And then, as September came to an end, it was on to the Ifakara Conference where 25 AICT pastors and evangelists gathered for some teaching on church planting and discipleship. Ruth was there in her role as Communications Officer, dealing with administration and finance, and I was able to practise my Swahili, teaching three sessions on prayer and what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, relating these issues to
evangelism within an Islamic setting. Many of these pastors minister in areas with a high proportion of Muslims in their communities and so some of our teaching this year has been focused on taking the gospel to such people. One of the evangelists who attended the conference, a lady called Tausi, is from a Muslim background and knows all about the pressures of being a Christian within a Muslim environment. Last year her husband died and she was left with their four children, one of whom was taken by Muslim relatives (at the funeral) to live with them in the north of the country. The other children are now being pressured to move away from her – and she is of course desperate not to lose her children. Please pray for Tausi as she faces this battle and for the church as they support her.
|Beneath the sealed Golden Gate in Jerusalem|
As you’ll be aware, Israel is a land of constant tension and the number of Israeli soldiers on the streets of old Jerusalem bear testament to this. However, despite the various checkpoints and the fact that our visit occurred only five weeks after the conflict in Gaza, we didn’t have to alter our tour schedule and nor did we encounter any problems. There was, however, one moment on the Golan Heights where eyebrows were raised by a few of the guests! As we looked out over Syria, and I began to read about the Apostle Paul’s journey to Damascus, a couple of bombs/rockets landed about a mile away, sending up clouds of smoke and debris! It gave us a tiny glimpse of what many people in Syria have been experiencing over the last few years as the fighting was between two rebel Syrian armies near to the Israeli border.
|Steve in full flow beside |
Three days later Ruth and I attended the AIM Tanzania conference, enjoying the not-so tranquil environment of Dar es Salaam! Our accommodation was situated rather close to a huge road-building project where work continued 24-hours a day! It was good to meet up with other AIM colleagues from around the country and to hear of the blessings and the challenges they’re facing in their various situations. We enjoyed some teaching from the book of 1 Thessalonians, brought to us by a pastor from Nottingham, and it was a refreshing change to be able to sing God’s praises in full voice, in a language we were familiar with. Another reminder that we were in Africa came during one of the afternoon tea breaks where, along with the regular tea and coffee, popcorn and chicken gizzards were served!
|Steve and Ruth posing under the rare wheel tree!|
One man (Pastor Malelo) told us that he’d had three identical dreams over the course of a few nights, where he had been travelling in a bus that had crashed, causing injury and death to some of the passengers. He was shortly due to go on a journey by bus, and wondered whether these three dreams were a warning for him not to go. He chose to ignore them and went on his journey. He was unable to sit in his allocated seat because someone else was already sitting there. Miles down the road the bus did indeed crash causing injury and death. Pastor Malelo suffered injuries which kept him in hospital for six months but the man who was sitting in his seat died of his injuries. I’m not in a position to say for definite whether these were godly dreams of warning, because I didn’t have them, but having heard a number of testimonies down through the years, and having read books like ‘Miraculous Movements’ I have no doubt that our God is still in the business of speaking into people’s lives in this way today, especially amongst Muslims who are secretly searching for a loving God.
I’ll also remember this conference for something that happened during my first session – and it’s a problem that every preacher faces. It was indeed the dreaded ‘after lunch’ slot and even though we were meeting outside under the shade of a thatched banda, the temperatures were a tad stifling. Half way through my talk I spotted a couple of guys who could have uttered the words of Jesus to those three disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane: “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”! The fact that their heads were at a 90 degree angle to their bodies gave it away! I’ve often wondered whether I would have the nerve to stop what I was saying and, in a very gentle way (of course!), encourage such people back into the land of the living! Well, I didn’t have to on this occasion because one of the other pastors interrupted my talk to inform me that we had a number of people who weren’t paying attention! Heads swivelled from side to side and a fair bit of poking ensued, and the two rather sheepish sleepers were roused back to life – brilliant! Maybe I’ll employ the ‘sleeper-watcher’ on a permanent basis!
Praise & Prayer: So – that’s what it’s been like in the Lancs Lane over the last few weeks. We’re so grateful to those who pray for us, and always humbled when people write to assure us of their prayers - thank you. We’re grateful to God for safety on our travels; for smooth and uncomplicated journeys during the last few months, and also for the health and strength to be doing what we’re doing.
As you’ll see from the diary, we’re planning a two week holiday in UK over Christmas and New Year. It’s an unexpected blessing to be able to do this, coming at the half-way point of our first term in Africa, and so we’re chuffed at the prospect of spending some precious time with family, two of whom we’ve never met before!
We have two more pastors’ conferences that we’re involved in before the year comes to a close and we’ll also continue with our language learning - which leads me on to a request for prayer – and the issue of ‘botheration’ - an exclamation indicating vexation or annoyance! Time for a bit of honesty! Whilst I am able to teach a number of repeated sessions in Swahili, I’m preaching from a script and am becoming increasingly frustrated that I’m not learning faster than I am. Maybe it’s about unrealistic expectations on my part; maybe it’s the learning method I’m using; maybe it’s because I’m not feeling as useful as I’d like to be, or maybe it’s simply a case of being fifteen months in and realising there aren’t any short cuts! In short, as I said to my bro the other day, I’m fed up to the back molars with language learning! It feels as though I’m swimming through treacle and the motivation levels are down, my patience threshold is wavering and I’m in danger of becoming a disgruntled cynic! Don’t panic – it’s not a case of “I’m a missionary, get me out of here”, but I would certainly appreciate your prayers on this front, as I seek to press through this ‘botheration’ and finish the year well. Oh – and as for Ruth – she’s loving it!! She comes to the end of the current course in a few weeks’ time and would appreciate prayer for wisdom as she seeks to find a language helper using a more conversational method for the next stage. Many thanks for your support – and for reading this far!
Steve & Ruth
Diary for Nov/Dec:
17th-21st Nov: Pastors’ conference at Sanga Sanga, Morogoro
2nd – 6th Dec: Pastors’ conference at Lindi (SW Tanz near to border with
Mozambique and an 800 mile round trip)
18th Dec – 4th Jan: Christmas hols with family in UK!
Random photos of the month:
|"Anyone got a spirit level?!"|
|Health and safety eat your heart out!|