NEWS END OF JULY 2013
It is tempting to be busy. I love the kinds of projects in which one knows just what one has to achieve, and can get on with achieving it. I guess that makes me task-oriented. The ministry I am engaged in for this trip is not of this nature. Even taking time out to get to a cyber cafe as I am doing now seems in a sense to be running away! Time runs differently in Tanzania, and elsewhere in Africa. Ministry opportunities and quality conversations arise when one slows down and tries to get into synch with the people.
A KIST graduate told me that missionaries fight each other. I guess it is too easy for us missionaries to look at the ways in which African church leaders disagree. Yet he is right. Pray for this. Missionaries must love each other. If they can't do that, then it is very difficult to teach love to others. It is very sad that missionaries can end up being read in this way.
Life in the Mbulu highlands of Tanzania seems to be in a time warp. Despite frequent visits and my living African village life for years, it is still incredible to see what we would consider severe material lack as if it is a normal way of life. On the other hand . . . mobile phones now are everywhere. Many of them are connected to the internet.
"You're walking with me adds me strength" shared my colleague. Rural pastors can be isolated, and ministry can be discouraging. Being able to draw alongside and simply walk with them is in itself an encouragement to them and others in the churches. My host right now is a bishop. Once my student at KIST, he now carries a lot of responsibility; the final point of call for difficult issues. The person representing Jesus to so many. As we walk, we talk, discuss, and encourage one another. I hope to visit another bishop next week, before attending the tent-makers congress in Dar es Salaam at the start of next month.
I probably never imagined that our Tanzania KIST students should end up where they are now. Then, when they were our students, I did my best (that perhaps just wasn't good enough?) to attempt to value them as they are. I wanted to prepare them for ministry in African contexts. I imagined that 15 years later they would still be walking the dusty paths Bible in hand. One graduate just gave me a ride in a land-cruiser. Many of them have, after ministerial training at KIST, gone back to do secondary schooling for adults. They had come to KIST from positions as local pastors. Many of them now are administrators or professional teachers in the government education system. The knowledge of English that they acquired at KIST has given them major advantage in the formal education system in Tanzania.
I am caused to think and reflect. In some ways, it is good to be at home and to perceive what is going around at depth. In other ways it is good also to be a visitor, sharing God's word, and listening. In many ways that is my ministry now; listening. Then praying. Encouraging. Walking with.
PS The email address for Peter Stagg was given wrong in my last Jim's journal. It should be firstname.lastname@example.org (in Jim's Journal 'stagg' was written as 'staff'). As well as for my ministry here in Tanzania, also pray for the tentmakers congress that is to be held in Dar es Salaam. My visit to Mwanza is now uncertain. My intended host has hit difficulties related to the illness of his wife. I am looking either for an alternative ministry to serve with, or I may shorten my Tanzania trip by a few days. Give thanks that the teachers' strike in Kenya has ended. Pray for the folks who I left at home in Yala.