Monday, October 15, 2007

September/October 2007 Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda Mission Update

I've recently returned from what was the busiest, most exhausting, and most exciting, mission so far. I'm humbled to share the highlights of the trip with you.

"A 'good road' leading to Taveta Town."

(Click on your favorite photos to enlarge them.)

While in Nairobi, Kenya I had the opportunity to visit with Martin Busy at his home in Karen. Martin is the Principal of Trinity Baptist Theological College, in Nairobi, where Pastor Patrick Marisa and Pastor Reuben ole Tiges are studying. Pastor Patrick will graduate in November. You may remember that we are involved in a joint-partnership with Pastor Patrick, and his church in Mtongwe, Kenya, to launch East Africa Theological College in January 2008. The college will be the only truly evangelical Bible school on the east coast of Kenya. We plan to begin with two classes of twelve each with the goal of preparing young men for the ministry throughout Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. We plan to follow the successful Trinity Baptist Theological College model. Trinity has agreed to help supply the necessary books that we'll need for the school at their cost and to send one of their professors, my friend Sukesh Babari, as a guest lecturer.

Our desire is to provide an opportunity for these young men to receive pastoral training where there would virtually be no chance for that to happen without the aid of believers in other countries who have been blessed with the financial resources to assist. We will begin to let you know how you can be a part of this scholarship program soon.

We drove from Nairobi south and westward toward Mount Kilimanjaro to visit our churches along the border. On Sunday, September 23rd we were blessed and encouraged to be able to join Pastor Sampson in the dedication of the new church structure at Esukuta, Kenya. Lord willing, this will be the first of many structures of this kind in east Africa. The new model is a very sturdy open-sided church with a metal roof. The goal is to provide cover from the sun and shelter during the long rainy season.

These structures can be built for approximately $1400 each. (We're praying for the funds to provide four of them right now.)

"Esukuta church with Mt. Kilimanjaro in the background."

"The new functional church structure."

"One hundred twenty-five attended the Esukuta Church dedication."

From Esukuta we traveled south, along the border, to Taveta. Taveta is a town of approximately 6000 and serves as the border crossing between Kenya and Tanzania. It also serves as my base of operations while visiting our churches along the border. Our pastors, and associates, gathered there for a two-day conference. We reviewed the status and progress of each of the churches and taught from our Doctrinal Statement.

"Pastors gather at JJJ Paradise Hotel in Taveta"

We were able to purchase Massai and Kswahili Bibles through a gift from a dear friend and supporter of our ministry. Each pastor was very excited to receive several to take back with him to his church.

While in Taveta we visited Pastor William and the Python Hill Church. Python Hill sits almost directly on the border between Kenya and Tanzania just west of Lake Jipe. We had a really nice time visiting with a group of about 40 who gathered from the village. The church started with 5 last year and now has about 15 members. We were blessed to be able to receive a gift of land to build a church on and presented Pastor William with a gift of 82,000 Kenya shillings (approximately 1200 USD given by a friend of the ministry in Georgia) for the construction of a church there.

"Members of the Python Hill, Kenya Church"

While there I had the opportunity to present the gospel to several who came just to see what the "musungu" (white man) was doing. Much to my delight five people accepted Christ, one an old Muslim women who said, "I want to be with you!".

"Mwanaisha Kenio from Python Hill"

From the Taveta area we crossed over into Tanzania....a four hour process clearing Kenya and entering Tanzania! We headed for the Maasai village of Iltudui where a church was planted last year. The last time I visited we took the northern route through Kenya. This time we took the southern route around the back side of the Parr Mountains.

"Dust so fine it penetrated everything and rolled down the windows like water"

Iltudui is one of the most remote and most primitive of all the Maasai villages that I've visited so far. Life there is very difficult because access to clean water is very limited.

You may remember the report that I wrote on their dire situation in last July's blog. The seasonal tank that they rely on for water was full it is empty and the ground is parched.

"Water supply last April"

"Empty from July on....!"

"Cracked and parched from the heat of the sun"

At Iltudi there is no well, or services of any kind, closer that a five-hour walk one way. In the wet season their water is drawn from the filthy stock tank that they share with elephants, cows, goats and sheep. The tank is filled during the rainy season and dries up within three months. After that, the women and children make the ten-hour trek to get water several times per week. They carry heavy jugs of water on their heads for hours to bring just enough water back to keep their families alive. I am committed to finding a way to bring water to these new saints. We met with the Director of Water management in Taveta to discuss the problem. He informed us that a deep-water boar hole with pump and gas generator costs approximately 1.7MM Ksh or 30,000USD.

"A ten hour struggle for a days supply of life sustaining water"

"Women walk for hours to bring water to the village"

"A child plays near the water jugs"

A visit to Iltudui will forever change the way we, as westerners, take the gift of clean, fresh water for granted. I pray that God will move in the heart of those who have been so tremendously blessed to give so that the people of Iltudui can have water.

