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Ross’ Reflections

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By Ross Sinclair

Our mission team partnered with a group of Tanzanian Christians from several congregations in the Mbeya region of the country. Most of the team members are from the Safwa tribe. There are 25-30 Safwa team members. The Safwa missionaries will spend several weeks per year involved in evangelism and church planting in the Mbeya region as well as other areas in Tanzania.

Here is a summary of the ministry work we were involved in:

• We provided doctrinal training for the Safwa missionary team on peacemaking, forgiveness, the work of the Holy Spirit, and the assurance of salvation. Hopefully this training will be taken back to their local congregations.

• A total of ~450 people were able to view the 3 showings of the “Jesus Film” in the area around Ifumbo. This was a great seed planting opportunity.

• We left 2 “Jesus Film” packs for use by the Safwa and 1 pack to be used by a missionary team working in Zambia. The packs contained a projector, a player, a copy of the film, a screen, ropes, and rechargeable 12 volt batteries.

• The local church in the village of Ifumbo was strengthen and encouraged by our visit. The 50+ members participated in the evening Bible study. They led us out into the community to do door to door gospel presentations. Hopefully they will benefit from the curiosity that the 18 Americans generated.

• We presented the gospel using bible stories, personal testimonies, and the 4 Spiritual Laws.

• There were 50+ people who made professions of faith in Christ. The names and locations of the individuals were left with the local church so that they can follow-up with discipleship efforts.

• The local Safwa chief accepted Christ as his Savior. This is significant because, as chief, he is the head of the local tribal religion. The tribal religion is based on appeasing the spirits of dead ancestors. Hopefully his conversion will influence others in the community to do come to Christ as well.

• Our group was invited to visit 2 public schools. We got to tell Bible stories and present the gospel to ~400 4th & 5th grade students.

• We distributed 20 solar-powered audio players loaded with 72 bible stories and 10 True Love Waits lessons. These players will be used by the Safwa and the Zambian teams in their evangelism and church planting efforts.

• An offering was given by our group to cover the cost of Safwa missionaries to travel to Ifumbo. The balance of the offering will be used as an insurance fund for the Safwa team to cover medical cost as they arise over the year.

• A pastor and a church member from the Safwa team had been in conflict for 15 months regarding a church discipline issue. Members of our team were able to help facilitate a public reconciliation of these two individuals. We are hopeful that this reconciliation will allow the Safwa team to continue to be effective in reaching Tanzania for Christ.

This was most rewarding of my three trips to Tanzania. The location was great, the people were great, and the mission work was important. I think it is one of the most meaningful things I have ever participated in. It is the kind of activity we need to be involved in here in the USA. We were all stretched to Go Beyond what we could do in our own strength. I think we all learned lessons about relying on the leading and the power of the Holy Spirit.

I am encouraged when I think about my Tanzanian brothers and sisters in Christ. We are separated by distance, culture, and language, but we have a common bond in our faith in Jesus Christ and our desire to share the “Good News” with others.

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More Reflections from “No Hablo”

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By Gil Gray

1. I have been asked how I acquired the name “No Hablo” from my team. On my first trip, our safari truck broke down near an isolated village and when the children came up they started speaking to me in Swahili assuming that I knew the language since I was of similar coloring. Seeing how I used to be fluent in Spanish I responded with “no comprendo” meaning “I do not understand.” But, the children continued to speak to me in Swahili and that is how I got the name. I have since learned some Swahili and can understand more than I speak because the rules are very similar to Spanish rules but with a major difference. Swahili words are multi-syllables and when pronouncing words, the emphasis is placed on the next to last syllable and if you don’t say it right they will not understand the word. Here is an example: we say okay, Tanzanians say sawa, but the emphasis is on the sa — it is stretched with emphasis. Mike Kelley asked me what caribou meant and I explained that karibu means “welcome” in Swahili — emphasis is placed on the ri, otherwise it sounds like the moose looking animal. So you can see we laughed a lot and they laughed a lot especially at me because I attempted phrases in some of the lessons that I taught.

2. We stopped on the road for a coffee/bathroom break and a law enforcement officer was there, we quickly made friends and I taught him the fist bump but he could not say the words. He would say fisti, fishy, bumpa, bomba. I told him my say was Gil and he could never say it; there were not enough syllables for him to pronounce the words. We stopped at the same place on our return and he still could not say the words.

3. The people were anxious to hear about Jesus; they had an awareness that something greater than themselves existed.

4. Tanzanians are farmers and the land is filled with resources suitable for farming. Crops were grown on the sides of mountains using manual labor alone. They used shovels and hoes for their work and would hand carry water to the crops.



5. Their infant mortality rate is among the 10 highest in the world and the average life span is 43 years. They lack of medicine, especially in the rural areas, is a major problem. Completing education is a major problem because of the need to work the farm.



