Before we leave, Part 2

Before signing off for a while and enjoying special time at home with our family, we want to share a few more stories to give you a further glimpse of what the Holy Spirit is doing in the Kigoma area.

You may recall that several years ago, we wrote about a man named Sebastian who came to Joy in the Harvest seeking help and guidance in forming a church in the village of Lugufu (see our post on April 6, 2019). That church is now thriving under the pastoral leadership of Pastor Mwanzo, a former Joy employee (April 7, 2022 post).

Sebastian moved to Kazuramimba, a town that is a little more than 25 miles east of Kigoma, where he began meeting with another group of villagers as they gathered to worship God. Then he traveled to Joy in the Harvest to tell Mwenge about this new fellowship of believers. He explained that these people wanted to become an established church. As of October 9, Kazuramimba is the newest Methodist church in Tanzania. Praise God!

Kazuramimba UMC is the fourth Methodist church planted in the Kigoma Region since we began our mission work in Tanzania. Before leaving Tanzania this month, we left Bibles and hymn books with Mwenge to present to the new congregation. We are excited to worship with the Kazuramimba congregation when we return next year.

That would have been a powerful story by itself. But as Paul Harvey used to say, “and now for the rest of the story.” Just so there is no doubt about how this was accomplished, we need to remember that God often uses some of the most unlikely people to do amazing things. Shortly after we started working with Sebastian, we learned that he was an alcoholic. The Lugufu church members were angry with him and confronted him while we were visiting the church. Sebastian dropped to his knees and asked God for forgiveness, as the church prayed for him. And through the power of prayer and God’s forgiveness, Sebastian has recovered from his addiction.

There is major construction and renovation underway in some of the existing churches: Kalalangabo UMC, Kasaka UMC and Nkungwe UMC. There are new church buildings going up all over the Kigoma area – in Ujiji, Lugufu, Gungu and at the Bangwe Pentecostal Church. God is on the move!

Ujiji UMC
Gungu UMC
Gungu UMC
Bangwe FPCT
Bangwe FPCT

We have an update from the Prison Ministry. Adding an “exclamation point” to the statement that God uses ordinary people, we recently wrote about the “re-start” meeting of prison ministry pastors at Joy in August. In attendance were several new pastors who were just beginning to serve in Prison Ministry. We are waiting for their feedback about the materials we provided them. The response from the prisoners (men in orange) to the Emmaus Bible Study has been encouraging. Initial reports from three of the five prisons indicate that 55 men in orange already have enrolled in the study. We are sending more Swahili Bibles into the prisons to help the men with the study. Please pray for each of these men in orange as they take this big step in their spiritual growth.

We want to share the story of 8-year-old Mariam, her father Nyambalo and her grandmother Merciana. Through Merciana, we learned that Mariam had a large abscess on her leg that was initially treated at the local hospital, but because they had no money, the family could not continue her treatment. We explained to her that the Friday People program is closed, but invited her to bring Mariam to Joy so we could learn more about her situation.

We first saw this beautiful child sitting in a chair in the small pavilion near the Joy in the Harvest gate.

As we greeted her and asked about her problem, she stood up and showed us her leg. She had a compound fracture that apparently had occurred in conjunction with the abscess on her shin. The abscess had healed, but she was left with 5 inches of bone sticking out of her shin at a 45° angle.

It also appeared that two more abscesses were forming, one on her forearm and another on her finger. Dr. Alex had come to Joy in the Harvest to check on Devin’s ear infection, so we asked him to look at Mariam. He concluded that the bone was probably dead, and she would need surgery. We immediately sent her to the local hospital to get a referral to the national hospital in Dar es Salaam.

While in the process of helping Mariam, we learned that Nyambalo was suffering from a fistula, so we arranged for surgery for him at Matyazo Hospital. We also found out that the government is providing HIV treatment for Merciana.

Within the week, Mariam was traveling to Dar with her mother, where doctors removed the dead bone. In the next step, they will attempt to create a new tibia with a bone graft from her fibula. We ask for prayers for this sweet young girl.

We had the opportunity to speak with Nyambalo and Merciana about their faith and offered them Swahili Bibles. They were a little embarrassed to confess that neither could read. So, we suggested audio Bibles instead. (The audio Bible also plays Radio JOY and has a Bible study in Swahili on the units.) They were overjoyed to accept them.

Finally, just before we returned home, Hal, Devin and our son-in-law Chris (Devin’s father) were invited by Mwenge to participate in a Tanzanian national event with the District Commissioner and a host of dignitaries in the village of Kaseke. Amid great ceremony, the Tanzanian Uhuru Torch (“Torch of Freedom,” which was originally lit at the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro in 1961) was brought to the Kigoma District. The Joy in the Harvest Land Cruiser was one of approximately 30 vehicles that accompanied the torch to three of the projects that are being highlighted this year (a new restaurant, a clean water project and new classrooms at a secondary school). Several years ago, the torch made a stop at Joy in the Harvest to recognize the launch of Radio JOY.

