DEC 2021 – Treasured Teams in TZ

Dear Friends and Family,

“Finally, everyone must live in harmony, be sympathetic, love each other, have compassion and be humble.” I Peter 3:8

We have commented several times over the last month that we need to send out an update.  Here it is finally! The last three months have seen us traveling more than usual.  Although, having said that, in comparison to our travels before Covid and moving to Arusha, we have been traveling much less often which has been nice in the sense that I feel like we have been able to establish a bit more of a home routine than we have had in the previous four years or so. 

The end of September saw us traveling down to Kilwa on the south coast of Tanzania to fellowship with our colleagues, Paul and Virginia Tanner.  Paul is the other Unit Leader for Tanzania and will be on Home Assignment for the next three months so Jon will be covering for him while he is gone.  We visited the missionaries and several locations and were encouraged by the various ministries going on in that part of the country.  We returned again in November to meet a new team that will be working in a remote M village three hours inland from the coast, called Likawage.  We participated from the sidelines with the orientation of this very diverse team.  The team leaders are our Tanzanian friends Pastor Musa and Merisiana who ministered for 10 years in Usandawe before we arrived and have been working for the last ten years as members of the Alagwa team, another very unreached M-people group.  The members of the Likawage team include two young Tanzanian couples from different parts of the country, one with a baby boy, the other very newly married.  The four single women hale from the U.K. and Canada, one of whom is originally from South Africa and  one of whom has Dutch roots.  So it is a very mulit-cultural team.  The verse at the top is one of the verses that the team was memorizing together during orientation.  It’s a short verse but absolutely packed with meaning! I have certainly been challenged as to what it means to live out these admonitions daily. 

We also traveled to visit one of our other teams ministering to the Alagwa people who are steeped in slavery to demons in folk Islam.  There are many who say they want to believe or that they do believe that Jesus is LORD but they are fearful to give up the strongholds of evil. We spent a day with the team, worshipping, playing, eating and strategizing together about expanding the team and moving into new villages for ministry.  Jon also had opportunities to do some medical consults for some of the local people in a couple of the villages.   

In October, Jon had a chance to preach at the AICT Njiro church here in Arusha.  He preached in Swahili, about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son.  We were also blessed to spend time with the Kondoa team as they came to Arusha for a team retreat.  We did some debriefs with them but also enjoyed fun and fellowship with them.  We are thankful that Shara, the team’s homeschool teacher, has received her permissions to remain in the county as part of the team.  We were able to connect with her in Kenya and with her parents in Kilwa (Paul and Virginia) as she is currently recovering from much needed knee surgery. We don’t get to connect in person as often with our team members who are further away but we are thankful that we can connect with them via technology. 

Twice during this school term we were so blessed to be able to visit our kids on campus at RVA.  We had a such a good time with them.  Except for wearing masks, it felt like old times.  Until recently, we were quite restricted from spending any length of time on campus.  We were delighted to just hang out with our kids, meet their friends and in Drew’s case, watch him play touch rugby with other students.  We were sad that we were unable to attend the play in person due to regulations but it was so fun that both of them were in the drama together this term in a rendition of the Cinderella story.  Drew played the king and Rachel was one of many “princesses” vying for the prince.  We will get to watch a digital recording of it soon!  Drew and Rachel arrived home safely last weekend for their December break.  We enjoyed a community Thanksgiving meal hosted by one of the other American family’s here in Arusha.  I made several desserts.

During our travels to the coast, we decided to pop over to one of the islands called Pemba, known for diving and for some endemic birds.  We had an amazing time enjoying the beauty of the ocean and sea, some of the best snorkeling we have ever experienced and we were successful in finding the special birds on the island.  It was also very restful for us, something I think we needed.

This weekend Jon will be heading to Dodoma to attend a multi-pastor ordination, as he knows two out of the six pastors getting ordained in the AICT, both of whom work among UPG’s here in central TZ.  He’ll also be picking up Jim and Susan Simmons, who are new missionaries who will be teaching at Nassa Theological College.  They’ve just finished four months of Swahili language school and are transitioning now to NTC near Mwanza. 

We are very much enjoying having Drew and Rachel home and are thankful that Josh is able to spend time with family in the States during the holidays.  We will be in Kenya for Christmas with some family, some of whom are visiting from the U.S. so that will be very special.  Jon and I are responsible for planning our TZ annual retreat (postponed from September)  which will take place in early February.  Things are coming together but we still have some logistics to work out.  February and March are exceptionally full and we will be on the road again much of the time.  We don’t ever take safety in travel for granted and are thankful for thousands of kilometers traveled over the years without incident.  We have been flying to some destinations recently as well as traveling by bus which is a whole other experience in Tanzania!

We are thankful for each one of you.  We covet your prayers on our behalf as we continue to minister to workers throughout Tanzania as well as to our growing children who now reside on two different continents.  Jon also continues to support various Tanzanian pastors and evangelists through project funding and occasional visits.  We need strength and wisdom every day, we desire to deny ourselves, take up cross daily and follow Him wholeheartedly.

Please pray for:

1)            Work Permits to continue to come through, praise the Lord we’re seeing progress for some, for others still waiting with baited breath!

2)            Jim and Susan Simmons as they settle in to ministry and teaching at Nassa Theological College.

3)            The Likawage team as they settle in to the village and build relationships and learn Swahili.

4)            Jon as he preaches at the Arusha Community Church on December 19th.

5)            Success for the upcoming AIM TZ Retreat in February.

Love and blessings in Christ,

Melissa for our whole family

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