6. Dar Es Salaam, formerly the nation’s capital is the major city and most citizens lack electrical power to their homes.



7. The roads are not good and the driving is worse. Tour buses will run themselves off the road in order to keep you from getting ahead. Night driving is not encouraged, we did see an accident where several cows had been hit ¼ mile from a town and the townspeople were already gathered to slice them up and more were coming. Wild animals i.e. lions, are not fenced and there is a fear that they may be hit during night driving. It is against the law to kill a lion unless you are directly threatened.



8. The people manage to live within their infrastructure and have no knowledge of the things that we throw away daily. The amount of water that I consume in a week would probably last the average family a year.

9. The Old Testament is alive in Tanzania.

10. Each morning the women sweep the dirt in front of their doorway, I say doorway because most dwellings had doorways but no door and window ways but no window.

11. Romans 10 became alive to me: How can the know unless they hear.

Gil Gray’s Reflections

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By Gilpen Gray



This was my third trip to Tanzania and I continue to be impressed by the works of Jesus Christ. There were 18 of us representing Kingsland Baptist Church for the specific purpose of proclaiming Jesus Christ. Our preparation prayers were for softened hearts, courage and strength and open doors; all were obviously answered.

We have all been encouraged to write our reflections and what you will find in common with 18 different souls is Jesus Christ. It brings to mind the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”



Additionally: “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” (Acts 1:14)



Our Team

This year, we had 5 women with us and they seasoned the trip very well. One decorated our table with flowers that grew wild there and we pay good money here for. The ladies really involved the young children with singing and acting and were a tremendous addition to the Safwa women who have stayed in the background on previous trips.

Our ages ranged from 15 (Brianna Crenshaw) to 82 (Holloway Sinclair, who had a birthday cake of tortillas, peanut butter, honey and a stick for a candle prepared for him by Tammie Benoit).

The trip moved very rapidly until we finished our ministry work so I am going to write this from my perspective categorized by morning events, afternoon events, and evening events. Purposing to lift the name of Jesus, our structure was as follows:

Our Mornings

Our mornings consisted of devotions, community, singing, and prayer. We also walked to the villages, proclaiming Jesus Christ to all. We divided into 5 teams with a local church member as a guide and at least one interpreter. We also taught structured class room lessons included the following topics: What is forgiveness? | Understanding Conviction, Confession, Repentance | The Need to Gently Restore | Being Peacemakers | Opportunities Found in Conflict. After each lesson, teams were split into small groups to further discuss the subject and seek applications in which they could have applied what they learned. The noon break consisted of eating ugali plus a vegetable (note: no meat) and more breakout sessions.

Our Afternoons

The afternoons were devoted to walking to the villages, proclaiming Jesus Christ to all. We divided into 5 teams with a local church member as a guide and at least one interpreter. We also taught structured class room lessons emphasizing the security or assurance of our salvation. Other topics included: No Longer a Slave to Sin | What Jesus says about Eternal life, Judgment and Condemnation | In what do we boast? Faith counted as righteousness, justification as a free grace gift. | Adoption as Sons and Heirs to the Promise. After each lesson, teams were split into small groups to further discuss the subject and seek applications in which they could have applied what they learned.

Our Evenings

Our evening sermons were on The Holy Spirit and led by Mike Kelley, Weston Benoit, Amy Benoit, Tammie Benoit, Ross Sinclair and Karl Kurz. We also found a director in our midst. Amy wrote screen plays to be acted out in this series using the Kingsland team mixed with Safwa tribesmen and this was done on the spot. After the evening sermon series were concluded each night, the Jesus film was shown drawing hundreds and converting some. Terry Waltrip aka Inspector Gadget was the producer and director for the series; the nights were cold and yet the team persevered.

Each member of our team found that we were called to do something above our abilities and found that the Lord was with us on each and every occasion. We went over as teachers but learned a lot ourselves. Mom aka Tammie Benoit said it best when asked what she was taking home and her response was “I need to get over myself.” The Tanzanian people are very hard workers and continually full of joy, peace and grace and without knowing so, they were teaching us 1 John 2:15-17 and Matthew 6:19-34. They are subsistence farmers harvesting their next meal or, if you will, their “daily bread” and were more than willing to give to strangers from “rich America.”

Our Church Services

Our church services were filled with praise and worship. I believe the Temptations, Michael Jackson etc. may have gotten some of their dance steps from Africa. Dance steps were in perfect harmony; song leading exchanges were done without missing a beat and no arguments about who would be next. As a matter of fact everything that we observed was in harmony and with honor. On Sunday, July 8, I was requested to travel to a remote village and perform the church service there; the local members were waiting when we got there and treated us to a fine praise and worship service before the sermon and blessed the team as we left to go back to our camp ground.

