God is on the move!

The last six years have been an incredible blessing for us. We have been welcomed into the extraordinary missionary community in Kigoma. What has proven to be so amazing is that these servants have divergent ministries, and yet God uses all of these ministries to weave together His perfect plan.

We have shared with you about the different ministries of Joy in the Harvest. And among the many mission outreaches in Kigoma are the local Bible College managed by the Rasmussens, the Bible Churches supported by the Johnsons, the various children’s programs sponsored by the Heeds and, most recently, a reading room for Muslims where they can meet and discuss scripture with the Kinlaws.

Also, the Holy Spirit has stirred the United Methodist Church to continue the growth of the church in Tanzania by planting four new churches in the past three years in the Kigoma area.

Ujiji UMC

In Ujiji, a primarily Muslim town, a group of believers led by Pastor Kashindi began meeting under a large palm tree with a structure built with a tarp and cloth tied to poles.

About two years ago, the congregation moved to another place in Ujiji in order to build a more permanent structure for worship services.

The Ujiji UMC has seen attendance ebb and flow, but through it all, the church has remained focused on Jesus, and it is now beginning to show signs of real growth.

Lugufu UMC

The church at Lugufu is an example of how the Holy Spirit can use just one person to bring others together to study the Word of God. Previously, we shared the story of Sebastian and how Lugufu UMC was formed (see our posts on October 22, 2018, and April 6, 2019).

Today, the congregation is in the process of moving from the old classroom it was temporarily permitted to use. Still in its very early stages, the new church structure is built from tree branches and twine, so Pastor Mwanzo and the church members are trying to buy tarps to place over the roof before the rainy season arrives in full force.

Kasaka UMC

Just this fall, we wrote about the new church that is being built in Kasaka (see our post on October 25, 2019).

Led by Pastor Fufu, Kasaka UMC was planted by about 20 believers who have traveled out from Kigoma town. They are planning to visit families in the vicinity of the new church and invite them to church meetings. There are only a few churches where they elected to build, so they are hopeful they will have a “fertile” area in which to spread the Good News.

Kigamboni UMC

And finally, there is the newest United Methodist Church in the Kigoma area, Kigamboni UMC. Just before we left Tanzania, we met with Pastor Haruni and Lay Leader Festo, prayed with them and gave them Bibles and songbooks to help get their new church started.

We hope to find continued growth in each of these new churches when we return to Tanzania in 2020. In the meantime, we ask you to pray for all of them. God is on the move!

Sharing the Word of God through the Bible Ministry

Previously, we have shared about the excitement we see when we give people Swahili Bibles, Injilis or audio Bibles.

This Bible ministry began as a way to share God’s Word with people who are ill and have to travel to distant hospitals for medical treatment. When we told the Kingwood UMC Joy Sunday School class that we wanted to give Bibles to the sick, they offered to support this ministry. Below is Mary Peter, a mother who recently learned her cancer had returned, and she was preparing to travel to the hospital in Dodoma. She took a Bible with her.

The ministry has continued to grow over the last four years. When presenting a Bible, we always sit down and talk with the person about the Bible. An important part of the process is asking them to read a few verses aloud to make sure they can actually read it.

Frequently, we encounter people who have trouble reading the small print. And so, we began bringing reading glasses from the US, lots of reading glasses!

A few years ago, we learned from another missionary about a New Testament (the Injili) that is written in Swahili and Arabic, and is considered a Muslim holy book. We have been purchasing them also. Often, our Muslim visitors become very focused when we ask them to read John 3:16 from the Injili. Many continue reading it as we try to discuss the arrangements for their trip to the hospital. They simply do not want to put it down!

The Holy Spirit wasn’t finished there. As we hand out Bibles, reading glasses and Injilis, we find many people who don’t know how to read at all. Either they didn’t go to school (often the case with Muslim women), or they just never learned to read. In looking for a way to provide the Word of God to these people, we discovered the company that manufactures our solar-powered Radio JOY radios also makes an audio Bible. We shared this with the missions team at Trinity Presbyterian Church in New Port Richey, FL, and they immediately offered to support this newest addition to the Bible ministry – combined audio Bible/radios. These audio Bibles (recorded in Swahili) have been received with great excitement and enable us to share the Word of God with an even larger number of people.