After our visit to Iltudui, which is the largest of all of our churches at 150, we headed southeast toward Arusha.

We spent the night in Moshi which is the launching point for the many climbers who come to the area to challenge the two peaks of Kilimanjaro. The next morning we made the two hour drive to visit Pastor Emmanual and the Losimingori Church. Losimingori has a dense population of Massai villages. The population of the area is approximately 1400. Emmanuel has turned out to be an excellent young man and a real "go getter". He has planted three additional churches in his area. (See the list of international church plants on this blog for a complete listing of the churches in East Africa.)

"Pastor Emmanual and his associate pastor"

Pastor Emmanual introduced us to the elders of the village and showed us the location that has been set aside for the construction of a church. We met with about 150 people and Pastor Reuben preached the Word of God to them.

"Stone 'chairs' for the people of the Losimingori, Tanzania church"

"A typical "Manyatta", village, on the central Tanzanian savannah"

"The home of Emmanuel's mother"

After saying goodbye to Pastor Emmanual and his family, we headed west toward Lake Victoria with the intention of making the Rwanda border in two days. We quickly learned that the road map we were using was very unreliable with regard to the accuracy of the published distances. In some cases what was said to be 15 kilometers turned out to be more like 100 kilometers. Our plan of making it to Rwanda in two days turned into three and one half days over some of the roughest terrain I traversed to date.

I also learned that the roads don't go around the national parks....they go directly through them. So, we experienced Lake Manyara National Park, Ngorongoro Crater National Park, and Serengeti National Park. All an incredible testimony to God's creativity.

"Serengeti opens up ahead of us"

The Serengeti Plains are a vast expanse that seems to go on forever. This time of year it is a barren, dry, dusty, gray savannah. It was an arduous drive with little to see since most of the animals have migrated northeast into the Kenyan Masai Mara in search of water. The great migration of 1.5 million Wildebeests, and scores of Zebra and Gazelle, has happened in early September for centuries.

"A few Wildebeests and Zebra remain behind"

The long drive toward Rwanda challenged our faith and endurance over and over. A shredded tire and bent rim caused us to pray that God would somehow provide another spare. We were hours from any civilization and in deep trouble. We happened across a park ranger who had mercy on us and told us how to get to the maintenance garage for the park vehicles. When we arrived the mechanics told us that they couldn't help us because they only had tires for their big 4WD Land Rovers. We asked them to check...just in case. And there, on top of a tall stack of huge tires, was one small tire...on a rim...that perfectly fit our little Toyota Corolla! We all thanked God for His perfect "Provision" and wondered if that tire had been there yesterday.

There are other stories from that day, as well. A flat tire around 10:00 PM while still far from the nearest town. We changed it in the dark while being serenaded by the not-so-sweet sounds of a chorus of Buffalo..."Protection". We drove for well over an hour after the gas gage had already pegged itself below "E"..."Miracle".

We finally made it to Mwanza, on the shore of Lake Victoria on Sunday, September 30...two days late. Mwanza is a geological novelty. Huge oval stones begin to litter the countryside as you near the lake and then become small hills and then, eventually, mountains.

"Homes built into the rocks of Mwanza"

We took the 1 hour ferry ride across Mwanza harbor and then traveled west on to Geita where we spent the night. Geita is home to several huge gold-mines which drive the local economy to levels well beyond that of the average town in east Africa.

On Monday evening, October 1st, we finally arrived at the long overdue Rwanda border. Rwanda is a very lush and beautiful country with thousands of hills all perfectly terraced into a patchwork of multi colored fields. Bananas, maze, beens, casaba, coffee and tea, are just a few of the crops raised by the agrarian population of the country.

For more on Rwanda visit -

"Rwandan countryside"

The purpose of our trip to Rwanda was to visit Pastor Augustine who I had met at a pastor's conference we held in Mombasa, Kenya in 2005. Pastor Augustine had agreed to show me his country and, specifically, to show me a few places where the gospel needed to be preached and churches needed to be planted.

"Pastor Augustine and his wife take care of 15 orphans in their small home"

"Tea plantations abound in the valleys of northern Rwanda"

We spent three days visiting, surveying and praying about where, what, and why God had called me to this new country and time-zone. Of all that we saw, two things have stuck in my mind.

The first is hearing first-hand accounts of the horrific genocide of the mid 1990's that saw over one million innocent people slaughtered, and now, I have personally experienced the ongoing aftermath. (Look for my story entitled, "Jenoside", in the next few weeks.)

