife to the final price. Nevertheless, I believe this is a project well worth our support.

I told the elders that I did not come to Matebete with any particular teaching in mind. I came prepared to teach any or all of my four seminars. I also wanted to make myself available for prayer and counseling. They suggested that I hold to my previous teaching schedule: 10AM to 12PM, 3PM to 5PM, and 8PM to 10PM. Since we would be together for eight days, it seemed like I would be doing a lot of teaching. But I soon realized that this was not the Lord’s agenda for this mission. Though it was the rainy season, it was still very hot. The tin roof of the church amplified the heat. I wanted my sermons to be a matter of edification and not sheer endurance. One hour-long teaching three times a day would be better for everyone.

That afternoon and evening I presented two teachings from my series on Biblical Prosperity. It seemed like we were off to a good start. But on Friday morning the church was almost empty. Usually this would leave me quite perturbed. When I have a long class to teach, every delay presents a problem. Missed material must somehow be squeezed into the next session.

But this time I was peaceful. Daniel and I actually savored the extra time to refresh ourselves, and the afternoon and evening sessions that day went very well. By now, I felt led to teach my seminar, If Ye Do These Things, Ye Shall Never Fall. Everyone promised to be present Monday morning when we resumed.

On Saturday Daniel and I visited the home of the N’gekee family. The pastor’s eldest son, Nashon Yohana, told me that his father had left a word for me in his final hour before he passed away. It was up to me, he had said, to continue his work in the spiritual education of the Maasai. This was not the first time Pastor N’gekee had expressed this desire to me. Nevertheless, I determined to wait upon the Lord to see if this was his desire for me as well.

That afternoon Daniel and I, along with our friends Paulo Kurupashi and Irene Lobara, took the first of many long walks through the village. We stopped to talk with the people we met along the way, and often I’d be asked to pray for them. We came across a group of young men who belonged to the Maasai warrior class called the ilmorani who had just finished butchering a goat and distributing the meat. Now it was time to cook their portion, which they were pleased to share with us. Roasted goat’s ears, anyone? I can’t say I savored it.

On Sunday morning we attended services at the Lutheran church in the village. The new pastor is a delightful man and his son did a wonderful job of accompanying the church singers with his guitar. As always the Maasai choir was superb. This was also a day of thanksgiving for the village chairman, Tera Kurupashi, who was the proud owner of a new "Lucky" brand motorcycle. I used this occasion to tell the story of Eutychus, the young man mentioned in Acts 20 who dozed off during Paul’s long sermon and fell to his death. Eutychus means Lucky, (or so I was told when I was in Greece). That young man was a lot more than lucky when Paul raised him from the dead! After church we were invited to Tera’s home for a special meal. Sunday afternoon I videotaped the history of Matebete village as told by Eliakimu Kurupashi. This was one of countless times I was grateful for the interpretation skills of our friend Evelyn Paraboy.

We had just finished the taping when a car drove in bringing two Danish humanitarian workers, Jens Dahl and his wife, Zie Odgaard. Jens Dahl is the founder of IWGIA, International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs. Accompanying them was my friend, Adam Kuleit Ole Mwarabu, secretary of the Parakuiyo Pastoralists Indigenous Community Development Organization. I knew that this meeting was a matter of providence and not coincidence. It was Adam who once gave me a long list of books that began my education in the history and culture of the Maasai. Adam has shown great savvy in representing the interests of his tribe to people around the world, including meetings at the United Nations. I consider his counsel vital to my success in working with the Maasai. How can I help whom I do not understand?

By Monday a pattern had begun of several women coming each morning for prayer and counsel. On these occasions, Paulo was a great help. Mature beyond his years, he is a compassionate and sympathetic man of God. The Lord worked with us in a powerful way as we ministered to his people. When Paulo was unavailable, Evelyn or Irene would interpret for me. The Lord put together the right combination of people to best serve the one in need. From that day forward, whenever Daniel and I went out walking, we would be stopped by women wanting to testify of their deliverance. But the most moving testimonies came from the babies we prayed for. They didn’t speak of their deliverance with words, of course, but with their entire countenance.

A surprise awaited us when we arrived at church for the Monday morning session. Despite the vows made by so many to attend, the crowd was very sparse. Mr. Kurupashi took some of the pews and barricaded the doors to prevent anyone from entering late and interrupting the teaching. This showed me that the ones who did come took the Gospel very seriously.

