Thursday, December 1, 2011
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
A beautiful conclusion to a trying week:
There I sat at the funeral of the 10 month old daughter of a national GFF pastor friend, wondering what words of comfort I could give in my faltering Swahili (This was the third child they had lost in the last few years due in large part to the harshness of the land God has called them to minister in), when suddenly I realize that the man leading the service is asking me to stand up and speak a message of comfort to the family and those gathered. What I wanted was a few minutes to prepare my thoughts and my words, but no time was given. Oh, at times like those it is a comfort to know God has said, “My strength is made perfect in weakness”.
The very next day, the need for God’s strength in weakness was again felt keenly as I sat preparing my message for Sunday on New Testament “grace giving” from II Corinthians 8 & 9. How was I going to make these truths clear in Swahili, and how was I going to preach on giving to those who make less than $40 per month? Well, God’s grace was sufficient, and the people graciously and enthusiastically received His Word. As we were driving the 2 hours back home that evening from the sister church I had preached at, we were tired, but thankful to be serving God. It was then that I received the phone call that would give us the capstone to the whole week. Rodney Myers called and said that Pasqueli Stephano, a young man we had been praying for for several months, accepted Christ as His Savior! Please continue to pray for Pasqueli as he begins his walk with the Lord. He will have some very important decisions to make in the coming days. But that day there was rejoicing in Tanzania and in heaven!!
We can’t thank you enough for your continued prayer for us as a family and the ministry in Ndatu. In September, we began a Sunday evening prayer service and question and answer time followed by a youth service. The question and answer time has revealed a great deal of ingrained false teaching, but has also provided a good opportunity to carefully teach the Bible on those subjects. Next month, we will be traveling 10 hours to Dar es Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania, for the delivery of our 7th child. Please pray for safety for Nicole and the baby, as well as her comfort as we travel the bumpy roads to get there.
Serving a Gracious God,
Aaron & Nicole Shipe & family
Language learning humor: While talking with two sisters who live together while in college (“Chuoni”), I told them about the 2 years that my brother and I lived together in the bathroom (Chooni”). You can image the smiles and outright laughter that clued me in to my mistake!
Please also consider viewing a video we prepared about our first year in Tanzania at http://youtu.be/wes6340-XO0
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Tomorrow, Rodney and I will be traveling to the border of Kenya and Tanzania to attend the funeral of a child of on our national GFF pastors (Pastor Lawi). For Pastor Lawi and his wife, this is the 3rd child that they have lost due to the harshness of the land they live in. Please pray for Pastor Lawi and his wife as they mourn the loss of their baby girl. Please pray for God's grace to minister to them at this time. Thank you.
Above is a picture of Rodney holding this precious little one a few months ago with Pastor Lawi.
Friday, August 19, 2011
Dear Prayer Partners,
“Time is free, but it is priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back.” Quotes like this fill the Western mindset, but are rather foreign to the way of thinking here in Tanzania. Here there is always time to stop and greet a perfect stranger and ask about his day, his health, his family, his work, his church, etc. In fact, failure to do so is often considered rude and insensitive. The transition from a time sensitive culture to a relationship sensitive culture has not been the easiest for me. From time to time, I am greeted with the phrase, “Pole na shughuli nyingi,” which literally means “Sorry for your much business”. While I feel like my day is just normal, my neighbors see me coming and going and feel sorry for my busy lifestyle. As I look around me, I realize that it is not unusual for a man or woman to spend several hours of a day sitting on a bench by the road and talking to any and all who happen by. Please pray for wisdom as how to embrace this cultural mindset without abandoning the Biblical injunction of “redeeming the time” and “numbering our days”.
On the subject of time, it is hard to believe that we have been in Tanzania for over 8 months already. It is exciting to think about all that God has done in this short time. Language is increasing day by day, and now we can often hold significant and somewhat lengthy conversations in Swahili. Recently, I have begun reading through the book of Genesis in Swahili and writing down every word I don’t know. Through the first four chapters, I was surprised to discover that I am averaging only one word per verse that needs to be looked-up in the dictionary. The church in Ndatu is progressing steadily. We are making plans to have our first service in the church building in just two weeks. Over the last several weeks, we have leveled the ground around the church, built benches, fixed doors, hung tarps to cover the holes in the walls where the termites ate, and spruced up the outhouse. It is exciting to see the church grow, not only in number, but especially in unity and spiritual maturity.
