God is a substitute for anything, but nothing is a substitute for God

Father Bob’s Mission to Africa in 2010 – Page 2

In Tanzania safely, 11 Nov 2010

I arrived safely at 3:30p local time in Dar Es Salaam.

Weather in Nairobi was upper 70’s and coolish. Temp in Dar is…well, think Orlando, FL in August.

I head to Tabora in the interior, Tabora, with an 0800 shuttle to the Airport and 11:30 flight to Tabora on Air Tanzania.

Hotel staff here have been very helpful and friendly.

Off to dinner. Time here is the same as Nairobi….8 hours ahead of EST.

More later.
Fr. Bob+

Friday, 12 Nov 10, 9:20pm (EAT), Tabora, Republic of Tanzania, Orion Tabora Hotel

Early arising again to make my way 1,000 kilometers from Dar Es Salaam to Tabora town in west central Tanzania.

Breakfast at 0700 on the 2nd floor with a view of the Catholic Cathedral – St. David’s where as I awoke at 6:00am, sung morning prayer was echoing across this port town of 5,000,000 souls. I was blessed on Thursday evening as the sun set, the choir of St. David’s rehearsed for 2 hours and that too filled the streets and the hotel across the street where I was staying.

Finally, it was 7:30a and I made it to the driver’s station after settling my bill and again being greeted by Mr. Eric Murenga, the Front End Manager of the New Africa Hotel. And Henry the same drier and I were off to Julius Nyerere International Airport. After just (relatively) minor delays by traffic – we reached the JNIA at 8:30a.m.

With a posted checkin time of 9:30a, I learned at the departures area that that means don’t show up before or after that time. When I arrived some 60 minutes early, I began to understand why I had received such looks of shock at my early presence.

The best way I can describe the situation is imagine a single room, about the square footage of 5 YMCA basketball courts end to end, except with a 14 foot high ceiling and a counter with possible check in points that stretched the length of the room. Then imagine 3-5 airlines that were checking in their passengers only at the prescribed times. Since I showed up an hour early, I was in line for the 15 chairs available to sit. As they were already occupied by folks who arrived earlier than me. I just stood, after all, it would only be an hour.

Well, the 9:30a actually became 10:20a. My bag was weighed, I was weighed, yep, each passenger on the de Havallin Dash 8 was weighed.

Even though the boarding pass stated the departure time was 11:20, after I walked up stairs 2 floors (the UP escalator, was ‘missing’ – there was a space for it but it was vacant), we were greeted with an announcement that ‘boarding would take place at 11:30.’ :o(

After help from the India Hindu manager of a Tanzanian gift shop help me sort out my Tz mobile phone (I have been able to communicate with Barbara) and a nice Kenyan woman who volunteered to sell be two top off cards for my Kenyan mobile phone – I relaxed with a bottle of water and waited.

We did begin boarding at 12N and rather than fly direct to Tabora then Kigoma (on the shore of Lake Tanganyika) we went the other route and that added an hour to the flight…but Fr. Elias, wife Lucy and Rogers and others were patient and faithful waiting to greet me at the Tabora Airport, and I was able to text them updates.

Finally @ 4:00pm, arrival in Tabora was effected and greeting were exchanged – Elias+ and I greeted each other – marveling at how good God is in allowing us to make a reunion together in remote Tabora, on the other side of the world, a long way from Pittsburgh, and America–in so many ways.

As Elias+ said, welcome to my town, welcome to my country and welcome to African time.

Reflecting upon the journey today I am reminded, Again, in all the ways we in America are blessed. You see, the flights to Tabora from Dar Es Salaam do not occur that often. When they do occur, they occur only M, W, F, Su. Elias: informed me that Tanzania Airways (flight abbreviation TCA) is viewed by locals as CAT airlines – Cancel at Any Time. Elias was extra glad to see me as he asked me back in September to preach Sunday, 14 November at St. Stephen’s Cathedral…if my flight was cancelled, I would have to stay in Dar until Sunday morning and then try again to fly to Tabora and he would be out a preacher.

I am sending this on a 3G network from Elias+’s home after dinner. He will take me back to the hotel…it has bee a VERY long and glorious day.