That afternoon the leader of the women’s prayer team, Anna Kisota, asked me to appoint a replacement for Ans as the liaison between the Maasai and WTWH. I said that this election must fall on their shoulders. I scheduled a meeting the next morning to address the situation. I spoke of the mutual faith that would be required of them and me to fulfil Rev. N’gekee’s vision. If I was going to teach them the things the Lord has given me to teach, we needed to change the way we were doing things. I needed a band of committed people who would attend every session of the class, not an ever-changing crowd of spectators. We would need to seclude ourselves from the business of the village. I proposed that they select thirty such people to attend such a class to be held in November of this year. I added one stipulation. Those who missed a session would not be allowed to continue. If less than 20 people graduated, the Maasai would have to agree to reimburse my traveling expenses. I told them they could pay me in cows.

It was up to them, I said, to appoint a governing committee, and Daniel and I excused ourselves from the meeting. By the next day, a committee of ten had been selected to oversee the Tanzanian arm of Workers Together With Him (or as it is translated into Maa, "Ilaasak Tenebo Oninye").

That afternoon under the shade of the meeting tree Daniel taught Jesus’ parable of the talents. Daniel is a gifted storyteller and his presentation was both humorous and easily understandable. He is also an ideal traveling companion as well, serving the mission at all times and not only when he has the pulpit.

After the afternoon meeting we were invited to dine at the home of the President of HIMWA. Talking to Paulo, he nodded his head in my direction and said, "This man doesn’t know it, but I like him very much." He was right. I was pleasantly surprised, especially since I knew he was not a Christian.

That night at church I struggled through my teaching. Later I told Paulo that the room was filled with the stench of unbelief. The next morning he told me that he hadn’t understood why I said that but that now he understood what I meant. During the night accusations had been made against Mr. Kurupashi, that he was a worker of sorcery and had caused a young man to fall ill. Paulo was pained for his father’s sake and I assured him I would not let this accusation go unchallenged.

The next day, Wednesday, January 21, was our last full day in the village. Once again the time of morning ministering was a time of signs and wonders. I have never been so aware of the presence of the Lord to heal. Afterwards we were invited to the home of Evelyn’s family for a refreshing meal and lovely fellowship. Afterwards we returned to the church for a meeting with the newly-elected board of WTWH-TZ. This gave me the opportunity to speak out against the accusations made against Mr. Kurupashi. We prayed together for God’s hand of guidance on our work. But it was a sharing by Ruth Kuyato that spoke most to me. After the death of Rev. N’gekee, she had anguished over who would rise up to wear his mantel. She had received her answer. It was Daniel who observed that the reason God had been so gracious towards me with the multitude of healings and a deeper communion with the elders than I had previously known was because God was establishing my ministry in their eyes.

Ever since my last mission to Kenya in 2008, the Lord has been dealing with me to accept the uncomfortable burden of my work. For me, WTWH is a group effort. We are workers together with the Lord and with each other. I’ve been reluctant to assume too prominent a role for fear of contradicting the ideal upon which this ministry is based. But it is wrong to hide the gifts God has given you for fear of standing out. "A man’s gift maketh room for him," says Proverbs 18:16, "and bringeth him before great men." My work among the Maasai is testimony to that truth. Where it goes from here, only God knows. If I am faithful to my call, the prophetic charge spoken over me by Rev. B. G. Leonard in 1994 will come to pass. "Go therefore in peace and in the power and Spirit of God and fulfill his desires concerning thee, and thy house shall be blessed of the Lord, and it shall be known to multitudes that thou art special in his eyes, and hast a special word for their hearts." If I fail – even for reasons of false humility – I will have much to answer for.

On the last afternoon of my visit to Matebete, I taught on Brotherly Kindness. In the past this sermon has focused on repentance and forgiveness. This time I was led to speak on kindness to strangers, kindness in the church and especially in the home. I had been rather horrified to learn that many of the women who came for healing had been injured by their own husbands. I told my audience that I felt there were many wrongful objections to Maasai culture made by the well-meaning Christians, but one tradition that could not be justified was the belief that a husband has the right to beat his wife. I was glad that the message was well received by all the men. The women, of course, were very grateful.

The night’s teaching on Charity closed out my series and the mission. Later, the woman's’ prayer group came to pray with and over me, and to ensure me of their desire to continue the good work that was begun.

In the morning we began the long bus ride back to Dar es Salaam, and eventually flew home on Saturday night. But part of me always stays behind in Tanzania and I am already looking forward to the next time, God willing, that I rejoin my friends there. Once again, thank you for your support that helps make possible missions like this. I pray you will be richly rewarded on your day of reckoning. I have been promised testimonies from this mission for the next Vine & Branches.

Photos of this event can be viewed HERE.

Ubarikiwe Sana! (Be greatly blessed!)

In the service of His Majesty, the King of kings,
Rev. Tim Sullivan

 


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