Daily readings from Matthew

Eddie,
Small fishing boat drawn up on beach

As you read each passage, pray for God’s help. Ask yourself:

  • What does God reveal about Himself?
  • How is your own heart revealed?
  • How does this passage underline the wonder of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ, and your own need of Christ as Saviour and Lord?
  • Turn these truths into prayer and praise.

25 December Mt 4:12-17

The arrest of John the Baptist (v.12) marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry and also hints at the hostility that surrounds their proclamation of the kingdom of heaven (v.17, compare 3:2). Yet Jesus’ withdrawal to Galilee (v.12) is not simply a retreat from danger. By announcing the kingdom in an area of mixed population, Jesus signals that the good news He brings is for all people, Gentiles as well as Jews, as foretold by Isaiah (vv.14-16 = Isa 9:1-2). Thank God that His Christmas gift includes us!

26 December Mt 4:18-25

Jesus’ calling of these fishermen to “fish for people” meets with an immediate response (vv.20,22). Surely we are meant to learn that the life-and-death nature of Jesus’ call on our life will permit no delay. Does our obedience show that we’ve grasped this lesson? The brief summary of His Galilean ministry (vv.23-25) shows the goodness and kindness of our King’s rule. When King Jesus returns, all His children will experience this complete healing (Rev 21:4).

27 December Mt 5:1-16

The Sermon on the Mount (chs.5-7) has been well described as spoken into the ears of the disciples, but overheard by the world (5:1-2; 7:28). It contains teaching, challenge and summons – are you ready to respond? Vv.3-16 point to the distinctive life of Jesus’ followers. People who display the God-approved qualities of vv.3-12 will be noticed, like salt, light and a city on a hill (vv.13-15). The result? Glory to God (v.16). Come as a spiritual pauper (v.3), and let God make you rich in good deeds.

28 December Mt 5:17-20

This is an immensely important passage of Scripture for understanding how the Bible is put together, and for understanding the role of the Old Testament in the Christian life. Jesus does not abolish the OT Scriptures – He fulfils them (vv.17-18), by bringing to completion everything they promised. Therefore Christians do not abandon the OT Scriptures – we live by them (v.19). We don’t settle for a righteousness which is skin-deep, but hunger for the reality of a pure heart (v.20). Is that you?

29 December Mt 5:21-30

God calls us to inward purity, not simply outward or ritual observance. Thus “do not kill” refers not just to guns and knives, but to looks and words. It obliges us to seek reconciliation where relationships are strained (vv.21-26). “Do not commit adultery” speaks to what we do with our eyes as much as our bodies (vv.27-30). Outward conformity may impress others, but God’s children hunger and thirst after a deeper righteousness. Pray for a heart like God’s: filled with self-giving love.

30 December Mt 5:31-37

The word of the Lord is true (Ps 33:4) and ours should be too, if we really are His children. Negatively, this rules out divorce (vv.31-32: we’ll come to the “sexual immorality” exception when we reach 19:9). It also makes swearing unnecessary (vv.33-37: oaths, foul or otherwise, aren’t needed to confirm the word of those who mirror God’s faithfulness). Positively, our word as Christians is our bond, whether given in marriage, business, or simple conversation. Thank God He keeps His promises. Do you?

31 December Mt 5:38-48

“Revenge is a dish best served cold,” says the world. “Hellish nonsense,” says Jesus, “it’s a poisonous dish and you need to bin it.” But surely we’re not surprised? “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Ro 5:8). We were rescued by a God who loved us though we were His enemies, and now His love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Ro 5:5). We grow to maturity (Mt 5:48) by loving the unlovely, just as our Father loved unlovely us. Which “enemy” needs your love today?

Daily readings from Matthew

Eddie,

As you read each passage, pray for God’s help. Ask yourself:

  • What does God reveal about Himself?
  • How is your own heart revealed?
  • How does this passage underline the wonder of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ, and your own need of Christ as Saviour and Lord?
  • Turn these truths into prayer and praise.

18 December Mt 2:1-12

Herod had been appointed king by the Romans, but he was not a Jew and was bitterly resented by the Jewish people. News of one who was “born king of the Jews” (v.2) inflamed his paranoia. In fact, Herod’s kingdom, and all like it, are not simply threatened by the coming of Jesus; they are doomed (Rev 11:15). The tyrants shall fall, to be replaced by the Shepherd King (v.6). And because the Lord is our Shepherd, we shall have all we need. Do I welcome news of a new King, or am I threatened by it?

19 December Mt 2:1-12

Jesus “will save His people from their sins” (1:21). But who are His people? Matthew shows that they include Gentiles as well as Jews. The Gentile women in 1:5 have already pointed to this. Now the Magi from the East (2:1) confirm that the nations will come to the light of Christ. Compare Matthew’s ending: 28:19. Note that Herod jealously guarded his territory but lost everything; the Magi brought their worship and found great joy (v.10). Which will you do? Compare 16:25.

