Saturday, November 28, 2015

Tanzania Mission Trip 2015

“Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things 
in life that don't really matter.” –Francis Chan

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things 
will be added to you as well.” -Matthew 6:33

Forever changed

After six flights (Bozeman to Seattle to Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro to Zanzibar Island to Dar Es Salaam to Mwanza), Chris, Monica, T, Ash and I were greeted at the airport by the missionaries we would spend our time serving with – the excitement of finally being there allowed any lingering feelings of jet lag to quickly dissipate! 

Flying through Kili on the way to Mwanza!
We had headed out a few days ahead of the rest of the team coming from the States in order to first spend time with missionaries Dan and Bethany (and Reuben) at Mavuno Village, which is situated about an hour or so outside of Mwanza and located right on the beautiful Lake Victoria. Having gotten to know them when they were home for furlough in Bozeman and their son Levi played soccer at Heritage a couple years previous, it was such a privilege to get to see and be a part of their ministry first hand. It is always a special opportunity to be around people who passionately pursue the vision God has given them and who persevere in seeking Him. Mavuno Village is a family style orphanage where children are brought into godly homes and raised in an environment centered on Christ, while being equipped with the tools necessary to go out and impact their community and country for Him when they are grown.

In addition to a sweet time of fellowship with the missionaries and their new communications coordinator (also named Bethany) who moved from the States not too long ago, we were able to love on the pre-school aged children each morning for a few hours, play many different games, do Bible stories and crafts, make balloon animals, go mango picking and really enjoy time together. In the afternoons when the school aged children would arrive, we spent hours playing basketball and soccer, making gospel bracelets, painting nails and various other activities. We also got to enjoy a special worship time with them. Always brings tears to my eyes hearing people worship in their own language - what a joy. Two of the families of Mavuno also graciously invited us into their homes on successive nights for dinner and fellowship with their families. It was amazing hearing stories of where some of these children had come from and seeing the lives and the hope they have been given through their time at Mavuno. 

Crafts and Bible Story time
Bible Story time

Worship time
Jesus loves the little children of the world
Balloon animal fun!
Mango picking!
Seeing the kids off to school early in the morning
Mavuno Village and Lake Victoria in the background :)
With missionaries Bethany and Reuben and Bethany J.
With missionary Dan
After a few days, we headed back into Mwanza to meet up with the rest of the team that had finally arrived! While in Mwanza, Tanzania our team of 10 from the U.S.A. had the privilege (beyond what could every be put into words) of serving with Dave and Becky along with fellow missionaries Lisa and Bill and Tammy. Over our time with them we were able to do Bible clubs in three different villages, an orphanage and a pre-school, while also ministering on a couple different days to children at a baby home. These open doors provided the opportunity to share the gospel –the Good News of Jesus Christ-- with hundreds of children and to talk about the personal decision each of us have to make to commit our lives to Him. We also got to be a part of a pastor’s wives get together where the ladies came into Mwanza from surrounding villages, including some that traveled hours to get there. It was a such a sweet time of fellowship that included worship, sharing testimonies, praying, playing games and sharing a meal together, all the while the construction part of our team worked on a pastor’s house so him and his family can live in the village in which God has called Him to serve.

I feel like I could talk for hours about all that God showed us and the ways we experienced Him at work. There were moments of holding and loving orphaned children while praying for and trusting in all God has in store for their lives. There were times of hearing stories of people visiting witch doctors in the villages and looking for hope in places it was never meant to be found. It was a reminder of the spiritual battle that is going on around us and choosing to rest in the promise that greater is He who is in us that he who is in the world. The receptivity to gospel and hunger to know more reminded me what a privilege it is to bear the name of Christ and the need to pray for more laborers to be sent to the harvest field. The Bible tells us, “The same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:12-13).” It was amazing seeing children given hope through the ministries there and hearing testimonies of people seeing His power displayed in their lives and coming to Christ.

Also, how sweet it was to do life in community with the missionaries and fellow team members. We spent time discussing, while also living out, how discipleship isn't a program, but comes through intentionally doing life with those the Lord has put in our path. It was such a blessing planning and preparing, sharing meals, singing, praying, spending time in His Word and engaging in iron sharpening iron conversations, serving, traveling, encouraging, and sharing life together over our time there. We are meant to grow in Christ in community. It requires transparency and openness and authenticity and vulnerability and humility and grace. It is what God calls us to and how we grow as we seek to serve Him.

The whole team - a great big bundle of God's love!
Another of the greatest blessings was seeing the kids on the trip (the missionary kiddos and Ash, T and Eli) step up to serve and use their gifts for God’s glory in the children’s ministry. Where we adults led at the beginning of the week, by the end of our time, they were the one leading the songs and the sharing the gospel, leading recreation times and always joyfully stepped in to fill whatever role was needed. So neat to see the next generation being grown up to love and serve Him.

Time there also brought an appreciation in many ways for the slower pace of life in Africa. It often stood in stark contrast to the fast paced American life where success is defined by how much we can get done in the shortest amount of time. I was convicted on how often here we pride ourselves on looking the busiest, accomplishing the most and running from one thing to another so fast we often miss what it is God has laid right before us. Having the time to slow down a little brought a renewed perspective. I was reminded of Francis Chan’s quote, “The greatest fear in life shouldn’t be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” May we slow down enough to keep in step with the Spirit and see where the Lord would have us invest in eternity as we go out each day in His name. We are told in Scripture that to whom much is given much is required, so may we be faithful to steward what God has given each of us for His glory and not our own.

We were also able to enjoy God's beautiful creation on a day trip to the Serengeti.

As we stood at the airport getting ready to leave Mwanza, one of the missionaries and I talked about the hope of heaven and how we so look forward to the day where we will no longer have to say "see you later" to those we love. I cannot wait for the day we will all be before the throne worshipping God where we will no longer have to part. 

With team member Esther and missionary Lisa!
Becky and Monica ... blessed beyond words to serve
with these two amazing sisters in Christ!
With Jake, Carter and Eli :)
Sweet girls!
Do you have the perfect assurance and hope of that day? Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me (John 14:6).” God offers each of us the opportunity to spend eternity with Him but it is a gift we have to choose to accept. Salvation comes through repenting of our sin and turning away from it and to Christ, believing that He came to earth, lived a perfect life, died on the cross for our sin and rose again. If not, I pray that today would be the day of salvation where you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9-10). God is mighty to save, and we each must make the personal decision to surrender our lives to Him.

I pray each of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your friends and family! Thank you for your prayers and love and support.