The eV&B Bulletin

Reflections on our Mission to Tanzania

eV&B Bulletin: November 22, 2010

eVB logoThe travel-induced fog has finally lifted from my brain cells and I am ready to offer my report on our latest mission to Tanzania. Of course it’s not only the jet lag that has curtailed me. These missions are highly-confrontational affairs on a very personal level. As I am preparing my notes and packing my bags, I think I understand what Peter felt like as he stood on the edge of the boat contemplating his next move after Jesus challenged him to step out on the water. Once I am home again, I have an inkling of an idea how Peter felt as he climbed sea-soaked back into the ship. Yes, his doubt ultimately betrayed him… but for a few precious moments he experienced a living, breathing walk of faith.

Was our mission to Tanzania a success? Let me say that I am aware of some very successful moments. There were moments when I knew that the words coming from my mouth did not originate from my humanity, when the spirit of man yielded to the Spirit of Christ. I saw this in myself as I taught my seminar. I saw this in Evan as he ministered to the evening congregation. These were moments only, yet time enough for the Holy Spirit to do his blessed work.

Evan and I are both extremely grateful for the contribution of Evelyn Paraboy Kaney to this mission. Evelyn oversaw every detail from our arrival to our departure and handled the responsibility with wonderful grace and good humor. She understood the limits of our mission budget and worked hard to get the most out of the least. Evan and I had a lovely time staying at her parent’s home.

As always, Eliakimu Parakepu Kurupashi, the founder of Matebete village and president of Illasak Tenebo Oninye (“Workers Together With Him” in the Maasai language) did a superb job in taking the oversight of the event. Baba Kurupashi (“baba” is a term of endearment and respect meaning “father”) is a living embodiment of the adage attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.” His son, Rev. Paulo Kurupashi, served as interpreter for both Evan and me. It is an easy partnership to be yoked with Paulo in the work of the ministry. He is strongly devoted to the Lord and the Lord’s people.

My presentation of my seminar In the Power of His Might went well. Teaching in the new Worship and Historical Center afforded me a freedom that was not possible in the village Lutheran church. That is not meant as a criticism to the Lutherans – as a group they have been extremely gracious to the WTWH mission teams. Nevertheless each time I taught from their pulpit, the presence of their denomination loomed very large, especially for the Maasai who belong to other churches. In the new building that pressure was gone. We were all simply Christians.

We arrived in Matebete at the tail end of the hot dry season. The weather definitely impacted my efforts. I tried to start the class at 8 AM, but usually settled for 8:30. (The villagers told me, “Americans have watches. We have time.”) But by 11 AM the midday heat was overwhelming, radiating off the tin roof, making it very difficult to concentrate. As a result I had to pare my presentation down to only the most vital precepts. Thankfully (by Evan’s assessment) the message remained clear.

Because the Worship and Historical Center is not yet equipped to handle a large crowd, Evan’s evening presentations were in the Lutheran church. About one-third of his audience was village schoolchildren and they thoroughly enjoyed his presentation. As someone who is benefited on a weekly basis by Evan’s ministry here in Baton Rouge, I was very happy to see others share the same experience.

My ministry to the Maasai in Matebete village in Tanzania is unlike any other facet of my work. From the moment Evan I first entered the Matebete Village in 2004, we recognized we have been granted a very unique opportunity. Some 2000 years after the book of Acts, this legendary tribe is embracing the good news of Christ for the very first time. Only God could have opened such a door. Still, I never quite believed it when the late Rev. Yohanna Ole Ngekee, the man who pioneered evangelism to the Maasai of the Southern Highlands, said our arrival in the village was an answer to his prayers. During the few times we were able to minister together, I felt somewhat like a child tagging along at his side. When I was told that in the moments before his death he left a word for me ("Tell Rev. Tim, I have done my part. I leave the mission work among Maasai in his hands"), I did my utmost to dismiss it as his will, not God’s will.