20 December Mt 2:13-18

“He humbled Himself …” (Php 2:8) The Lord of Glory became a refugee. Yet out of seeming defeat, God was writing the story of our salvation, already foreshadowed in the Exodus (v.15). The tyranny of sin brought more pain (vv.16-18), as it always does. Yet there is hope. Matthew quotes Jeremiah (v.18) to remind us that the slaughter of Israel’s children by the Assyrians and Babylonians was followed by God’s deliverance (Jer 31:15-17). So it will be in Jesus. Salvation, not sin, has the last word.

21 December Mt 2:19-23

On returning from Egypt, Joseph settled his family in Nazareth, a place widely despised at that time (Jn 1:46). Jesus grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. To be called “a Nazarene” (v.23) was indeed to be “despised and rejected by mankind” in fulfilment of prophecy (Isa 53:2-3). The Son of God left His Father’s glory … for Nazareth … for ME. And am I now unwilling to be despised and rejected for Him?

22 December Mt 3:1-12

We move on some 25 years, and John the Baptist is calling people to prepare for the coming of God’s Messiah. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (v.2). It’s time to change the way we think, how we act, what we value, and to demonstrate our repentance by the washing of baptism (v.6). Why the urgency? Because God’s rule will lay an axe to all who do not produce good fruit (vv.7-10). Are you ready to meet God? Where in your life do the roads need straightening out (v.3)?

23 December Mt 3:13-17

We may be as surprised by Jesus’ baptism as John was (vv.13-14). Surely Jesus didn’t need to repent? No, but He identified with us in taking the sinner’s place symbolically, as later He would bear our sins in the terrible reality of the cross. And as John’s baptism was a YES to God’s rule, so Jesus committed Himself to the Father’s will, whatever the cost. This “fulfilled all righteousness” (v.15), and the Father joyfully affirmed His Son, pouring out the Holy Spirit on Jesus to sustain Him in His mission (v.17).

24 December Mt 4:1-11

Jesus experienced the kind of testing Israel had faced as God’s “son” during the 40 years in the wilderness (v.1: note that God, not Satan, was in control – that should comfort us). Israel turned from God, but Jesus is God’s obedient Son, who loves the Father’s word (vv.4,7,10). He obeyed God in our place and as our representative. Thus He was able to be our Saviour, carrying our sins on the cross because He had none of His own. Further, because of these temptations, Jesus can understand and help us in our temptations (Heb 2:18; 4:15). Pray for that help, and be thankful.

Notices for 18th December 2016

Louise,

Carols by Candlelight

This will take place tonight at 6pm. Please invite friends along to this wonderful evening of readings and carols.

Missions and Persecuted Church Prayer

There will be a missions and persecuted church prayer meeting tomorrow night, Monday 19th December, at 7:45pm. Please contact Vanessa Naish for further details.

Corsham Town Carol Service

This is happening on Tuesday, 20th December, commencing at 6:45pm. People are asked to gather in the High Street outside Haine and Smith. If you had put your name down to be involved in this event, please contact Louise as the sign-up sheet was removed from the back of the church before all names were noted!

Christmas Eve Service, 24th Dec

This is a reflective service where we come together to lift our praises to God during this very busy time.  If families would like to come to this service there will be junior church provision.  As it is a later service for the children, they are encouraged to come in their pyjamas if they wish!  Please speak to Rhiannon if you have any questions.

Christmas day, 25th Dec

Christmas day will be a joint service @ Priory St, 10am. Please note there will be no evening service on Christmas day.

Baptism Service

We will be having another baptism service at the 11:15am service on Sunday 29th January. Please speak to Eddie if you are thinking about being baptised.

Christmas Activities at Church on the Green

DIY Christmas Decoration Workshop Wednesday, 21st December (9am-1pm);

Café on the Green Saturdays, 24th December (2:30-4:30pm);

Carol singing round Rudloe Christmas Eve: Saturday, 24th December (5-6pm);

Carol service Christmas Eve: Saturday, 24th December (6.45pm, set up from 6pm);

DIY nativity service Christmas Day, Sunday, 25th December, 10am

….Looking ahead….

1st Jan: Joint service at Priory St. @ 10am; no evening service on new year’s day

4th Jan: Midweek service, 2pm

6th-7th Jan: Leaders’ retreat @ Childswickham

16th Jan: Church Meeting, 8pm

18th Jan: Midweek service, 2pm

28th Jan: The Ark, 10am

29th Jan: Ernie Pillinger dedication; baptism @ 11:15am service

30th Jan: Ladies’ Bible Study, 7:30pm

All CBC ministries & meetings are now closed over the Christmas holiday period.

 

Daily readings from Matthew

Eddie,
Jesus born in a stable

As you read each passage, pray for God’s help. Ask yourself:

  • What does God reveal about Himself?
  • How is your own heart revealed?
  • How does this passage underline the wonder of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ, and your own need of Christ as Saviour and Lord?
  • Turn these truths into prayer and praise.

