The team said goodbye early yesterday morning (and I mean EARLY- our flight left at 2:10am) to our Tanzanian friends and thankfully made it home safely last night. We are coming home with a mix of emotions- more than ready to see family and friends and eat Chick-Fil-A (OK that last one is my personal desire but I feel more than certain that the rest of the team would agree with me) and yet with a sense of excitement that our partnership in the Gospel with our Tanzanian brothers and sisters which has been developing over the last 6 years is about to explode. We heard from the Bishop on Sunday that his desire is to see more churches rise up in rural areas and for more and more people to hear the Gospel.
You might be asking yourself- how can we help with that when we live 10,000 miles away? After all, isn't there plenty of ministry happening at home? The answer to first question I will answer below. The second question is yes- you don't have to travel across the road to share about Jesus. We have the opportunity to do that every day in our workplaces, our homes, our friendships, etc. In fact, your greatest influence is with people you see every day or regularly because they have a chance to see your faith lived out, notice a difference, and desire what you have.
So, why do go to Tanzania and other places (our current partnerships are also in the Philippines, Honduras and Colombia)? The short answer is because there are resources that we have access to which can benefit other places. Let me share an example. In the States when a person feels called to be a pastor, they can choose to go to receive formal training in a seminary if they so desire without many roadblocks. Of course, there are potential roadblocks- after all, school costs money- but we have options available to us through student loans, etc. Plus, we don't have to walk or ride a bike hundreds of miles to get to school.
In Tanzania, when a person is called into ministry and they live in the middle of nowhere, the pastors experience a profound sense of loneliness and helplessness when they have no formal training or community of people to learn with and can't afford Bible college. So there are primarily ways we can help:
1) You personally can sponsor a pastor to go Bible college- the cost of tuition is $600 a semester- a total of $2400 for 2 years of training. Most seminaries in the states cost $2000 for a semester so this cost is minor. You can pay that amount in installments. If you want more information about this, let me know by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org
2) You can go on an International trip and offer your God-given skills i.e. medical, dental, business, etc to help in the pastor's village. This is incredibly helpful because when people hear a medical or dental clinic is happening, they come from all over which helps expose them to the church. The pastors we currently work with in Tanzania tell us that their church attendance grows significantly after a team comes due to the exposure and interest peaked during clinics.
3) Our church and other churches can help by sending pastors to help train indigenous pastors. The Bishop has asked us to host a pastors' conference in Tanzania next year, so I am praying about asking pastors to participate. Rural pastors in Tanzania would come and receive formal training over an intense 2 week period. You could also sponsor a pastor during this intensive by helping with hotel and food.
All of these things empower pastors and their congregation. The pastors feel more confident in their calling and are able to learn new skills and new ways of teaching. As they grow in confidence, God expands their vision for their community. For example, Pastor Kassim in Morogoro told me that his dream is for his women to have a sewing machine so they can make clothes for money. He also is praying that people in his village could be trained medically and build a simple medical clinic so that they could treat their own people. They are able to get meds through the government at a discounted rate (in case you were wondering because that was a question I had).
Please hear me say this- the hope of Tanzania (and any other place for that matter) lies in the church sharing about Jesus. Yes we take medical supplies and training and it makes a profound difference but the sad reality is that the average age in Tanzania and most other 3rd world nations is shockingly low. The hope that people need to hear about is Jesus. Physical medicine lasts for a time; spiritual medicine lasts for an eternity. Both are important.
Whew! That was a lot to write, and a lot to read. Please be in prayer about what God might be calling YOU do to. No matter what it is, you won't regret if you take a step out to support a pastor, go on a trip, or pray for what God is doing around the world. He will truly give you the adventure of a lifetime if you will only- in the words of John Ortberg- be willing to take a step and get out of the boat. Thanks for listening. See you soon.