"One million experienced the total depravity of mankind"

"All that remains of the murdered"

"Hutu prisoners...they must confess to their sin of murder"

And second, meeting the people of the Batwa Tribe. In the mid 1980's the governments of Rwanda, Burundi and The Congo began to relocate an indigenous pygmy people group that had inhabited their remote mountainous areas for centuries. The Batwa people lived in quiet isolation as hunters and gatherers. Their only problem was that they inhabited the same mountains as the endangered mountain Gorilla. The governments saw the Batwa people as a danger to the Gorilla and so....they removed them from their lands. Today, they are a people without an identity, without land, and without their traditional means of survival. They have been forcibly moved to farm land that doesn't belong to them and are viewed as squatters. The other tribes of Rwanda, the Hutu and the Tutsi, look down upon them. They are, for all intents and purposes, outcasts in a country that once only belonged to them.

"Skeptical of the 'msungu' stranger"

"No medical care....the poorest of the poor"

"Many white men have come here before.....but none have ever come back!"

Out of necessity, the Batwa have learned to make pottery from clay that they harvest from the bottom of nearby streams and rivers. They sell what they can to nearby villages and to tourists. It isn't enough to feed and clothe their families. Now, this new livelihood is in danger because the government is concerned that the removal of the clay may be harmful to the eco system.

"A Batwa working the clay"

"Ready to be baked"

It is my prayer that God will allow us to work alongside Pastors Augustine and Venesti in the village of Ruhara - Ruyenzi to build a relationship with the Batwa people and to share the gospel of reconciliation with them. Pastor Venesti (a survivor of the genocide) will be assigned to work with us if God allows. Please join me in praying for the Batwa people and for an opportunity for me to spend time with them.

"Pastor Venesti...survived the genocide"

When our time in Rwanda came to a close we headed north to Uganda, then east arriving back in Nairobi, Kenya on October 6th. While in Nairobi I worked with Pastor Patrick, and a good friend of his in the CID's office, to secure my Missionary Visa. I am hoping that I will have it within the next 60 days.

"A glimpse of the Nile River in eastern Uganda"

There are several advantages to having this document.

1. I will be recognized as a Kenya citizen and will pay non-tourist rates for everything. Hotels will cost roughly 50 -70% of what we pay right now.

2. I will have an immediate audience with any government official that I would like to meet.

3. But, most significantly, I will not have to pay import tax or duty on anything that we bring into the country. That includes the importing of a 4-wheel drive vehicle for the ministry. Many of you know that we have been renting a small Toyota Corolla for our travels these past three years. While we appreciate the transportation, and the lower cost, they just don't meet the need that we have. They aren't built for the rough terrain that we cover, and as a result, causes us to spend our limited resources on repairs just to keep us moving. Just on this last mission we had several flat tires, had to purchase two tires, one used rim, have the brakes replaced on the car and have the trunk latch welded so that it would stay shut. All issues that we could avoid if we had our own sturdy four-wheel drive vehicle.

We are praying for $18,000 to import a good used Toyota Land Cruiser from Japan. And we have one year to get it while I have my Missionary Visa.

"2000 Toyota 4WD Land Cruiser"

The vehicle would primarily be used for the ministry but would also be hired out, along with our driver Maurice, to earn income while we aren't using it. I know two or three other missionaries who would gladly rent it from us at the same cost as they currently pay for a small car. Essentially, the vehicle would pay for itself.... and cover many of my costs while on the ground in Africa.

As you can see, there are many needs....Bibles, churches, travel expenses, bicycles, a 4-WD vehicle, a well, a Bible College, an orphanage.....But still, the greatest need remains. Someone to share the gospel message with those who have not heard.

"Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word..."

I am so grateful to those of you who gave financially so that I could go and, especially, for those of you who prayed for our family and mission while I was away.

May God richly bless you,


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Map of East Africa

Pastor Patrick Marisia and I traveled nearly 3000 miles on our recent mission in East Africa. Our 23 day journey began in Nairobi, Kenya and circled Lake Victoria by the southern route. We moved through Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda eventually ending up where we began...back in Nairobi.

"Sharing the road near Taveta"

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Kagali, Rwanda

Just a brief update from the road.

I've had an incredable, but exhausting, mission to date. We've moved from Nairobi, Kenya to Lossimingori, Tanzania and are now at Kagali, Rwanda. Tomorrow we head for Kampala, Uganda and then back to Nairobi.

By the grace of God I've visited several of our churches, dedicated a new church building, led a pastor's conference, started new construction projects and surveyed a new time-zone for future projects.

We've traveled over 1500 miles through all kinds of rugged terrain, including the Sarangetti. Several flat tires, two new tires, one new rim, rear breaks replaced, trunk latch welded....and we keep on moving.

Rwanda is a beautiful country that has broken my heart. The state sponsored genicide of over 1,000,000 Tutsi people ended in 1994 but the struggle to overcome it still goes on today. I watched in dismay as men and women, in prison uniforms of pink, are stood before the people of their own villages to confess their "sin"...even today.

Rwanda is ripe for the gosple. We cannot miss our calling to walk through this "open door".

Watch for the full story when I return to the US on October 10.

Thanks for your prayers as I labor in our Fathers field.

Mark M
Kagali, Rwanda