11 December Mt 1:1

Matthew presents Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah in whom God’s promises are fulfilled. Many times he writes words like: “This took place to fulfil what was written in the prophets.” So it is fitting that he begins his account by tracing Jesus’ descent from Abraham through King David. God promised that through Abraham the world would be blessed, and through David would come a Ruler whose Kingdom would never end. Be comforted, says Matthew: Jesus shows that our God keeps His promises!

12 December Mt 1:1-17

Excited by this genealogy? We should be. Jewish readers in the first century would certainly require proof of Jesus’ descent from Abraham and David. Here is God’s authenticating certificate. Furthermore, the flow of the genealogy underlines God’s faithfulness. From the high point of King David (v.6) to the descent to exile because of their sin (v.11) and through the weary years that followed their return (vv.12-15), God never quit in disgust on His promise to save (v.16). His love wins.

13 December Mt 1:1-17

But do we really need all these names? Yes! For one thing, it’s vital to note that the story of Jesus is anchored to real people whose lives can be located in time and space. We are reading history, not fantasy. The facts can be investigated. Furthermore, people matter eternally. If these individuals seem distant or forgotten to us, to God they are remembered and precious. And we will be remembered too, for God never writes off His children as “yesterday’s people.” They are the reason Jesus came.

14 December Mt 1:1-17

Most Jewish genealogies didn’t include women, but Matthew highlights four colourful women in Jesus’ family tree. There’s Tamar who bore twins to her father-in-law (v.3); Rahab the Jericho prostitute (v.5); Ruth the Moabite outsider (v.5); and Uriah’s wife (Bathsheba, v.6) who committed adultery with King David. Why bring these skeletons out of the closet? Because Jesus’ ancestry is much more than genealogy. It’s a story of grace written large. God does not consider His glory to be tarnished by drawing near to actual sinners.

15 December Mt 1:18-20

“… pregnant through the Holy Spirit.” Wow! Yet this astonishing statement was highlighted by Mary’s virginity, and confirmed to the sceptical Joseph by an angel. The way the angel addressed him – “Joseph, son of David”, would help prepare him for the astounding news of God’s intervention in history (v.20). Why does it matter that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit? Because although Jesus is truly a human being, He is not merely a human being, as v.23 will state plainly.

16 December Mt 1:21

“You are to give Him the name Jesus …”. The angel provides the explanation for the name: “because He will save His people from their sins.” The name Jesus is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew name Joshua, which means “Yahweh is salvation.” A Saviour for sinners: what wonderful news for people like us!

17 December Mt 1:22-25

The birth of Jesus fulfils the prophecy given by God through Isaiah 800 years earlier. Immanuel is not intended here as a proper name, but as a description of Jesus’ identity and significance: He is “God with us.” That is why He is able to save His people from their sins, for a Saviour not quite God would be a bridge broken at the far end. The story of Jesus’ birth is thus the story of God coming down from heaven to enter into our humanity in order to “save” us, i.e., to restore us to Himself. “O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!”

It’s happening in Rudloe

Tim Stephenson,
The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighbourhood. We saw the Glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, generous inside an out, true from start to finish.

Amazingly tomorrow we will already be half way through Advent! So are you in the mood for Christmas yet? Whether you look forward all year to this or slightly dread the pressure the lovely folks at Church on the Green would love to welcome you to one of these events:

  • Cafe on the Green: Saturdays 17th and 24th December 2:30-4:30pm FREE coffee, tea and cake and the chance to meet friends and make new ones.
  • Christmas Decoration Workshop: Wednesday 21st December 10am-12pm. Let loose your creativity! A morning for adults and children to make a Christmassy decoration for your tree, home or even a last minute gift for someone you love. Drop in for 30 minutes or stay all morning. All materials provided.
  • Carols on the Green (or indoors if raining): Christmas Eve – Saturday 24th December 6:45pm. Come and sing some traditional carols by lantern light (or bring your own torch) as we prepare for Christmas Day.
  • DIY Nativity Service: Christmas Day – Sunday 25th December, 10-11am. Dress up as a character in the nativity and join in our fun and noisy retelling of what happened that first Christmas.

Notice sheet for 11th December 2016

Louise,

Ladies Bible Study – Christmas event

Monday 12th December @ 7:30pm at CBC. If you would like to attend this year’s event, please sign up using the sheets at the back of the church. A buffet style meal will be provided – please indicate any dietary requirements you may have. We need helpers to move chairs (men can help too!) after the evening service tonight plus setting up and helping with cooking. Please sign up at the back or speak to either Vicky Stephenson or Roz Shillaker.

Nativity Service

Next Saturday, 17th Dec, is our nativity service!! It all starts at 5pm. Please invite friends, neighbours and family. It promises to be a fun evening as we celebrate the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ.

Rhiannon needs someone to serve refreshments and mince pies at the nativity service.  Please speak to Rhiannon if you can serve in this way.

