Friday, January 3, 2020

My "Teachers" in Tanzania

December 7, 2019

Tanzania Travel Report—Adventist Possibility Ministries (APM)

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A number of highlights come to mind as I return home after spending nearly a week in Tanzania, Africa at a Special Needs Camp/Evangelistic Meeting.  About 350-400 deaf, blind, physically challenged plus staff members attended.  There were many Muslims among those attending. Pastor Paul Muasya (East Central Africa Division APM Director and Field Secretary), along with A­­­­PM union and conference directors, did an exceptional job organizing the first APM meeting in this conference.  It was the third held in the country.  Pastor Muasya and I both presented 12 sermons each—he presented evangelistic sermons and I shared different characteristics of God.  Our desire was to ground these individuals in the teaching of the Bible and in their relationship with Christ. Twenty-six special needs individuals came forward in calls for baptism—19 were baptized on Sabbath. I can assure you that statistics just don’t tell the full story. These individuals represent some remarkable experiences. I may travel to share but I always leave feeling those I visit had become my teachers. I learn so much from them.

I am always anxious to get home! I do miss my wife, sons, grandsons, other family members, and friends!! Having said that, it is difficult to leave what I now term as “my people.” I must say this ministry is having a definite impact upon me. The needs are so great, yet there are few demands or requests other than just simple basic needs of life.  The faith experience of those I visit is obvious as they share. I find my drive for the marginalized people of the world is no less now than it was in 2010.  Of course, I know it doesn’t all rest all on me and that I am but one of those who work to reach out to these people, but neither can I shy away from opportunities that I discover! I am greatly encouraged to see more and more individuals expressing a desire to get involved with this ministry. There will always be those who look down on this kind of ministry but that is their loss.  However, when I read how Jesus ministered to those with "special needs", I have a better understanding of why He did so. 

During the meetings there were times for breakout groups when the blind, the physically challenged, and the deaf could meet separately with others that were facing similar challenges. Union and conference leaders led out and did an excellent job.  These group meetings were very popular as it gave opportunity for conversations about serious issues commonly experienced. Biblical topics were discussed but so were relational ones such as dating, marriage, etc.

A real highlight was the singing of our global theme song, “Not Alone!” We chose this as our international theme song long ago, but it is still very relevant and speaks to the hearts of those who hear and sing it. To my great surprise the children had practiced the song and learned to sign it. It was translated into Swahili and as they sang the song, many adults signed it, too.  The depth of this movement continues to inspire me.  Here is a portion of the theme song:

Lyrics for Not Alone by Watoto Children's Choir

Through all of my tears
You see my fears
I'm not alone

When I need a friend
You take my hand
I'm not alone

If the trials come
And my worries seem too much to bear
Lord, You lift me up
And hold me close
I'm not alone

You're my friend
Like no other
You have become the air I breathe
Jesus more than any other thing
You are life and hope to me

When you realize that this was originally sung by orphans from Uganda, you can see why it has such impact.

I was blessed to have one of the best translators I’ve ever had. No doubt she made my sermons much better. Her name was Neema Mmwamfwagasi, the wife of the acting principal of the school where we were meeting. She is a dedicated and service-minded Seventh-day Adventist Christian!  She did make it difficult for me, however!!  She insisted on carrying my heavy computer bag everywhere I went.  Sometimes she not only carried mine but that of another leader.  The only complaint she ever gave was when I tried to carry it myself!  Such are the customs of her culture and her own personal desire to serve and be helpful.

The degree of “handicap” among the attendees was mild to severe, but the warmth and friendliness came from all.  I am often personally humbled when I see grown adults crawling in their Sabbath attire on their hands and knees as they go from meeting to meeting.  Many have bodies that are bent and distorted in the most awkward ways, yet their smiles are effervescent. Some are in pain all the time.  I just wish you could be with me and see this. I was personally moved as I saw a woman crawl down the aisle to place her tithe/offering in the little church made for offerings. Then, there was the young man who wanted to respond to an evangelistic call.  Two friends carried him to the front in the chair in which he was sitting.  But no less emotional was when we saw these people baptized.  Some had to be baptized as they laid horizontal due their disabilities. In these cases, it often takes four or five to actually assist with the baptism. I cannot forget the images of these people who for so long have been overlooked. I keep telling myself, “They’ve been here all the time, but where have we been?

