A Given Life – Part 2

But there is another interesting aspect to living a sacrificial life. Remember when Jesus sent two of his disciples to get him an ass to ride into Jerusalem on? In fact, let us read the entire account as St. Luke tells it.

“29 And it came to pass, when he was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount called the mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, 30 Saying, Go ye into the village over against you; in the which at your entering ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him thither. 31 And if any man ask you, why do ye loose him? thus shall ye say unto him, Because the Lord hath need of him. 32 And they that were sent went their way, and found even as he had said unto them. 33 And as they were loosing the colt, the owners thereof said unto them, Why loose ye the colt? 34 And they said, The Lord hath need of him. And they brought him to Jesus: and they cast their garments upon the colt, and they sat Jesus thereon.” (Lk. 19:29-35)

Mark finishes off this account thus:

“… and they let them go.” (Mk. 11:6)

The owners let the disciples go. Without another word. I love that. Loosing the colt without the owners’ permission was the setting for a conflagration that could have turned “nuclear” at any moment. But the owners let the disciples go. What had happened? Had some form of hypnosis gotten hold on these men?

By no means. What had happened was that God had prepared these simple village men long beforehand; and, on this day, when God’s call finally came upon their lives, they answered it. They answered it to the full. How did they answer it to the full? By not speaking another word. When they heard it was going to the Lord, they let the colt go without hesitation, without a word.

Do we realize how wordy we are when we are faced with a trial and are not willing to take up our cross? Not realizing we have been called to lose our lives, in a situation like this we would have asked a few more questions, even if we knew well who the colt was going to. Losing is not easy. But these men simply

“… let them go.”

Again, Wow! What a heart! When men surrender their lives fully to the Lord, they are ready to let go anything; and to do so without hesitation. They are like men under hypnosis. Why? Because they are dead. They are dead to self.

Do you not wonder at how these men just let the disciples take away the colt without questioning them further? What kind of men were they? It talks of men whom God had prepared.

What a life!! Would you not want to meet these men when you get to heaven? I certainly would.

[At the height of the dry season, baobab trees shed their leaves and straddle the central Tanzanian plateaus like gigantic scarecrows]

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Interlude: Tribute

55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Acts 7:55-56

Two days ago, a terrible tragedy occurred in our country. An overloaded ferry which was making a crossing between two islands in Lake Victoria capsized and, as I write, more than 150 people have been confirmed dead from that accident. The social media in our country is clogged with photos of the bodies of these our fellow countrymen and women . Our nation is currently in a state of deep mourning. So many lives have been needlessly lost; and so many lives left irreparably scarred. Lake Victoria islands are closely-knit communities, and many families lost more than one relative. At any rate, the nation of Tanzania is like one big family, thanks to our founding father, ‘Mwalimu’ Julius Nyerere, who managed to unify it under the banner of one language, Swahili.

This tragic accident occurred at about 2 p.m. local time. That same evening, another death occurred, far from and quite unrelated to the one on Lake Victoria. At 8 p.m. of the same day, a lady in one of our churches went home. She went to be with the Lord. I was informed of the news by her pastor at the exact time she died, since she died in his arms.

When I heard the news, I broke down and cried. In fact, I cried the whole night. I cried, not because this lady had died, but because I knew the circumstances surrounding her demise. And my tears were tears of joy, not of sorrow.

For those of you who read my recent post titled “Kishapu!”, immediately I left the town of Kishapu I passed by one of our churches in a town called Igunga. Being new in these parts, it was my first time to visit this church. I intended to sleep over and have a little chat with the pastor there.

Early the next morning, however, before I left, the pastor took me to see one of his parishioners. He informed me that the lady in question had been suffering for a while now with what appeared like the beginnings of paralysis on one side of her body. She had been to the hospital and all the doctors could diagnose her with was high blood pressure. But no medication brought any relief. The pastor wanted me to pray with her.

When we arrived at her house we found her alone; her children had gone to school. She was attempting to go about her normal chores, but it was clear she was in extreme pain. Her body seemed bent completely to one side.

My heart went out to this sister. I could not imagine someone living in that condition for any amount of time. But in my heart, I knew I had to do something more than just pray. I told her, “Sister, before we pray, I want to know a little bit about your life history.”

Although she was in pain, she managed to talk clearly and she told me quite a lot about her life. She told me that she had suffered much in life (I could see it in the poverty surrounding her). She had four children to take care of; but what really hurt her was that her husband had left her. Life was therefore very difficult. She ended by saying that she was “bitter at life”.

When I heard that, I knew I had nailed what was troubling her.