Carols by Candlelight

This will take place next Sunday evening, 18th Dec, at 6pm. Please invite friends along to this wonderful evening of readings and carols.

Carol Service Band

Do you play an acoustic instrument? – strings, woodwind or brass? If so, it would be great to include you in this year’s Carol Service Band which will accompany the carols on the evening of Sunday 18th December. There are likely to be a couple of practices beforehand, one of which will probably be on the afternoon of the carol service itself. If you’re interested in taking part, please either speak to David Morrell, or email him at davidsuemorrell@gmail.com – and let him know what you play, and roughly what standard you’re used to playing.

Christmas Eve Service

This is a reflective service where we come together to lift our praises to God during this very busy time.  If families would like to come to this service there will be junior church provision.  As it is a later service for the children, they are encouraged to come in their pyjamas if they wish!  Please speak to Rhiannon if you have any questions.

Christmas Cards

There are two Christmas cards, for our missionaries, at the back of church which you are encouraged to sign – one for the Bryants and one for the Lancasters. If anyone would like to make a donation for a parcel for the Lancasters, please see Wendy Rowe.

Midweek Service

Our midweek service this Wednesday, 14th December at 2pm, will feature carols and readings. Please join us for the service and stay for tea, coffee and home-made cakes. Speak to Eric Seager if you require further details about our midweek services.

“Town Christmas Cards”

There are a pile of Town Christmas “cards” at the back. Please take a few for neighbours, friends and hand out. The leaflet gives details of all the services at local churches over the Christmas period.

Christmas Activities at Church on the Green

DIY Christmas Decoration Workshop Wednesday, 21st December (9am-1pm);

Café on the Green Saturdays, 17th and 24th December (2:30-4:30pm);

Carol singing round Rudloe Christmas Eve: Saturday, 24th December (5-6pm);

Carol service Christmas Eve: Saturday, 24th December (6.45pm, set up from 6pm);

DIY nativity service Christmas Day, Sunday, 25th December, 10am

Baptism Service

We will be having another baptism service at the 11:15am service on Sunday 29th January. Please speak to Eddie or one of the leadership team if you are thinking about being baptised.

Team Matthews

Dave and Laura have had a troubling few months as you probably know, but the whole family (including Reuben and the newly born Abigail) are now doing very well.  They wanted to let you know that they have been truly blessed by the Church family at CBC and COTG in so many ways.  They particularly wanted to say thank you for all the prayer which has been answered so amazingly and the meals which have been wonderful & very tasty!

 

…This week…

Monday: Ladies’ bible study, 9:30am; Ladies’ Christmas social, 7:30pm

Tuesday: Rudloe Tots, 10am, Rudloe Centre; Seniors’ Christmas event 12:00 midday

Wednesday: Morning prayer, 7:15am; midweek carol service, 2pm

Thursday: Toddler Group, 10:00am; Corsham Money and Debt Advice Centre, 7.30pm

Friday: Corsham Money and Debt Advice Centre, 9.30am; Engage, 4:30pm; Energize, 5:30pm.

Saturday: Prayer for gospel expansion 8.30am; Café on the Green, Rudloe, 2:30pm; Nativity @ Priory Street, 5pm

 

…Looking ahead…

18th Dec: Carols by Candlelight, 6pm

19th Dec: Missions’ prayer, 7:45pm

20th Dec: Corsham Town Carol Service, 6:45pm

24th Dec: Christmas eve service, 6pm

25th Dec: Christmas day joint service @ Priory St, 10am; no evening service on Christmas day

1st Jan: Joint service at Priory St. @ 10am; no evening service on new year’s day

4th Jan: Midweek service, 2pm

6-7th Jan: Leaders’ retreat

16th Jan: Church Meeting, 8pm

18th Jan: Midweek service, 2pm

28th Jan: The Ark, 10am

29th Jan: Ernie Pillinger dedication; baptism @ 11:15am service

30th Jan: Ladies’ Bible Study, 7:30pm

There are small leaflets at the back of church which list all the Christmas services and activities taking place at Priory Street. Take one either for your own use or take a few for friends, family & neighbours.

Daily readings from Jeremiah: week commencing 4th December

Eddie,
'Final Notice' stamp

As you read each passage, pray for God’s help. Ask yourself:

  • What does God reveal about Himself?
  • How is your own heart revealed?
  • How does this passage underline the wonder of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ, and your own need of Christ as Saviour and Lord?
  • Turn these truths into prayer and praise.

4 December Jer 51:45-50

The last part of this oracle is a command to the exiles in Babylon to flee, now that Babylon is being overthrown. The historical situation of the Jews in exile becomes a metaphor in the rest of the Bible for God’s people through the ages who face the hostility of the world (note how John depicts as “Babylon” those who persecute Christians in Rev chs.17-18). We may live for the moment in “Babylon”, but our heart surely has another home (v.50).