The Uhuru Torch Monument in Dar es Salaam
The Uhuru Torch comes to the Kigoma District

So there it is, a quick rundown of what is happening in Kigoma. We’ll be home for a few months but plan to return early next year. Until then, we ask for your continued prayers for the people of Tanzania and for the many incredible things the Holy Spirit is doing in the country. Please pray for the precious children in the video below:

May God continue to bless each of you and the ministry work you are doing.

Reminder: If you are receiving notice of a new post by email, please click on the title of the post in the email (in this case, “Before we leave, Part 2”), and it will take you directly to our blog website where videos can be easily viewed. There is 1 video in this post.

Before we leave, Part 1

This time in Kigoma has been a little different. We have taken more time to visit with friends, work on our Swahili and worship our Heavenly Father. Our days begin with reading a devotional and a couple of chapters in the Bible with our grandson Devin. We decided to take the advice of our missionary friend Lonnie, and so we have studied the Gospel of John. These verses have helped us appreciate even more the love that God shows for all of us.

We are being asked to share the Word in different places, something neither of us had ever anticipated. But we are finding it is a real blessing to have the opportunity to share God’s Word. Nearly every Sunday, Hal speaks at a service in a local church.

He has also delivered messages for the missionaries at the Wednesday Night Bible Study at Joy in the Harvest, at widows’ services and at the morning devotional meetings for the Joy staff. A real highlight for him was having the opportunity to speak at the Nyarugusu Refugee Camp (see our August 14th post). Sue has resumed leading the women’s Bible study. The women are currently studying about Elijah (Priscilla Shirer) – the books and DVDs were donated by the women’s ministry at our home church.

Sue was invited to speak to two different church women’s groups. In fact, she was asked to return and speak again at both churches.

Frequently, there are requests for reading glasses. As we posted earlier, we use the Bible to test a person’s ability to see the print. Through trial-and-error, we zero in on the best magnification.

But the real enjoyment comes when we ask if they have a Bible. The usual response is, “Hapana” (No). This opens up the opportunity to talk with them about Jesus, ask where they go to church and hear a little about their walk. Then comes the question: “If we give you a Bible, will you read it every day?” And the answer is always, “Ndiyo” (Yes).  

A very sad bit of real life impacted all of Joy in the Harvest a few weeks ago. For months, our guest house worker Anderson had been happily sharing updates about his wife’s pregnancy with twins. On Monday, August 22, he came to work beaming – he was the proud father of twin baby boys. They each weighed about 2 kilograms (approximately 4½ pounds). Anderson’s feet barely touched the ground. He was even more thrilled because he and his wife Rose had lost a newborn child just a short time ago. Then on Wednesday morning, we learned that both of the twins had died at the hospital during the night. We arrived at the hospital with some members of the Joy staff and found Anderson standing outside in a state of shock and anguish. Friends and family were gathering and grieving.

A while later, Mwenge arrived with two tiny coffins that had just been built. The coffins were taken into the maternity ward for the remains, and we could hear the lids being nailed shut. After the coffins were placed in the back of a pick-up truck, we rode to the cemetery in a procession to the place where small graves had been dug.

There were hymns, and there were prayers. And there were many tears.

Then the coffins were placed in the graves, and each person was given the opportunity to toss some dirt into the grave.

After the burial, we went to Anderson’s mother Grace’s home where Rose was receiving people who were paying their respects. It was one of the saddest days we have ever experienced. But as followers of Jesus Christ, we all hold the belief that this family will be reunited again. We are thankful for the joy that these little boys brought to Rose and Anderson, even though it was for such a short time.

Several days later, we were fortunate to attend a joyous event, the wedding of one of our favorite Joy workers, Anthony. Over the years, he has become a good friend, and it was exciting to share in his special day. As is commonplace for African weddings, it was scheduled to begin at 10 am sharp, so we went to the church at 11, and the bride (Jovinatha) arrived at 1 pm. The ceremony began after Jovinatha and Anthony very slowly walked (well, in reality, they danced) down the aisle with their families.

As is customary in this culture, Jovinatha dipped down in respect to Anthony as he placed the ring on her finger, as shown in this video:

The formal service was over at 2 pm, and then there was another hour of singing and dancing in the church in honor of the new couple. We were told the reception would begin at the Joy in the Harvest Community Center at 6 pm sharp – but that information was delivered with a big grin. It was actually almost 8 pm before the bride and groom arrived.

The newlyweds danced separately into the hall. Here’s a video clip of Anthony arriving at the reception, escorted by his Joy in the Harvest co-workers. And look who joined the scrum at the end …

And in this video clip, Anthony greets his new bride.