During a visit to the Nyarugusu Refugee Camp a few years ago, one of the pastors there introduced us to several people who had just recently accepted Christ. He asked if we had any extra Bibles to share with them. That began a new phase of the Bible ministry, providing Bibles to new believers.

About a year ago we gave a Bible to a young woman named Beatrice. We asked her the same question we ask everyone, “Will you agree to read the Bible every day?” She said she would definitely do that. We were surprised when she returned to Joy this year and asked for another Bible. She told us she had given her Bible to her younger sister who was attending school in another city. We were pleased to hear that she had shared God’s Word, but we still asked if she had been reading the Bible as she had promised. She said she had been reading her Bible every day, and that it had inspired her to write songs for her church choir to sing. Here are two of her original songs. The first was inspired by Proverbs 27:1. The title is “Tell Jesus He is the One who knows things for tomorrow” (Mwambie Yesu yeye ndiye anaye jua ya kesho). (Click on the picture below to play the video.)

And the second song was inspired by Psalm 35:1-3. It is entitled “Lord do for me” (Bwana unitendee). (Click on the picture below to play the video.)

We never imagined simply giving someone a Bible would grow into such an important ministry at Joy in the Harvest. In the past four years, over 500 Bibles, Injilis, audio Bibles and children’s action Bibles have been distributed. We have also given Bibles to pastors working in prisons and to leaders of new churches.

We pray seeds are being planted and will continue to grow, nurtured by the Holy Spirit. God is on the move!

A Prison Ministry Update

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
Deuteronomy 31:8

By most accounts, some could say not much has happened since our prison ministry update on October 31, 2018, and on the surface they would be correct. In fact, you might say we have taken a couple of steps backward. Joy in the Harvest is still waiting for approval to send a pastor into the Bangwe prison. The head of the prison, with whom we had been working, has been transferred. When it was discovered the evangelist with approval to enter Kasulu prison had broken a rule, he received notice from the national ministry of prisons that he is permanently barred from entering the prison. But we persevere.

We have learned a great deal in the two and a half years since we began this journey. There are five prisons in the Kigoma region, not just the Bangwe prison nearby. We learned that not all prisons have visiting pastors, and that a few prisons have female prisoners as well. These women receive no spiritual support because all of the pastors are male and are barred from the female side of the prison.

We have worked to establish a network of all those currently involved in prison ministry in the five prisons. We have offered encouragement and support with Bibles and songbooks and even small gifts for the prisoners, such as bars of soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste (donations from members of our home church).

In July, Mwenge held a brief meeting with several of the prison ministry people to see if they might be interested in teaming up to support one another. They enthusiastically agreed such a network would be very helpful.

In preparation for the second meeting, Hal sent out an email to family and friends asking for prayers for the meeting, the pastors and the prisoners who would be served. More than 85 prayer warriors enthusiastically responded.

Although a bit nervous on the day of the meeting, Hal was uplifted by knowing these prayer warriors were hard at work. Ken asked a group of prisoners he was visiting in Texas to pray for the work in Kigoma. Chris was awake and praying in actual time – even though the meeting took place between 2 am and 5 am Texas time. Now there’s a warrior!

Everyone showed up for the meeting on time – an absolute first in Africa! That’s when Hal knew the Holy Spirit had everything under control. It’s common here for people to arrive an hour or two late. And as Sue pointed out, even Hal was on time!

The meeting opened with a prayer.

Then Hal brought out a prayer chain with one link for every person who was praying. The attendees began to clap as they heard about the people they had never met who were praying for them. Then, spontaneously, they all grabbed onto the chain and prayed – a prayer of thanks for the support and a prayer for support going forward. It was an incredibly moving moment.

Each person gave a report on what was happening in his prison. Paperwork is being submitted for a replacement for the evangelist who was barred from Kasulu prison. We also learned an evangelist who submitted his paperwork to enter the Ilagala prison has been given permission to work in the prison twice a month while his application is being reviewed. Praise God!

We introduced our special guest Elia who had served 14 years in prison. When he was finally allowed to appeal his case, the judge determined his conviction had been based on false testimony. Elia was released just 6 weeks ago. But that wasn’t the whole story. A Muslim when he entered prison, Elia heard a visiting pastor telling prisoners that Jesus was the only way to have their sins forgiven and have eternal life. After 10 years in prison, he accepted Christ. He told our group it was because of the work they are doing that he is saved today. That led to another round of applause.