Right there, in the presence of her pastor, I told her, “Lady, you have to let that go. You have to let go that bitterness. You cannot take one step forward in life with that heart condition.”

Immediately, I said that, she went into a paroxysm of pain as the paralysis hit her.

But I was unrelenting. I told her, “The condition that is tormenting you is a result of what you have allowed into your heart. You have to forgive where you need to forgive, and you have to let go where you need to let go.”

With many such words, my fellow pastor and I coaxed this lady to once again submit to the Lordship of the Lord Jesus in her life even though she was already saved. I waited for her to respond.

At length, she nodded her head in acquiescence, and I prayed for her. I prayed for God to heal her body and her soul. As is normal with me, I laid in heavily when it came to praying for her soul; my heart was all there!

When the pastor called me to inform me of this sister’s demise two days later, I was surprised. She hadn’t seemed that close to dying. But then the pastor told me something that made my heart to dance with joy. He told me that the sister’s last words were: “Thank God for the words you and pastor spoke to me. I am well in my soul. I have let go everything and I feel at peace with God.”

After which she said, “I am having a splitting headache, pastor. Please pray for me.”

Those were her last words. She tried to talk further, but nothing else coherent came out of her mouth. Her body gradually lapsed and death made its final futile grip on her.

That was when the pastor called me.

When I received news of her death, I spent the whole night visualizing the kind of welcome that sister must have received from the Lord Jesus Christ. I played the scene over and over. And I cried and cried.

With the stroke of a pen, so to speak, this precious lady had accomplished what none of us could accomplish were it not for the grace of God. Even though it were a matter of something that she probably had accomplished in a single day, yet this lady had joined the ranks of the Apostle Paul, who wrote,

“7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” (2 Tim. 4:7-8)

For the believer, death is all about finishing the race that has been set in front of us in the Spirit. It is a matter of grasping the incredible grace that is available to every child of God, and putting it to good use.

[Home – our eternal home – calls]

Kishapu!

I have been AWOL! That means I left this blog without saying so much as a goodbye. Again! And that was almost two weeks ago. For this reason I feel extremely indebted to ask my faithful readers’ forgiveness. You have been extremely kind to me. These days, though, much of the time I travel without my laptop, which ends any writing plans I might have – until I get back home.

But, that aside, I have been to the most awesome place ever. For one, it is the hottest spot on earth; or, to be fair, certainly the hottest place I have ever been to. Here, the sun comes up earlier than normal and, by 8 a.m. the walls are already hot to the touch. By mid-day, when the sun is supposedly hottest, you are already toast. Everything is white and you cannot see clearly. If someone is coming towards you, say, a hundred meters or so away, they seem to be floating on air. Much like the preacher whose video has been circulating on the net, if you’ve had the misfortune of seeing it.

You would think things couldn’t get worse. But late afternoon, evening and the entire night brings even hotter tidings, and you go to sleep simply out of fatigue.

The town is called Kishapu. It is a small place in the municipality of Shinyanga. It is dirt poor. And it is far from any form of civilization.

But there are God’s people here and this was the reason we chose to host our regional ZGACT ladies’ conference here. Our regional churches comprise those in Shinyanga and Singida. We had ladies from both these regions attending.

We also had an outdoor crusade, which was held late in the evenings. The preachers were Majura and Boni Mkami, both renowned evangelists within our church. Pastor Eli Mpule was the key speaker at the ladies’ meetings, together with the women leaders.

At night, Evangelist Mwakitalu showed Christian films to large crowds.

The conference and crusade ran for a whole week. Far from what you might be thinking, what made Kishapu interesting was not the heat; rather, it was the presence of God. God’s presence was incredibly powerful in these meetings. God was at work, saving and healing people’s bodies and hearts. I, for one, was so blessed I did not want the meetings to end in spite of the unbearable heat.

Every day, during the crusades, people gave their lives to Christ and many souls were added to the Kingdom of God. And the ladies’ meetings were so full of the presence and anointing of God. The teachings were solid teachings meant to bring God’s people to maturity in the Spirit. The key to spiritual maturity? Deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow Christ. It was a message meant, not just for women, but for every man and every young person also.

The resident pastor, Pamfile, had also invited the local pastors, many of whom attended the outdoor meetings for every one of the seven days that the meetings ran. On the last day, we had a get-together dinner with these wonderful men of God and their wives, where Pastor Mpule had the opportunity to introduce the gospel of the cross to these great men of God. It was poignant to see such men declaring they had never heard such words in their lives! And humbly pointing to the deep divisions that existed in their midst. It was the first time ever for them to come together. Some were even not on talking terms with each other!

