The year has come and gone quickly and there are so many things to be thankful for.
This summer I had the privilege to oversee our Mustard Seed program. The theme was Cowboy Camp. We had team members and guardians that came. There aren’t enough covered wagons for everyone to sleep in, but those who did enjoyed it. Bible Stories were about Joseph’s time in jail, Joseph’s trail blazes, Joseph’s journey, gold is found in serving God and a letter from God. The pony express rider visited us two times a day bringing us the Good News memory verses to learn. We had missionaries come to share from South Africa, Italy, Spain, Madagascar and New Zealand. Then we made wordless books to send for our Boot Camps overseas and had crafts to make. The Obstacle Course was a favorite that was run everyday. The evening finished out with a rally, where they did team cheers, sang songs and had a special message just for them. These 4-6 year olds are so eager to learn everything that they can. They are a blessing to work with.
As soon as the Mustard Seed program was over it was time to join my Teen Team. Originally we were to go to South Sudan, but we changed to Uganda. After completing Boot Camp our final destination was Koboko, which is up in the northern corner of Uganda touching the DR Congo and South Sudan. After arriving at Entebbe, we found that not one piece of our luggage had arrived. We were able to fix meals even though we did not have any of our food with us—not even a jar of peanut butter. The team was great and willing to eat everything we cooked. We were able to keep busy around the base until our luggage came. We are thankful that within three days we were able to get all of our luggage and begin our 15-16 hour truck ride to Koboko. Arriving at 9 PM, the facilitators at the Rescue Unit had tents set up for us so we just had to unload the truck, fix some sandwiches and then off to bed. Our project was to dig a septic tank for the Bible School that we are constructing. We hope to have students attend from the DR Congo, Sudan and Uganda. It took all summer to dig the septic tank, lay the blocks and run the pipes for the drain field. They were also able to plaster a staff apartment room. On a Saturday orphan day the team gave out blankets, soap and school supplies; games were played, songs were sung, testimonies were given, a drama was shared and puppets were used. There was an orphan choir that sang for us. It was a very special time to spend with the orphans sharing the love of Jesus. Returning to the base in Jinja, we were able to visit the source of the Nile River which David Livingstone searched for but never located. Then time was spent purchasing souvenirs for the team members’ supporters back home. The highlight of the summer is always seeing the Lord work in the hearts of the team members. Participating in personal devotions, Bible Studies, evening devotions and just being in another country without all the distractions of home allows God to speak to them and answer questions or help in areas that they are struggling with in their lives. God’s Word always brings light and change. I also really appreciated the leaders that I was privileged to work along side.
The team left to return home, but I stayed a couple more weeks in Uganda. I was able to visit our AIDS Orphans Rescue Unit in Bugoi, which is a four-hour drive and then a four-hour boat ride, however, my time was cut short because the boat engine shut down in the middle of the lake. A cell phone call connected us with the boat owner and another boat was sent out to bring us new spark plugs, or so I thought. Another cell phone call came and they asked for someone to stand up in the boat so they could find us in the middle of the lake. The second boat roped together with our boat and we continued to the landing. Four or five spark plugs later we were still waiting to make the final hour ride to the Bugoi property. After finally arriving we were able to walk around the property and see the needs around us, spend a little time with girls who stay in the dorms and visit with the facilitators and the matron which was good. Returning to the dock, we found our boat tied up with another boat that was fully loaded with motorcycles, rice and bicycles, as well as a boatload of people who came on our boat. It ended up being a slow four-hour ride back to the dock and there was still a four-hour ride back to the Jinja base. I am so thankful for all the prayers that lift up safe travel!
Returning to the base I was able to spend a couple of days training the Bible School students. It was such a joy to see their eagerness to learn and anticipation of beginning their Sunday School. They are now teaching 50-100 children from the villages in the area each week. Doors have opened for them to hold Sunday Schools at a nearby primary school. Children are hearing Bible stories for the first time and giving their hearts to the Lord.
I was able to make a short trip to Tanzania to visit our base there. Again, travel was a challenge—the first bus was supposed to leave at 4 PM, but then they said 8:30. The bus arrived at 11 PM, but without lights. After several hours they were able to fix the alternator and at 5 AM we were on our way to Nairobi, Kenya. The bus we were on had come from Angola and it was slow. Arriving in Nairobi we changed buses. In order for the new bus to start it had to be pushed, but at least the lights worked. About 20 minutes out of the city I heard the driver say, “clutch, clutch”. Sure enough we pulled over and again waited for the bus to get repaired on the side of the road. Finally around 3 AM we were again on our way to Tanzania. Arriving at the Tanzania border we were able to get our visas, but returned to the bus only to find the police saying they were impounding the bus because it did not pass the safety code for entering Tanzania. We were told by the driver to just stay put and that we would be going soon. We finally made the decision that we would try to get on another bus that had just arrived—there were seats available—so we jumped on and arrived at our meeting place at 10 AM. Again, I am so thankful for your prayers for safety. We were able to visit the property; the Bible School construction is so close to being finished. We were also able to make arrangements for our truck to be repaired. The Tanzanians are anxious for the school to start and Boot Camps to continue running. We did not run Boot Camp this year and they were very disappointed. I was able to visit our lawyer to introduce myself and continue to work on the final stages of getting the title for the land. There will be a US Team going to get the roof on the school and hike and do evangelism at the base of Kilimanjaro Mountain. We look forward to, Lord willing, running the Boot Camp this next December-January and starting the Bible School after Boot Camp. The return trip was great with no bus problems.