The celebration didn’t end until well after midnight.

Once again, this season has not followed a “Hoege” plan. It brings a smile when folks ask us what we will be doing in Kigoma. We never know for sure. We know that God has it all figured out, and so we pray for His guidance. Slowly, one sick child later, one Bible later, one pair of reading glasses later, one devotional later, we understand what the Holy Spirit is leading us to do.

Thank you for your ongoing prayers. We are truly blessed.

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The seed is planted!

It has been almost three years since we last wrote about the Prison Ministry. In fact, because of Covid disruptions and our not being able to return to Tanzania for 2½ years, it’s almost like starting over again.

During the height of Covid, the pastors were not permitted to visit prisoners. Then, because they had not been visiting, they were required to update their government files in order to enter the prisons again. As of today, everyone is approved. Hallelujah!

Serving in the five prisons in the Kigoma area are pastors Nelson, William, Mchoba, Daudi, Samweli, Francis, James and Selestin. Because she is a woman, Selestin is not allowed to enter the prison, but with permission, she conducts a worship service through the fence at Ilagala prison.

We originally planned to have a program similar to Kairos Prison Ministry. Before coming to Joy in the Harvest, Hal and Sue had participated twice each year in the Kairos four-day program with 42 men-in-white (the color of the Texas prison uniform). Through a series of structured talks, chapel time, prayer time, group discussions and lots of good food, our team shared the Good News. The prisoners heard that God loves them and is offering them forgiveness if they accept His Son, Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Hal figured that Kairos would provide a good model to use in Tanzania. At their initial meeting, the Bangwe Prison warden told Hal he would be very happy to have a prison ministry. We were really excited. But then he added:
1) Hal will not be permitted to enter the prison.
2) The pastors can see prisoners on Saturday during visiting hours only.
3) The pastors cannot bring in any food.

Other than that, he said, we could do everything we wanted. While we regrouped, the previously-approved pastors were already taking the Good News into these very dark places. The warden at Bangwe may have created some obstacles, but there was no stopping the Holy Spirit.

For four years, Joy in the Harvest has continued to support the pastors with hymn books and Bibles.

And about once a year, each prisoner receives some personal hygiene items (e.g., soap, toothpaste and toothbrush). Nelson, a guard whom we have added to our Leadership Team, has traveled to the prisons and worked with pastors to get their applications approved to visit the prisoners.

On August 26, all of the pastors were invited to come to Joy in the Harvest for a meeting to rededicate everyone to this vital ministry.

As the meeting began, Hal, Sue and Devin carried a 40-foot-long prayer chain into the hall. Each of the 129 links had the first name of a prayer warrior who had agreed to pray for the meeting, the pastors and the prisoners who will be served through this ministry. The names represented 9 pastors, several missionaries, people from 8 states and 3 continents. And there were also names of 42 men-in-white from a Texas prison.

The pastors were visibly moved. They held the chain, looking at the names, and were amazed to learn even prisoners were praying for them.

We told them that Pastor Chris was praying instead of sleeping at the exact time of the meeting (1 am to 5 am in Texas) – 9 time zones away. The Holy Spirit was definitely present.

Mwenge officially welcomed everyone, and the meeting began with prayer. Then each pastor introduced himself (three were new to the ministry) and described the current status in the prison they were visiting.

Several shared about the services they held and said they even have an offering, but not the usual kind. Prisoners who have soap, for example, will break off a small piece and give it as their offering. Then the offering is divided among other prisoners who may not have soap.

Nelson went through the rules for visiting the prisons.

Then Hal reviewed a booklet of materials he had assembled based on the Kairos and Jubilee programs that are used in Texas. (Thanks to Steve, Purvis and Dennis for sharing your thoughts and expertise.) Hal included information about The Romans Road, which was suggested by Lowell. This material is based on the Book of Romans and shows the path from sin to salvation laid out by the Apostle Paul. Pastor Kimuga and Pastor Rudo – both from the Joy staff and part of our Leadership Team – offered examples to the pastors of how they could use the new materials.

Finally, Mwenge explained the new WhatsApp group that was created so everyone can communicate with each other.

A self-study program is being introduced for any prisoner or pastor who is interested in further individual spiritual growth. The Emmaus Bible Study consists of 35 modules which can be completed at the individual’s own pace.

The goal is to develop groups of prisoners to support and encourage one another in their walk. The pastors will share specific messages based on the US programs, selected guards will reinforce the messages during the week, and prisoners will be able to offer accountability to each other as they work on their individual spiritual growth. It should be a win-win-win.

Hopefully, this rededication of the Prison Ministry will give everyone a new sense of commitment. We ask for your ongoing prayers for the pastors, the guards and the “men-in-orange” (the color of the prison uniforms in Kigoma).