5 December Jer 51:51-58

Babylon’s punishment is directly for its crimes against God’s people and against the Lord Himself (v.51). Thus it will always be, and “Babylon” in every age should beware, for “the Lord is a God of retribution” (v.56). God’s retribution is seen here as the answer to hubris, i.e. to the pretensions of idolatry (v.52) and arrogance (v.53). For what does the soaring ambition of the few and the frantic efforts of the many amount to in the end? V.58 supplies the answer. So how will you live today?

6 December Jer 51:59-64

Jeremiah’s oracles against Babylon were taken and read to the exiles there during the fourth year of King Zedekiah’s reign (v.59). Zedekiah had presumably been summoned to Babylon to make sure of his loyalty. Seriah, his staff officer, was Baruch’s brother, a man Jeremiah felt he could trust to take and read the scroll. Once again, God’s historic judgement on Babylon is symbolic of the final overthrow of all who stand against Him and oppress His people (v.64, compare Rev 18:21,24).

7 December Jer 52:1-11

The final chapter of Jeremiah recaps the fall of Jerusalem before ending on a note of hope. Verses 1-11 recall the tragic figure of King Zedekiah, who was what James would have called a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (James 1:8). He broke faith with his Babylonian overlords (v.3) and with his own people (v.7). But the root of all his trouble was that he had first broken faith with God (v.2). When will we learn that turning from the Lord always leads to disaster?

8 December Jer 52:12-23

These verses tell of the systematic destruction of Jerusalem. Every major building is burned (v.13). The city walls are torn down by thousands of troops (v.14). The temple is looted and all its wealth is taken to the treasuries of Babylon. It makes terrible reading, but our loving heavenly Father has included these details for our learning. Appalling dangers need to be boldly signposted. God’s love will bring His people as low as is necessary to deliver us from the tyranny of our proud rebellion.

9 December Jer 52:24-30

In vv.24-27 we read of the execution of Jerusalem’s leading citizens, who had to pay the price Babylon put on their refusal to surrender. They should have heeded Jeremiah. Vv.28-30 remind us that there were three successive deportations over a long period. It is a sad reminder of the long and persistent rejection of God’s word by His people, despite His offer of a happier future if only they would return to Him.

10 December Jer 52:31-34

But what’s this? A surprising ending! Just when we might have thought the story of God’s people had run into a dead-end, there’s a gleam of light. Jehoiachin was Zedekiah’s predecessor, deposed after only three months, and a prisoner in Babylon for over 36 years. Yet his eventual release and restoration to honour reminds us that God’s promise of a future for His people is not empty (see Jer 29:11-14). Christmas is coming – see Mt 1:1,11-12 (footnote: Jeconiah = Jehoiachin) and v.17. God’s love will NOT be defeated, despite all we might do!

Touchdown in Tanzania

Ruth,

img_0551It’s nearly 12 weeks since we touched down in ‘Delightful Dar’ and made our way back to Morogoro.  The house was still in one piece; the night-guard had done his job and although our dog (affectionately referred to as the ginger maggot by some!) was a bit thinner, she was very much alive and happy to see us!  Everywhere looked very dry and dusty compared to the early autumnal Wiltshire that we’d just left, and of course that wasn’t the only comparison that we found ourselves musing over.  However, it was definitely different this time round.  We were returning to the familiar: our home, our team, our roles, even the language was now somewhat familiar!  And we were pleased to find that within just a few days, we seemed to have stepped relatively seamlessly from one culture into another and into the routine of life here in Tanzania.  It had been tough for me (Steve) gearing up to return from such an awesome home assignment and, as some of you will know, I was not exactly champing at the bit to get back here!  However, once we were back, there was a feeling of familiarity and that this is where we’re meant to be for the next term.  And those feelings made it easier to say to myself: “I’ve had a great HA but this is now what God would have us do, so get on with it!”

img_5443Life on the road: Over the last couple of months the car has clocked up over 4,000 miles, much of that in connection with my unit leader role, visiting AIM personnel, some of whom live in some pretty remote locations.  Journeys in Africa are often not as straightforward as they are in Wiltshire, which I guess often relieves the boredom normally associated with sitting in a car!  There are the humps and bumps in the road to look out for, as well as the broken-down trucks and vehicle debris lying around, not to mention the numerous police checkpoints.  Detours and diversions can be a regular feature, either to avoid accidents blocking the road, or from having to rumble across untarred land running parallel to the main road which is being worked on!  On two recent journeys we came across large-scale roadworks that went on for 50 mile stretches, and, on another, we had to get out on a steep hillside track to remove some hefty stones so as not to rip out the bottom of our Subaru!  img_5648It definitely beats sitting on the M25 but it does mean the car needs more regular servicing!  I return from these journeys in awe of the folks who have settled in such locations; their dedication to living out the gospel in areas where Christ is not really known is wonderful to see.

Our first journey happened within a week of landing in Tanzania, to a town way out west called Njombe.  Ruth and I were helping to facilitate and organise an IBM pastors’ conference, although the teaching was being done by a Tanzanian pastor.  I did manage a 20 minute devotional one morning in Swahili and was encouraged to find I hadn’t forgotten too much!