It has only been a few months since Verdiana and Edgar made professions of faith earlier this year. Edgar went away from the Lord after just a short time, but Verdiana has continued to remain faithful. Although her family is pressuring her to marry Edgar because of a large proposed dowry (despite his dishonesty and theft), she has thus far refused their pressure because she believes it is not God’s will. Recently, she has been bringing visitors from work to church with her. Please pray for Verdiana to continue to grow in Christ and remain faithful to the Lord in the face of strong family pressures. Please also pray for her job situation. She is from a tribe distant to this area, and they have threatened to replace her with someone of a more local tribe.
As I began to write this letter, I had just returned from the airport where Anna and I dropped-off Nick Mauer (a gifted and godly seminary student from our home church in Maryland). We had the privilege of having Nick come preach for a youth conference in the village of Bonga, where around 300 young people from the surrounding GFF churches attended. The Lord greatly used him to challenge the young people toward a life that is consumed with knowing and loving Christ, and therefore not consumed with the passing pleasures of sin. As I sat and listened to him preach, I was rebuked by my own failure to be consumed with Christ. I have been consumed with trying to learn Swahili; with trying to figure out a solution to our continuing electrical problems (we average about 6 hours of power a day); with trying to figure out a solution to our inconsistent water supply, with wrangling over our residence permit; with helping start a church; etc., but I have not being consumed with Christ. I would appreciate your prayers for me in this area.
One of Satan’s very effective lies that he plants for believers on the mission field is that, “Your cultures are so different that you will never be able to minister to people in a way that is understood in a foreign culture.” After months of observing differences in culture, sometimes stark, you begin to believe that lie. With that background, perhaps one of the most encouraging events in recent months took place a couple weeks ago. We had asked a Lutheran seminary student named Mathayo Sanga to stay with us in our home for a week and help us with our language studies. During that week he slept in our home, ate with our family, played with our kids, participated in our family devotions, and taught us during the days. It really was a blessing as well as a help linguistically. After Mathayo returned to his family, he called and said that he had learned so much during his time with us, and that now he was reading the Bible to his children on a daily basis and was hoping to implement several changes in his family based upon what he observed in our home. The Lord knew the right encouragement to give at the right time.
Serving the Alpha and Omega,
Aaron & Nicole Shipe & family
Monday, June 27, 2011
Just by way of a short update, I want to thank you all for your prayers as I attempted to preach for the first time in Swahili two weeks ago. I felt more comfortable preaching than I thought I would, and truly felt God's help. Thank you truly for your prayers for us. Lord-willing we will be moving from the home we have been meeting in to our currently dilapidated church building by mid-July. We have begun to raise funds from within our church family to build a new church building on the current sight. It is exciting to see our small church taking challenging steps to move forward. We continue to covet your prayers for us and our young church here in Tanzania.
Serving the God of the Ages,
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Things have been rather busy these past few weeks as life and ministry here in Tanzania continue to progress. The church in Ndatu is growing in unity and spiritual maturity, as well as in numbers (albeit slowly). This coming Sunday, Rodney Myers and his family will be in Kenya for some well deserved R & R, and I have been given the frightening opportunity to preach my first Swahili message without an interpreter. This past week has been spent in preparing and honing a message on the evidences of true faith from the life of Joseph. What would normally take about a day took five days, and even so, I feel like a five year-old talking about college level topics. Please pray this Sunday (Saturday night for you)that God would enable me to speak with clarity and power by His Spirit.
