Category: Overseas Mission

Report on Steve Bryant’s recent visit to Thailand (7th – 29th October)

Thanks to all who were praying for us during Steve’s time in Thailand which went very well. He started with a 2-day course teaching our local child protection officers what to do where there are no social services or specialised police units to report to (true for around ¾ of the countries we work in). Although modelled on other training and experience, teaching this was new. There was a really positive response from the group of 25 delegates and it was a great help to draw on the experiences of some of them in counselling, social work, and working in law.

The next stage was our WEC Asia-Pacific Region Conference with around 130 team leaders from over 20 different countries. It was great to be part of the praise and teaching, meet up with some of our first new members from NE India, see how we can help fulfil the big vision for world mission in the Philippines, hear about the growth of the church in many countries through our drug and alcohol rehab work called Betel, and much more. Of course there are many challenges to face, not least of which is the slow down in mission recruitment from Western countries and now even from Korea.
Steve spoke to the whole conference about internet safety, and supporting children through the stresses of international moves. Most of the work though was in smaller groups or one to one discussion.

Immediately after the conference there were meetings with our staff at Grace International School and at our boarding home for teenage students. The school supports the mission work of hundreds of families from dozens of different agencies in Thailand and the surrounding countries and is a vital part of spreading the Gospel in East and SE Asia.

News for those concerned about and praying for Grace International School –
Because of the court case contesting the current main school building the plan is still to build on a brand new site. The school’s final court appeal was made some years ago, but there is still no indication when a decision will be made. Should the case be lost there could be the need to move out at short notice but there are emergency plans in place before the new site is built.

Steve’s October Trip

On Wednesday 7th, Steve will travel to Thailand to take part in Asiacon, a conference for WEC’s team leaders in Asia. He will stay in Thailand for a few days afterwards to meet team members there, and will be back home on 29th.

Just before Asiacon starts, he will run a two day concentrated course of training for team leaders, to equip them to respond to safeguarding issues in their branch. He will also do several presentations during Asiacon.

He leaves on Weds 7th and flies to Chiang Mai, Thailand via Beijing, arriving on Thursday 8th. Asiacon is from Tues 13th to Thurs 22nd. Then there will be meetings with WEC team members in Chiang Mai. He will travel home on Weds 28th, arriving on Thursday 29th.

Impressions of Ifakara

This post by Steve and Ruth Lancaster was originally published at Life in the Lancs Lane

Rachel and Ruth celebrating their birthdays

As many of you begin to prepare for the Autumn months we’re preparing for the onset of heat!  The last three months have been pleasant to say the least – mid to late 20’s (temperature not age!) and on the whole, some cloudy skies that have kept the temperatures down. September will see the thermometer rising and the humidity levels increasing as we begin the climb to a hot and sweaty Christmas!  Thank you to those who have been praying for us.  We’ve done a lot of travelling, but all without hitch and without a scratch to either bumper, although I won’t talk about the numerous and rather exasperating police checkpoints along the way!  Ruth has continued to manage the Retreat House at Sanga and oversee the staff accounts, along with the conference administration, marketing, fundraising etc… We enjoyed a holiday with Ruth’s twin sister and brother-in-law in August, and celebrated the birthday of those ‘tenacious twins’ on the beaches of Zanzibar!  It was great to be able to show them around, and to introduce them to some of the things that make Tanzania famous: snorkelling in the Indian ocean, listening to the night-time noises of the laughing hyenas, playing golf on the ‘browns’ of Morogoro golf course, and having our safari tent attacked by a lizard-eating Genet! 

Musings on the Ifakara Conference: To boldly go where few fear to tread! Well, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration but our travel guidebook did tell us that “few travellers ever make it to the Udzungwa National Park, and fewer still follow the road further south to Ifakara”!  And there’s a good reason for that!  The dirt road is bumpy and dusty for much of the way, and it’s a dead-end town unless you happen to be heading to the Kilombero swamps or the Selous National Park, which is a wilderness area twice the size of Belgium! 

Good to see so many smiling faces at the end of the conference

But it was here in Ifakara that our fourth conference of the year was held, and it turned out to be the best yet, and indeed the most encouraging!  From the start there seemed to be a good atmosphere amongst the 37 pastors and evangelists, some of them travelling over 100 miles to be there. As the conference kicked off and each pastor stood to introduce themselves, it sounded like a role call from the Old Testament!  Ezekiel, Daniel, Lamech, Shadrach, Hosea, Zephaniah, Samuel, Reuben, and Joseph were all present, and even Pastor Gabriel put in an appearance!  I felt a bit sorry for Leonard who I’m sure must have felt the odd one out!  It was also good to see a representative from the New Testament there in the form of Stephanos, which is of course an extremely fine name!  There was even a one-year old toddler called ‘Steve’ – and therein lies a story!  At last year’s Ifakara conference one of the ladies had been ‘carrying luggage’ (a polite Tanzanian way of saying she was pregnant!) and a month later had given birth to a baby boy, who she then decided to name after me! 