May the Holy Spirit “convict” each of the men-in-orange. “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” John 16:8.

P.S. As we were finalizing this post, we received the first report from Bangwe Prison. Eight prisoners so far have signed up to start the Emmaus Bible Study. Praise God! We are waiting patiently for reports from the other prisons.

P.P.S. If you would like to have your name added to our prayer group – and the prayer chain – please send us a note. We can use each and every prayer warrior to shine his/her light into the darkness.

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“God made the wild animals according to their kinds…” Genesis 1:25

The day after our visit to the Nyarugusu Refugee Camp, we took a short holiday, traveling with Devin to the Mikumi National Park near Morogoro, Tanzania (on the eastern side of the country). We flew from Kigoma, spent the night in Dar es Salaam and then rode five hours by car to the safari park early Tuesday morning.

As we were entering the outer boundaries of the park, Hal was the first to spot an animal. It was a twiga (giraffe) that was feeding near the road, a very special welcome to the park.

We went up to the safari camp, had lunch and settled into our tents.

At 4 pm, we climbed into our safari vehicle for the afternoon trip into the park. Right away, we saw many punda milia (zebra), nyumbu (wildebeest) and pala (impala). Fraide, the young woman who was our guide, explained that these animals often feed together and serve as security for each other. As we drove near the herds, we tried to tell which animals were on the lookout for the dreaded lion and which would give the signal it was time for all of them to race out of there.

We noticed several injured zebras who had apparently survived lion attacks.

In the photo below, you will see that the zebra has a very short tail and a large wound on his back from a fairly recent attack. At least for now, this zebra was able to escape, and the healing process has begun. However, he is now more vulnerable to attack and slower because of his wounds.

Not so fortunate was the wildebeest in the next photo. Fraide told us wildebeest are often the target of lions because they have a tendency of running from the lions for a short distance and then stopping to see if the danger is still present. That is when the lions strike. This was the second day these five lions were feeding on their kill.

The next day, we went out at 6:30 in the morning and were met with a spectacular sunrise, complete with a pair of giraffes.

We saw many more animals the second day. In fact, a pair of lions who had recently “honeymooned” walked right beside our vehicle on the road. The male gave a low roar to let us know he was aware we were there, but they went past us without incident. Whew! Sue held her breath while shooting this video…

Later, we enjoyed a box breakfast in the shade of a 200-year-old baobob tree with the family from Belgium with whom we were sharing our vehicle. The camp also sent along a small cake so we could celebrate dad Julian’s 40th birthday. We’re not sure how his family will be able to top this celebration next year.

We had an amazing time admiring God’s creations – and how He keeps everything in balance. We saw tembo (elephants) (see video below):

There were also hippos in their pond, crocodiles, monitor lizards and many exotic birds including a secretary bird which, according to Fraide, is a rare sighting at Mikumi.

And then there were more giraffes and zebras, warthogs, vervet monkeys, baboons, wildebeest, water buffalo, impala, deer and vultures.

When our safari was finished, we prepared to return to Dar es Salaam, taking a final photo with Fraide and our driver Abeli. They were absolutely wonderful and made the safari one we will never forget.

And to put an exclamation point on our visit, God provided yet another stunning sunset.

“… And God saw that it was good.” Genesis 1:25

Amen.

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“God is our refuge…” Psalm 46:1

It’s been three years since our last visit to the Nyarugusu Refugee Camp. We were very fortunate to be making the trip at this time. The camp has been closed to outside visitors (including missionaries) for a long time because of Covid restrictions. In fact, a trip planned by Mwenge earlier this year was cancelled at the last minute.

Nyarugusu has been home to tens of thousands of refugees for many years. According to the UN, at the end of 2021, there were approximately 49,000 refugees from Burundi and 80,000 from the DRC (Congo). Many residents were born in the camp, so it is the only place they have ever lived.

At 6:30 am last Sunday morning, we shared a word of prayer for safe travel and then began our journey to the camp. It took about 3 hours to travel approximately 100 miles.

When we arrived at Nyarugusu, we stopped at the checkpoint and presented our documents for entry. Mwenge signed us in. We all got out of the vehicle and went to a washing station to clean our hands, and then went to another station to have our temperatures checked. We stopped again, this time at a Tanzanian Police station where our papers were reviewed a second time. Finally, we were cleared to go to the UN Reception Area where our paperwork was examined for the third time.

We were given permission to drive to the church that we had been invited to visit. The church service had actually begun about 30 minutes before we arrived. The dirt road from Kasulu to the camp has deteriorated dramatically, and the trip took a little longer than we had anticipated. (You fitness folks will appreciate this. The bouncing on the road was so forceful that we logged 22,000+ steps on our Fitbits for the round trip, even though we were seated the entire time and never took a step!) Also, the directions we were given upon our arrival at Nyarugusu led us initially to a Free Methodist Church instead of the United Methodist Church.

