It has been one month since we last communicated. Heather and I have returned from a voyage throughout Tanzania and Kenya accomplishing various objectives. Our last month’s voyage is too long to dictate in detail, but I feel compelled to highlight a few items.
In Mwanza, on lake Victoria, Heather and I stayed out in the village with the Langi Church; they are our Africa-side supporting church. This church was planted by Church of Christ missionaries 15 years ago, and it is now taking some responsibility for the new Makonde Team. Our only goal for now was to show gratitude and respect to this church and the Mwanza mission team by developing these relationships.
Our next venture was in Arusha, TZ to the ECHO conference on agriculture (http://echonet.org/). In order to get to Arusha, we hitched a ride with Mwanza Missionaries of Lake Victoria. Fortunately, the great Serengeti Plains and the Ngorongoro Crater are in route to Arusha so we had opportunity to drive by some beautiful the animals on our journey. There were elephants, giraffe, Cape Buffalo, zebra, impala, lions, baboons, and hippos (to name a few).
ECHO is a Christian organization that trains people to improve the lives of 3rd World citizens. They are based in Florida but visited Arusha to put on the East African Conference. One important idea communicated at the conference is the poor state of soil on the African continent. Generally speaking, people no longer leave their fields to fallow, and because population is exploding, the soil is quickly being depleted of nutrients. People are forced to plant more land area to make up for lack of food production because soil infertility. Some experts are predicting that a famine that will affect 20 million people is coming to Africa within five years. We see it is already beginning as food aid continues to rise across the continent.
One solution to the problem of nutrient depletion is to put nitrogen back in the soil by planting nitrogen-fixing crops like legumes (called “green manure cover crops”). An organization called “Farming God’s Way” (http://www.farming-gods-way.org/) trains local small-scale African farmers in very simple steps to increase their yield in one season while restoring the soil. “Farming God’s Way” is Christ-centered; they are making disciples as they teach better farming techniques. It is the most “holistic” solution to the food problem that I have yet seen; some of our team is interested in this training.
After Arusha, Heather flew to Mtwara to visit the team girls. I went to Kenya on a “man trip” with other missionaries to Hell’s Gate Kenya for the weekend. This place is so named because of the rocky landscape and the huge gorges. It was a blessing to let loose and go wild by camping, hiking, and climbing with others.
After that weekend, a number of missionaries from East Africa joined together in Kenya in the Kakamega forest for a Retreat. A veteran East African Missionary from Kenya, Steve Meeks, joined us to share God’s Word. His messages were simple but profound; he reminded us about all the basics: Jesus, prayer, confession, and scripture. I think all of us were convicted.
Besides his messages, I learned other important things from a much older mission team in Uganda. They taught me that our mission efforts should be modeled after a family rather than a business. When we make disciples among the poor of Africa, we have children that we are responsible to forever. It is un-loving to conjure up a 10-year plan to plant “sustainable churches” and then leave them when our contract commitment is finished; this creates all sorts of damage. Once we become family, we should never completely leave. We are responsible to the Christians of Africa to help feed, clothe, educate, and mature them in the same way we would our own children. Oddly, the word we might need to hear more of is institution. People need the building blocks of good institutions in order to grow up out of poverty. Just like us, they need schools, health facilities, and yes, even church buildings to get established in their communities and to raise children for the next generation.
I think it is part of our responsibility here in Africa to lie down paths of partnership between those of us in the US and the “least of these” here in Africa in order that our abundance might help lift the whole family of God. Why should they be left alone to advance themselves? When we enter to proclaim God’s Word, we become family and partners forever until Christ returns.
After Kenya I returned to Dar Es Salaam to pick up my Dad and brother (Keke) at the airport. Heather also flew in that day. They have been such a blessing so far.