My eight teaching slots went well and I found that I was more relaxed and ‘at home’ in pronouncing and emphasising the content of my talks on the Holy Spirit.  The man who helped to lead the conference was a young pastor by the name of Tobotobo and, although it was his first time in leading an IBM conference, he did a top job and we worked well with each other.  He was obviously taking his role seriously, because on the third day he turned up wearing a second-hand Lufthansa pilot’s jacket!  It’s amazing what you can pick up on the street-stalls of Tanzania!  It was also encouraging to see the pastors send round the collection basket on a couple of occasions in support of their colleagues who were in need, and a few pastors even made a small contribution to the costs of the seminar. 

On our way home, Pastor Shadrach asked us to call in at his house because he wanted to give us a gift. We arrived in his village, and were ushered into a small room which was no bigger than your average garden shed, and which had a huge ‘Jesus’ picture stuck to the coarsely plastered wall. Even though it was only 10am we were then served a lunch of rice and beans, which had been cooked in a makeshift kitchen outside. Meanwhile, the children of the village had gathered excitedly around the car and were fascinated by their own reflections in the metallic paintwork; a sure sign that there weren’t too many mirrors hanging up in their homes!

Just before we left, Shadrach went into his store and pulled out a big bag of rice, which he then presented to us as a gift.  Talk about humbling! These AIC pastors and evangelists don’t get a regular salary but receive a percentage of the Sunday morning offering.  Whereas this might provide you with a reasonable income if you work at a large church, it’s a different matter if you happen to be pastoring a small church out in the sticks with only a handful of folks attending. Pastor Shadrach falls into the latter category and would probably count it a good week if the percentage he received from the offering enabled him to buy the equivalent of five or six 1st class stamps in UK!  And that’s the reason why you’ll see the likes of Shadrach wearing a ‘health & beauty’ T-shirt which he purchased at a second-hand clothes stall, but was probably a free promotional gift at a UK trade fair!  That’s also the reason why he’s only got a small house to live in and that the walls are left unpainted.  And you would think that would be a good enough reason to keep hold of a 10kg bag of rice!  Not at all.  This was the gift we were presented with as we got up to leave; a token of his thanks for the teaching that I had done during the week. Needless to say we felt humbled and blessed, but also found ourselves wondering if we would be as extravagantly generous if we owned so little.   

There was something else that I was impressed with at this particular conference and it relates to a couple of my favourite Bible passages; the well known foot-washing passage in John Ch 13, and the not-so-well-known passage in 2 Kings Ch 3.  Just hours before his arrest Jesus does something that isn’t associated with status or position: that of washing the feet of his disciples. In humility he considered others better than himself and stooped to serve his followers.  The latter passage involves the prophet Elisha who was known by one of the king’s officials as a man “who used to pour water on the hands of Elijah”.  What a wonderful statement!  Here was a man who had already been anointed as Elijah’s successor and yet he continued to serve Elijah by assisting him in his ministry. 

The Tanzanians are big on washing hands before meals!  Go to a Tanzanian home to eat, and out comes the washbasin and the soap, normally brought to you where you’re siting.  During the Ifakara conference we ate at the church where the meetings were held but before every meal, a long line of pastors formed, first of all to have their hands washed, and then to collect their rice, beans and ugali, which would often be eaten with the hands, and not with cutlery.  And on every occasion I observed the same pastor quietly standing with jug and soap in hand, offering to ‘pour water on the hands of’ his colleagues; offering to serve and therefore be the last in the queue for his meal.  Quite often the issue of servant leadership seems to be a hard one to grasp in the Tanzanian church, so it was encouraging to see this pastor selflessly serving, and putting others first, without drawing attention to himself; an example I need to heed particularly at a time (26 months in!) when the patience levels begin to wear thin and the annoyances seems to be magnified, and the last thing I feel like doing is serving others!  Let’s make it our aim, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to be a people who delight to pour water on the hands of others.   

Prayer & Praise: 

  • Praise God for safe travels and a good holiday.
  • Thank God for a top Ifakara conference, where the Swahili flowed and where people seemed hungry to learn.
  • Praise God for good progress on the construction of the conference centre. Still at the foundation stage but great to report savings made and no injuries to the 53 workers on site! 
  • Steve has been below par in terms of general health for the last few weeks, so would be grateful for prayer in terms of stamina and energy as we approach a busy two months of conferencing, the first of which starts on the 2nd Sept. Pray that God would use us both. 
  • Pray that the AIM Tanzania conference in October would be special!  That God would really use Eddie Larkman and the team from Corsham Baptist Church to speak into lives. 

