A Well-Oiled Machine



Whoever said travel is glamorous has never spent the night in an airport. That one guy in France who lived in the airport for years has my utmost admiration. I have thus far spent time in nine different airports on this trip. I’ll be in double digits by the time I get home.


Nevertheless, I finally arrived on Monday in exotic Tanzania, the land of the Serengeti, Mount Kilimanjaro, and the Ngorongoro Crater. After landing at the Kilimanjaro Airport with more white people than I had seen since I left the U.S., I faced a ten-hour layover. Fortunately, in God’s providence I had recently become acquainted with a brother who lives near the airport, and he offered to pick me up and take me to a hotel where I could stretch out and spend some time sleeping before catching my next flight. Unfortunately, the room was quite stifling, and I couldn’t sleep. One of the not-so-secret secrets of African hotels is that many advertise air conditioning in the rooms, but rarely do they work. Typically, they just blow warm air.


Having arrived back at the airport, it was on to Dar es Salaam where I had another five-hour overnight layover. The domestic terminal, however, was not yet open for check-in when I arrived, and the only seating was outside. Not relishing the thought of sleeping on the sidewalk I happened to wander around and found the international terminal, which was air conditioned and had several rows of unoccupied metal chairs. Springing into action I made a makeshift bed and tried to grab some sleep. After a couple of hours tossing and turning on the not so comfy metal chairs, I was finally and mercifully on to my destination–Mwanza, Tanzania.


I arrived in Mwanza about 6:45am feeling a bit lightheaded from the lack of sleep but grateful to finally be here. After picking up my crippled luggage I was overjoyed to greet our Tanzania coordinator Joseph Marwa who whisked me away to the hotel to freshen up so I could begin teaching the training seminar that morning. The cool breezes of Mwanza, which is located on the shores of Lake Victoria were quite invigorating after experiencing the heat and humidity of Kilimanjaro. After a shower and some breakfast, it was on to the training site.


There are about thirty pastors who have gathered for our training this week. While the response from pastors in attendance thus far has been positive, I am even more encouraged by what I have observed from our ITEM Tanzania team led by Joseph Marwa. ITEM has been working in Tanzania for the past ten years and Joseph has been our coordinator for much of that time, only briefly taking a sabbatical to pursue his post-graduate education at Puritan Theological Seminary in the United States. In addition to his responsibilities with ITEM, Joseph serves as the pastor of a local church and the founder and director of the Mwanza Bible Institute where he teaches five days a week. Did I mention the guy is busy?


Joseph has put together a solid team of faithful leaders who are all in attendance at the training. This is the first time I have been at a training where all the ITEM team from a particular country has been in attendance. What’s even more thrilling is that three of the team members are assisting me in doing the teaching, or perhaps it might be more accurate to say I am assisting them. Since I do not have to teach most of the sessions, it has given me the chance just to sit back, observe, and marvel at the quality of leaders the Lord has added to our team. Not only are these guys faithful teachers of God’s Word, but they are also skilled teachers. One phrase kept coming to my mind while listening to them teach: well-oiled machine. ITEM Tanzania is a well-oiled machine.


It will take a well-oiled machine to overcome the challenges confronting the Tanzanian church. Two major challenges stand out. The first is syncretism. The mixing of African traditional religions with Christianity is rife throughout Africa and Tanzania is no exception. One of our team members shared with me that many Christians including pastors and church leaders visit witch doctors when they get sick or experience some difficulty. It reminds me of another African pastor who share with our founder Steve Van Horn that the difference between a Christian and non-Christian in Africa is that the non-Christian goes to the witch doctor at night.


A second major challenge is the increasing presence of false teachers. Unfortunately, false teachers are attracting thousands of people into their churches with their smooth talk, charismatic personalities, and bold claims. Because these churches are growing, other pastors look to them as models of success. Therefore, false teaching spreads like Gangrene. The only hope then for the gospel’s advance in Tanzania is for a company of faithful teachers and preachers to stand boldly on God’s Word and contend for the faith delivered once for all to the saints.


Tanzania has its company of faithful men. They are willing and ready to go. Will you pray with me that the Lord of the Harvest will provide the funding to expand ministry in Tanzania? There are at least 5–6 strategic areas in which we can immediately begin training with the proper funding.


One final rather humorous note, during the first two days of the training I kept hearing what sounded like rain pouring on the tin-roof of the church. Yet, looking outside the sun was shining and the sky was blue. At first, I thought I might be imagining things, but the pitter patter of what sounded like rain persisted throughout the day. I spent far too much time wondering about it, as it completely distracted me. However, I noticed it didn’t bother anyone else. I finally asked the host pastor about it, and he told me that when the sun goes down and it gets cool, the tin constricts. But when the sun comes out, the heat caused the tin to expand, which is the sound I was hearing. Chalk one up for science.


That’s all for now. Good night from Tanzania!