Marangu!

Two weeks ago, our umbrella church organisation, CTMI (www.ctmi.org) held its 15th regional East African ladies’ conference in the small Tanzanian town of Marangu, situated on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The heartwarming moments, and the inexpressibly beautiful scenery, were priceless.

For most of the wonderful ladies who travelled from Singida to attend the conference, it was their very first time to travel so far from home and to such a beautiful gathering as this, not to mention the paradise-like greenery of the Mt. Kilimanjaro ecosystem.

For unavoidable reasons, I was not able to post this report earlier. But now, here, in pictures, is the story of their experience.

Stepping out.

Ogling at the age-old eucalyptus trees at Marangu-Mtoni.

One of the beautiful services at the conference.

Two of our sisters from Kenya.

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The Singida ladies welcoming their “mother”, Flo (yours truly), who arrived late.

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Some of the Singida ladies braved the early morning cold to catch a glimpse the elusive mountain.

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Mt. Kilimanjaro can just be seen in the background.

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Finally, a moment of rest for Pastor Stephen, sister Frida and the elders from the Lake Region.

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Prior to starting on their journey back home (and fully refreshed in their spirits), a group photograph for the Singida ladies.

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And… here comes the bus. Bye bye little town of Marangu.

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“Things Which Are Not Seen” – Part 1

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Cor. 4:18

There is a big problem in the church today. The church does not see. It is blind in the Spirit. It does not see “the things which are not seen”. In fact, the church understands only the things that are seen; and it often scoffs at the things that are not seen…

A while ago, a friend of mine was preaching in our church and he said, “There is no worse impairment than the disability to see.”

He was talking about seeing in the Spirit.

Let us read 2 Kings 4:8-10.

8 And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread. 9 And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually. 10 Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither.”

Notice,

“… an holy man of God”.

I just love that. That is what a true prophet of God ought to be. Holy. Not unholy.

Today we have prophets who are anything but holy. And they are not just unholy; they are sinning big time, to the extent that they are being arrested! They are being arrested for charges ranging from rape, to money laundering and everything in between. That includes your favorite prophet from down south. And please save me the nonsense that these fellows’ arrests are “persecution for the gospel’s sake”.

But notice here that Elisha was a holy man of God.

How, pray, do we prove that Elisha was a holy man of God? Is it because this woman said so?

The answer is yes. And why, pray, should we believe her testimony? It is on account of her character. The character of the Shunammite woman allows us the privilege to believe anything this woman said. When she says that Elisha was a holy man of God we believe that is what he was.

I love the story of Elisha and the Shunammite woman. It is one of the most beautiful stories in the Bible. It is the story of a pure, holy, loving relationship between a man and woman who were not husband and wife.

I love the way the Bible portrays this woman.

“a great woman”.

It was not the husband who was great. It was the woman. The Swahili Bible says that she was “a woman of position”. She was a noblewoman. But notice also how submissive this great woman was to her husband. When she decided that something needed to be done for the man of God, she beseeched her husband.

“Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither.”

I just love that. You see, with God character is everything. The Bible says of our spiritual mother, Sarah:

“Even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord…” (1 Pet.3:6)

And for this reason she is the mother of all who believe.

“… whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.”

The humble spirit of both Sarah and this Shunammite woman is something every woman should emulate.

It is this same quality that makes us (and God) to believe the Shunammite when she says that Elisha was a holy man of God.

[Today’s ‘prophets’…]

God’s Hidden Purpose – Part 3

1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, 2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: 3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4 Whereby, when ye may understand my knowledge in  the mystery of Christ) 5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; 6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: 7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. 8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: 10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, 11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord… Eph. 3:1-11

Just like any normal home, the church is a house of order. And the apostle is the father of this particular house called the Church. The apostle brings order to the church. Paul tells the Corinthians:

“What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod,  or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?” (1 Cor. 4:21)

It is incredible what Paul was capable of. He could carry the rod in Church; and at the same time he could show forth the love and meekness of Christ in himself. Because of the work of the cross in his life, Paul had the authority in the Spirit to bring Godly hard discipline in the Church. He could confront those who tried to do their own thing in the Church.