We’ve come a long way since 2010 where the emphasis was first placed on the Deaf.  Then in 2015 we added six more “categories of need” based on insights from Ellen White in 3T:511.  This ministry now covers: the Deaf, the blind, the physically challenged, the mentally challenged, orphans/vulnerable children, the widowed, and caregivers.  This ministry of compassion is expanding rapidly. Where given a chance, it breaks down prejudices and softens calloused hearts. It is a grassroots movement with denominational leadership support.  I see so many needs that could be met and that is the hardest part of this job.  I am determined that we must do something for those who need simple equipment such as wheelchairs, crutches, and walkers.  We need to develop some kind of collection and distribution agency of sorts for needed equipment.  It would normally be cheaper to purchase equipment locally than ship them. There is also the need to install ramps not only to be able to enter the church building, but also to get on the platforms in the church so they can be presenters too. There is so much that needs to be done, nevertheless, progress is being made.

A key moment in my visits to these countries is always when I have one-on-one conversations with church leaders of these countries—lay leaders but also conference and union leaders as well. One of the key moments while in Tanzania was my conversation with the conference president, Pastor Steven Ngussa Bohole. As we discussed our 3-A Strategy, lights went on. It is obvious he is a visionary leader with a big heart. I’m sure that conference will be doing much in the near future.

These visits are a reminder to me, that the real work of the Church is not in the business meetings, as important as they are, but when we spend time with the members and guests in local churches. 

Be of courage, God is doing great things and we have every reason to believe greater days are ahead! After all, we have all been given the ministry of “Possibilities.”

Larry R Evans, DMin
Assistant to the President
General Conference of SDA



Interviewed by Mary Abayo

Isdory john kitemele was born on September 30,1994 in Morogoro, at Morogoro hospital, his mother’s name is Eva Dominic Lumongolo they lived at sultan area, Uluguru street, Morogoro.
Isdory’s family are Roman catholic believers Isdory said ”my father was having a habit of reading his bible while at home though his father was not used to go the church with his bible ”the only thing Isdory remembered is that his father used to teach him “a,e,i,o,u” and ba, be, bi, bo, bu  so Isdory said that he was nurturing  on seeing his father reading his bible but since he was not able to read so he was doing his level best to make sure that he know  how  to read by himself.

At home there were his brother  daughter and a neighbor’s primary kid who used to do their assignment at home so he was following what ever they were doing , he decided to look upon a book called ”Soma kwa hatua “ meaning reading step by step, so he continue with that trend till he knew how to read fluently by home by himself but when he heard his father was back at home from church he returned the bible to its place.
After Isdory discover that he was able to read he was eager to do the reading as his father was doing, so since his father was going to church at Sunday and left his bible at home he was using the chance to take that bible and start reading it by him self so from there is when he started to ask himself questions
Amongst the question he was asking himself are why are we worshiping on Sunday?
So, from reading he discover that Sunday was not the sabbath day of God, Isdory said that one near by the place their living there was an evangelism crusade so he told his father to take him to attend there every evening and good enough he learned amazing grace of God.
In 2002 he stopped reading the bible but Isdory said that was satanic desire which restrike him of not reading.
In 2007 the Holy Spirit enable him to start reading his bible again, the same question was still bothering him why are we as a family worshiping at Sunday instead of Saturday as a chosen day by God?
On 2010 came another evangelistic meeting near by the place was conducted where they lived, so he asked his father to brought him and he agreed. Isdory said ”by the time i reached there I thought the effort was conducted by the roman catholic church but later he came to discover that it was conducted by the seventh day Adventist church, and when he was meditating upon the preaching he came to discover there are many thing differ from catholic as its presented by the seventh day Adventist church.
Isdory pointed that seventh day sermon presentation differ, from his church. Believers were not going to the church with their bible and singing style differ so he was attracted by those things at first.

On 2016 he got an invitation from sister Janeth Bwaira to attend the camp meeting which was conducted at Misufini Distict at Misufini church, Morogoro. So from there he completely got understanding about what is sabbath  so he went home and told his father concerning his desire but his father refused and Isdory said “Is better to obey God rather than people” so he  got baptized on 23,September,2016., back home he was insulted by his father with so many abusive word , but he took courage knowing that God will take care of him so he started to converted his mother and finally his mother also got baptized on 1, July 2017.
Finally his Father neglected both him and his mother which lead them to lack of their basic needs and they only depend to the church in order to live.
Isdory said his mother can’t work since he need special attention due to his condition.
Isdory SAID wishes that whole of his family may know God through keeping his holy day, in spite of what is happening to him he wish one day to be came a Pastor and to have a permanent place to live since some time rental fees came to be a problem and some time they are chased .