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Sunday, March 25, 2007

A Harvest of Souls

We had another great Sunday here in Katesh! This morning Steve preached from the book of Acts, focusing on the fact that we as Christians need to testify about God's grace in our lives, especially to those who don't know Christ. It was a long sermon (over an hour), but it was so chock-full of great Scripture and practical application that everyone listened attentively and followed along very closely. We had a good crowd--about 47 adults--and at the invitation, 8 people came forward to accept Christ as their personal Savior. We were able to speak with each of them individually, and it was obvious that the Lord had just prepared their hearts and our church to reap some harvest today. We also had an amazing offering--about $12 in the regular offering, and about $8 for the water project at the TRUTH Center. Also, after the service, two men talked to Steve about needing to marry their girlfriends who are also the mothers of their children. The Holy Spirit is definitely at work in people's hearts, leading them to make decisions about things that we've not even addressed yet. And tonight at the youth service, we again had nearly 50 young people for volleyball and service time. We are astounded to see how the Lord is at work. We feel like for so long we've just plodded along, but what an encouragement to finally see some visible fruit.
The TRUTH Center property is progressing as well. Tomorrow they will begin laying the foundations for the buildings. Steve plans to stay on the grounds all day on Monday to make sure that everything is done properly and according to our plans. So far we have been very pleased with the contractor and his workers. Pray that things continue to go smoothly and on schedule.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Dedication Day

Sunday, March 18, 2007, was a monumental and historical day in the short life of our church. After a wonderful sermon about the Apostle Peter's vision from God to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, Steve shared with the people about our vision for the TRUTH Center. At the end of the message, one of the older men in our church, Jackson, shared with the people how he believed that they would be able to raise the $500 needed to get water to the TRUTH Center property. This will be a huge task for them, considering our weekly offerings average $5 and the average person with a job is paid about $2 a day. The people were excited by this challenge, and after the service, we all sang as we walked together (through the drizzle and mud) to the TRUTH Center property. The contractor and his assistants met us there, and we stood in a circle, holding hands, and dedicated the land to the Lord, as well as the project and all of those who would be involved in it.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Back Home in Tanzania!

Greetings from Tanzania! We arrived on March 7, 2007, to begin our third term. Our 7 months in the States were amazing. We visited churches from Connecticut to California, from San Antonio to Chicago, and were blessed to see places like the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, Carlsbad Caverns, Disneyland, Boston, New York City, Washington DC, Colorado, the Hoover Dam, and Las Vegas. All of our pictures are posted on Snapfish, so feel free to take a look. Of course the biggest highlight is always to spend time with our families and friends. The children had new cousins to meet and enjoyed being spoiled by their grandparents. We also enjoyed every minute we spent at our home church, Canton Baptist Temple. They were such an encouragement to us in so many ways, and we couldn't be here without their love and support.
Thankfully, our trip back to Tanzania was fairly uneventful. We flew from Cleveland to Detroit to Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro, and within 3 days of our arrival, we had all 19 pieces of our luggage. Northern Tanzania has had an incredible amount of rainfall late in the season, resulting in flooding and roads being washed away. On a positive note though, everything is lush and green and beautiful. Fellow missionaries met us at the airport. We were so thrilled to see them again, as we only had a few short months together in Tanzania before we went on furlough. They were so faithful to watch over the ministry, as well as our home, while we were away. After "relaxing" (i.e. banking, paying bills, grocery shopping, etc.) in Arusha for a few days, we started on the 4 hour bumpy ride to Katesh. The transition thus far has been remarkably smooth, and it almost feels as if we never left. Our Swahili came back quickly and easily (thank God!) and nothing was too startling, at least not as it had been after our first furlough. We arrived home Saturday night to find our home clean and in perfect order.  That night we had pizza in their gorgeous new home, and we were glad that they had invited Eliya and Esta Chepa's family as well. They are our dearest Tanzanian friends, and the Tanzanian leaders in our ministry. We had a wonderful evening catching up and reviewing all that God had done in each of our lives in the past 7 months.
On Sunday morning we headed to church. Hannah enjoyed being in Sunday school again, although her Swahili is almost completely gone and she had no idea what was going on. The worship service that followed was wonderful too. We were so excited to see several new faces, as well as familiar ones who had remained faithful during our absence. Following the service, the church people had a surprise welcome back party for us, while also celebrating the 2 year anniversary of the church. This was entirely unexpected, and we were so touched by the amount of work and planning and expense they had gone to. The best part of all was that the Wolfs had not had anything to do with it--it was not their idea and they had contributed nothing except for the 2,500 shillings as was required for everyone else. The people had prepared an array of food--rice pilau, white rice, meat, salad, cucumbers, mangoes, bananas, and soda. They had decorated with balloons and plants and foil streamers, and had a big sheet on the wall that said, "Karibuni Nyote--2 years--Mchungaji Stefano na familia yake" (Welcome everyone--2 years--Pastor Steve and his family). After the meal (they also had sacrificed to feed the 40 faithful Sunday school children--what a treat it was for them to be included!), Eliya read a history of the church, including average attendance and salvations and baptisms, as well as the various ministries which have been added over time. It was encouraging to be reminded of all that God had done in such a short time. We were able to greet them and share with them about how the Lord had answered their prayers in regards to the TRUTH Center. They were so excited as we told them how the work would begin even this week, and they wholeheartedly affirmed that they were ready to physically join in this labor. Later that evening we attended the youth service--many of those who had been at the church very early in the morning to make preparations for the celebration had never left at all during the day and did not leave until after the service ended at 7pm. We love the people that God has brought to our church, and we are looking forward to what the Lord has in store for them and for us in the coming months.