God is good, all the time, because it is His nature.

Serving in God’s vineyard, I leave you His blessing, wherever you may be.
Fr. Bob.

Saturday, 13 Nov 10, 9:00pm (EAT), Tabora, Republic of Tanzania, Titus home

Bwana Asifewe!!

This will be a rather short update as the Internet access in Tanzania is, as I feared, quite limited, especially on the weekend.

The day began with a tour of St. John’s Anglican Church, in Tabora town. Pastor Shadrack and his wife Mary hosted us. In addition to his duties as Vicar of the church, St. John’s also has a primary age outreach school to the community and they have 274 students enrolled in Preschool. Even on Saturday, the children attend for several hours and receive training, breakfast, and team and activities in the afternoon until they are released at 2:00p.m. PLUS Pastor Shadrack has the duties of one of the Rural Deans and he provides pastoral coaching and support to 7 other rural parishes…his mode of transport is a motorcycle.

We then went to Holy Trinity Parish and met Pastor Jeosephat who has increased the number of members by 100% in the past year and has begun the training of members on the Biblical standard of the tithe – a concept so foreign to East Africa that it is a long, long process in training and prayer…more on this aspect later.

We then stopped by St. Stephen’s Cathedral, where I will preach at 7:30am and again at 10:00am tomorrow, 14 Nov my text will be Luke 8:40-56.

It was then on to lunch at a local café…I passed on the fish and I had hot dogs, chips (fries) and bread. I had my 1st Diet Coke here (and they are so new to Tanzania, bottled in the United Arab Emirates) that Elias+ and Rogers+ had never seen them before…they were also 3x the price of regular Coke…my learning… I will stick to drinking water “Kilimanjaro”…also a brand of Coke)

I have been graced by being able to rest this afternoon in my room and prepare for preaching 2x tomorrow.

Elias+ will be by to fetch me to take me to dinner at Titus’ home…who when he heard I was coming from America, asked Elias+ permission to host me for some meals. Titus is a lay person @ St. Stephen’s who is in the pharmaceutical business.

Have a great day of worship on Sunday, wherever you are. Give thanks to God for my safe travel and good health and all the blessings he has poured upon you and your family.

Serving in God’s vineyard, I leave you His blessing, wherever you may be.
Fr. Bob+

Monday, 15 Nov 10, 8:00am (EAT), Tabora, Republic of Tanzania, Tabora Diocesan Offices

Bwana Asifewe!!

As you probably noticed…the previous email was sent at a much later date and time that it indicated.

Internet access is really, really limited here so that is the reason.

I was doubly blessed yesterday, 14 November by being allowed to preach at both the 7:30 and 10:00 services, both were conducted in Kswahili. My text was Luke 8:40-56, the healing (resuscitation) of Jarius’ daughter and the healing of the anonymous woman from the 12-year issue of blood.

Due to translation, start and stop, it took about 70 minutes to present God’s Word each time. I am told that the parishioners and clergy received much encouragement from the words I spoke, which was my intent, as Fr. Elias had asked me to bring a word of encouragement as all there Christians are without a Godly Father Bishop at this time. The Province of Tanzania has announced the timetable for election and that will culminate on April 8, 2011 with the selection of the new Bishop of the Diocese of Tabora, ACT.

The two services were very reverent and very African. Each service had a choir and they performed several choreographed special numbers at each service. The attendance at the 2 services was near 400 combined – and I reflected later that I was given the opportunity to share God’s word with as many people as I see in 6-months in the US.

I was given grace to return to the hotel after a lunch at the same “hotel” Fr. Elias and I ate on Saturday. This time I passed on the fish and hot dogs and chip and went straight for the ugali and dipping sauces. Mmm. Mmm.

While I was resting Fr. Elias+ and others were leading a Service of Thanksgiving for the peaceful and successful national elections of last week…the people here are always finding reasons to worship God in thanksgiving for events in their lives. (I think there may be a massage, or several sermons in that thought.)

