Hunger for the Word
Categories: Missions, Prayer, Worship
Guest writing today on the Cross Church School of Ministry blog is Tim Moreland. Tim is serving with the Cross Church School of Ministry as a resident minister on the Missions Ministry track. Tim is from Wake Forrest, North Carolina.
“Who will hear the Word of God and never see the hand of God?”
These lyrics were sung, in Swahili, in the church in Chome.
I traveled with four other Resident Ministers, a worship pastor from Cross Church, and the Cross Church School of Ministry President to Chome in the Pare Mountains of Tanzania, East Africa. While just south of the equator, the Pare Mountains are temperate. We enjoyed temperatures in the high seventies most days.
Getting there was an adventure. A missed connection meant half-a-day spent in Amsterdam and two consecutive nights on a plane. Tanzanian highways are unusual but nothing compared to the primitive dirt road tracing the mountain’s edge for the ascent to Chome. Accommodations were comfortable; with running water and electricity available most days.
We arrived to find that the church tent had been replaced with a new mud brick building. Dirt floors and wooden benches were no distraction because the joy of the people there and their hunger for the Word made all of that secondary. The music was infectious and dancing was part of the worship!
Pastor Fanuel Kiroka is from Same (saw-may), at the foot of the Pare Mountains. He established the church in Chome (Cho-may) because the so-called Christian churches there (Seventh Day Adventist and Lutheran) were actually a poor mix of Christianity and pagan beliefs.
Fanuel’s church elders and other leaders are still relatively new in the faith. I talked with Rev. Tuarira Phillip Mndeme multiple times. He is a retired English teacher in secondary school and 57 years old. He met Jesus in 2005. A fellow elder, also in his late 50s, was saved just five years ago. It was encouraging to me that, in my middle-aged career change, I met men who were older than me before they began serving God. Phillip and I swapped Bibles, my ESV for his Swahili edition. Our group brought Pastor Fanuel a commentary set on the entire Bible and other Bible study resources.
I was able to teach from Philemon (and Deuteronomy) one day. In Philemon, Paul’s generous leadership brought reconciliation and modeled the Gospel of Jesus. After my sermon, Pastor Fanuel exhorted his congregation in Swahili (and/or Pare) for another 15 or 20 minutes. I understood only the words Philemon and Onesimus. On Sunday, I spoke about the Great Commission and the simplicity of sharing your testimony and sharing a one verse Gospel presentation from Romans 6:23. I managed to read a couple verses in Swahili. The young men in our group all preached confidently on topics such as church unity and humility in leadership.
Dr. Jeff Crawford led our group and spoke most days at the church. This is his fourth visit to the Pare, and a man from his church served as a missionary there for three years. Jeff taught on the roles of deacons and elders and gave much encouragement to these people whom he loves.
We were able to visit many outside the church and share the Gospel. We also got to know a Peace Corps couple from Oklahoma. They are 18 months into a two-year commitment there. They are teaching some small farmers about genetics and artificial insemination of their cows. The idea is to grow the milk production from a paltry one liter per day to twenty liters per day, per cow. Like most of the people there, they live without running water and electricity. They know Swahili and worship with Pastor Fanuel’s church.
After leaving the mountains, we were able to visit Arusha, a larger city. The pace of life there is different than the Pare Mountains but still much calmer than the U.S. Many are believers. Most are in poverty yet quite happy.
Much of Tanzania is hot and barren. Where there is water, plants and crops grow beautifully. So do the animals. The animals we saw were incredible! Giraffes, elephants, zebras, wildebeests, hyenas, baboons, lions, hippos, and even one rhino. Monkeys and baboons were living along the highway and next to hotels in some places.
God’s creation is rich in Tanzania. The joy of his people there is amazing! His hand is at work as the good news of Jesus goes out.