It is always a joy to be back in Africa where we have both ministered for a number of years. There is something refreshing and invigorating to sense the warmth and fellowship of African brothers and sisters in Christ and their hunger for God’s Word.
Our travel worked out well although was slightly longer than last year due to the fact that it was not possible to get a direct flight from Nairobi, Kenya to Arusha in Northern Tanzania, so we had to fly via Dar Es Salaam. We returned to London via Zurich.
This time we arrived on the Saturday so that we were able to preach in churches on the Sunday before the first conference, which was for mainly Maasai pastors on the foothills of Mount Meru just outside Arusha. The numbers at this conference averaged sixty-five each day and the majority had attended the conference last year. 10% of participants were ladies. We are not yet following the new PTI curriculum but Simon’s teaching from Mark’s Gospel and Peter’s from Ephesians were appreciated.
We were housed in the Guest House of Mt Meru University and were given the opportunity to also address staff faculty members and staff at the morning chapel on three occasions.(The students were away on holiday.)
The over-riding conviction reconfirmed on this visit is that the Bible is powerful and relevant and comes to life for people of all cultures and backgrounds. We were amazed to see how it speaks into their situation – for example the first fourteen verses of Ephesians address the dangers of the Prosperity teaching and remind us that we are blessed “in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” However, the shocking discovery we made was that only two thirds of the participants had complete Bibles that were fit for purpose. For many their Swahili Bibles were so used and tatty that many pages were missing. Others revealed that as they had brought the one family Bible to the conference, those left at home would not have a Bible for the week. The clincher was when one of the translators was asked to read a verse from Revelation chapter 21 and said, “I haven’t had those last pages of the Bible for a very long time!” So with the help of PTI and with the wisdom of our host, Michael Nhonya, we were able to buy thirty Bibles. The participants made a small contribution to the cost. One pastor exclaimed as he was given his new Bible: “I have never held a new Bible before – my previous one was old when I got it – I can’t wait to show my family and use this Bible.”
The conference in Morogoro was
with pastors from a variety of denominations but with a slightly higher level of education. Numbers were slightly down on the first year and we were told that, although July and August are a much better time for the conference from the point of view of the weather (as it was cooler), after the harvest period there are a number of other conferences and events which prevented some from attending.
We also attended an ordination service for two Baptist pastors and spoke at different churches on the Sunday. We have received some twenty-four names of those who speak English from the two conferences and who would like to be part of the mentoring programme.
Simon and I came back grateful and humbled by the privilege of ministering God’s word to these two groups of pastors.