Mwenge has maintained frequent contact with several of the pastors at Nyarugusu Refugee Camp. But this was the first time he has been able to visit in quite a while, so when we arrived at the church, everyone welcomed us with open arms.

People from five churches were present, and the church was full. Pastor Emori from the Burundi side of the camp was leading the service. It was an awesome sight to behold.

Praising God with song and dance!

We were excited to come “bearing gifts.” Mwenge had new Communion cups for the pastors representing the churches that had come together for the service (1 from the Burundi side and 4 from the DRC side.)

Then, Hal presented hymn books to each of the five pastors.

We also called 24 new believers to the front of the church. They all had just recently accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and each was presented with a new Swahili Bible. Because we did not have time to distribute them ourselves, we gave 40 pairs of reading glasses to the pastors, who will identify those who need help seeing the print in their Bibles. (Thanks again to the members of Penn Yan UMC for their donation of reading glasses.)

Later, after the presentations of the Communion cups, hymn books, Bibles and reading glasses, and the 10 choir performances that followed, it was time for Hal to speak. He started by giving the congregation a Bible verse to remember, Psalm 46:1. Then he spoke about hope and faith, using 1 Peter 1:3-9 for his message. For the first time since our visit to Burundi in 2015, Hal’s message was translated twice, first by Mwenge into Swahili and then by a pastor into Kirundi, the native language of the people from Burundi.

After the service concluded, we took time for a photo with the pastors.

And then we packed up the car for the return trip to Kigoma. Surprisingly, we found ourselves with two extra passengers. They had followed us from the entrance to Nyarugusu to the church where we worshipped, and now they were accompanying us out of the camp. They had been assigned by the authorities the task of making sure the shoes we had brought to distribute to residents, and unfortunately had not appeared on our approval letter, were not left inside the camp. (We’re happy to report that the distribution of the shoes has since been approved.)

We prayed again for safe travel and settled in for the 90-minute, bumpy ride back to Kasulu. (It was difficult to believe, but the road actually seemed worse going back.) We stopped at the Catholic Church in Kasulu and had a late lunch feast of chicken, rice, potatoes, spinach, carrots and zesty tomato sauce, followed by watermelon, papaya and bananas for dessert.

With full stomachs, we climbed back into the vehicle for the final leg of our trip – fortunately on a smooth, paved road! It was a long day – almost 12 hours from the time we departed at 6:30 am until we arrived back at Joy in the Harvest at 6:00 pm. But it was worth every bump and bounce along the way to have the blessed opportunity to worship with our brothers and sisters in Christ who currently find themselves in a refugee camp.

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“He who has ears, let him hear.” Matthew 11:15

When we returned to Kigoma a few weeks ago, we noticed a buzz at Joy in the Harvest as the final steps were taken to officially launch the new radio tower in Heru Juu (located 30 minutes beyond Kasulu). The repeater tower had been completed, and the radio signal was received from Kigoma via microwave and rebroadcast from the new tower as an FM radio signal. The government conducted an inspection and approved the broadcast. On July 8, 2022, we headed back to Kasulu and Heru Juu for an official ribbon-cutting ceremony at the tower site.

Little did we know how exciting the day would be. Everything started out normally. We all entered our assigned vehicles, Lowell and his family in a minivan, Hal, Sue and Devin in a sedan, and about 25 members of the Radio JOY staff in a bus. We made our way through Kigoma town and then out on the road to Kasulu. Our sedan gained speed, and then we heard a strange noise. Our driver pulled over, got out of the car, went to the back, banged on some part of the car to be sure it was properly attached, and then we were off again. We traveled about another 30 minutes when he noticed a different noise and pulled over a second time. However, after examining the engine compartment with the assistance of several of the staff people from the bus, it was decided the sedan was not going any farther this time. So, we transferred to the bus with the Radio JOY staff.

It was a great time because everyone was excited about the upcoming ceremony. Then the bus unexpectedly pulled over, and we were asked to transfer again to another of the Joy vehicles. We were now on the outskirts of Kasulu. After a very short ride, we noticed we were part of a “parade” entering Kasulu. The Radio JOY workers jumped off the bus and either got on a boda-boda (motorcycle) or marched into town on foot behind a big Radio JOY banner.

Those of us in the cars were honking horns and waving to the people who began to line the main road in Kasulu. There was no way you could miss our entry into the city.

The next stop in the day’s events was on the mountaintop in Heru Juu.

Col. Isaak Mwakisu, the Kasulu District Commissioner, was in attendance and, amid much fanfare, he cut the ceremonial ribbon.

