Times of Transition, Successful Seminars and Confused Cockerels!

Ruth,

Picture of Steve and Ruth
Mission partners with AIM

“So much effort measuring speed but we’re still overwhelmed with accidents.”

Our last update began with the words “three down, three to go”. Four months later, in terms of our IBM regional conferences, it’s now “six down, none to go”! Project Peter is now complete and we have much to be thankful for! All six conferences went to plan and I was able to teach all of my allotted sessions: 46 in total. Despite travelling 3,000 miles on the dicey roads of Tanzania, we didn’t experience any hold-ups, punctures or accidents along the way, just numerous police checkpoints which continue to suck the joy out of driving! Oh that these large figures dressed in white uniforms were angels! Alas, they are not! In terms of attendance at these events, we had a combined total of 160 pastors, evangelists and wives turn up, the largest number we’ve had for a few years. All seemed to be very happy with our focus on the book of 1 Peter, and of particular relevance to the pastors was chapter 5, where Peter urges elders in the church to be shepherds of God’s flock, serving as humble overseers, and being examples to those they lead.

It’s been encouraging to read the feedback from the pastors, although one did question why we were studying 1 Peter when Paul had written many other letters! Another pastor commented that the letter had been brought to life for him, and at the Kilwa seminar, it was great to hear that, as a group of churches in the area, the pastors had decided to use my notes to teach their congregations. It was a timely reminder for me that those hours of labour spent in the study have not been in vain and that the audience is wider than just those who attend the conferences. The teaching material has now been put into book form so that the pastors can have something more permanent for future reference and study. You’re welcome to a copy – if you can read Swahili!

Our August conference took place in the dead-end town of Ifakara! It’s a one-street African town with many dusty side-roads leading off it, and a real sense of run-down-ness. Yet despite its location and its last century feel, we had 43 pastors/evangelists/wives travel in for the event. Guesthouse prices ranged from £3.20-£8.50 and all of the cooking was done right outside the church under the shade of a mustard tree! On the menu for the three days was typical Tanzanian fare: rice, beans, ugali, spinach, and watermelon, although I was concerned that some super-sized catfish might make it onto our plates at one point! A random guy on a bike turned up one afternoon trying to sell five of the large slimy wrigglers for £3 each! At the end of the conference it was a real encouragement to see that the pastors had collected £30 towards the work of IBM – and this wasn’t the only conference where this happened. This year we’ve found that there is a growing sense amongst the pastors that they appreciate what IBM is all about, and want to step up and help with costs.

Our conferences in September and October (Magambua and Mbeya) also went well. The beauty of the Magambua event is that it’s way out in the bush with the nearest tarmac road being 100 miles away! That means few noisy distractions to contend with for the teacher, just the occasional herd of cows or goats trotting past the church door! The other benefit for Ruth and I was that we were able to stay with some fellow missionaries, who supplemented our rice and beans diet and ensured we didn’t have to stay in a spartan pastor’s house which had only two working lightbulbs! As we wrap up this conference season, we’re able to say that God’s Word has indeed been taught, and we pray that these church leaders will grow in their faith and lead their congregations into a closer relationship with Jesus – because that’s what this is all about. I’m thankful to God that he’s enabled me to teach again this year. Teaching in Swahili is still far out of my comfort zone but the bottom line is that it is He who has empowered me to do so! I’m very much aware of Paul’s words in 2 Cor. 3: 5 & 6: “For we are not competent in ourselves, but our competence comes from God.” In other words, as the Good News version says, “There is nothing in us that allows us to claim that we are capable of doing this work, for the capacity we have comes from God alone.”

Oak Hall Returns: In August Ruth and I hosted an Oak Hall group at Sanga for two weeks, with 22 guests coming to experience the sights of Tanzania and a taste of mission. They worked hard on various projects at Sanga, helped to paint a dormitory at Agape Children’s Village (an orphanage), went on safari and climbed into the Uluguru mountains, but one of the highlights was visiting a small AIC church out in the rurals, set in the midst of a Muslim village. The eye-opening moment for the group came during the service when they were ceremoniously presented with a confused-looking cockerel and a tonne of bananas as a gift! The welcome and the generosity the church showed towards us in the midst of their humble surroundings was overwhelming. The intrepid Oakies returned home with some precious memories and, for one guest in particular, the African adventure looks set to continue as she’s since applied to teach with AIM somewhere in Africa! A taste of mission seems to have developed into wanting more!