We have just complete Morning Devotions at the Diocesan Office and I have shared God’s word for about 8 minutes with the staff and worshippers there. We are headed to St. Peter’s Secondary School, St. Phillip’s Parish and medical clinic, and then out into “the rural” to see Ilalwansimba & Itobela parishes, have lunch with them and then return to Tabora.

More rain has fallen and the people hear continue to welcome me as “the one who has brought the rain from Kenya.”

I pray for each of you a blessed day.

Serving in God’s vineyard, I leave you His blessing, wherever you may be.
Fr. Bob+

Monday, 15 Nov 10, 5:45pm (EAT), Tabora, Republic of Tanzania, Tabora Diocesan ACT Offices

Bwana Asifewe!!

Aha…it is actually Tuesday…8:45am EAT in Tanzania…welcome to Africa :0) :o)
But here is the update. I hope it is a blessing to you.

Monday was another interesting day in the Global South – in Tanzania.

We began the day with the 1st of “the 5 meal a day plan” Breakfast – morning tea – lunch – afternoon tea – dinner, then it was off to morning devotions with the Diocesan staff.

As we arrived, those assembled were already singing hymns, familiar tunes but in Kswahili so I moved my mouth a lot in praise.

After prayer for certain things in the Diocese and world, I was asked to bring a Word from God to the gathering. With the OT reading from Sunday, Isaiah 55:6-11, God led me to share with them 2 things:
1. That the unexpected rain that had fallen since I arrived (rainy season does not begin until Dec. 1), reminded us that as it nourishes the ground and causes all things to grow, just as His word comes to us and does not return to Him empty.
2. That though they desire to have a Bishop right now, God’s ways are not their ways and He has established a plan to bring them a Bishop in April 2011, and that between now and then, He has already provided all the gifts and graces needed in the Diocese for this time for it to not only maintain but also to thrive.

The Toyota Land Cruiser loaded up with the driver, me, Fr. Elias+, Fr. Rogers+ (sub dean of the Cathedral and Evangelism Coordinator for the Dio.) and Fr. Shadrack+ (Rural Dean for the 2 congregations we set out to visit.

We set out for the remote parishes after we visited St. Peter’s Secondary School, part of the outreach of the ACT, the headmaster Simon Kyala toured us through the c2 classrooms and we were greated by each class of about 50 Form one students in each class. Right next door is St. Phillip’s clinic, started are run by volunteers and a 6-yr serving Dr. Ruth Husler, a missionary from Nottingham. This small clinic has expanded several times since it began in 2005 and now has 3 wards totaling 15 beds. They do testing for diabetes, TB, HIV/AIDS and heart disease. The cost to be seen in 300 Tz Shillings, or about 20¢. The antiretrol drugs are provided by the government and donations from home pay Dr. Ruth – who I am convinced could run an ER in the largest hospital in the US and have time to fundraise on the side. (Her energy level would give Bas Mattingly a run for his money. I broke a sweat just be on tour with her.)

The clinic is open and staffed 6 days a week (Dr. Ruth is on-call 24/7) with a complete testing laboratory and they see about 30,000 patients a year. Dr. Ruth says that it is the laboratory work-up that has made the big improvement in care so they can pinpoint what disease(s) they are trying to treat rather than just address the very commonly overlapping symptoms.

Interlude – as I have been typing this email, housekeeping knocked on my door to deliver the 6 pieces of laundry I sent out this morning. The posted service is same day; in by 9a, back by 6p.m. When she presented me 2 pieces, I said there were 6. With her in Kswahili and me in English, there is a chasm of communication…I have since learned that yes, there were 6, but 4 will be returned tomorrow…welcome to Africa. :o)

After catching our breath from Dr. Ruth’s tour, we headed into the bush to the villages of Ilalwansimba & Itobela to visit the rural churches and bring greetings and encouragement.

Once we left Tabora town proper, we were onto washboard/corduroy road texture for the balance of our 100 Km round trip. I did notice that the driver was quite adept at gauging the proper speed based upon the distance between the bumps (the depth between the ridges really did not enter into his split second calculations) and we proceeded to “skip from one to the next”. From what I could see of the speedometer, that precise speed varied between 60 and 80 kph (36 to 48 MPH). If there was anything inside the vehicle or inside one of the 5 occupants that were lose…that problem ended 3 minutes into the dust road.