See video: The official ribbon-cutting

Then we returned to Kasulu where there was a formal program of speeches, solar-powered radio giveaways (donated by GALCOM USA of Tampa, FL), dancing, games, and a meal for guests.

See video: Some of the Radio JOY staff show off their dance moves!

An informal survey is being conducted to determine just how far the new signal reaches. Based on initial feedback, the signal is being received well beyond our expectations, and as a result, the potential listening audience is greater than anticipated. Praise God!

Two weeks after the ribbon-cutting ceremony, we returned to Kasulu and attended a meeting of approximately 80 pastors and imams. We told them about Radio JOY and invited them to make it their “own” station. We invited them to advertise on Radio JOY and to listen for news and other stories about the Kasulu area. At the end of the meeting, we gave each person a solar-powered radio and asked them to tell everyone in their congregation about Radio JOY.

The radios we distributed were donated by members of Trinity Presbyterian Church of Seven Springs in New Port Richey, FL, who have been strong supporters of the evangelism accomplished through Radio JOY.

You never know who you may encounter while you’re in Tanzania with a radio station just a few feet away. Last week we were just finishing breakfast when a caravan of 10 vehicles led by a police truck with its siren blaring entered the Joy site. It stopped in front of the Calvin House and a group of dignitaries emerged and went up to the radio studio. We immediately grabbed our radio and listened to a live interview of the Tanzanian Minister of Water and Irrigation, Hon. Jumaa Aweso.

He came to Radio JOY to talk about the water expansion project that is underway in Kigoma. When the interview was over, Minister Aweso hopped back into his car, and the caravan made an equally impressive exit from Joy in the Harvest.

See video.

By the way, we just have to mention that at Joy in the Harvest we are fortunate to have our own “Minister of Water,” Joy worker Anderson, who brings us fresh well water with a big smile every day.

From the time of our arrival at Joy in the Harvest in 2014, when we were asked to put together a PowerPoint for Lowell’s presentation to the Tanzanian Communications Regulatory Authority in Dar es Salaam as part of his application for the new Christian radio station, to the astounding accomplishments of today, Radio JOY has made steady progress in spreading the Good News. It has been just 7 years since permission was received to begin broadcasting. Initially, Radio JOY was permitted to broadcast 24/7, but only music and the radio call sign. Later, recorded programming was added, then live broadcasts, and today the programming is being expanded to include information of interest to all the listeners in Kasulu and beyond (after all, the Radio JOY motto is Something for Everyone!).

Praise God for the ongoing evangelism realized through Radio JOY.

Computer School update

A new class has just started at the Joy in the Harvest Computer School. A total of 99 students are enrolled in the Basic Course (Computer Skills and Microsoft Word) during this three-month session. Assuming all these students graduate, the total number of graduates from the Computer School over the past 20 years will reach nearly 5,900.

This ministry, which has helped both young and old, is free to anyone who wants to attend, but there is always a waiting list. The school offers skills that are not taught in the basic school system. Graduates have successfully secured good jobs in the Kigoma Region and other parts of Tanzania, and are providing support for their families and themselves.

Although all of the students take the course on laptops, we noticed that issues with electricity have been creating problems in the Computer School. When we looked into it further, we discovered that the UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) needed repair. Without the UPS functioning properly, the projector cuts off, and the class basically stops until the problem is corrected. Once the generator is turned on and the projector goes through its recycle process, the class can finally resume. We’re working on getting the UPS repaired as quickly as possible.

About a week after we left for the US in May, there was a Computer School graduation.

When we returned, we learned that the graduating class had purchased a gift for us, a beautiful piece of African fabric. (We’re planning to have a matching shirt for Hal and dress for Sue made from it.) We continue to be humbled by the outpouring of love from the people we meet at Joy.

Over the years, courses in Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint have been added to the Computer School curriculum. When we return next year, we hope to be bringing some new course slides in Microsoft Publisher (a very popular app in Kigoma). These slides are currently being developed by our friend Gladden, a member of our home church.

Although religion and politics are not discussed during the course, Lowell and Mwenge take the opportunity at the graduation ceremony to remind the students that the course is offered through the contributions of Christians in America. These Christians don’t personally know the students, but they support the school because of their love for Jesus and their desire for the students to experience that love. It is an important message for every graduate to hear.

“… but through love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13

Well, it took a few days to get settled in – unpacking all of the luggage and then dealing with jet lag, oh the jet lag! But, being back at Joy in the Harvest makes you want to get started with ministry activities as soon as you can.

We walked down to the Feeding Center where Devin immediately started greeting all the children. Hal introduced him to young Peresi (May 2 post: “Feed My Lambs”) and to several other children who have been coming to the Feeding Center for a number of years.

We started with a few fist bumps, and then Jonas began the Bible lesson using felt board story figures.