On the other hand, on account of this same cross working in his life, Paul could bring the best things that God has for His Church: love and meekness. Paul preferred to do the latter (2 Corinthians 10:8).

It is incredible what a true servant of God is capable of. When we lack the work of the cross in our lives, we use authority in the flesh. At the same time, we are unable to demonstrate the love and meekness of Christ in our lives. But Paul, who followed in the footsteps of Christ, was capable of doing both.

What does the Bible say about our Lord Jesus Christ? In Ephesians 4:10, we read thus:

“He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)”

Descending talks of humility; ascending talks of authority, the authority of God. A true servant of God is one who can demonstrate both aspects of God’s grace. He can humble himself to the lowest levels; and he also can demonstrate God’s authority. Christ demonstrated His capacity to do both; the Apostle Paul followed hard after Him.

For this reason, therefore, the apostle births the true church. The Apostle Paul told the Corinthians,

“For though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus have I begotten you through the gospel.” (1 Cor. 4:15)

Nearly every congregation calls their pastor “Father”. Unbeknown to most, that is just a ceremonial title. The pastor is not a father in the Biblical sense of the word. The true father of the church is the apostle. Consequently, there is no church without the ministry of the apostle. It is like saying there is a family without a father.

As I said afore, the apostle is a rare gift indeed. He is Christ’s sharp vessel. The apostle is the man who introduces the message of the cross. Through the preaching of the gospel of the cross, he, together with the other ministries that God has placed in the church, molds and shapes the church to become like Christ.

Paul made clear the gospel that he preached:

“22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified…”

So many gospels were being preached. But Paul had one unique gospel, the gospel of the cross. This was the singular gospel that would mold the church to become like Christ.

To what end? Why become like Christ?

“To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord…” (Eph. 3:10-11)

Notice, “now”.

Right now, right at this present time, God wants to show off His might and wisdom to the principalities and powers in heavenly places through the church, which is Christ’s Body. This revelation of His wisdom in us was what God

“purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord…”

As we grow and mature in Christ, the character of Christ is formed in us; and this transformation amazes the principalities and powers in heaven.

Imagine that. The more we accept the work of the cross in our lives, the more we accept to be humbled and humiliated, and to lose everything for the gospel’s sake, the more the character of Christ is formed in us; and to this end, the more we awe heaven, to the glory of God.

If we descend, we shall ascend with Him. If we humble ourselves and accept to lose all, we shall reign with Him in the heavenly places.

[The cross is central to achieving God’s purpose in the Spirit]

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God’s Hidden Purpose – Part 2

1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, 2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: 3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4 Whereby, when ye may understand my knowledge in  the mystery of Christ) 5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; 6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: 7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. 8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: 10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, 11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord… Eph. 3:1-11

Who is the apostle, and who is the prophet?

May I start by saying that a true apostle or prophet is rarer than the rarest jewel. If you can find one such person, you will have found the greatest treasure you could possibly find under the sun.

But the Bible paints a frightening picture of the life that this best of the best of God’s array of vessels lives. First, the Chief Apostle, our Lord Jesus Christ, said of Himself:

“The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay down his head.” (Mat. 8:20)

This was in response to a scribe who came running to Him and who asked to be allowed to follow Jesus wherever He would go. Jesus was warning him: “Stay back! Desist! Unless you are willing to lose your life, you cannot follow me.”

They ended up crucifying Jesus Christ.

I once saw a video of some people slaughtering a man for being a Christian. They bound his hands and feet and slaughtered him the way you would slaughter a goat. Hardly something to go running to.

Likewise, the Apostle Paul says of the early apostles:

“For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.” (1 Cor. 4:9)

Notice the range of losses that the apostle has to endure. He is a man “appointed to death… a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.”