The villages of Ilalwansimba & Itobela are our in the bush and remote. Ilalwansimba is about 2,000 people and Itobela is about 7,000, almost the size of Maysville. They have a new young pastor and there are some new young teachers in the area participating in the church plant.

When I was given the opportunity to pray for them and their villages and church, I offered thanks to god for raising up youthful leaders, lay and clergy, in His church. I asked for God’s provision and strength in the days and weeks ahead as they invite and disciple more and more of the community and share the Good News with the people in area. It is always a joy in God’s Kingdom to see the youth step out in faith and take leading roles in organizing worship, organizing the operation of the church, and most importantly, sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with their peers and bringing them to life from death.

I am reminded of what Archbishop Greg Venables of the Southern Cone Province (South America) said to us in October at the Clergy/Spouse retreat; “What are we humans able to have that God cannot have?” Answer: grandchildren. We are blessed with grandchildren, but God never has had, not ever will have grandchildren…for a person’s faith is between them and God…parently position caries no sway. So that is why it is always a joy and a blessing to see God raising up…and them responding with a “Yes” to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in their lives.

For just as God has no grandchildren…it is also good for us to realize that the church, the bride of Christ, is only ever one generation away from extinction.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, is some sort of National Muslim holiday so we will spend tine touring some markets and looking at the local fare.

Serving in God’s vineyard, I leave you His blessing, wherever you may be.
Fr. Bob+

Wednesday, 17 Nov 10, 8:30am (EAT), Tabora, Republic of Tanzania , Tabora Diocesan ACT Offices

Bwana Asifewe!!

Aha, it is actually Wednesday, but TODAY is the holiday in Tabora…surprise…the Muslim majority government said that Wednesday (not yesterday) would be the holiday…so that is it. (Moslem holidays are typically not announced until the evening before they fall the next day…how would you like to plan your life (or your business) around THAT MUCH notice. Whew.

(Surprise again. I am still at the Diocesan Office, but the phones AND the internet is not working…I guess they took the holiday also) :o(

Tuesday, 16 Nov, was such a blessing here. I was able to spend some quality time sorting out and responding to many, many emails from many of you and others…if I seemed to have missed you, please forgive me as I have tried to again be current. Seems as though my daily email load has not reduced at all since I have been away.

From the reports I have received, these frequent updates are helpful to see what the Lord has laid out for me here.

The staff of the Diocesan Office and St. Stephen’s Cathedral presented me with a lovely farewell lunch (…remember Wednesday is a declared work holiday), a few parting gifts and cards of their best wishes and greetings for St. Luke’s Anglican Church, Maysville, for them allowing me to be gone from them, and for providing for me to come and be with these God’s people in Tabora Diocese, A.C.T.

I was invited to give them my comments and I did, thanking them from the bottom of my heart for their warm Christian fellowship, their hospitality and their sacrifices for the Gospel. (For they over the past few years have refused financial support from The Episcopal Church USA, Trinity Episcopal Church, New York, and any other TEC parish that has offered them financial aid/assistance: why? It is more than pragmatic. The ACT has done so for the sake of their souls and the Gospel. When TEC has caused disruption in the World Wide Anglican Communion by ordaining a practicing homosexual bishop in 2003, even when their national leader publicly agreed with all his world-wide colleagues that such action would severely damage the Anglican witness in Africa….the US church did so anyway. As subsequently proclaimed by the Presiding Bishop after her installation, that “…Jesus is only A way to the divine…” and not the Way to everlasting life and to God the Father; TEC began overly displaying its lack of belief in Biblical authority.

Over the next 5 years when the Anglican Communion asked for “restraint” at any more such actions, their request was met in 2010 with the consecration of a partnered lesbian bishop in California…it had become so clear to the Tanzanian Anglican Church that the gospel proclaimed by TEC was not the Gospel they were given by the C of E missionaries in the 19th century and that they have believed and taught…so the Anglican Church of Tanzania has broken communion with the American church…and the money flow has been turned off…not to a trickle, but turned OFF. Church building and schools funded by TEC are unfinished, staff have been laid off across the country, mission and ministry has been affected…BUT, and this is where they stand…the Gospel “once delivered to all the saints” remains as strong as ever, and more and more people are being led to a life saving faith in the Gospel.)