We met five Tanzanian young ladies who are at Joy in the Harvest for an internship. (They are studying Social Welfare, a major Devin is also interested in.) They all divided up the work of serving meals, and Devin was assigned to banana duty. After he finished putting bananas on hundreds of plates, we are not sure he will be interested in eating bananas ever again.

After years of use, the table tops at the Feeding Center needed a little bit of a sprucing up. So, Devin went down there on one of the non-feeding days and helped give them a new coat of dark green paint. The interns helped sand and prep the tables.

An increasing number of people are coming to Joy in the Harvest requesting reading glasses. Having them read from the Bible to get an idea of how well they can actually see the words, Hal then tests them with glasses at various strengths of magnification to see which works best for them. He’s just like the tech at the eye doctor’s office: “Which is better – number 1 or number 2?”

A widow asked for glasses to see distances. Hal told her that these reading glasses could not help with that, but suggested she should go to the local hospital for an eye exam. Hopefully, they will give her glasses to correct her vision. As she was leaving, Hal noticed a large bag on her back and asked her what she was carrying. She explained that it was plastic bottles which she sells in the market to help support herself. Hal went back to the guest house and found a couple of empty bottles to give her. She was very grateful, and, with a big grin on her face, she told him if we ever have any other bottles, she would be happy to take them off our hands!

While still in the US, we were surprised and pleased when Di, a member of Hal’s Bible study group in Kingwood, said he wanted to get his New York church involved in this ministry. He asked for our input for a presentation he made to the church members. And before we left to return to Tanzania, we received over 100 pairs of readers to add to this ministry. We want to thank Di, his wife Suzie and the members of Penn Yan United Methodist Church for their support of this vital ministry.

We also went to several of Mwenge’s widows’ services. Hal was asked to deliver a devotional, and Devin helped with the distribution of small gifts to the widows. This week’s gift was a bag of salt.

There are many opportunities to serve at Joy in the Harvest. It is a blessing to be a part of what the Holy Spirit is doing here. God is good!

Back to Kigoma!

It was just about 9 weeks ago that we landed in the US and started the jet lag process. We had great visits with family and friends, attending college graduations for each of Hal’s twin cousins in Omaha, a birthday celebration for our grandson Brandon in West Virginia, and a belated family celebration of Hal’s 75th birthday in New Jersey.

We finally got home to Texas to enjoy a little down time, but instead, realized we had better begin preparations for our return trip to Joy in the Harvest. First, it was trying to find footlockers, then it was shopping for supplies, and then it was trying to get everything into our luggage. Sue has become a real master of packing and, after 4 days of putting this puzzle together, she had everything exactly where it was supposed to be – 6 footlockers, each exactly 70 lbs., 2 suitcases, each weighing 50 lbs. and one long box with a radio part that couldn’t be jimmied to fit into any other piece of luggage.

Our friend Lynn drove us (Sue, Hal and our grandson Devin) to the airport. Believe us when we say how much we appreciate her help. Our airport is in the process of a 3-year renovation, and every time we go there, we encounter a new, even more confusing traffic pattern. Fortunately, when we arrived, we found 2 young skycaps who helped with the luggage and a very efficient United agent who got our travel documents screened, boarding passes printed and luggage checked through to Dar es Salaam. It was now 3 pm on Thursday afternoon. Our arrival in Dar es Salaam would take place at 5:30 am (Texas time) on Saturday.

The longest part of our itinerary was the layover in Frankfurt, Germany. We were all feeling the effects of the initial 10-hour flight and 11-hour layover.

Connecting to Ethiopian Airlines has been a new experience for us, a result of most European airlines stopping their flights to Africa because of the pandemic. Two things we found interesting are captured in the photos below. First, the name of the airline is prominently displayed in both English and Amharic. Later, Hal and Devin found the second sign in a restroom.

When we boarded our flight to Addis Ababa, we were surprised to learn that face masks were required onboard. That definitely made the 6½-hour flight seem about three times longer.

When we landed, we were excited to discover that our daughter Deborah, who was traveling to Malawi, was still in the airport. We had thought we would miss her by a few hours, so were thrilled to have a mini-family reunion.

As we rode a bus from the terminal to our second Ethiopian flight, the one to Dar es Salaam, we saw that a flat tire on our plane was being changed and the maintenance people were adding air to the other tires. But we bravely decided to board anyway!

Arriving in Dar, we decided to split up to go through Customs. Sue went with Devin since he needed to complete the form for a Visitor’s Visa. Hal went through Passport Control, picked up our luggage and then went to Customs to get it screened. The agent opened two pieces and, as he stood over an open footlocker with numerous radio parts in it, asked Hal if he had anything to declare. Hal responded that we were missionaries in Kigoma (which actually meant – “Heaven, help me, what do I do now?”). The agent examined that one footlocker, went back to the screen and then announced that Hal was free to go (whew!). So, we were cleared to enter Tanzania without having to pay duty on any of the radio parts we were carrying.