One thing we hadn’t prepared for was the temperature in Njombe!  We peeled back the curtains on our first morning to find the mist was down and the thermometer was showing a cool 10 degrees; at least 15 degrees lower than we’re used to in Morogoro!  Due to the fact that the expected church dress for a lady here in Tanzania is always a long skirt, Ruth had to nip down to a local market stall to buy a pair of ‘secret’ leggings in a bid to keep the temperatures up!  Despite the power cuts and the lack of hot water, it was a good conference and it was encouraging to see the response of the pastors when challenged about the issue of mission in the Tanzanian church.

Preaching in a sauna! 
To the other extreme, certainly in terms of temperatures, just a few weeks later I found myself way down in the south of the country, near to the border with Mozambique, at a church in the cul-de-sac town of Mtwara.  I was preaching at a church that resembled a sauna, not in appearance but certainly in terms of sweat levels!  I’ve come to appreciate why many Tanzanian pastors carry a flannel with them into the pulpit!!  A combination of factors (sun, humidity, tin roof and lack of working fans in the church) made for a lot of perspiration, and I found that those humid conditions tend not to help the preacher in his cause.  A number of nodding heads could be seen from my vantage point, and I don’t think that was because they were agreeing with my scriptural musings! Three hours after the choir had started their first number, and after four separate collections and a sermonette of comfort to a grieving daughter, it was time for the service to close – but not before I was presented with a giant watermelon which someone had donated to me following their winning bid in the ‘perishable goods’ auction!  I was thankful that I had the car with me and that no one had decided to donate a live chicken to the auction, which has actually happened in the past!

img_5942Sanga Conference Centre – the opening!   Meanwhile back at the ranch, the middle of November saw the opening of the conference centre at Sanga Sanga.  Building work commenced in June 2015 and, although the project is still some way from being finished, the completion of the roof meant that we could use the facility for a large gathering of AICT pastors – over 85 in attendance.  The ceremonial ribbon was cut and the veil that separated the fancy img_5928marble plaque from the watching eyes was torn in two from side to side!  It was a great moment for ‘Matt the Builder’, Tony Swanson (who has championed this cause) and for IBM which will soon have a base to work out of.  The spacious meeting room, which is yet to be walled, had a different feel to last year’s venue, which was the containerised pump house!  We look forward to the day when we’re open img_5946for business and God’s Word is being taught there on a regular basis.

Our staff at Sanga pulled out all the stops to make sure the conference went well, working from dawn till dusk, and sometimes well beyond.  Even one of the general labourers was pressed into catering action, donning an apron and a chef’s hat to serve the long line of hungry pastors!  It was a img_5980case of “all hands on deck” during the event, and this very much applied on one particular evening when a large bush fire began rampaging through the Sanga site.

The cooks, cleaners and labourers, who had been clearing up after the evening meal, immediately turned into firefighters!  After an hour of beating flames with nothing more than small tree branches, the fire was put out and the workers returned to base (some nursing their singed arms!) to deal with the washing up!  All in a day’s work for our dedicated staff!img_5943

Back to School!
Cast your mind back to the start of our Tanzanian journey and our period of language learning. I seem to remember writing about the undiluted ‘pleasures’ of grappling with another language and the joys of wrestling with nouns, verbs and Swahili tenses. I also remember telling you of my annoyance at having read the phrase “Swahili is one of the easiest languages to learn”, and how the mental gymnastics of language learning had wearied the body, dulled the senses, and made my head hurt!  Well, that was three years ago!  And now we’re back at the very same school, albeit in the very un-schoolish surrounds of the Rivervalley Campsite out in the Tanzanian bush.

Unlike last time, where we grappled with grammar for three months, this time we’re here for just three weeks, which I think is more manageable for a guy who’s not a born linguist!  We’ve definitely grown in our use of Swahili (some more than others!) but we felt it would be helpful, at the start of our second term here, to get back into the classroom.  It’s a time of intense learning away from our day-to-day activities, where we can hopefully concentrate on moving up a level, expanding our vocab, and going over the stuff that we’ve forgotten.  By the end of these three weeks I know that my head will be hurting!  Oh, to be one of the disciples on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit was poured out upon them!  Imagine how it felt for them as they spoke clearly in other languages without having to learn them!  I can only dream on!

Diary Dates:

26th Nov – 17th Dec:       Swahili language school in Iringa
24th—28th Dec:               Christmas at home
29th Dec – 2nd Jan:         Team retreat at Masumbo, Iringa
4th/5th Jan:                      Steve to Dar – personnel meetings
16th—19th Jan:               Steve to Nairobi for unit leader meetings
26th—29th Jan:               Wedding anniversary retreat on the coast!