“The times they are a changin”!
For our team here in Morogoro there is plenty of change ahead, although it seems as though missionaries serving overseas live within a revolving-door environment where people are constantly coming and going. Our team mates Tony and Cath Swanson are in the process of saying their goodbyes and packing their bags after being in Tanzania for 20 years. In a weeks’ time, they’ll head to the UK for six months before continuing their consultancy roles with AIM, based in Uganda. Tony became the Co-ordinator of IBM way back in 2004 and he’s been at the forefront of developments at Sanga over the last 14 years. He’s lived and breathed all things Sanga, and I’m sure if you were to cut him in half you’d find Sanga blood flowing out! Both Tony and Cath have been an enormous support to us and we’ll miss their wisdom and maturity as well as their friendship and support. On a more playful note, I’ll particularly miss my battles with Tony on the ‘browns’ of Morogoro golf course, and to hearing Cath recall her latest missionary mishap during the course of her many travels!

To mark the end of this era, we headed to the wilds of Mikumi National Park a few weeks ago and enjoyed a team day on safari. The highlights of our day in the bush included watching over 200 buffalo jostling for position at a waterhole, and a lone leopard out on the plains. The lowlight, however, was receiving a phone call telling us that there was a fire in the upper room of the newly-built conference centre! One of the free-standing halogen lamps had been placed too near the curtains and it hadn’t taken long for the fire to spread up into the ceiling boards and roofing sheets. The alarm was raised quickly and our amazingly brave Sanga team were able to put out the fire with the use of ladders and buckets of water! It could have been so much worse, but thankfully our guys were able to deal with it before it caused too much damage, and the repair work was completed within a week. A footnote to the story is that the local fire brigade (think Trumpton!) turned up once the fire had been put out!

All that remains for us to say as we approach the end of another year, is an enormous THANK YOU for your prayers and support and, although it feels way too early to be sending festive greetings, once it arrives, have a wonderful Christmas and a blessed New Year!

Diary Dates:

8-13 Dec:       Unit leader meetings in Dar and Lindi (south Tanzania)
16 Dec:          Preaching at Emmanuel Church, Morogoro
18 Dec:         Amani School Board meeting in Dar (Unit)
23-27 Dec:    Christmas hols
6-10 Jan:       Unit Leader meetings in Nairobi
8 March:       Term 2 complete! Return to UK for six months!

Prayer Points:

  • You might remember that we were looking to recruit an accountant for 12 months for IBM. The AIC has actually appointed someone on a part time basis to cover Ruth’s absence during our home assignment (March-Sept 2019), so that’s an answer to prayer, at least in the short term. Ideally Ruth would like this person to continue managing the accounts when we return to Morogoro next year.
  • Please pray for the Morogoro AIM team as we enter this time of transition. Whilst Tony and Cath will leave on 9th Dec, we’re hoping to have a new family (Wildasins) joining the team in February, depending on the issuing of work permits! Please pray for this to happen soon! Ruth and I will then be heading back to UK on home assignment in early March, and the Dixons will then also be leaving Tanzania in July! Please pray for Pastor Yohana Batano as he picks up the baton passed on by Tony as the Co-ordinator of IBM!
  • Please pray that we would finish our second term well! In many ways this has been a hard year with an on-going sinusitis battle for me, increased responsibilities for Ruth at Sanga, discouraging pastoral situations within the AIC church, growing cultural fatigue, and a seemingly growing police presence on the roads! I’ll admit that my levels of patience and grace are running low as we enter the final three months of this term. It makes me more aware of just what a fragile clay vessel I am! Thankfully, “we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (2 Cor. 4:7)

Friends of Sanga Sanga
We invite you to become a Friend of Sanga Sanga. What does that mean? It means that we keep you updated with news and prayer requests of the ministry at Sanga Sanga via WhatsApp or email. You will receive a newsletter (written by Ruth!) via email twice a year. You can ask for a speaker to come to your church or mission event. And you will receive invitations to come and see what we do and perhaps help with some practical work. If you would like to become a Friend of Sanga Sanga please let us know or click here to sign up!

Easter Sunday in Jerusalem?! If you’re looking for something to do over Easter next year, then how about heading to Israel and Palestine with Oak Hall? I’m leading another trip (trip code IS19) from 16th-26th April, and it would be great to see some familiar faces on the trip. For a detailed itinerary and more details please see the following link: www.oakhall.co.uk/israel/Israel

Every blessing,

Steve & Ruth