In other words, he is not a worldly celebrity.

Paul continues,

“10 We are fools for Christ’s sake… we are weak… we are despised. 11 Even to this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; 12 And labour, working with our hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: 13 Being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and we are the offscouring of all things unto this day.” (1 Cor. 10-13)

“Even to this present hour”.

Meaning, “Even as I write.” At the time of writing this letter to the Corinthians, Paul was undergoing these things. What a sobering thought.

“Unto this day.”

There is hardly any rest in the flesh for the apostle. Every day his body is pummeled. God uses everything in his power to bring down this man: hunger, thirst, nakedness, beatings. God goes further and attacks this man’s reputation. He casts it down. He has him defamed, and the apostle does not hire a lawyer. Instead he entreats. When he is beaten, he says, “Sorry.” Losing is the only right he has. He knows he is appointed to death.

In Colossians 1:24, Paul writes:

“Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church”.

Notice the all-important words, “in my flesh”. The word “flesh” here goes much deeper than just the flesh and bones. It talks of self. Paul gave up who he was. Paul’s life was given. He counted himself a dead man. His life was given as a sacrifice. It was given so the Church could be edified.

But more than that is the fact that Paul rejoiced in his sufferings for the Church’s sake. For most of us, the slightest inconvenience on account of the gospel can only be borne under duress! But the true servant of God goes to the slaughter rejoicing, for he knows what his death will bear in the Spirit.

The Church cannot be entrusted to just anyone. Jesus said,

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven…” (Mat. 7:21)

In the same way, not everyone who calls themselves an apostle or prophet is truly one, and God will not entrust them His church. An apostle or prophet should measure themselves by how much they are willing to suffer for the sake of the gospel. God will entrust the Church to men whom He has shaped to love the church as Christ does. The apostles and prophets of God are men who carry the selfless, sacrificial heart of Jesus.

Christ is the supreme example of the kind of dying that his followers are called to, chief of them being the apostles and prophets. We read of His example in Philippians 2:5-9

“5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal to God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

Jesus started out as God, but He sank lower and lower in esteem till he became nothing.

This is hardly the kind of life anyone would desire. But this is what is needed to bring forth the best out of God’s utmost servants, the apostles and prophets.

[“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” – Rom. 8:18]

God’s Hidden Purpose – Part 1

8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Christ Jesus: 10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, 11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Eph. 3:8-11

So much to contemplate here, so I will make this post a series.

Notice, first, how Paul perceived himself.

“Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given…”

This was no false humility. This was Paul! Paul dared not consider himself anything above what he states here. “The least of all the saints…” he said of himself. Such humility simply takes your breathe away.

And yet, unbeknown to us, God through Paul was stating exactly who He gives His grace to. The Apostle James put it out in black and white.

“God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” (Jam. 4:6)

Let a man not just mouth the words, but let him live that life, and God has material to work with. And, y’know, people think that where the big crowds are, that’s where God is at. Oh, please! No one could possibly pull in bigger crowds than the devil. The Bible tells us that “many” there be that follow the way that leadeth to destruction (Mat. 7:13). If we are talking about a mega-church, the devil has the largest.

On the other hand, “few” find the way to eternal life.

The Church, Christ’s Bride, His Body, is like a diamond. Rare. And the men whom God puts in charge of His Church are even rarer. God cannot give anything but His best for His Church. The men whom God has put on earth to birth and nurture the Church are therefore the best of the best. They are called apostles.

The Bible firmly declares,

“And God hath set some in the church, first apostles…” (1 Cor. 12:28)

The apostles are the best of the best.

That is why the Apostle Paul could make such a claim:

“Unto me… is this grace given”.

Why?

Ha! Simply because he was the best. And Christ gives His Body, the Church, the best.

[“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” – Eph. 5:25]

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Eternal Life – God’s Mystery

12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: 13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. 14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. 17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. 19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole. Lk 17:12-19

Indeed,

“strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Mat. 7:14)

Only one man saw something different. One man out of ten. That is how difficult it is to see the things of the Spirit.

