Dear family and friends,
Suddenly our carriage began to sway from side to side. Stones and dust were billowing in through the open window. People were screaming. Thoughts of jumping out the window flashed through our minds. Marlien, Aimée and I were about two thirds of the way to Dar es Salaam on board the Kilimanjaro, a Tanzanian train, when the last three carriages derailed. Fortunately the train began to slow down and eventually came to a halt. Five carriages were disconnected, passengers were squeezed into the remaining compartments and within just four hours we were on our way again. Then we were nine people plus luggage in a compartment including a Muslim lady who was badly affected by the whole ordeal. She was trembling with fear until we offered to pray for her and God washed away all the fear and filled her with peace.
Three weeks prior to the train incident, we had arrived in Kabwe, Zambia, where Marlien trained the Operation Mobilisation mission students as Community Health Workers and taught them how to use the LAMP method to acquire a new language when entering the mission field. I also had the privilege of presenting the God’s Vision God’s Mission teachings to help them understand God’s unchangeable plan and purpose from Genesis to Revelation. We recorded the entire class and left a copy at the mission base for the students. Aimée experienced much joy and fulfilment as she joined a worship team in Kabwe playing violin. After three weeks in Kabwe, we departed by train to Tanzania. We spent time with a local pastor in Zanzibar where Christians are severely persecuted. He runs a number of mission schools in Zanzibar using the Live School Curriculum which contains teachings by both Marlien and I, recorded more than ten years ago.
After a brief visit to Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar, we arrived in Mbeya, Tanzania for the second and more intense leg of our two month teaching and training trip. Joseph Chalwe, one of the trainee Zambian missionaries from a previous year who is now based in Mbeya, arranged for us to present God’s Vision God’s Mission to a group of local pastors. This class was translated into Swahili. Joseph has also been applying the LAMP method which he learnt from Marlien and is already speaking Swahili very well after only seven months in the country. Each morning we were led through the alleyways to the church where the classes were conducted. On several afternoons, Marlien taught Community Health to a group of ladies while I was whisked away to preach. At one church, as I shared about faith and outreach, people began crying and pledging to bring of their possessions to give to the poor. The GVGM teachings progressed well until the last day, when the class was disrupted by bursts of gunfire and hundreds of people running outside the church. The pastors jumped to their feet like one man and began praying. Some people sought shelter inside the church grounds. Bullets whistled passed throughout the rest of the day as street vendors clashed with police. We managed to finish the last lesson and the communion before we were carefully escorted through the back streets. Weaving our way around barricades and burning tyres, we eventually found a vehicle to take us to the bus station on the other side of town, where we caught a bus to the Tanzanian border town of Tunduma.
Early the next morning, after praying that God would guide our decisions and take care of every detail, we made our way to the taxi rank and waited for the bus. By 10am the minibus had arrived and by noon the luggage was loaded and we were on our way to Lake Tanganyika. There were 23 passengers in the minibus as we travelled more than 300km on a very bad dirt road. The bus only stopped once to pick up a suitcase that fell off the roof and we made the most of the short break!
Lake Tanganyika is the longest and second deepest freshwater lake in the world. Zambia borders the lake at the southernmost tip, where the harbour town of Mpulungu is situated. Here we presented the God’s Vision God’s Mission classes, this time with Bemba translation. Again we recorded the entire teaching. The class was well attended by missionaries, as well as new converts from Tongwa. It was a wonderful privilege to meet these new converts. We were involved in the training and teaching of the missionaries in 2007 who went to live amongst the people of Tongwa, a village previously totally unreached. Marlien and Aimée remained with the missionaries in Mpulungu to accompany the new converts by boat back to their village while I travelled to Kasama to share GVGM with the pastors’ fellowship.
It was almost 10 years to the day that I last taught in Kasama and was blessed to see many familiar faces. Twenty seven pastors from various denominations attended the teachings and gave very positive and encouraging feedback. With a clear understanding of God’s purpose, the pastors are determined to work together to disciple their congregations and to train and send out missionaries. They have requested that I should return again next year.
As we travelled by bus back to South Africa, we meditated on the overwhelming response we had experienced and the desperate need of further teaching and discipleship in Africa. There are many churches and many Christians, but few lives have been transformed. Mindsets have to be changed, traditions challenged and doctrines brought in line with God’s Word.
It has been a wonderful two months of ministering together as a family. Thank you very much for your faithful prayers and support. We pray that you and your family would experience the love and presence of God as you celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
May peace and grace abound towards you!