During his testimony, Elia explained he was baptized while in the Tabora prison. Our group had been told they could not do baptisms or serve Holy Communion. Thanks to Elia, they are returning to their respective heads of prisons and asking if they can perform these sacraments for the prisoners.

We exchanged phone numbers and emails. The men committed to getting their own congregations involved. We asked them to develop plans for what they hope to accomplish in 2020 and bring them to our next meeting to share. They agreed to pray for each other and to send specific prayer requests so Hal can pass them on to our prayer warriors.

Nelson, a guard at Bangwe prison, reminded everyone of some basic rules they need to follow so no one else is barred from the prisons. We concluded the meeting with a song and a prayer, and everyone left with a renewed commitment to their ministry work.

The Holy Spirit is definitely at work in the hearts of these great servants. Please continue to lift them up with your prayers. If you are willing to join our group of prayer warriors, please send a note to Hal, and he will add you to the prayer chain. God is good all the time!

PS – A few days ago, we were introduced to a German woman who works for an organization called Emmaus. They have Bible studies which are already approved to be used in Tanzanian prisons. We plan to introduce this program at our meeting early next year. All the time God is good!

Hallelujah!

We are never sure what the Holy Spirit may have planned for us. But each week, we see Him at work through the ministries of Joy in the Harvest. The Holy Spirit is at work in the hearts of each of these people.

This week we met Alfani, a nine-year-old Muslim boy. He suffers from the effects of hydrocephalus and other issues. Noticing some problems with his infant son (among them, extreme jaundice), his father Thabiti told us he began repeatedly taking Alfani to a local hospital practically from the time he was born. But nothing was done to help him, and they were just sent home. Now, at age nine, Alfani is suffering from loss of vision in one eye, paralysis of his right side, an enlarged head and periodic seizures. He cannot walk or speak. After a 9-year delay, the local hospital is finally referring him to the national hospital in Dar es Salaam.

Alfani is an engaging boy with a shy smile. While we were talking to Thabiti, Alfani smiled at us and exchanged fist bumps with his left hand. It was heartbreaking to listen to Thabiti’s frustration that his son was never diagnosed nor treated. We told Thabiti we would assist him in getting his son to Dar es Salaam where he can be evaluated by the doctors there.

We explained to Thabiti that Joy in the Harvest is a Christian mission, and we wanted to pray for Alfani. He agreed, so we prayed together. We also gave him the Injili (the New Testament for Muslims) and told him that if he read it every day, he could find the peace and comfort which would be his through Jesus Christ.

The next day we met Shimilimana who had been to Matyazo Hospital and is on the surgical schedule for later in November. This 24-year-old young woman has been bleeding for about six months. We counseled her and her father about the need for Shimilimana to be resting until she returns to the hospital for surgery. We reminded her about the story of the woman who was bleeding for 12 years, touched Jesus’ cloak and was healed (Luke 8:43-48). We prayed that this scheduled operation would correct her problem, and she would return to good health. We told her that God would be with her. As we prayed, she fell to her knees and asked God to be with her and heal her through this operation.

There was also Sayuni, a Muslim woman who had attended a crusade just two weeks earlier and had accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior. She told us she wanted to start reading the Bible and learn more about Jesus. As we handed her a Bible and asked her to read two verses from one of the Psalms, she hesitated and then told us she could not read. She actually planned to ask someone from the church she had started attending to read the Bible to her.

We normally do not give a Bible to someone until we are certain he or she can actually read it. But thanks to a generous donation from a supporting church in Florida, we were able to offer her an audio Bible. The unit has the full Bible and a Bible study, both recorded in Swahili. It is also a solar-powered radio, preset to Radio JOY. She was delighted to receive this gift.

And then there were two young albino men named Dauboni and Omari who came to Joy looking for reading glasses. We tried readers up to 3.25, but they were still unable to see the print in the Bible. We talked with both of them at some length about their studies and their belief in Jesus. We offered Dauboni and Omari each an audio Bible so that they could listen to the Bible in Swahili. Their faces just lit up when they heard God’s Word.

Because we could not find reading glasses to help them, we suggested that they go to the eye clinic at Maweni Hospital for an evaluation. In addition to the audio Bibles, we gave them sunglasses to help with their increased sensitivity to the bright sun, a common problem experienced by albinos.

