By Pastor Dave Tews, Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, Horseshoe Bend AR
I had the opportunity to go on my first mission trip to Tanzania with 12 others from the Mid-South District. This evangelism mission trip that took us to remote villages in the South East of Lake Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church Tanzania.
Each day we drove two hours each way over rough dirt roads in the semi-arid region outside Shinyanga. We used the Evangecube or flip chart to tell the story from creation to redemption through Christ’s death and resurrection. Each group had a pastor and evangelist to translate from English to Swahili and often to the Sukuma language. By the end of this trip, our team of 13 baptized over 1,200 adults and children. Praise God!
Some specific visits stand out in my mind. One was at a home place or boma in Swahili, where mostly young people heard the message. None of them accepted the message and wanted to be baptized. However, an old woman in the group asked to be baptized, taking the Christian name of Maria. Her daughter told us she was over 100 years old! They stopped counting after the year 100!
On another visit, the father of an extended family gave his permission for anyone in the group to be baptized. At this boma, 28 children and adults were baptized.
At the Baptism of the 28 people I baptized a child whose parent named Richard. It was the first and only Richard I baptized on the entire trip. The Lord tapped me on the shoulder and reminded of my number 3 son who is Richard and I realized the day’s date. It was May 26 and that is the date of my son Richard’s birth. Neat coincidence in the Kingdom!
I was asked to preach and ended up preaching several times using the interruption skills of Pastor Philbert Celestin, a seminary-trained pastor. I preached in rural villages and at the Cathedral in Shinyanga. At the Cathedral, I preached for three services- all with communion. The 6 AM service was one hour and 20 minutes. The 7:30 service was 3 hours long and had over 600 in attendance. The final service was two hours and included 20 baptisms.
The Holy Spirit is truly working in the hearts of the people in Africa. Today Africa has the fastest growing Christian population in the world.
The last part of the trip we enjoyed a safari to the Serengeti and then to Ngorongoro Crater Game Preserve where we marveled at God’s wonderful creation of animals, plants, and terrain enjoying scenes you only see in magazines or travelogues.