Prayer Requests:

  • It does feel different being back at language school the second time round – please pray that we would apply ourselves to the task ahead and, with more understanding, really move up a gear!
  • We’re thankful for our team here in Morogoro and for those who have contributed to the building of the conference centre at Sanga. Please pray that this place would be a centre of encouragement and solid biblical teaching for pastors.
  • Please continue to pray for Steve as he travels around Tanzania carrying out his unit leader responsibilities; for safety behind the wheel and for wisdom as he serves AIM personnel.
  • We’re praising God for 9 years of marriage on 19th January!  For those who were there – yes, it really was that long ago!  Please pray for protection on our marriage, that we would reflect Christ in our married lives, and that we would grow closer together in Him.
  • During the months of Jan/Feb/March Steve will be preparing his teaching material for the 2017 conference season.  Please pray that he would be guided clearly by the Holy Spirit as to what subjects and passages he should teach.

img_5789Thank you so much for your prayers and support.  We wish you a very happy and blessed Christmas.

Steve & Ruth

PS: Oak Hall Expeditions and AIM are teaming up next summer to offer a holiday/taste of mission trip to Tanzania.  If you’re interested click here. 

 

Ruth & Cath receiving thank you gifts in the Tanzanian way

Ruth & Cath receiving thank you gifts at the pastors’ conference in the Tanzanian way

Pastor & Mrs Katwale looking smart as they celebrated the conference opening

Pastor & Mrs Katwale looking smart as they celebrated the conference opening

Touchdown in Tanzania

Ruth,

img_0551It’s nearly 12 weeks since we touched down in ‘Delightful Dar’ and made our way back to Morogoro.  The house was still in one piece; the night-guard had done his job and although our dog (affectionately referred to as the ginger maggot by some!) was a bit thinner, she was very much alive and happy to see us!  Everywhere looked very dry and dusty compared to the early autumnal Wiltshire that we’d just left, and of course that wasn’t the only comparison that we found ourselves musing over.  However, it was definitely different this time round.  We were returning to the familiar: our home, our team, our roles, even the language was now somewhat familiar!  And we were pleased to find that within just a few days, we seemed to have stepped relatively seamlessly from one culture into another and into the routine of life here in Tanzania.  It had been tough for me (Steve) gearing up to return from such an awesome home assignment and, as some of you will know, I was not exactly champing at the bit to get back here!  However, once we were back, there was a feeling of familiarity and that this is where we’re meant to be for the next term.  And those feelings made it easier to say to myself: “I’ve had a great HA but this is now what God would have us do, so get on with it!”

img_5443Life on the road: Over the last couple of months the car has clocked up over 4,000 miles, much of that in connection with my unit leader role, visiting AIM personnel, some of whom live in some pretty remote locations.  Journeys in Africa are often not as straightforward as they are in Wiltshire, which I guess often relieves the boredom normally associated with sitting in a car!  There are the humps and bumps in the road to look out for, as well as the broken-down trucks and vehicle debris lying around, not to mention the numerous police checkpoints.  Detours and diversions can be a regular feature, either to avoid accidents blocking the road, or from having to rumble across untarred land running parallel to the main road which is being worked on!  On two recent journeys we came across large-scale roadworks that went on for 50 mile stretches, and, on another, we had to get out on a steep hillside track to remove some hefty stones so as not to rip out the bottom of our Subaru!  img_5648It definitely beats sitting on the M25 but it does mean the car needs more regular servicing!  I return from these journeys in awe of the folks who have settled in such locations; their dedication to living out the gospel in areas where Christ is not really known is wonderful to see.

Our first journey happened within a week of landing in Tanzania, to a town way out west called Njombe.  Ruth and I were helping to facilitate and organise an IBM pastors’ conference, although the teaching was being done by a Tanzanian pastor.  I did manage a 20 minute devotional one morning in Swahili and was encouraged to find I hadn’t forgotten too much!

One thing we hadn’t prepared for was the temperature in Njombe!  We peeled back the curtains on our first morning to find the mist was down and the thermometer was showing a cool 10 degrees; at least 15 degrees lower than we’re used to in Morogoro!  Due to the fact that the expected church dress for a lady here in Tanzania is always a long skirt, Ruth had to nip down to a local market stall to buy a pair of ‘secret’ leggings in a bid to keep the temperatures up!  Despite the power cuts and the lack of hot water, it was a good conference and it was encouraging to see the response of the pastors when challenged about the issue of mission in the Tanzanian church.