Diary dates for Sept/Oct: 

1st Sept:            Travel to Iringa
2nd-4th:             Teaching at Pastors’ conference
5th:                    Return to Morogoro
13th:                  Preaching at the Shed Church, Dakawa
22nd:                 Travel to Magambua 
23rd-25th:          Teaching at Pastors’ conference 
26th:                  Return to Morogoro
14th-19th Oct:    AIM Tanzania Conference in Dar 
19th-22nd:         Our Corsham Baptist pastor and his wife staying with us
30th/31st:          Bible teaching at Church weekend conference in Iringa

Random photos of the month:

Can’t see this labelling taking off in a UK supermarket!

Maybe this is where the Army got it’s camouflage idea from?
One of the children playing outside
the Ifakara church

Turning Two in Tanzania

This post by Steve and Ruth Lancaster was originally published at Life in the Lancs Lane

We celebrated Steve’s birthday in June with 
a trip to Mikumi National Park

Two years ago this month we were making final preparations for leaving the UK and starting our first term in Tanzania with AIM. We scratched our heads over what to take and what to leave behind.  Many miles were travelled up and down the M5/M6 as we packed up our house and took our things to be stored in the garage at Steve’s parents’ house.  We said our goodbyes to family and friends.  We were blessed with a wonderful commissioning service in our church, and then we were off!  11th July marks our two year anniversary!

In the great scheme of things, 2 years is not a long time.  And yet, as we look back at them, we can truly say we feel settled here in Morogoro.  We are pressing on (some might say plodding on!) with learning language and culture, and we are both busy in the roles we came here to do.  We give thanks to God for helping us so far, for the way He’s helped us to adjust, to learn and to settle. There have been ‘blips’ along the way, but we can say with Isaiah, “Lord, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished You have done for us.” (Is. 26:12).

Pastors’ Conferences

Steve teaching at the conference in Moshi

The two recent conferences at Moshi and in Dar for pastors and evangelists went very well.  Both were well attended, and the topic being taught, the Holy Spirit, generated much lively discussion.  Steve taught eight sessions, mainly in Swahili, at each conference, although language fatigue saw him revert to English for one or two of them!  He says, “There were times when my language energy levels felt depleted, but there were also times when I felt an extra sense of fluency – and not just in the session on speaking in tongues! There were times, especially in those dreaded afternoon sessions, when a number of heads were drooping – but there were also times when I could sense that people were switched on and hungry to learn.  There were times when people requested discussion times to be extended, and times when the unaccompanied singing of the pastors filled the room and thrilled the heart!  There were times when I wondered whether it was all worth it – and times when I felt that what I was doing had eternal significance. And there was a time after one particular session, when a pastor’s wife approached me with bag in hand, only to ask me whether I wanted to buy some pants and socks!!”  

Photos from the conferences: l-r: Steve with Pastor Matinya, Pastor Yatoshta, and the kitchen at the Dar conference!

This month we will be making the longest journey we’ve done so far in Tanzania, down to Mtwara for a pastors’ seminar.  Mtwara (twinned with Redditch, by the way!) is in the far south of Tanzania—next stop Mozambique!  It will take us almost 2 days of travel to get there.  We understand that the road to the south is tarmacked and fairly good.  This seminar, although it won’t have as high numbers as the previous two, will provide encouragement to the pastors and evangelists who otherwise might feel cut off from the rest of the Diocese.  Then, in August, we travel to Ifaraka (a mere 5 hours away!) for a pastors’ conference there.

Following the conference in Dar in June we travelled to Nairobi for Ruth’s annual medical check-up.  A raft of blood tests relating to the original DVT revealed nothing untoward, although Ruth was advised to wear a compression stocking when sitting or standing for long periods, not just for travelling.  You can imagine her delight to receive this advice!  But we are thankful for good progress and another year’s supply of medication!

Our trip to Nairobi coincided with that of various members of AIM’s International Office and also a friend of Ruth’s from Tearfund and Oak Hall days who was en-route home from Rwanda.  We had a good time catching up with folks and managed to fit in a visit to the Eastern Region office to join them in their daily prayer/chai time.  We attended the morning service at Nairobi Baptist and found that the preacher was, until recently, a member of St. Nicholas, Sevenoaks, the very church where we were married and that Ruth’s friend attends!  What a small world!

Matt Dixon with Fidelis, our building contractor

Back in Morogoro, work at Sanga Sanga continues.  We’ve had various groups making use of the Retreat House, and Matt Dixon has been stockpiling materials and finalising plans for the construction of the conference hall.  We are delighted to report that the ground has been broken and that digging has commenced!  Please pray that this work will proceed on schedule, on budget and without too many problems.

We’re looking forward to a visit from the UK of Ruth’s (twin) sister Rachel and Ian, her husband.  This will be their first foray into Africa and we hope to be able to show them something of what we do, a slice of real life in Tanzania, as well as having a few days of tourist Africa on safari and visiting Zanzibar.  It will be interesting to see their reactions…

Thank you, as always, for your interest, prayers and support.

