Tribals For Christ

I just experienced another “MOST IN MY LIFE” – and at 64 that is getting more and more difficult. This was “Most wild bus ride in my life”.

How can I describe that wild bus ride! It was a four-hour ride over the Tanzanian mountain to “civilization”. Half way there was where the robbers would occasionally swoop down and force each person to strip down and hand over all valuables – and the word was that they were planning an attack today…  (if you want to read the entire hair raising story, click this link…)

But the bus ride was just the icing on the cake. The real treat was reaching into the areas of some of Tanzania’s unreached regions.  Tanzania has 31 peoples considered unreached by Joshua Project.  Many of these live in remote areas by Lake Rukwa or Lake Tanganyika (or on the islands including Zanzibar). These are the areas Tribals for Christ, led by David Simpokolwe, is strategically targeting.

The landscape looked familiar to rural Africa. But the unusual thing is that we drove thru village after village for miles where there was no Christian Church, and only occasionally a Catholic Church.  As we drew near to Lake Rukwa our anticipation began to rise – this was the area thick with Massai and Sukuma people – very tribal in their costume and custom. Both of these tribes wore blankets – red for Masai and blue for the Sukuma – along with lots of jewelry and at all times their staffs. In the rural areas, their customs are very much unchanged by societal advancement. On the bus ride, David would always seek out one of these two tribal people types and engage in uninterrupted conversation as we swayed along.

As we got to the lake we found a group of young men just working on their nets beside their dugout canoes. One of the pastors with us quickly got out his big Bible and started sharing Christ with the men and had them repeat a “sinners prayer”. I was standing by watching and wondering if any of them actually understood or even really meant what they were saying. The pastor then turned to me and asked me to pray a final prayer of blessing over them. I said I could not do that because I was not confident they understood what they were doing. So I began to question them and discuss with them what it means to follow Christ; what it means to repent; what it means to give ones will over to God to be the ruler and director…We had a good discussion for nearly an hour about these things.

Then one of the men who was standing aside working on his boat came near and showed that he was listening and thinking. “You know the problem with this place?” he said. “There are no churches here. You may pray with these guys, but there is no one to help them when you leave.”  As this guy started talking I immediately thought of another scene by a lakeside, where the uninterested bystander was actually the one that God was putting his Hand on to make into a “fisher of men.” (see Luke 5) He continued, “There are already some guys living around this lake that are, or were, Christians. But since there are no churches, none of them are anything now.” I asked his name – “Isaac”.  “Isaac,” I said, “are you one of these Christians that are nothing now?”  “Could be”, he answered.

So what is the answer we the church would have for this sad situation? Do we baptize these 3 young men and feel good that we did our duty?

When Jesus found his potential “fisher of men”, he asked him to follow. His method was to invest in this guy, andz turn him loose to do the fishing in Jesus’ stead. Jesus wanted to live his life thru that guy. That’s the definition of discipleship in my book. Simon, who later became Peter, was just such a fisherman. Jesus invested his best into him and sent him out to invest in others.

So I suggested, “Isaac, you may be only a step or two ahead of these guys in understanding the things of God. But you are here, and you are as close as it comes to a church or a pastor. God can use you to gather these and others and to discover together the things of God. It is for just such a situation as this that Jesus promised that his Spirit would come and teach us all things. I promise you, if you guys will gather together, you will find the Spirit of Christ there with you, and you will learn and grow.”

Before we left David and I took Isaac aside and began to talk to him. David and I both had an impression that Isaac was a strategic man for this moment – a “person of peace” that, with discipleship, could influence a region for Christ. David wanted to take this guy to his training center for a few months and disciple him, in order to send him back as an evangelist for Christ to these unreached along the lake region. Isaac could go so much further than David or I could. I committed to paying for his stay if he would come.

Ralph Winter made the concept of “Unreached People Groups” a popular term. But there is still so much misunderstanding. At the “Tribals for Christ” conference we went to the next week one of the speakers challenged us all – “If every Christian would just reach 5 for Christ, the whole world would be saved!” Sadly that is not true.

Ralph Winter made this dynamic statement:  “If every Christian would reach every family member and friend for Christ, and those in turn would reach every family member and friend for Christ, and this went on indefinitely; there would still be more than 2 billion people who have never heard the gospel of Christ.”

These are the people along this lake. This is nearly one-third of the world’s population! People that will never hear the gospel unless someone leaves his own family and friends, and goes to them, lives among them, learns their language and culture, disciples a few and lives his life thru them as they reach their people for Christ. Until there is a church in that people group, locals leading their own church in their language, that can expand out in all directions, they will remain unreached.  This does not happen on a mission trip. This does not happen even with a 1-year commitment. This is a 5-year minimum throwing your life to reach the unreached.

Please help us reach them! Come and intern with us for a year and we will help prepare and launch you into the wild!

Prayer and News

Love’s Door is moving out! – – out to the village base….  We are, with trepidation, leaving the beloved team house in town, and moving lock stock and barrel to the village. Pray for this adjustment – it’s not easy to leave some accustomed conveniences and privacy and a chance to escape on our days off.

In anticipation of this move, a couple friends funded a toilet and shower block! Flush toilets for all, and to all a good night… We are drawing up plans and going to start soon.  Thank you friends! And if anyone else wants to take on a project and run with it, we would be so grateful, as we try to make our village base a place for sustainable living.

Thank God for the coming of Penny Cook, a good friend from Oregon, coming to help Regina with all the logistics of the big move. She will arrive soon and stay until mid-August!

We are hosting Ruth Israel, the author and director of Cherish and Courage purity courses. She will do a training workshop for Love’s Door staff and village youth leaders we are raising up. Pray for them to grasp hold and run.

The ministry we started in N Zambia with Aaron Mulenga and his wonderful team, is nearing the time of being an independent entity, apart from Love’s Door. We are encouraging our Family Table sponsors for kids in Luanshya to continue supporting those kids thru their new website, and if anyone wants to contribute to this new organization I can vouch that it is a wonderful ministry that will I’m sure operate in the utmost integrity and fullness of the Spirit.

Calvary Christian Reformed Church in Michigan has partnered in building a reading library – the first in these villages. The floor is poured and the walls are going up!

Our ministry to kids is not just a side issue for us. Last Sunday the entire church service was run capably by children we are discipling – leading in intercession, in worship, in testimonies, communion, sermon, offering, debrief, translation and MC – all by Kings Kids with an average age of 11. This Sunday it will be the mothers among us. And we will have a baptism afterwards where we are training the people to baptize one another – so one new convert Irene will be baptized, and then she will in turn baptize her daughter and neighbor. Ignatius will baptize his wife. All of these things are done to equip the church to do the work of ministry (like Paul taught Eph 4: and modeled 1 Cor 1: ).

Pray for us this coming season – Benjamin and Allison are heading back to the States for a wedding mid-Aug; our sensational intern Kendra is leaving us for school in the States mid-Aug; Dan and Regina are leaving for furlough mid-Aug. Does anything strike you in this? Yes! Half the team will be leaving at the same time! Pray for those who remain to continue strong. Thankfully we will have 4 other Zambians who are potential interns starting next year will join for the month.

Also please pray for Dan and Regina – we will be traveling a lot. We have not been to visit our supporters for 18 months or more. We will be in the States for only 2 ½ months (Aug 23 – Nov 13) so we are trying to fill our days with things that will most honor God and multiply our effectiveness and sustainability in Zambia. If you would like to see our schedule or invite us to speak to your church or leaders or a missions interest group, please let us know. It seems we will be in Tribals for Christ 9 states so far, and possibly two provinces of Canada – good chance we will be near you!


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