Two weeks ago (as seen in the pictures above), Pastor Chris Luppino from Kissimmee, FL came and taught a week long seminar on Spiritual Gifts for the pastors and leaders of the 25 GFF churches here in Tanzania; around 60 men were in attendance for this vital time of instruction and refreshment in the Word of God. The Charismatic movement has literally wreaked havoc upon the churches in our area. Many say that if they are not seeing "miracles" and speaking in tongues in their churches that they are not true churches, and many have left good churches for the excitement of charismatic churches. Please pray that God would use this instruction to strengthen and ground the believers in His Word.
Prior to that we had the blessing of Nicole's parents and younger brother here for 10days. It was a delight to see them again and show them some of the sights of Tanzania! We thank God for the blessing of family and the marvel of international travel!
On the health front, Anna has completely recovered from her earlier infection which we believed was Typhoid, however, recently the doctor here indicated that it may have been viral Meningitis due to a recent outbreak with similar symptoms. We, however, are just praising God for her recovery. Please continue to pray for her though as she has an itchy rash on her upper body, she is being treated, but the doctors are uncertain as to it's origin. We also learned a valuable lesson about the dangers of mango flies. Last week Eden (our 2 year-old) got a bug bite on her eyelid, and in just a couple days her eye was completely swollen shut. Apparently the mango fly leaves a larvae in the bite, which grows inside the body of it's victim. We were able to lance the wound and remove the larvae without incident and her eye is now almost completely recovered (Pictures were taken, but are not included because of the disgusting nature of the episode).
Thank you for your continued prayer for us. Please pray for our continued language acquisition, and for evangelistic and discipleship opportunities in Ndatu.
Serving a Great God,
The Shipe Family
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Dear Prayer Partners,
“Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.”
Jesus, in the Parable of the Soils, described four common reactions to the preaching of the Gospel. I fear that one of those unfortunately appears to fit with the response of Edgar, who I mentioned in our last letter. Initially, he appeared to make some decisions of faith, but before too long the pressure of culture and the love of money scorched the plant of faith. Truly no one but God knows the heart of man, so please continue to pray for Edgar that he would repent of his sins and turn back to the Savior of the wayward. Please also pray for Verdiana; she is continuing to go forward in her new faith despite the heartache of Edgar’s failures.
In other news, the church re-plant in Ndatu is making steady progress. We have two families (Stephano and his wife and children and Elbariki and his wife and children) who have decided to join us for Sunday morning Bible studies which began today (see pictures of our first service above). Each of the lessons is designed not only to be merely academic, but also to bring each person to a place of confrontation with a specific truth of God’s Word. Please pray that these families will continue to respond in obedience to the Word of God as it is taught. Please also pray for our evangelistic efforts in the village of Ndatu. Many listen only because they think that they can gain access to our American money by befriending us. We need boldness with the Gospel and discernment in our relationships.
As a family we have been trying to reach out to our neighbors as well. Every few days, the neighborhood children (often between 20-30 children at a time) come over and play on our swings, play soccer in the yard, or play basketball on the hoop we had made. This has helped open up many relationships within the community. As parents see us care for their children, many of their suspicions of us as outsiders have diminished significantly. We hope to be able to turn these “play times” into a Bible club as we become more comfortable in Swahili. In other family news, Anna seems to have fully recovered from a serious bout with Typhoid last month. My parents (Aaron’s) were able to visit us two weeks ago to spend time with grandchildren and help set up several swings for the kids to play on. It was a very special time for all of us as we enjoyed the blessing of family. Although power blackouts continue several days a week, the rains have begun and the power is a little more consistent that just a month ago.