Steve & Ruth

For your prayers:

• Praise God for His help and guidance over 2 years in Tanzania.
• Praise God for good results from Ruth’s check-up.
• Pray that the construction work at Sanga Sanga will proceed well.
• Pray for safety as we travel to conferences.
• Pray for the pastors’ seminars in Mtwara and Ifakara.
• Pray for good times with family and friends as they visit.

Diary Dates for July/August:

6th/7th July Travel to Mtwara
8th-10th          Teaching at Mtwara AIC pastors’ seminar
11th/12th        Travel back to Morogoro via Dar
19th               Steve preaching at AIC Dakawa
20th-24th        Meeting with Africa leaders for prayer summit in Bagamoyo
4th August Travel to Ifakara
5th-7th Teaching at AIC Ifakara pastors’ seminar
8th                 Travel home to Morogoro
12th-22nd Ruth’s sister and brother-in-law visit
20th                Ruth’s (and Rachel’s!) birthday

 Random Photos of the Month:

Whoops!  Should have gone to Specsavers!

Translation Trials & Bountiful Blessings!

This post by Steve and Ruth Lancaster was originally published at Life in the Lancs Lane

Rainbow over the Uluguru Mountains
behind our house

It’s been seven weeks since we last wrote, so it’s definitely time to send out this update, although one can only say so much about translation work!  The good news is that, with the help of my language helper, I’ve now finished translating my eight talks on the Holy Spirit from English into Swahili – and its only taken 60 hours of tuition time!  On the whole it’s been an enjoyable and satisfying process but there have been times of frustration and mental block, where it’s felt as if I’ve been wading through grammatical treacle!  I never realised that learning a language could be so draining. 

An Easter Sunday walk into the Uluguru
Mountains, where we found David Livingstone!

Often, my limited mental energy is sapped simply trying to pronounce a word correctly, which is vitally important when you’re preaching, and when one mispronounced letter can make a huge difference!  Consider the following examples: “bariki” = to bless, “birika” = teapot, “bikira” = virgin.  Think what fun I could have from the pulpit in trying to say ‘God bless you’!  In fact one of our team mates learnt this lesson the hard way during a Sunday School class when she repeatedly talked about the ‘teapot Mary’!  A few years ago, whilst introducing myself at a school assembly here in Tanzania, I couldn’t quite work out why there was so much sniggering going on until it was pointed out that I had said “Jino langu ni Steve” instead of “Jina langu ni Steve”. Only one letter out, but it made all the difference between “My tooth is Steve” and “My name is Steve”!  And what about the verbs “kuonyesha – to show”, “kunyesha – to rain”, and “kunyonyesha – to breastfeed”!  And finally, what can go wrong with a casual greeting?  “Jambo” = hello but “Jamba” = to break wind! Oh, the joys of making mistakes in these situations!  Hence the mental gymnastics required when trying to learn a language.  Your prayers for clarity and a decent memory are much appreciated as I prepare to deliver those eight talks at our first pastors’ conference of the year, starting on 27th May!    

“The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with joy.” Psalm 126:3.  
Let me take you back to something we wrote in our Jan/Feb newsletter with regard to a proposed building project at the IBM base: “The next stage of development at Sanga is to build a 250-seat conference hall complete with a seminar room and a small library to aid visiting pastors in their studies. The site has been cleared and various test holes have been dug and the boys with the shovels are about to ‘break ground’, although the speed of progress will depend very much on what’s in the kitty from week to week!  If you’re looking for a project to support in 2015, believe in the ethos of IBM and want to contribute, then please consider giving to the conference centre project.” 

Well, three months on and someone has indeed done some considering, and blessed us with an extremely generous donation, totalling 60% of the budget!!  Needless to say that is a lot of bricks!  The team here has been super-encouraged and blown away by this gift, and we’re thankful to God for someone who wants to partner with us in this way, helping to invest in the lives of the Tanzanian pastors we work with.  And this gift means that as soon as the rains have stopped (hopefully this month) we’ll be able to welcome on site the shovellers, measurers, hod-carriers, and concrete mixers!  We’re looking forward to seeing those bricks slowly rising up from the African soil and becoming a centre where God’s Word can be faithfully taught. We’ll keep you posted! 

A toddler plays with electrical cables
during a service at the ‘Shed Church

As well as dealing with day to day management issues at Sanga Ruth has also been busy on the speaking circuit during the past few weeks!  She spoke on Philippians ch. 1 recently at an AIM ladies’ retreat, and also at a ladies prayer breakfast on the issue of trust and suffering.  We’ve both been involved in helping to plan the AIM Tanzania conference scheduled for October, and I’ve had a couple of preaching appointments in two very contrasting churches; one in the “Shed Church” where the choir kicks up the dust and the chickens join in!  And the other in an old Anglican church that looks as though it’s been picked up from rural England and plonked down on the hillside of Morogoro! They say variety is the spice of life! 

The beach is alive with the sound of scurrying!