Kishapu was the place we ALL ought to have been!!

Below, in pictures.

  1. The ladies’ conference was powerful and edifying. Pastor Eli and Mrs. Boni ministering the gospel of the cross

2. The outdoor meetings were packed to capacityImage21184

3. And the praise and worship team was simply awesome

4. Many pastors from neighboring churches came to share in the blessingsImage21199

5. The incredibly gifted man of God, Boni, prepares to go to ministerImage21070

6. Every day, souls came forward to receive JesusImage21044

7. All the pastors who attended were at hand to minister to the sick and needyImage21119

8. Sometimes the meetings went way deep into the nightImage21154

9. Only God knows what could have been going in the heart of this little boyImage21113

10. “Let the little children come to me.” Appropriately enough, the children heard the gospel while seated on Jesus’s donkey cartImage20992

11. In the evenings, it was time to watch Evangelist Mwakitalu’s awe-inspiring filmsImage21061

12. The only way to escape Kishapu’s sizzling heat was to stay buried inside the church building… or six feet under

Dar es Salaam Youth Camp 2018

Normally, youth camps are feisty affairs with a myriad of events including outdoor games and different other activities. But this year’s annual ZGACT youth conference was molded on an entirely different format: it was unofficially labeled a “Word tsunami”. Everything else was put aside and the youth were inundated with the Word of God.

The youth camps were held in 12 different locations all over the country. I, together with Brother Boni from Mwanza, were scheduled to minister at the Dar es Salaam camp.

And so it was that, by the grace of God, for five days we engaged the Dar es Salaam youth in the Word and in prayer. The young people left the conference thoroughly refreshed in their spirits, and ready to face new challenges in the Spirit.

Here, below, in pictures.

  • The small auditorium was packed to capacity
  • The greatest praise and worship team ever!
  • With our host, Joshua Goodluck
  • My co-worker, Brother Boni
  • Some of the young people shared their testimonies
  • There was great fellowship all around
  • After the conference, an early morning trolling of the beach…
  • … And we encountered some fishermen hauling in their catch
  • Finally, at the bus terminal ready to travel back home

 

 

Loving Jesus, Loving His Church – Part 1

And he is the head of the body, the church… Col. 1:18

Many years ago, when I was living in Musoma, a young man I knew was given the job of preparing a small piece of farm land down by the lake (Musoma is a port town situated on the shore of Lake Victoria). As he was digging up the earth, suddenly the hoe hit against a polythene bag that had been buried under the earth. The young man gingerly pulled up the bag and, as he did so, all the alarm bells in his body began ringing. He had the horrid feeling that the contents of that bag were not something he would want to see. But curiosity killed the cat, as they say. The mouth of the bag was tied with a thin, tight rope and, very cautiously, the boy began untying it. Upon peeping inside he saw what looked like the beginnings of human hair; and he did not wait to see the rest. He already knew what it was: it was a human head.

He dropped the bag and blazed a trail from that farm that would have been hard to erase. He ran as if the devil himself was after him.

I suspect none of us would have responded differently had we been in the same situation. Encountering a body-less head, or a headless body, would be an terrifyingly unspeakable nightmare for any normal human being.

If that is the case in the natural, should it not be much more so in the Spirit? Should it not be the scariest thing in the Spirit when we split up Jesus from His Body, the church? But, unbeknown to many, that is exactly what many believers are doing. And more terrifying is the fact that no one seems horrified by this attitude on the part of Christian believers. It appears as if it is the most normal state of affairs!

But we need to understand that the church is the apple of God’s eye. God looks upon nothing but the church. That is where His heart is. Just as a parent’s heart is on their child, God’s heart is on His church. That was why Jesus said,

“5 And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. 6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! 8 Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. 9 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. 10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. 11 For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.” (Mat. 18:5-11)

Jesus was talking of the church. The church is God’s “little ones”. You cannot destroy someone who has been washed by the blood of Jesus and get away with it.

But destroying the lives of God’s people is exactly what we do when we have no revelation that we need to lay down our lives. But, as we shall see in the second part of this post, preachers have taken it to an entirely new level.

Jesus told Peter,

“Feed my lambs” (Jn. 21:15)

“My lambs” was Jesus’s affectionate reference to His church.

Everyone is loudly declaring how much they love Jesus. You just go to any worship or prayer meeting and you will hear people emotionally telling Jesus how they love Him. But few can pay the price for the words they say, for the price of saying we love Jesus is to love God’s people with sacrificial love. God’s love demands that we lay down our lives for one another. Indeed, God’s love is the love that looks out for the spiritual wellbeing of your brother/sister-in-Christ.