We have great coordinators in Uganda, Nelson and Maggie Chimbilia. They are doing a wonderful job of training the students, reaching out in evangelism, maintaining the base and also growing the Bible School.
Zambia was my next stop. I was able to spend some time with the facilitators at the refresher. We shared with them some of the new equipment that was being sent for the Motorcycle Sunday School Mission (MSSM) programs and challenged them to reach out more. I was still suffering from malaria, which I contracted in Uganda, so I wasn’t able to get much more accomplished there. The country coordinators, Doug and Barb Petersen, took great care of me.
Malawi was my next destination. Arriving at midnight we made the two-hour trip to our base in Chipoka. Sunday we started with a Malawi board meeting. Monday we went to our Mangochi base; it was good to see how much had been accomplished since my last visit. They were able to get the boys’ dorm completed and the intern/staff room built, as well as the Sunday School Pavilion. The gardens are producing and the animals are doing well. Seeing the first class of students complete the three-year Bible School training was a blessing. Family, pastors and government officials attended the graduation. The chief of the village who is a Muslim gave a speech, thanking Teen Missions for all the wonderful help we are to the community. What a blessing for the chief to state this publicly.
Another nine-hour drive brought us to the northern region of Malawi where we have established a Bible School and Rescue Unit among the Tumbuka Tribe. The base is out in a dry desolate area, but the Lord says in His Word that rivers can flow in the desert. There is little or no ministry besides ours in this area and we are thankful for the doors that are open. In February we began our second year of the Bible School. We don’t know yet where the Lord will lead these students for their internship but we are so thankful that they will be ready to minister.
Returning to the Chipoka base it was time to make preparations for the next journey, flying to South Africa. I was able to spend a couple of days getting supplies ready to drive to Zimbabwe. Karen Shrock drove with me. We had some problems at the border with the truck documents, but we were only delayed by one day. It is about nine hours from South Africa to Gwanda, the area where the Zimbabwe base is located. We were warmly welcomed. I was able to meet with the staff and plan a couple of trips to Bulawayo where we purchased a water pump and generator as the electric has been so expensive that power was shut off. Although we weren’t able to see the water come through the pipes, we were able to enjoy lights from the generator the last night we were there. Much was accomplished with our staff meetings and I am so thankful for the time I was able to be there.
After driving back to South Africa, a couple of days was spent with the staff and students there before flying into Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. I arrived at noon and was met by the country coordinator, Liva. We immediately prepared for our drive to the South base in Vangaindrano. We left the city around 3 PM. A mechanic came with us as there were problems with the base generator and the vehicle. We drove through the night and arrived at 7:30 the next morning. After breakfast, I took a little rest. Meetings began with the MSSM Circuit Riders and staff. They had just run the Boot Camp and team members were out on their projects. I was able to visit two different Sunday School locations. The people in this area of Madagascar are so steeped in spiritual darkness. The parents will not allow their children to attend Boot Camp because we will not take them to a witch doctor should the child get sick. Or they won’t allow them to come as they are sure their children will be offered as blood sacrifices. As I walked through a village to get to the Sunday School location, I felt a heaviness such as I have never experienced before. The villagers don’t have many foreigners come to their area so they are fearful and suspicious. The Lord has opened up areas where the Gospel can be proclaimed and light is shining, but the battles rage and there are so many areas that still need to be reached. We have 12 different Sunday Schools operating in South Madagascar.
Liva, his wife, Nomena, their three children and I began our three-day drive to the north base in Mahajanga. The next evening two staff members from Indonesia arrived to serve here for three years. Although their English is limited and they will need to learn Malagasy, we are thankful for their help. The base has also been blessed with a Peace Corp volunteer. He is a believer and Teen Missions was his first, second and third choice to volunteer with. He will help teach English. The staff had just finished three guest rooms and it was so nice to have a special room to stay in. There is so much that has been accomplished since my last visit. We had a day to meet with all of the staff at this base and resolved some different issues. The students were all on break but would be returning soon to begin school. We have 12 Sunday Schools operating in the north area as well. The darkness is just as heavy there when you get out into the rural areas. They face many of the same battles as the south. Again, we are so thankful for the light of Jesus that is shining and pray it will grow stronger!
Returning to the USA in October gave me about three days at home before heading out west to do a little deputation and visit family. Dad and Mom went with me. It was great to visit supporting churches, friends and family.
About 10 days later I was back in the office, trying to get caught up on various responsibilities. Before I knew it, it was Thanksgiving and shortly after that, Christmas! Now we are making preparations for the new year. I look forward to this year’s adventures in serving Him.
I can not adequately express how thankful I am for all those who financially and prayerfully support the many opportunities the Lord has given me to serve here at Teen Missions. Lives are being changed, the Word of God is being taught and the light is shining in the darkness.
I pray you will enjoy the adventure the Lord has for you in the New Year.
Because of Him,