And so it goes. We are never certain who we will find at the gate to Joy in the Harvest. We seek to show the love of Christ to those He puts in our path. Please pray for everyone who has come to Joy in the last eight weeks and those whom we have been blessed to serve, and pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to work in all of them.

Kigoma is a happenin’ town!

We continue to marvel at the work of the Holy Spirit – how He ignites a fire in ordinary people, and how He leads them to do good things for the church.

One great example is the newest United Methodist Church in Tanzania: Kasaka UMC. This church is being built in a village about 10 km outside of Kigoma town. It is the seventh UMC to be planted in the Kigoma area, the third in just the past two years.

Two months ago, the Kasaka congregation was meeting in a grove of palm trees. Then they built a temporary structure out of palm branches and used it for several weeks before beginning construction on a permanent structure.

The building we met in last Sunday is still a work in progress, but it has a roof, and we managed to stay dry during a rain shower as we worshipped.

Please pray for this new congregation. Last week,16 worshipped together on Sunday morning. Here is Dr. Purvis leading the group in song:

The second attempt was even better:

We are encouraging the pastor and members to go door-to-door in the village and invite neighbors to come to the new church with them. The children are always welcome!

With the growth in the number of churches, there has been a corresponding need for more pastors and people to fill leadership positions (e.g., lay leaders, choir directors, youth directors and leaders for men’s and women’s groups). To focus on leadership issues, a meeting (which Hal attended) was held on Sunday afternoon to encourage those who have been called to serve in these roles. The responsibilities of the various positions and the need for the leaders to work together to further the growth of the church were discussed. Hal reminded the leaders about the call each of them has received to serve, how they need to serve humbly and what God expects of all of us as leaders in His church. Then he led them in prayer.

Following his talk, Hal led the group in a foot washing ceremony based on Jesus’ example at the Last Supper. All of the attendees participated in the foot washing.

He also presented crosses to all who attended.

The leaders all appeared to gain a great deal in their understanding of what it means to serve the church.

 

Finally, we are happy to share the good news about Kigoma’s latest new citizen. Rose Mary, Mwenge and Janet’s second child, came into this world on Thursday, October 17, at 5:30 am, weighing approximately 3½ kg. (7 lbs. 11 oz.).

Mama and baby are doing just great, and big sister Jennifer is, shall we say, intrigued. Dr. Purvis made a house call (yes, you read that correctly – a house call) to check on mama and baby on our way to church on Sunday. Both are doing well.

Mwenge and Jennifer are doing well also.

Please pray for all the exciting happenings in Kigoma. And pray for God’s blessing on Mwenge’s family.

Dr. Harper hapa!

Is there a doctor in the house? Yes, Dr. Harper is here!

Dr. Purvis Harper, from our home church in Texas, has come to Tanzania to provide assistance at the Baptist Hospital in Kigoma. Purvis and his wife Lynn have made many trips to Joy – primarily as part of a team providing free medical clinics. This time, however, Purvis is traveling by himself. Now that he has retired from his pediatric practice, he is involved in many church and prison ministry activities. And he has chosen to spend a month in Tanzania, using his medical training to help the poor. Praise God!

Purvis has been a real trooper. Before we left the US, we asked him to bring an extra 50 lb. suitcase with some needed supplies and books for Sue’s missionary women’s Bible study. We followed up with three more deliveries from Amazon of last minute Joy in the Harvest necessities. He graciously agreed to carry all of it. Then he boarded a plane in Houston thinking it would be a long but uneventful journey to Dar es Salaam. But a delay in his second flight resulted in a missed connection for his third flight. The airline computers rerouted him on Emirates Airline through Dubai and then on to Dar es Salaam. After one night in Dar instead of the planned two, he was back at the airport for his flight to Kigoma on Air Tanzania (ATC). As frequently happens, ATC rose to the occasion and that flight was also delayed. The joys of air travel! Purvis finally arrived in Kigoma on Sunday; a bit weary but still in surprisingly good spirits.

He was up and off to Baptist Hospital at about 7:20 am the very next morning. Jet lag was not going to slow him down.