In January 2009, I ministered in the village accompanied by Daniel Bucher of Switzerland. It was my first trip to the village since Rev. Ngekee’s death, my first without Evan, and my first without our former associate from Tukuyu. It was a remarkable mission and I saw that God’s hand was present to prove my ministry both to the Maasai and to me. But then almost two years passed. A conflict in schedule with Paulo preempted my planned visit in November 2009. My foot surgery kept me home for most of 2010. However something else was afoot (no pun intended); the time at home gave me opportunity to complete two books and solidify my theology. Most important, some sixteen years after my ordination, I finally came to understand the ministry to which I’ve been called.

Returning now to our recent mission, when the seminar was complete I headed a special meeting in the “Rev. Yohanna Ngekee Maasai Worship and Historical Center” (as it is officially known). In attendance were certain directors of HIMWA (Huduma ya Injili na Maendeleo Kwa Wafugaji). HIMWA is a pastoralists’ organization founded to represent the Maasai in land issues with the government. HIMWA provides WTWH with the legal covering necessary to do mission work in Tanzania. Members of the Maasai women’s prayer group Korduni (a Maa word meaning “to save”) were also at this meeting, women who had served with Pastor Ngekee since their youth. It was Korduni that first invited WTWH to minister in Matebete village. These women have given WTWH a prayer covering during all our missions there. Finally, there were several Maasai elders representing the different denominations that operated in the community. The purpose of the meeting was simple – to determine the purpose the new building. I told them that the name of the building told them everything they needed to know. It was named for Rev. Ngekee, therefore everything that happened within its walls should honor his memory and vision. This building was a center for worship and must be respected as such. It is also a historical center, a place for the elders in the tribe to pass their culture onto their progeny. This answer was accepted by all who were present.

One of the women said aloud what others in the room were simultaneously realizing: this event was a prophecy fulfilled. Long before Evan and I first ministered in Matebete Village in 2004, Rev. Ngekee had foretold a day when Maasai of different denominations would gather under one roof in service to God and their people. He told them that someone who was not of the traditional Maasai priesthood would come after him to lead them into a more perfect understanding of the Word of God. He said that the village of Matebete would be a center of outreach to the rest of the Maasai.

Once again, I did my best to disassociate myself from this revelation. Then on our final night in the village after most everyone had gone to sleep, I sat at a dining table with Paulo, Evelyn’s father Paraboy, and Baba Eliakimu. The mood had been light and carefree but suddenly it was holy and solemn. Using his son as his interpreter, Eliakimu brought me through all the prophecies once again, all the way to Rev. Ngekee’s dying words. Then he looked at me and said, “Don’t be afraid.”

At that point I knew the Holy Spirit was talking to me. I WAS afraid, afraid that I could not possibly hold up my end of such a covenant. But speaking by the Spirit of God, Eliakimu assured me that it was not my responsibility to bring such marvelous things to pass. That duty belonged solely to God. My only responsibility was to follow His lead.

And that I will try my best to do. I will quit trying to invalidate these prophecies and revelations and instead seek the Lord’s face. I don’t have any grandiose plans and schemes for my mission work among the Maasai. For now I will continue trying to raise money for the completion of the Worship and Historical Center. It has already proven its worth. I will try to bring attention to the cause of the women’s group Korduni. They need start-up capital for a small cattle business that will finance their evangelical missions. The community is in need of capital for a well project for the irrigation of their cattle. I believe there are people who would like to be a part of this historic opportunity.

But all these projects are secondary to my main mission, and that is to minister the gospel truth to the people of Matebete to the end that these faithful men and women can teach others also. I am praying for an open door to return to Matebete in April 2010. I am hopeful that some of you who read this report will volunteer your financial support to this end.

Before we came home, Evan and I stopped in Morogoro Town where I presented my seminar If Ye Do These Things, Ye Shall Never Fall to a group of young Maasai adults. These young men and women stand in the crossroads between their storied past and their future in a fully globalized community. I believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ – properly taught, without the carnal and devilish influences of Western thought – is the only thing that can bridge this ever-widening gap. The future of the Maasai as a people, and as the people of God, rests in the hands of this generation. On behalf of WTWH, we pledge to do our best to help deepen their spiritual and cultural roots lest the winds of religious and social doctrine move them.

As for me, I’m back on the edge of that boat, trying to muster the courage to take Jesus at his word. I would appreciate your prayers!


To see photos from Matebete Village, click HERE.
To see photos from Morogoro Town, click HERE.


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