We had a short break on the coast in April and although it rained rather a lot, it was at least warm rain!  It being the rainy season meant that we almost had the place to ourselves, and the beach was bereft of people…… but certainly not of crabs!! Up and down the beach hundreds could be seen scurrying around, some of them daring to venture into the sea, only to be tossed back out again by the incoming surf!  Apart from the crab-watching we were able to put work aside for a few days, read a few books, wander up and down the secluded sands, and we even managed to brace the warmth of the Indian Ocean ….when the crabs weren’t looking! 

With regard to the next six weeks, you’ll see from the diary below that we’re on the road for much of them. The conference season kicks off in Moshi and then onwards to Dar nine days later, where months of prep becomes three days of teaching.  I am praying a line from the Believers Prayer in Acts 4:29: “Lord, enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness”. The results are indeed up to God but it would be awesome if Acts 4:31 could then also be applied: “The place where they were meeting was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly”!  To those who pray for us, thank you for your steadfast back-up and support, and to those who write or email, thank you for your encouragement – it’s good to hear from you.  Our next newsletter/blog update should be out in early July.   

Ruth finally finishes the course at the Morogoro
Language School and graduates!

For your prayers:

  • Praise God for the generous donation towards the conference centre building costs.
  • As always, for safety on the roads as we travel hundreds of kilometres over the next few weeks.
  • For Steve as he preaches in Swahili.
  • For Ruth as she undergoes her annual medical check-up in June.

Diary Dates for MAY/JUNE: 

25th May:   Drive to Tanga – taking new missionaries to their assignment
26th:         Drive to Moshi, northern Tanzania for Pastors’ Conference
27-29th: Bible teaching – eight sessions on the role of the Holy Spirit
30th: Drive back to Morogoro
31st: Drive to Dar 
1st June:    Kurasini Management meeting in Dar – return Morogoro
9th:          Travel to Dar for Pastors’ Conference 
10-12th: Bible teaching – eight sessions on the role of the Holy Spirit
13th: Flight to Nairobi: annual medical check-up for Ruth 
17th: Flight to Dar 
18th: Travel to Morogoro
21st:   Preaching at the Shed Church in Dakawa!  
22nd:         Steve’s birthday!

Random Photos of the Month: 

A simple home-made toy.  Remote control cars
can only be imagined.
Cutting from a local newspaper.
16p–64p hardly seems a killing in our economy!

Report on Steve Bryant’s visit to Central Asia

Steve’s most recent visit was to two very different countries in Central Asia, both blessed with spectacular mountain scenery. After some difficulties with travel on past visits to this region, everything went very smoothly with all flights on time and travel to and from the airports and between cities working to plan.

The challenges faced by all of our workers there are renewing and keeping visas to allow them to stay, rising prosperity making many people more materialistic and less open to talk about spiritual issues, and suspicion of anything that isn’t Islam or the Russian Orthodox Church.

For our families there is the additional challenge of the children’s education. Away from the main cities with their international schools, the only realistic options are home-based education or the Russian-language schools with a strong emphasis on rote learning and heavy use of public shaming as a discipline method; shaming that extends to the parents of under-performing children

There were several seminars with both parents and older children on internet safety and positive internet use. In one town he taught a series on returning to the passport country to a group of senior children who will all be facing that experience soon to study at college or university. For almost all children growing up in another culture this “return” is one of the biggest challenges they face as it is much more like moving to a foreign country. He led other sessions during an education conference on living in restrictive societies, and including local Central Asian studies in the curriculum. Added to that were school visits and many discussions with parents and older students about their higher education study plans.

Many thanks to those who prayed while he was away.

Aid for Nepal



This Sunday we will be taking up an offering to help provide aid to those suffering in Nepal following the devastation of the recent major earthquake.

Please pray for the people in Nepal and for how you might support them.

The offering made at our Sunday services (both at Rudloe and Priory Street) will be passed on to  the International Nepal Fellowship who will distribute the money appropriately according to the need in Nepal.

Let us be united as a church in Christ and in compassion for those suffering in Nepal.

The times, they are a-changin’

This post by Steve and Ruth Lancaster was originally published at Life in the Lancs Lane

So sang Bob Dylan in 1964.  And changes are afoot for us in Morogoro in various ways – in our team, our roles and the weather!  

Crops growing well at
Sanga Sanga

In the last couple of weeks the rainy season has begun.  Everywhere is greening up and people are hard at work in their shambas clearing and planting.  We’re enjoying the slightly cooler weather that comes with the season.  Not so welcome is all the mud and mess that comes down the mountain with the heavy rains, blocking the ditches and flooding the roads!

This month our team mates, Tony and Cath Swanson, return to the UK for 6 months’ home assignment.  Tony has been managing the day-to-day operations at Sanga Sanga (amongst other things) and in his absence we and the Dixons will continue with this.  We would appreciate your prayers for us as we spend more time there liaising with the workers, paying their wages, receiving guests and dealing with any issues that come up.  Matt will continue planning for the construction of the conference hall which, God willing, will commence once the rainy season has finished in May.