But first…

It is not written, but the sight of the lepers  standing “afar off” must have shattered Jesus’ heart into a thousand pieces. The compassion that this Man had knew no bounds. And when they begged Him, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us”, knowing He had the power to do what they asked Him to, He couldn’t have been more glad to oblige.

“Go shew yourselves unto the priests.” He spoke casually; but He was excited, for He knew the profound miracle that would befall them along the way.

“And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.” (v.14)

Jesus was happy at their cleansing; yet nothing could send Jesus’s heart pounding harder than what happened next. Scripture tells us:

“15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.”

The fact that scripture states that this man “turned back” indicates that he did not wait to arrive at the priests’ office. He had no more need of that. He had met God! And having met God, he became alive in his spirit.

The other men went rejoicing, of course. Not that they were thankless, no. They were very happy and thankful. But where, pray, do you think they went? To the priests, of course. They were going to show the physical miracle that had been done for them. These men saw nothing besides the miracle that was done for their bodies.

But their compatriot turned back and came and worshiped the living God. Bye, bye priests!

This man saw something the others did not. As they say, what you see is what you get. For that reason, therefore, Jesus told the man,

“… thy faith hath made thee whole.” (v.19)

We can finally perceive what true faith is. It is seeing into the Spirit. Jesus was now not talking about physical wholeness. That had already been accomplished. Here Jesus was talking about spiritual wholeness. This is the greatest gift a man can receive from God.

When we see God, we get done with the law! Our spirits become alive!! We are free men and women. That means we can worship God in truth and in the Spirit, for the life of God resides in us.

We ought to endeavour to go for the life of God. Christ’s life in us. The Apostle Paul wrote,

“22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified… 24 Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” (1 Cor. 1:22-24)

Paul and those who worked with him did miracles, but they distanced themselves from the miracle ‘ministry’ and the wisdom seekers. They sought after the life of God in them instead.

Lastly,

“… and he was a Samaritan.”

Wow. This man was not a Jew. Jesus called him a “stranger”.

The people in greatest danger of not receiving the life of Christ are, sadly, those of us who claim to be saved.  The problem is, we tend to think in terms of entitlement. For this reason we take the grace of God in vain. But forget about all the rights you think you have in Christ. God’s Kingdom is for those who do not think anything of themselves. That is why Jesus told the Jews:

“If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.” (Jn. 9:41)

Imagine that. Jesus told them it were far better if they had been blind!

The Apostle Paul said,

“I be nothing” (2 Cor. 12:11)

That was Paul’s perspective of himself.

Recently, I was drawn to read about an American preacher who wears $4,000 shoes. Y’know, just shoes. In America they call them celebrity preachers. I wondered what a man who wears $4,000 shoes thinks of himself.

But what does the healing of our spirits do for us?

We become men and women of grace, for the life of Christ works in us. In 1 Cor. 15:45, the Bible says:

“… the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.”

The last Adam, Jesus, was a life-giving Spirit. That is what we become when our hearts are touched and changed by the Master.

[A mother and her child arriving home in the evening]

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A Preacher And The Village – Part 2

This portion of this post ought to have followed the first one quickly; but I got caught up in a new assignment the same day that I posted the first part. Five weeks ago, we started a new fellowship in a neighboring district and on that day I and two of my elders traveled there to see the brethren. But before I go on I need to make something known to my readers.

What the readers and those who follow this blog do not know is that the idea of a blog is simply alien to the people that I live and work with here. I often tell them that I write articles that are read all over the world, and the most enthusiastic gesture that I have ever received is a shrug of the shoulder. Such a thing is alien and therefore completely irrelevant to them. So therefore, although the blog is important to my ministry, yet the people here have very little idea or interest in it. But I have to acknowledge and respect their position since my work on the ground here takes precedence over this blog.

And so today I am back home and I can finish what I began writing two days ago. I was to tell you about a tale that I heard in one of the villages.