We in the Anglican Church in North America are blessed to be standing on the shoulders of these saints who proportionally have given up so much more that we in America, in standing up for the Gospel. And their plan…to keep greeting the Muslims and turning their hearts to the Lord and life.

I am back at the Diocesan Office here on Wednesday morning, 11:00a, before we head to the airport, about 8 minutes away for a 12:00N check in. The Internet is not working today in Tabora, it seems as though the telephones are out also. Today being a Muslim holiday, nationwide, there is no one to ask for assistance…until tomorrow. So this will be sent to you when I reach a point of Internet access. And that may be hours or days away.

(I am sitting at Fr. Elias’ desk, he has come in to get his bottle of water to wash a small mango he has retrieved from a tree in the compound – fresh fruit in its purest sense….and he asks me to send his greetings to each of you..)

Serving in God’s vineyard, I leave you His blessing, wherever you may be.
Fr. Bob+

…. Actually

Wednesday, 17 Nov 10, 11:45pm (EAT), Nairobi, Kenya, ACK Guest House

Bwana Asifewe!!

Aha, it is STILL Wednesday, and the travel day of travel days to remember has/is drawing to a safe close.

As the by-line states, I am in Nairobi where I should be at this date and time, and guess what….it is raining cats and dogs at this moment!!!!

I did leave Tabora on time at 1350 hrs, fly westward one hour (back to Kigoma, Tz) so that I could fly back over Tabora enroute to Dar Es Salaam. A brisk dash through the airport and some help from a Kenya Airways employee “just passing through” baggage claim and I was directed to a back office route that placed me spot on top of security to go back through security (I had never left a secure area) without having to go back outside again to get to the same point. (If you have never been to Miami, Paris , DAR or several other places with such arrangement, consider yourself doubly blessed. I was processed quickly through the check in for my carrier, Precision Airways, routed back up stairs (Africa does not know anything about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance so I schlep the 50# suitcase with a broken handle back upstairs to…ta da….go through security again. :o)

Safely at the gate, I see a couple dozen people gathered in all sorts of frames of mind.

It seems as though the Precision Airways flight to Nairobi, from 4 hours earlier, had never materialized….soooooo, all those people were to join our flight. Fine with me, we were leaving on time and the Boeing 737 could easily carry the 50 passengers at the gate. (Another God-incident here…that 4 hour never-left-the-ground flight was the original flight I was booked on that I had to change from because of getting from Tabora to DAR to late to make that connection.)

Had an interesting and uplifting conversations about the Lord with Chuck Noll (not the retired head coach of the dreaded Pittsburgh Steelers, but rather a NPS employee on the law enforcement side from Charleston WWV and another of his colleagues from St. Peters, MO (west of St. Louis), Dan Burlison. Turns out they had been in Tz on a USID funded project to help assess and train local game wardens in a National Park 190kms south of Tabora. We all agreed that God is good, all the time and His means of putting different people together in one place at the same time is NOT coincidental.

Through great coordination by Teresia Kariba in Thika, I was in contact with my taxi driver, Moses, before I left the aircraft for the shuttle ride.

I can affirm to you that Jomo Kenyatta Int. Airport is more sedate and functional at 9:30pm than it was when I last was there from 11:00p-1:30a on 5 November (can that be 12 days ago???) arriving delayed from Paris.

Moses whisked me here to the ACK Guest House and it has been raining for a solid 90 minutes.

Time to get some shuteye so I can be functional enroute to another overnight stop in Aweil, Sudan

Thank you for all the prayers for connections, strength and safety for this day. There were too many possible delays that could have jumped up and caused situations based upon limited flight departures that could have had be stranded in Tabora for the next 7 days…but through God’s provision and your intercessory prayers for His mercy and grace…all is well, and all is well.Good night.

Serving in God’s vineyard, I leave you His blessing, wherever you may be.
Fr. Bob+

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