Matt’s construction site office 
at Sanga is coming on well

You may not know that Tanzania is very much a cash society.  With the highest denomination of banknote being 10,000 shillings (around £3.50), withdrawing cash from the bank or ATM means that you frequently have hundreds of thousands of shillings in cash on your person when you visit town to do business, purchase supplies etc.  Vigilance and common sense are required – please do pray for our personal security as we go about our business in town. Ruth will take over managing the cash funds of Sanga Sanga and the Institute from Tony.  The process is that when funds are required, Ruth liaises with AIM’s Eastern Region Office in Nairobi to request a transfer of funds (donations from supporters). She then visits the bank to withdraw the cash in dollars and goes on to a bureau de change to change it into shillings.  It may be one of the more mundane aspects of ministry but it’s also fairly important to get it right!

Last month we welcomed two temporary team mates – Katherine and Melody – who are in Morogoro for three months to learn Swahili. After that they will be living in the village of Pande, near Tanga.  Pande is a majority Muslim village and the people are from the Digo tribe – an unreached people group.  We recently visited Pande to meet the pastor of the AICT church there, check out accommodation for Katherine and Melody and visit Amani Primary School where they will be working.  It was a productive visit and the two ladies are looking forward to getting there. 

Beautiful Arusha National Park

We’ve been on the road a lot in the last month.  We recently travelled up to Arusha, a journey of some 10.5 hours, to attend an AIM Emerging Leaders conference with other mission partners from Tanzania and Kenya.  It was good to spend time with this small group, to get to know people better and to receive training in various aspects of leadership.  A change of plans at the end of that week meant that we had an unexpected free day, so we treated ourselves to a day of bird-watching in Arusha National Park.  We managed to add another 10 new birds to our list, including the Broad-billed Roller and Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater, if you’re interested!  But the highlight of the day was driving up through dense forests to the rim of a volcanic crater and gazing down at the almost Eden-like sight below us.  There was no access inside the crater, so what we saw was untouched by human hands – a vast area of forest and marsh land.  Buffalo grazed undisturbed and Colobus monkeys frolicked in the trees.  We almost expected to see dinosaurs stroll out from the trees, reminiscent of the film Jurassic Park! 

‘Motorway’ service station – not closed for repairs!

Unit Leadership
As part of our call to Tanzania, a Bible passage that played a confirming role for Steve was the story of Elisha’s calling at the end of 1 Kings 19 (v. 19-21).  Here was Elisha going about his daily business, ploughing his fields, when out of the blue steps the prophet Elijah, who simply throws his cloak over the shoulders of Elisha – and then seemingly runs off!  It might sound a strange passage but for various reasons there were a number of elements to that story that rang true for Steve.  Whilst not equating Tony Swanson to the camel-skin wearing Elijah, the time seems to have come for the transference of the cloak so to speak!  And that mantle of unit leadership will be taken up by Steve when Tony leaves for home assignment on 6th April. 

So, what will unit leadership involve?  The core task will be to ensure member care for those in the Eastern Tanzania unit, currently numbering 23 adults, and that will include visitation, debriefs and reviews, and encouraging members in their current ministries.  Amongst other things, Steve will also be helping to oversee housing and immigration issues for the missionaries, as well as maintaining relationships with partner organisations, and working with the AICT church to further their efforts to work in unreached areas of Tanzania. 

Steve says, “A few months ago I read a very practical book on leadership by Dave Kraft, and he defined a Christian leader in this way: ‘A Christian leader is a humble, God-dependent, team-playing servant of God who is called by God to shepherd, develop, equip, and empower a specific group of believers to accomplish an agreed-upon vision from God.’  In no way am I saying that that describes me, but I think the quote sums up what I want to be and need to be as I take on this responsibility of supporting AIM missionaries here in eastern Tanzania.  I would certainly value your prayers as I take this on, and maybe you could use the specifics of that quote to pray for me: that God would enable me to support our folks here in a humble and God-dependent way, and that I would be a person who intentionally and lastingly influences others, for His glory and purposes.” 

Thank you for your continued interest and prayerful support.  We pray that you will be truly blessed as you reflect on God’s sacrificial love this Easter time.  

“And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  Phil. 2: 9-11

AICT Dakawa, near Morogoro –
the ‘shed’ church!

For your prayers:

  • Please pray for us as we both prepare talks – Steve in Swahili for the pastors’ seminars and Ruth for a Ladies Retreat in May.
  • Pray for Steve as he takes over as Unit Leader, for wisdom and insight into this new role.
  • Pray for Tony & Cath Swanson as they begin home assignment, and for the Dixons and ourselves in their absence.
  • Pray for Ruth as she manages the cash for Sanga Sanga, for good systems and processes.