We quickly took all of the footlockers to a trucking company for shipment to Kigoma. The workers sewed the footlockers into rice bags (it keeps the road dust from seeping into the footlockers), and they were on their way to Kigoma. While in Dar es Salaam, we drove around with our trusted driver John Francis so that Devin could see some of the foreign embassy compounds and the Indian Ocean tide coming in.

We also had our first ride over the new Tanzanite Bridge.

The next day, we completed the final leg of our journey via Air Tanzania to Kigoma.

Karibu sana! Mwenge warmly welcomed us at the Kigoma airport.

Later that afternoon, we joined the other missionary families at a 4th of July, “pot-luck” get-together hosted by missionaries Nathan and Karen. While we did not have fireworks, we definitely enjoyed the gorgeous sunset God created over Lake Tanganyika.

We are praying for open eyes, open ears and open hearts to whatever God may be calling us to do here. We ask you for your continued prayers as we settle in for another few months at Joy in the Harvest.

Mungu awabiriki – May God bless you all!

Until we meet again…

This has been another incredible trip to Kigoma and Joy in the Harvest. It was different, but still amazing. Some things have changed dramatically in Kigoma over the last eight years. It is no longer the small town in Western Tanzania with an unpaved, red dirt, airport runway.

Today, there is a hustle and bustle about town that you would not have imagined just a few years ago. The number of horns honking – mostly as a courtesy – is a constant chorus on the streets. Did we mention the bijajis? They are all over town. Sometimes they seem like ants running willy-nilly on the roads everywhere. And there are now 6 traffic lights in Kigoma.

As we have said before, the people here are absolutely beautiful.

There is still a lot of poverty – no doubt about that. And the increasing cost of rent, food, transportation and medical care is hurting every family in Kigoma. We recently heard that one of the major hotel owners is considering closing the hotel rooms and keeping only the restaurant open because his business has suffered so much. The price of gasoline has gone up almost 30% since we arrived a little over two months ago. The bijaji drivers just doubled their fare from 500 Shillings to 1,000 Shillings for each ride, and you have to be willing to share the ride with someone else.

Given all of this, the people still have a richness in faith that is amazing to see. Each Sunday at church, members of the congregation are invited to give personal testimonies about how God has blessed them.

They stand in front of the congregation and talk about what God has done in their lives. It might be the safe travel He provided or the health He restored or some small “gift.”

And after they have finished their testimonies, they lead the congregation in songs to praise God. They know where their blessings are coming from, and they never hesitate to thank God.

We have attempted to share with you pieces of the story that made this time at Joy in the Harvest so special. Each piece fits perfectly into place to form a beautiful mosaic created by God. From sunup to sundown, we see His hand at work. While standing on the back porch overlooking Lake Tanganyika at the end of the day, we often comment about how beautiful and unique the sunset is that night. And then we realize that when we are in the US, we seldom take the time to look up and watch the beauty of the sunset. Here are pictures of special sunsets God created for all of us.

We don’t know what we will be doing on our next trip to Kigoma. We pray that we will have open eyes, open ears, and open hearts to whatever the Holy Spirit has planned. And we pray that we may be bold as we seek to show the love of Christ to the people God puts in our path.

We will close this post with a description of an interesting encounter on our flight from Kigoma to Dar es Salaam. It was a first for two “ordinary people on a mission.”

The Air Tanzania plane arrived in Kigoma about 20 minutes early, and we waited in the departure room watching the arriving passengers deplane. All of a sudden, we saw a motorcade approaching the airport with horns blaring. Then we noticed soldiers with rifles standing near the airplane. We boarded the plane, and then waited while a large entourage including photographers boarded last. The flight attendant announced to the passengers that Air Tanzania was pleased to welcome the Vice President of the Republic of Tanzania onboard.

As the Vice President entered the cabin, his staff stood up in respect and the passengers applauded. During the flight, he went through the entire cabin and greeted each passenger personally. Here is a picture of Vice President Philip Mpango shaking hands with Hal.

Vice President Mpango waved to his fellow passengers as he got off the plane in Dar es Salaam. He was greeted on the tarmac by a number of dignitaries. The rest of us remained seated until the VP motorcade drove away. It was only then that we were permitted to deplane.

Later that day at our hotel in Dar, several members of the hotel staff told Hal they had seen him on a news channel’s Instagram page.

This was certainly the most exciting leg of our journey back to the United States. The other three flights were smooth and uneventful. Now that we are home in Texas, we’ll quote Roy Rogers and Dale Evans and say, “Happy trails to you, until we meet again.”

God bless you all! Mungu Awabariki!