Preaching in a sauna! 
To the other extreme, certainly in terms of temperatures, just a few weeks later I found myself way down in the south of the country, near to the border with Mozambique, at a church in the cul-de-sac town of Mtwara.  I was preaching at a church that resembled a sauna, not in appearance but certainly in terms of sweat levels!  I’ve come to appreciate why many Tanzanian pastors carry a flannel with them into the pulpit!!  A combination of factors (sun, humidity, tin roof and lack of working fans in the church) made for a lot of perspiration, and I found that those humid conditions tend not to help the preacher in his cause.  A number of nodding heads could be seen from my vantage point, and I don’t think that was because they were agreeing with my scriptural musings! Three hours after the choir had started their first number, and after four separate collections and a sermonette of comfort to a grieving daughter, it was time for the service to close – but not before I was presented with a giant watermelon which someone had donated to me following their winning bid in the ‘perishable goods’ auction!  I was thankful that I had the car with me and that no one had decided to donate a live chicken to the auction, which has actually happened in the past!

img_5942Sanga Conference Centre – the opening!   Meanwhile back at the ranch, the middle of November saw the opening of the conference centre at Sanga Sanga.  Building work commenced in June 2015 and, although the project is still some way from being finished, the completion of the roof meant that we could use the facility for a large gathering of AICT pastors – over 85 in attendance.  The ceremonial ribbon was cut and the veil that separated the fancy img_5928marble plaque from the watching eyes was torn in two from side to side!  It was a great moment for ‘Matt the Builder’, Tony Swanson (who has championed this cause) and for IBM which will soon have a base to work out of.  The spacious meeting room, which is yet to be walled, had a different feel to last year’s venue, which was the containerised pump house!  We look forward to the day when we’re open img_5946for business and God’s Word is being taught there on a regular basis.

Our staff at Sanga pulled out all the stops to make sure the conference went well, working from dawn till dusk, and sometimes well beyond.  Even one of the general labourers was pressed into catering action, donning an apron and a chef’s hat to serve the long line of hungry pastors!  It was a img_5980case of “all hands on deck” during the event, and this very much applied on one particular evening when a large bush fire began rampaging through the Sanga site.

The cooks, cleaners and labourers, who had been clearing up after the evening meal, immediately turned into firefighters!  After an hour of beating flames with nothing more than small tree branches, the fire was put out and the workers returned to base (some nursing their singed arms!) to deal with the washing up!  All in a day’s work for our dedicated staff!img_5943

Back to School!
Cast your mind back to the start of our Tanzanian journey and our period of language learning. I seem to remember writing about the undiluted ‘pleasures’ of grappling with another language and the joys of wrestling with nouns, verbs and Swahili tenses. I also remember telling you of my annoyance at having read the phrase “Swahili is one of the easiest languages to learn”, and how the mental gymnastics of language learning had wearied the body, dulled the senses, and made my head hurt!  Well, that was three years ago!  And now we’re back at the very same school, albeit in the very un-schoolish surrounds of the Rivervalley Campsite out in the Tanzanian bush.

Unlike last time, where we grappled with grammar for three months, this time we’re here for just three weeks, which I think is more manageable for a guy who’s not a born linguist!  We’ve definitely grown in our use of Swahili (some more than others!) but we felt it would be helpful, at the start of our second term here, to get back into the classroom.  It’s a time of intense learning away from our day-to-day activities, where we can hopefully concentrate on moving up a level, expanding our vocab, and going over the stuff that we’ve forgotten.  By the end of these three weeks I know that my head will be hurting!  Oh, to be one of the disciples on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit was poured out upon them!  Imagine how it felt for them as they spoke clearly in other languages without having to learn them!  I can only dream on!

Diary Dates:

26th Nov – 17th Dec:       Swahili language school in Iringa
24th—28th Dec:               Christmas at home
29th Dec – 2nd Jan:         Team retreat at Masumbo, Iringa
4th/5th Jan:                      Steve to Dar – personnel meetings
16th—19th Jan:               Steve to Nairobi for unit leader meetings
26th—29th Jan:               Wedding anniversary retreat on the coast!

Prayer Requests:

  • It does feel different being back at language school the second time round – please pray that we would apply ourselves to the task ahead and, with more understanding, really move up a gear!
  • We’re thankful for our team here in Morogoro and for those who have contributed to the building of the conference centre at Sanga. Please pray that this place would be a centre of encouragement and solid biblical teaching for pastors.
  • Please continue to pray for Steve as he travels around Tanzania carrying out his unit leader responsibilities; for safety behind the wheel and for wisdom as he serves AIM personnel.
  • We’re praising God for 9 years of marriage on 19th January!  For those who were there – yes, it really was that long ago!  Please pray for protection on our marriage, that we would reflect Christ in our married lives, and that we would grow closer together in Him.
  • During the months of Jan/Feb/March Steve will be preparing his teaching material for the 2017 conference season.  Please pray that he would be guided clearly by the Holy Spirit as to what subjects and passages he should teach.

img_5789Thank you so much for your prayers and support.  We wish you a very happy and blessed Christmas.

Steve & Ruth

PS: Oak Hall Expeditions and AIM are teaming up next summer to offer a holiday/taste of mission trip to Tanzania.  If you’re interested click here. 

 

Ruth & Cath receiving thank you gifts in the Tanzanian way

Ruth & Cath receiving thank you gifts at the pastors’ conference in the Tanzanian way

Pastor & Mrs Katwale looking smart as they celebrated the conference opening

Pastor & Mrs Katwale looking smart as they celebrated the conference opening