Diary Dates for April:

6th:             Tony & Cath leave for home assignment in UK.  Steve takes up Unit Leader role 
                    for Eastern Tanzania, initially for six months
19th:            Steve preaching at Dakawa AICT church  
22nd–26th:   Mini-break on the coast, south of Dar

Random photos of the month:

Half coach – half lorry!  The words on the front say
‘The Grace of God’!
Home-made roadworks sign!

Steve’s visit to Central Asia, 7th to 24th April 2015

Please pray for our missionaries Steve and Gill. Listed below are some prayer points.

  • Good travel there and back and within Central Asia. Road travel within this region can be challenging.

Travel dates:
7th-8th April, fly to T via Istanbul.
19th April fly to K.
24th-25th April fly back home via Istanbul.

  • Planning for sessions with children – approximately 8 hours with senior school children on “re-entry” (return to the passport country), and around 3 hours with junior age children. This is all in a small cooperative school where several families have joined together to share in teaching their children.
  • Planning for 4 or 5 seminars and a devotional talk for an adult audience, in T. Three seminars at the SHARE Educational Services conference in one city and the others for a team of foreign workers in another city.
  • Remaining planning for a programme from 19th – 24th April in K.
  • Encouraging and effective communication in all of the lessons, seminars and devotionals.
  • For Gill and the family, protection and blessing while Steve is away.

Running with perseverance…

This post by Steve and Ruth Lancaster was originally published at Life in the Lancs Lane

The past two months have mainly involved four aspects for us: preparation, planning, perseverance …… and teaching!  I’ve been preparing IBM conference talks as well as preparing for a half marathon; Ruth has been teaching her second English course to the staff at Sanga Sanga; we’ve both been helping to plan developments at Sanga, and we’ve both been learning to persevere through church, the hot season, accounts and frequent power cuts!

Everywhere right of the line is in the
Pwani (Coastal) Diocese!

Conference Season Preparation: As most of you will now be aware IBM (Institute of Bible & Ministry) is a theological programme designed to enable, mobilise and inspire the pastors and evangelists of the Africa Inland Church in Eastern Tanzania.  We want them to grow in their walk with God and be effective in their ministries as they serve their congregations and seek to reach out to those who haven’t heard the gospel before. That’s what we’re here for and that’s our main focus for being in Tanzania.  Every year we run 7-8 conferences in various locations in the AIC Pwani (Coastal) Diocese, which covers over half the country and includes 14 different regions.  In fact the diocese covers just over 347,000 square miles which is 7 times the size of England!  So now you can see why we often have to build in a full day’s travel either side of each conference, and request prayer for safety as we travel! 

The first four months of every year are set aside for organisation and the preparation of teaching material, as well as raising the necessary funds to hold the events.  The conference season begins in May and ends in December.  I’ve been tasked with preparing teaching material on the Holy Spirit and so for the last two months I’ve been reading, writing, prepping and praying my way through seven teaching sessions on that subject.  The topic of the Holy Spirit often sparks a lot of interest but, sadly, it’s often surrounded by much confusion and controversy.  In my reading I came across a quote by the former president of the Proclamation Trust, David Jackman, which sums up how I’ve been feeling about the issue over the last few years.  “For many Christians the great and glorious biblical truths about the Holy Spirit have been lost in the cross-fire of argument and counter argument, so that the whole subject has become a ground of contention and dispute, rather than of enlightenment and joy.  There is a place for a simple restatement of the great doctrines of the Spirit’s person and work for a new generation of Christians, many of whom have been forced to adopt positions and take sides in arguments, perhaps without fully realising the foundation principles on which such discussions are based.”

So, this is what I’m hoping to cover as I very simply restate the great doctrines of the Holy Spirit: what does the Bible say about the Holy Spirit?  What are the important tasks he carries out?  What are his roles in the life of the Christian and the Church?  Where does he fit into the Trinity?  What about the spiritual gifts that the Holy Spirit gives?  What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit?  What about the gift of speaking in tongues and baptism in the Spirit? And hopefully – all of this within eight three-day conferences!  I’ll be honest, although it’s been hard going getting down to study at times, it’s also been a privilege to take a more in-depth look at this vital subject and to wrestle with some of the issues involved.  I’ll quote the American evangelist of yesteryear, DL Moody, as I think he sums up how I feel getting to the end of this study period: “If you ask, do I understand what is thus revealed in the Scriptures about the Holy Spirit, I say ‘no’. But my faith bows down before the inspired Word and I unhesitatingly believe the great things of God when even reason is blinded and the intellect confused.”  I look forward with excitement and trepidation to the start of our conference season and to the teaching of His Word! 