When we arrived to our camp site at Ifumbo, I was asked to be the arbitrator between two church leaders that had been at odds with each other for fifteen months. I accepted because I knew that we are all instruments of the Lord and after a few sessions at the end of the night, the two leaders were reconciled. Again this was a great insight to the working of the Lord in us and through us.

Comments and Observations

When I was not in the classroom, I “walked the villages.” The scenery in southern Tanzania is absolutely gorgeous. 

I hit the ground twice but encouraged my walk-mates to keep it a secret. My experience was different from my team mates due to the total body color difference and it drew much attention. A common question was what tribe I belonged to. So on more than one occasion I explained how African-Americans were brought to America and families were split up with names changing from one plantation owner to another and the difficulty associating with a tribe other than the best one: THE TRIBE OF JESUS CHRIST. I told them that we could trace our family to grandfathers but not beyond that. Many Tanzanians claimed me as one of theirs and my response was to give me some of that beautiful land which was agreed upon.

Bible storytelling was the primary method used to present Christ. The most popular stories were Creation, How Satan became Lucifer, Adam and Eve (the all-time favorite) and many others up to and including the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We met a family with 8 children that already knew Christ and it was obvious the very minute we set foot onto their property; the love they showed us before we spoke was a testimony in itself. We ran into a group of men that were gathered at their local “watering hole” while the women worked in the fields with their children tied to their backs. They presented so many excuses to reject Christ that we actually ending up cutting our visit with them after 2 hours; however, 2 did follow us as we walked away because they wanted to know more. Some of the excuses we heard were:

• Only Jesus could be saved and no one else.
• I have four wives and would not want to hurt 3 if I only chose one to keep.
• The church does not want me in attendance because I always have a little drink before I go and the smell offends them.
• I don’t want to change things from the way they are.
• Christ was a white man.
• I don’t want to go to church until I clean myself up.

There were many more during the entire trip but all were very similar. The point being is that man can justify his own desires anytime he wishes to do so.

We visited a local school. The principal had asked that we come and teach the children about Jesus. (WOW). My team had the 5-7 grades and there were a total of 76 in this group. The team consisted of Lauren and Phil Zito (married for 15 months and 23 years of age), Travis Sinclair and Weston Benoit (both 24) and Brianna Crenshaw (15) so since I was the eldest I played God in all of the scenes that we enacted before them so that all I had to do was to speak the world and everything into existence and they actually played the roles of Adam, Eve, Lucifer/Satan, holy angels, Abraham, Noah etc. The children were very positive and gave us their complete attention. It was a great time for all. I would love to know about these children and how the Lord has purposed each of them. Two teams were sent to this school, the other team had grades 1-4 and reported similar responses.

On one walk we had 3 interpreters and needed all three: one was English to Swahili, another from Swahili to Safwa and the third was Safwa to Sukuma. Although Swahili is the common language in Tanzania, not everyone speaks it. All speak their tribal languages (there are 120 tribes officially). However, I cannot see how anyone would know for sure. Each tribe has its own religion and its own language. When you consider this you can easily see how great the prayers for successful ministry were so important.

The young people: Weston, Travis, Brianna, Lauren, Philip and Amy were great contributors and all indicated that they would return next year. These youngsters could have been having fun with their friends and chose to proclaim the gospel 13,000 miles from home without the benefit of pizzas, television, movies, etc. I am very proud of them; they represented the silent generation very well.

After our ministry work was completed in Ifumbo in the Mbeya region, we broke camp before sunrise to come down from the volcanic region; it took us 55 minutes to get down to Mbeya and a paved road so we were rocking and rolling down (literally) being tossed about inside our safari trucks physically but not spiritually. Once we made it to a paved road, we headed north to Ruaha National Wildlife Park; at last a real bathroom and a game drive featuring the king of the jungle and everything else.

I thank you for allowing me to be a small part of a great work that was led by Jesus Christ to reach those in the outermost parts of the world.

 Looking forward to next year.

I remain 

Immersed in His Grace,
Gilpen Gray

Our campsite was between 2 volcanoes. The altitude ranged from 5700 feet to over 9000 feet and each step could vary 6 inches or much more.

Our dining room.

The executive kitchen.

Enjoying Mama Naomi’s fixings are Holloway, Richard, Pastor Nelson and team lead Bill Crenshaw (left to right).

Looking down from our base camp.

Carol Sinclair is doing her best to display her ability to carry a burden as the women of the tribes do with Tammie in the background and Richard, one of the interpreters to her left.

Carol is celebrating her 25th wedding anniversary here.