You can easily gauge how much you love Jesus by measuring how well, especially, you wish God’s people in their spirits (3 Jn. 1:2).

Unfortunately, this kind of loving is one of the most difficult for most believers to do. This is clear from the fact that there are so many divisions within the church! There are inter-personal divisions: husband vs wife; parent vs child; brother vs brother, etc. There are social divisions: the rich are divided against the poor; the educated are ganged up against the illiterate; the Africans are gossiping against the whites; etc.

I believe with all my heart that God’s people first need to stop telling Jesus they love Him. When you tell Jesus that you love Him while you do not love the church, it is as if you were addressing a head which has no body. It is as if you are talking to the head and telling it, “I love you, head, alone, but not the body you are on. Cut yourself off that body and I will love you even more.”

Strange language indeed. This is the sort of thing that can only happen in voodoo. In voodoo they do these kinds of things.

But loving Jesus means loving our earthly brothers and sisters. The Apostle Peter tried to dodge the bullet, but Jesus would not allow it.

Jesus asked Peter,

“Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?”

Simon Peter answered,

“Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.”

Jesus then told him,

“Feed my sheep.” (Jn. 21:16)

In other words, If you love me, give your life for my sheep!

Do we love the Lord?

In Part Two we will talk about the worst culprit of them all, the modern-day preachers.

[The price for loving the Lord is loving His church.]

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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Beautiful Tanganyika

I wish to apologise for being ‘away without official leave’, meaning not being active on this blog for a quite a while. I hope and pray that everyone can forgive me.
For me, though, I have been through the most beautiful experience. That sounds selfish, but I better own up. I have been visiting with one of our churches in the village. I would come and go, but this was the main reason for my being awol because I simply did not have the time to stop and write. Moreover, internet in the hinterland is sketchy, so I had to leave my computer at home.
One of the real blessings that I count from God is bringing me to the Tanzanian hinterland. Apart from my early childhood, I have lived in cities and towns throughout my life. But for the last four years or so, I have been living in the ‘middle of nowhere’ in central Tanzania – and what an experience it has been! Sure, I live in a town, Singida, but it is a small rural town and, moreover, I have the opportunity of constantly going out into the vast, unlimited savannah bush regions of central Tanzania. This savannah land is what gave the name Tanganyika to the mainland. ‘Nyika’ means open plains. The name Tanzania came out of the union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar.
Being in the Tanzanian hinterland is one of the biggest blessings in my life because I love adventure – and there is certainly no adventure in towns or cities, unless you are a gangster or the Mafia. But in the big, unspoilt regions of central Tanzania you can have as much adventure as you want, spiced with a whiff of danger. Just the other day, as we were walking in one trail in the bush, we found the biggest, blackest snake lying in the road. But it was dead; someone had just killed it. I couldn’t help wondering how things could have turned out if it was I who had encountered it.
We also went to visit a man who some nights ago had had an unfortunate encounter with a wild pig. He and his companions had been out hunting and it was he who was holding the flashlight. When they heard movement, he flashed the light in the direction of the noise. The pig, a big boar, thinking the light were the eyes of a lion, charged, kamikaze-style. Before anyone could make a move, the man had three of his leg bones broken.
Those are the kind of adventures that you find in the bush. But there is more. There is the exquisitely different and refreshing cuisine, including delicacies that you only hear of in the town: things like pure honey; and milk, both fresh and curdled. And then there is the night sky… oh, I’d forgotten about that. Yes, the night sky. I once wrote a friend that if I had the gift of time, I would spend it all watching the starry night. And there is no better place to watch the stars than in the Tanzanian hinterland, far from the city lights. While in the village, I asked my host for a reclining chair and I would wake up every night at 1 or 2 a.m. and finish off the rest of the night watching the incredible brilliance of the clear, starry night. I ended up seeing more amazing things and phenomena with my naked eye than you could read of in a book. And all the while feeling the presence of God in me and about me, leading me to worship Him fervently under my breathe.
But, really, nothing I could write here could truly bring out the beauty and pleasant flavor of Tanganyika. If you, the reader wish to take this post as a promotional for my country and my province, it would be my pleasure to concur with you. And to say, “Karibu!”
As for my fellow Tanzanians who love the comfort of the madding towns and cities, all I can say is, you don’t know what you are missing. And this splendour is right under your noses.

The mighty baobab

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No vehicle has ever set foot on this road

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A panoramic view of the home I was staying in

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Eating honey

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Marching to church

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And, finally, church. Here, even the dogs are allowed to listen in on the sermon