Waiting for the start of the Kili Half Marathon

Running a half-marathon: a new African experience!  It’s 7am on the 1st March and I’m on the starting line with thousands of other runners waiting for the starter’s orders.  A number of questions come to mind as I wait for the start of the Kilimanjaro Half Marathon to begin: will my legs endure the 13 mile run around the town of Moshi? Will my asthmatic lungs cope with running at 3000ft? Will it be too hot and humid? What will the organisation of the race be like?  Will there be enough water stations on the way round?  The sun is on its way up and in the distance the snow covered peak of Africa’s highest mountain, Kilimanjaro, looms out of the early morning haze.  As I glance around it’s easy to spot the seasoned runners, a few of whom possibly fancy their chances of claiming the £710 first prize.  Incidentally, the first prize for the winner of the full marathon is £1420; compare that with the £36,000 that the London Marathon winner got last year!  

We’re off!  It’s a slow shuffle at first as I jog/walk across the start line doing my best to avoid treading on the heels of those in front.  The first 5 miles of the route are all uphill on a tarred road and it’s hard to get into a rhythm, although the sights and sounds of other runners distract me from the uphill effort.  A Tanzanian guy passes me with a pair of black slip-on shoes on his feet (later to be discarded for a bare-foot race); another guy is wearing Crocs, and still another, a pair of over-sized work-boots!  And here I was concerned as to whether my four-year old trainers would cushion my feet!  A number of messages on the backs of various T-shirts catch my eye: “Excellence in Service” and “One elephant killed every 15 minutes in Africa”. We run past many shed-shops selling bananas and phone vouchers, and groups of people stop to stare, many in silent wonderment at why one would choose to do what we’re doing.  A group of children, some of them bare-foot, are standing on the edge of one of the coffee plantations which cover the lower slopes of Kili, and some of them are collecting the discarded plastic water cups for later use. 

As I begin the downhill section a couple of men stand on the back of a pick-up truck spraying water over the runners with a leaky hosepipe and some nearby loudspeakers rattle the eardrums as I pass by.  There are no half measures when it comes to volume and loudspeakers here in Tanzania!  The halfway point is passed and I continue to keep a steady pace, aiming to keep running for as long as I can.  Police sirens can be heard behind me and soon a group of Tanzanian/Kenyan runners glide effortlessly past me with their lanky long legs. These are the full marathon guys who have joined our route and are at their 18 mile mark!  I’m stunned by the length of their stride and the speed with which they are running.  My stubby legs are probably taking two strides for every one of theirs – no wonder I’ve no chance of taking that first prize!  The last few miles jar the knees but I know that the race is nearly run, and as I turn into the somewhat dishevelled ‘stadium’ for the last few hundred yards, I’m reminded of the great cloud of witnesses mentioned in Hebrews, and so l throw off the growing tiredness that hinders me, and I manage to increase the pace and run with determined perseverance the race track that is now clearly marked out in front of me. 

Congrats to our team-mate Cath Swanson for
completing her first half marathon

Rather unsurprisingly, the ribbon has already been broken and so I settle for a medal and a T-shirt; grab a bottle of water, and look for a place in the shade to rest my weary bones.  And as I sit there listening to the rather loud MC announcing the names of those crossing the finishing line I ponder the many similarities and parallels of a physical race and the spiritual race I’m involved in: encouragement, crowds, fatigue, endurance, finishing.  I’ve managed to finish this particular physical race in a very pleasing 2 hours and 16 minutes, which was better than I had hoped for, but obviously I’m still involved in running the more important race that the writer to the Hebrews mentions.  The beauty and wonderment of the spiritual race is that, because of Christ, everyone who crosses that finishing line gets to share in an eternal inheritance that is beyond all imagination!  Yes, there are ups and downs, there are trips and falls, there are times of fatigue and tiredness as well as times of elation and enjoyment.  There are even times when we might need to get rid of unsuitable footwear and get serious about “fitting our feet with the readiness that come from the gospel of peace”.  Wherever we are in that race, “let us run with perseverance the race that is marked out for us and let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Heb 12:1-2). 

For the record – one of the long legged Tanzanians won the half marathon in a time of 1 hour 3 minutes (only 73 mins quicker than me!), and the guy who ran the full-marathon was a lanky-long-legged Kenyan who ran his 26 miles in 2 hours and 16 mins, the same time as I managed for my 13 miles!  So, as you can see, still some way to go, but maybe next year…..?! 

For those who PRAY: 

  • Thank God for continued good health for Ruth.
  • We are very thankful that Steve has managed to prepare his teaching material for this year’s conferences – at least in English! 
  • Praise God that He saw fit to bring a friendly accountant to Morogoro at just the right time to help Ruth with the IBM accounts.   
  • Please pray for Steve he begins the translation work for these talks.
  • Please pray for Steve as he prepares to take over unit leadership on 6th April .
  • As part of that process we will both be travelling to Arusha to take park in unit leadership training from 16th–19th March.  
  • Please pray for the work of the Institute and in particular the next phase of development as we look to start building a conference centre. 

Random photos of the month:

Never heard them called that before!

The wall came tumbling down!  Our lovely bougainvillea
was just too heavy for the wall.

Giant grasshopper!