NEWS MID AUGUST 2013
A few experiences and thoughts on route . . .
I didn't know that the mosquito net hung over my bed for me had mosquitoes in it! In the morning when I splatted one or two - they were full of (my) blood. To say they 'slept with me' is not quite right: I was their midnight meal . . .
I taught the 12 girls learning sewing from God's word. They listened attentively, then asked good questions. "A number of those girls are Muslims", I was told later; including the one or two who were the keenest on discovering God's word! Once they have decided to become Christians, the challenge for them will be to find Christian husbands. If they don't, then even if they remain Christian, all their children by default will be Islamic.
Muslim governments promote Islam whereas Christian governments promote nothing, I reflected. Any country with just a few Muslims cannot officially promote the Christian faith! They must be pro-islam, or 'neutral' (what is neutral?). Hence Christian theology comes to be undervalued. Yet Christianity being key to development and to freedom; does this mean they are tying people into bondage and poverty? Even Christian theological education, under pressure from secularism imposed through the need for accreditation, is increasingly grounded in secularist thinking. Hmmm.
The Dar es Salaam congress on tent-making was more about entering closed countries than about assisting African pastors in their own contexts. The challenge of giving Islamic people opportunity to choose the Gospel is a very real one. It was challenging to me: should I endeavour to take time out of my own regular ministry to engage in more specific outreach to Muslims?
My major role at the Congress (1st to 4th August, 160 people in attendance) was translation. Translating 3 to 4 sessions per day was pretty tiring. Mostly I translated speakers from Europe and the USA from English into Swahili. In addition to information about tent-making, the leaders of the Congress gave a lot of regular Christian teaching. Our facilitators had little or no Africa experience. I believe my translation efforts brought their message much more clearly and accurately to local African ears than would otherwise have been the case.
In Dodoma, I was hosted by the local Church of God. The bishop was once my student. I stayed with a family who are looking after what was once an American-missionary house, now handed over to the church. Then I stayed with the family that hosted me in Tanzania in 2002. Before coming to Dodoma, I stayed a night with a family near Singida. While there I experienced a traditional wedding ceremony; all the women connected to the bride-to-be gathered at her home and spent most of the afternoon and night singing, dancing, and testifying! The men sat aside trying occasionally to separate out some food from the women's kitchen for their own consumption! Before going to Singida, I had been able to teach at a couple of seminars and other meetings around Babati. It has been especially valuable to catch up with and to encourage ex-KIST students, many of whom now have responsible positions in the church.
9th to 11th a colleague and I are to teach a seminar in the Singida region. I plan to visit some missionary colleagues on the 13th August in Mwqanza. They are a church planting team from Texas (and elsewhere in the USA). I hope to visit the Mennonite theological college in Mwanza on my way back to Kenya, to see whether I can arrange any teaching opportunities there for next year.