It began with the sad passing away of a small child in the regional government hospital. The parents and relatives quickly made arrangements to take the body back to the village for burial. It is not acceptable to transport dead bodies by bus, so they had to consider an alternative method of transporting it. On the other hand, they did not have enough money to hire a truck that they could have used for a hearse. So they arranged for one of the child’s uncles to transport the body by bicycle while the rest rode the bus. They bought a box, carefully arranged the body inside – and the uncle took off.

The uncle pedaled the bike until he had passed three or four villages, and it was at this stage that he felt a strong thirst. Unfortunately, his thirst was not the kind that is sated with plain water. His was the strong kind of thirst. He needed something stronger than water. And so, notwithstanding the urgency of the mission that he was on, the man laid over at the fourth village and entered a certain tavern.

Being on local territory, the man did not think twice about parking his bicycle outside the tavern. Once inside, he quickly downed a few drinks and prepared to leave. The solemn task of his niece’s funeral was firmly tucked in the back of his mind.

Unfortunately, someone was watching this man and immediately he entered the tavern, this other man stole his bicycle and took off on it. This second man was a professional thief who preyed on unsuspecting travelers. He had done this many times. He quickly pedaled the bicycle until he reached a certain village where he entered into one of the houses. Upon his arrival, he was eagerly welcomed by the lady of the house. Once inside, the man directed the woman to take the bicycle into an inner room. The woman did as she was ordered. She then untied the heavy ‘parcel’ that was on the back seat and put it on her bed without opening it and hurried back into the sitting room to converse with her man.

Meanwhile, with time, curiosity got the better of the woman’s children, who were playing outside. After a while they stopped playing and they made their way through a back door into their mother’s bedroom. There they found the gift “uncle” had brought their mother. They wanted to see what their “uncle” had brought this time. Whenever he came home, “uncle” always had a gift for their mother, and sometimes for them.

One of the children pulled back the covering on the top – and that was when all hell broke loose!!

With screams and shrieks the likes of which had never been heard in that village before, the children came pummeling out of their mother’s bedroom and before the mother could do anything, they were all over her and some even under her clothes. They held her tight and she could not move. And they were all pointing towards the bedroom and screaming, “Mommy! The box!”

The man and woman looked at each other in bewilderment and finally the woman managed to get up and rush into her bedroom. The minute she saw what was inside the open box on her bed – a small child’s head, with eyes closed – she let out a scream that would have recorded on the Richter scale. She shot out of the room and bumped into the man, who was following close behind.

Squealing unintelligibly, she in turn held onto the man.

The man walked past her and looked into the box. By that time, neighbors who heard the screams had rushed up to the house…

Meanwhile, back at the village where he stole the bicycle, a search party had organized itself and it was hot on the thief’s trail. It was not hard for them to follow the fresh tire marks that the thief had left behind. A party of five bicyclists was dispatched to go after the thief.

At the exact moment that the epic commotion was going on inside the woman’s house, the search party arrived at the village. And just as the thief was getting out of the house and trying to explain something to the people gathered outside, the men comprising the search party closed in on him and he was promptly arrested.

Thus ended the long, dark career of this professional thief.

The news of this ‘blockbuster’ incident had spread like wildfire, and when the uncle finally delivered the dead child’s body to his village to be buried, he found the entire village waiting for him. But it was not the sort of welcome he would have desired. His relatives and the villagers descended on him like a ton of bricks. He was severely reprimanded for failing to honor the dead child and the entire community.

He was fined two cows and three goats as punishment. One cow was eaten at the funeral and the rest were given to his brother.

Thus ended the long career also of this professional drunkard.

[Evangelizing in the village]

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A Preacher And The Village – Part 1

I just came back from visiting one of our churches in the village. Whenever I go to the village, I go prepared for anything. Not wanting to be a burden to my brethren in the village, I carry everything that I need. In the old days of the charismatic gospel, preachers were taught to expect to be ministered to by their hosts in everything. Not anymore. When the gospel of the cross came into our church, it threw that bossy attitude out.