Medical practice in Tanzania can be extremely challenging, gut-wrenching and heartbreaking. Often patients either do not seek treatment before it is too late, or they simply cannot afford treatment. It is not uncommon for some people to arrive at the hospital (or the Joy in the Harvest Friday People program) with illnesses or conditions they have been dealing with by themselves for 10 or more years. Purvis has already witnessed the deaths of several children on the ward in just the short time he has been here. Despite the toll it takes, he has persevered and goes back to Baptist Hospital each morning with renewed faith and determination.

Purvis has not been simply treating the physical needs of his patients. He has been working to meet their spiritual needs as well. He asks each patient if he may pray with them – even if they are Muslim.

He has also given a morning devotional for the Baptist Hospital staff, shared the message on the first Sunday at Kalalangabo Church in Kigoma,

the second Sunday in Ujiji

and preached a devotional to the residents at the Destitute Camp.

In the US, Purvis is very involved with prison ministry. Here at Joy, he met with Elia who after serving 14 years in prison, had his conviction overturned because it was based on a false accusation. While he was in prison, Elia, a Muslim, heard Christians worshipping Jesus. He listened to a message about how accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior would result in the forgiveness of sins and lead to life eternal. He realized that believing in Jesus was the only way to be saved. And so, during his 10th year in prison, Elia accepted Christ as his Savior in 2015.

Purvis prayed with Elia. Then we presented him with a Swahili Bible so he can continue to study God’s Word. We asked the pastor who had been working with him in the prison to help him continue his walk with Christ.

Last week, following a full day of medical rounds at the hospital, Purvis participated in the computer school graduation ceremony at Joy. He presented certificates to the graduates and congratulated them on their successful completion of the basic computer course. The class had 73 graduates – 53 women and 20 men. To date, the Joy in the Harvest Computer School has graduated over 4,200 students.

Purvis is a great friend, and for years he has been a valued faith mentor for Hal. We are grateful to be sharing this special time with him in Tanzania, and pray that this will be the first of many such trips. Please pray for Purvis and the work he is doing here. And also, if you will, pray for his smooth trip all of the way back home. We think you would agree he has had more than enough travel excitement!

The more things change, the more they stay the same

Our return to Kigoma revealed a few local changes that really caught us by surprise. As we left the Kigoma airport, we headed for the recently-completed roundabout (traffic circle), where the statue of a fish in the center is now a working fountain. It had attracted a large group of people who were standing in the middle of the roundabout taking pictures.

As we traveled down the road just a short distance, we were amazed at the sight of the first-ever traffic light in Kigoma.

Within about a half mile was the second of the two traffic lights in Kigoma. The lights allow pedestrians a short pause in the traffic to race across the road (they even show the countdown to the light change).

In addition, as the old roads deteriorate, new roads are being paved in many parts of Kigoma. Finally, although we thought it could not be possible, there are an even greater number of bijajis (three-wheel carts) clogging the streets.

Although changes are happening in Kigoma, some things remain unchanged. The poor are still poor, and life expectancy is still low. The Feeding Center continues to serve large numbers of street children and adults three times each week. (Our home church is sponsoring a special mission offering this month in support of the Feeding Center.) The special Bible lessons illustrated with felt board characters continue to be a source of excitement and interest to the children.

Many people still need medical help. We are struck by the number of children who have been brought to Joy with critical or life-threatening problems. Two baby girls, Shukrani and Bahati, were each born without an opening in the anus, so the body has created a fistula near the vagina to eliminate stool.

A baby boy named Mwakibinga has a large lesion on his face, which occasionally bleeds.

Maryamu fell into a fire and has serious burns on her hands and arms. Abduli Saidi is a five-year-old boy with a bluish tint to his lips whose mother is seeking assistance to have the hole in his heart repaired.

And last week we told you about baby Joseph with the severe cleft lip and palate who died enroute to medical treatment in Dar es Salaam.

There are many things we simply do not understand. So, we ask for your prayers that God’s Will be done. And we pray that we can continue to help these little ones get the medical treatment they need, and that as they grow, they will come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

“…and who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:29

A few days ago, we saw an interesting twist on the story of the good Samaritan when Pastor Kimuga brought a young man named Ibrahimu to Joy in the Harvest to share his story.

One evening, Pastor Kimuga was walking on the road and noticed a young man who appeared to be very intoxicated. Ibrahimu was talking but did not make any sense, and other people around him were avoiding him. Pastor Kimuga approached him and spent a few minutes talking with him. Then he asked Ibrahimu to take him to his home.