Serving a soon coming King,
Aaron & Nicole Shipe & family
Friday, March 4, 2011
I want to thank each of you for your prayers for us today. God blessed with a great opportunity to open the Word over steaming hot milk and fried bananas (like those pictured below), and we are scheduled to return for additional Bible study next week! Please pray for Elisante and his family that they would respond in obedience to the Gospel.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
This past Tuesday Rodney and I again returned to Ndatu for further evangelism. Providentially we picked up a young boy walking home from school and gave him a ride up the mountain. His home was a little further up the mountain than we normally go, but as we arrived at his home, the Lord prompted Rodney to go and witness to a man sitting by the side of the road. As soon as Rodney got out of the truck to go and witness to this man, a motorcycle taxi pulled up and it looked like the opportunity had evaporated. However, just at that moment the motorcycle driver recognized Rodney and called out "Mchungaji njoo hapa" (Pastor come here). Rodney soon discovered that this man had seen Rodney and I and heard our conversations with others the night we had a flat tire. He listened in the background, but determined he was going to learn more. After hearing the Gospel presented by Rodney, he asked, "What do I have to do to be saved." Rodney took the opportunity to share more, and the man asked for Rodney and I to come to his home tomorrow, March 4th at 2pm our time to share the Gospel with his entire family and his brother's family. Please pray that the Holy Spirit would convict them and that the Word of God would fall on good soil. Pray for Rodney as he seeks to accurately and clearly present the message of God's salvation in Jesus Christ. Thank you for laboring with us.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Rodney and I had been visiting in the village of Ndatu for a few hours yesterday and were just planning on jumping on his motorcycle and riding for home. As we were walking towards our bike, a new friend named Baba Elia noticed that our rear tire was flat. We had planned on being home within the next few minutes, but that all changed with this news. Thankfully, we had parked not 30 feet from a small Duka (shop) that specialized in motorcycle parts for the numerous motorcycles that ferry villagers up and down Mt. Meru to and from the local market. As we settled on the slab of wood for a bench outside the duka, we were able to engage several people in conversation. One particular older gentleman named James spent about 30-40 minutes conversing with me in my unrefined Swahili. Of all the practice I did that day, this unexpected delay turned out to be some of the most valuable of all. Although it was getting dark by the time we arrived home, it was exciting to see God's blessing in the interruptions of our lives.
Thank you for your prayers for us. Please pray for me as I venture to preach some of this Sunday's message in Swahili.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
First I must apologize for not adding to this sooner. I would give a bunch of excuses about how busy things have been here since we moved, but that really is no excuse. Many of you have been very busy as well, but yet you have prayed earnestly for us. I know this because the first two months in country have doubtlessly been full of challenges, but in spite of them things have gone exceptionally well. After spending a few weeks setting up our home here in the midst of severe power outages, we had several weeks of language school. We were anticipating being placed in the beginner Swahili course, but because of some study in Swahili while still in the States, we were able to skip the beginner course and move directly into intermediate. Not only were we able to learn at a much more rapid pace, but it also enabled us to save several thousand dollars of tuition fees. We have also had the privilege of learning from a number of veteran African missionaries about various cultural challenges and differences with African ministry.
Starting this week, now that language school is over for the time being, I will be joining with Rodney Myers as we focus on evangelism in one village in particular. Please pray for several items as we labor to plant a church in the village of Ndotu. First is a man named Stefano. Rodney has begun discipleship with this man already, but his work schedule has recently kept him away from Ndotu for almost 2 months. Second, is a man named Edgar and his fiance Verdiana. They both, after several weeks of Bible study, recognized that they were on the wide road that leads to destruction, repented of their sins, and trusted in Christ for salvation. Please pray for them that they would obey the commands of the Lord with regards to marriage. Third, please pray that the Lord would prepare the hearts of many in that village to receive the Gospel of Christ. This leads me to my last request. We have recently felt the great frustration of having a wonderful message to tell, but minimal ability to share it. Would you pray with us that we would quickly be able to grasp the language of Swahili and be able to communicate this life saving treasure to those who are lost.
On the family front, the kids are adjusting well to life here in TZ. They have made a number of friends and seem to be increasing in their Swahili every day. Thankfully we have not had to deal with any Malaria or other serious illnesses in our time here thus far. The kids have already enjoyed seeing monkeys of every sort, giraffe, zebra, cape buffalo, a black mamba (thankfully killed by our dogs), and some of the most beautiful (and noisy) birds you could imagine. The picture above is taken at Arusha National Park, which is just a few miles down the road from our home. We went on a safari there for Christmas Eve.
Thank you for your prayers
Aaron & Nicole Shipe