The only thing I do not carry when I go to the village is food. I never carry any kind of food. I desire to share what the villagers have. In the first place, I love the indigenous cuisine. It is not wide in variety; much of the time it is just maize or millet meal with indigenous greens. But there is also milk and honey, two delicacies that are close to my heart (or, more appropriately, my stomach).

The other reason why I don’t carry food to the villages is because I do not want to bring up the image that I am special species of human being. Even if I am not absolutely ecstatic about the food that my hosts sometimes put before me, yet the Bible says that the Kingdom of God is not food and drink. With me, it is more important to mesh in with my brethren in the Lord than to cater to my refined tastes. The Bible says that was what Moses did (Heb. 11:24-26).

I go prepared for everything and anything. Sometimes I sleep on a mat because there is no mattress. One thing I have never found in the village is a pillow. But for me that is no problem; I use my Giorgio Armani coat for a pillow. (That coat was given to me by a friend and I often wonder how he would feel if he knew the uses that I put it to. That’s the same coat you will find me wearing back in town. Whenever I am invited to a wedding or any other high-class functions, I take the coat to the drycleaners; and no one at those parties has a clue that the coat that I am wearing is the same one that I use for a pillow in the villages. I can attest to the fact that Giorgio Armani are the best in the world. I have used (and misused) this coat for years, and it still looks brand new!)

And then there are the snakes, bugs, bats, rats, ants… I remember I once slept in this man’s house, and unfortunately the man had built his house right on top of a ‘safari’ ant colony. It was raining, and the ants came up at night and encircled me. The whole room was filled with them, right up to the roof! The modus operandi of these fellows is that once they have besieged an enemy and covered him from head to toe, they initiate a signal at which they begin biting all at once. And their bite is extremely toxic and painful. But I woke up, asked the hosts for some fire and fought them off – after which I went right back to sleep. For the next two days, the same thing happened; but for me, rather than it being an inconvenience, it was an adventure.

My first encounter with bedbugs, however, left me wondering whether I was ready to continue with this ‘apostolic’ job. Bedbugs are my worst nightmare, and my body began twitching uncontrollably the minute I realized that I was going to sleep in that bed. But that was some years back. Today it is a completely different story. I am used to every kind of situation. Nowadays, if I am woken up by a bedbug biting or crawling over my body, I just swat it away and go back to sleep. Much of the time, though, I am blissfully unaware of their presence since the minute I hit the sack I pass out, never to return till morning.

In the villages, we walk, at times tens of kilometres in a day. Homesteads are far and apart, and there is virtually no form of transport save for the occasional motorcycle taxi which we hardly ever take since we cannot afford it. The village folks are used to walking and the longest distance you can walk hardly fazes them. But for we townsfolk, by the time you arrive back home you are in a near-vegetative state.

But, despite these hardships, the village is the place where I love to be. It is the place I enjoy life to the extreme. The fresh air, the beautiful scenery, the open sky are things I cannot resist. Memories of childhood adventures in the semi-wild environment and the hint of danger at every turn… The freedom and the thrill that a stint in the village affords me is priceless. Here, I have not a care in the world.

But village life has taught me many valuable lessons too. One of those lessons relates to the love of God. The soil in central Tanzania is particularly hard to farm and the people live a hard and thrifty life. But God has given these people many provisions by which to live, things that you cannot notice if you are just passing by.  They have honey, they have milk; and they have indigenous vegetables and fruits. The “mpama”, which grows only in central Tanzania, is the sweetest fruit I have ever tasted.

And then, of course, there is the local lore – stories of long ago. I have learned, for example, that the Nyaturu people, among whom I work, are migrants from Ethiopia. Indeed, their language is distinctly different from the Bantu dialects of their neighbors.

There are all kinds of ‘incidents’ in the villages. A while back, I heard one that left me speechless…

[Your bed and mattress, all in one]

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