When they arrived at the house, the pastor met Ibrahimu’s mother, and he asked her what had been happening. She said she had decided that Ibrahimu could no longer be a part of the family because his drinking was so out of control. He also met Ibrahimu’s wife, and she explained that she just did not know what to do about his drinking.

Pastor Kimuga spent time counseling and praying with the whole family. Ibrahimu expressed remorse for the damage his drinking had done to the family, and his family agreed to forgive him. Several weeks passed and everything seemed to be okay. But one day, Satan tempted him again, and he fell back into drinking. His wife had had enough and they separated. After a period of time, he realized he had made a huge mistake, and he contacted Pastor Kimuga to confess that he was drinking again. The pastor immediately met with Ibrahimu and his wife for additional counseling. Since that day, Ibrahimu has not touched a drop of alcohol, and he has decided to become a Christian and ask for God’s forgiveness. He and his wife are back together again.

We sat and chatted with Ibrahimu, and told him we understand how challenging it will be for him going forward, that Satan might try and drag him down again. We encouraged him to study the Word of God to gain strength and wisdom. After praying with him, we gave him a Bible and told him it was important for him to read it every day.

We also gave him one of Charlie’s crosses to help him remember that his sins have been forgiven through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

So, in the process of helping a lost soul on the road, Pastor Kimuga showed the love of Christ to his neighbor Ibrahimu, and Ibrahimu responded by accepting Jesus as his Lord and Savior. Hallelujah!

Please pray for Ibrahimu that he will know the Holy Spirit is with him and will guide and protect him each step along his journey.

 

IN MEMORY OF JOSEPH

Just about one week ago, a young mother named Zuwena brought her 6-month-old son Joseph to Joy in the Harvest. He suffered from a severe cleft lip and palate, and he was extremely thin. We immediately gave her baby formula to spoon into the baby’s mouth because he was not able to drink from a bottle.

We made plans to send Joseph and Zuwena to a special hospital in Dar es Salaam where other babies with the same birth defect have been successfully treated. Zuwena went to the local hospital to get a medical referral and also to the train station to purchase a ticket for the train to Dar es Salaam. We met with her again on Tuesday to make sure everything was in place for their departure on Wednesday.

Sadly, after just a few hours on the train, near Tabora, little Joseph passed away. We know Joseph is with his Heavenly Father – no more suffering. We ask you to pray for Zuwena and her family.

Meeting Berni

We are back at Joy in the Harvest following an amazing and busy trip to the US. This has been a very significant year for us. In May we celebrated our grandson Nathan’s graduation from high school. Also in May was Hal’s 50th college reunion (West Point), and in June, Sue’s 50th nursing school reunion at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York. But most exciting of all was our 50th wedding anniversary. Our family had a great celebration at our son’s home in Newport News, Virginia, that was full of joy, surprises, reminiscences, and love. Thanking God for His blessings!

Last Saturday, as we checked in for our Air Tanzania flight from Dar es Salaam to Kigoma, we heard the distinctive sound of an Australian accent several feet behind us. Sue immediately turned and called out to the gentleman, “Are you Berni?” He looked quite startled and replied that he was. Lowell and Claudia had told us that Berni and Steve, a member of Berni’s Board of Directors, would also be traveling to Joy in the Harvest, and they had asked us to look out for them. We introduced ourselves and then went to get breakfast together before boarding the flight.

Lowell met Berni, CEO of the Australian-based, global media ministry Christianityworks, at an African radio conference in Nairobi a few years ago. Together they saw great potential for evangelism if Berni’s radio programs could be translated into Swahili and broadcast to the Kigoma region over Radio JOY. So, for the last two years, Berni has provided weekly programs, which are translated into Swahili with the help of Harry (a missionary in Kigoma), and then recorded to air on Radio JOY.

During their all too short time in Kigoma, our special guests were very busy with Berni delivering the worship message on Sunday morning at Kalalangabo United Methodist Church,

and speaking later that day at an evangelism rally in the village of Mwakizega, about 29 miles south of Kigoma.

He also shared the message with the Joy staff during Monday morning’s worship service.

Berni and Steve visited the Radio JOY studio and broadcast tower,

the Victory Camp for the destitute poor,

the Kimberly House Feeding Center,

the Ujiji slave Trail of Tears and the Dr. David Livingstone Museum.

