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