It was a blessing to meet Berni and Steve, two passionate and devoted evangelists, and we pray that the work of Radio JOY and Christianityworks together will continue to reach hundreds of thousands of listeners.

Charlie’s Crosses

A new dimension to our ministry began a few years ago when we started presenting crosses to people in Africa. The crosses are handmade by our friend Charlie, who lives and worships in Florida.

This is Charlie’s ministry, and he seeks to give a cross to everyone who comes to his church. We asked Charlie if we could distribute his crosses in Africa, and he immediately agreed. He’s been providing crosses to us since that day.

We’ve given crosses to pastors in Tanzania, evangelists going to the DRC (Congo) and pastors in Burundi who are trying to reunite their country after major unrest in 2015. A few weeks ago, Hal distributed crosses at the Nyarugusu refugee camp.

At a Joy in the Harvest staff worship service last fall, Hal encouraged the staff to invite someone to church – someone who was not already attending. The next week he asked if anyone had done that. Crickets…no one answered. Hal was initially disappointed, but then Fadhili, the translator, spoke up. “I did,” he said. Hal turned to him and immediately took a cross and put it around Fadhili’s neck.

Fadhili and Hal

And so, a seed was planted. We didn’t know what would happen to that seed. But while we were home for the holidays, the Holy Spirit moved several other staff members to invite people to church. We want to share a couple of these amazing stories of how the Holy Spirit is working through the Joy in the Harvest staff.

Fadhili told us that Elice, the friend he invited, attended for several weeks before she commented that everyone in the church seemed to understand the Bible verses. She asked how she could understand them too. Fadhili gave Elice his Bible and told her she had to read it every day, she had to read each section several times, and she had to pray to God to ask Him to help her understand the scriptures. A few months later, she accepted Christ as her Savior and was baptized. When she invited another friend to attend church with her, we presented Elice with a cross.

Elice

Mariamu told us she repeatedly invited her son to go to church with her, but he always refused and would leave the house to go to work or go somewhere else. One Sunday she said to him, “What if something bad happens to you and you have not been going to church. What do you think will happen then?” A few days later her son came to Mariamu, asking her to pray for him. He was feeling very sick. Apparently, after again refusing to go to church, he went to get some morning tea. Although the tea wasn’t hot and didn’t burn his mouth, her son said he felt it burning the back of his throat and down to his stomach. He felt a great deal of pain in his chest. Mariamu prayed for him and for his healing. The next Sunday, her son went to church with her, has been going ever since and has plans to join the choir.

Mariamu, Beatrice and Pastor Kimuga with Hal

Beatrice shared she has a friend who was in her church choir but for some reason stopped coming to church over two years ago. So Beatrice decided to invite her to come with her to church the next Sunday. Her friend refused, saying her mother needed her to work in the market. So Beatrice went to her friend’s home to ask the mother if her daughter could come to church. The mother said no, that she had to work. Well, that was all Beatrice needed to hear. She immediately told the mother it wasn’t right, reminding her that God created the entire universe in just 6 days, and He rested on the 7th day. He wants us to rest on the 7th day also, to go to church and worship Him. Beatrice asked if her friend could work Monday through Saturday and attend church on Sundays. The mother finally agreed. As the week went on, Beatrice became concerned her friend might not remember or would have to go work in the market instead. So Beatrice got up early on Sunday and went to her friend’s house. She waited while her friend got ready, and the two of them went to church together.

Since that Sunday morning, Beatrice’s friend has been going to church every week. She is even talking about joining the choir again. Hallelujah!

Bakari and Pastor Kimuga

After hearing these and other testimonies, Pastor Kimuga thanked us for encouraging the staff to approach non-church goers. He said he attends church conferences where pastors discuss growing their congregations, but they are inviting people from other churches. Some new members have come from the Pentecostal Church, some from the Anglican Church, some from the United Methodist Church and other denominations. So they are already practicing Christians. Pastor Kimuga has started to invite people who don’t already know Jesus to come to his church, and he has encouraged his congregation to do the same. So far, five church members have extended invitations to others, two of whom were previously Muslim and have now accepted Christ.

What a blessing to hear these reports! We pray the Holy Spirit will continue working in Kigoma, and many more people will walk in the light of Jesus.

And so the adventure continues. God is on the move!