Kingsland Baptist Church entering the Park; beginning with the top left to right: Karl Kurz, Curtis Casburn, Travis Sinclair, Gil Gray, Holloway Sinclair, Terry Waltrip, Carol Sinclair, Tammie Benoit, Bryan Sinclair, Bill Crenshaw, Mike Kelley. Bottom row: Ross Sinclair, Philip (Tatu) Zito, Lauren Zito, Weston Benoit, Amy Imel, Brianna Crenshaw and David Sinclair.

Leole and Elias were two of the Masaai that we required as escorts at night to get us safely into our rooms.

This was a greater Kudu before the queens of the jungle saw him, later all that was left was his horns.

Weston’s Reflections

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By Weston Benoit

I went in to this trip not knowing what to expect. I was excited about the opportunity to share the Gospel with others, but was nervous about it at the same time. My last semester of college this past spring was definitely used by God to prepare me for this trip. Writing out and sharing my testimony, and learning how to effectively share the Gospel gave me a head start.

After the long flights, we finally made it to Dar where we stayed the night at Cefa House. The next morning we headed to Makambako bright and early. The best part of the day was our car (me, Travis, Amy, Karl, and Brianna) talking about the power of the Holy Spirit. It is awesome to have someone like Karl to encourage us. He is so wise and us younger folks learned so much from him. We stayed at the Durban Inn for the night and headed to the village of Ifumbo the next day. We were met by the welcoming Safwa missionaries and villagers.

Everyone in this culture goes out of their way to greet you and make you feel right at home. The first night I am asked to share my testimony about five minutes before it was go time. Like I said before, it was a good thing the Lord prepared me for this during my last semester. Like every other time, I could feel the Holy Spirit speaking through me. Without His peace I would be a stuttering, nervous wreck.

The next few days are spent going door to door, to share the love of Christ with anyone we met. Every new house was a new experience of nervous feelings. But once again, the Holy Spirit took over each time to use us as witnesses. It was amazing to see and feel the Holy Spirit convicting people of their unbelief right in front of my eyes. The people of Tanzania are hungry for God. This is the complete opposite of the U.S., where most have hardened their hearts towards the God who created them.

The second night Travis shared his struggles openly in from of everyone. It took so much courage, and it has been awesome to see God working in him on this trip. I am so proud of him. A Safwa missionary named David prayed for him out loud in front of everyone, and you could feel the presence of God in the room. David had a huge impact on me as well. We talked by the fire one night and he told me how he became a missionary. He told me that he had found something worth dying for. I realized then and there that God is calling me to share the Gospel with as many people as I can. When a man lives for something that he would give his life for, he is very dangerous (in a good way). I will continue to seek God’s plan for all the details.

Sunday afternoon, we had some free time. Me and Travis and about 20 locals walked a few miles to the closest soccer field and played a full game. It was so much fun! We made it back to camp about five minutes before I was scheduled to preach. Once again I was overwhelmed with God’s peace as the Holy Spirit spoke through me. My translator, Richard, was awesome. We learned from each other and encouraged each other. He took a 2 hour bus ride just to tell us goodbye one more time at the airport. What a guy!

The biggest surprise for me on the trip was my mom. Seeing her compassion towards the people combined with the her knowledge of the Scriptures made an awesome witness. She set the bar high for me! It was so awesome to see how God used do many people with very different gifts to work together for His glory.

Mr. Bill organized the entire trip and kept everyone on schedule and focused. His love for mission work is evident in everything he does.

Mr. Holloway was such a trooper at 82 years old! I think I was tempted to complain more than he was. What a great role model for how to finish the race with perseverance.

Mr. Terry (Uncle Terry/Inspector Gadget) had no problems with being the quiet behind the scenes leader. His knowledge of technology was used to show the Jesus film three nights bringing many to make decisions to follow God, including the village head man!

Mr. Curtis Casburn is the wittiest older gentleman I have ever met. He is constantly cracking jokes, reminding me of the joy that God provides.

Mr. Gil is one of those guys that is completely fearless in sharing the Gospel to whoever will listen. What a great influence he has had on me and Travis.

Mr. Ross is so knowledgeable on the Scriptures and their truth. His wisdom has really opened my eyes to show me how much I still have to learn.

Mr. Brian has a simple faith that has encouraged me. Through his testimony he shared, he told what it is like to live a life of ups and downs. The key is to constantly trust in God through it all!

Mr. Big Dave is the story teller of the group. Sending out perfectly written recaps of each day so that others reading could hear what God has done and know His glory.

Karl gets us all thinking constantly and starts the conversations about God and who He is. He takes our focus of discussion off of worldly things and puts them on eternity. What a blessing.

Mr. Mike Kelley is constantly asking me: “Wes, can you even believe we are here in Tanzania doing what we are doing?” He is so happy and thankful to be used by God to reach these people, and has encouraged me to be the same way.

It has been awesome getting to know Phil on this trip. He is a few steps ahead of me in life, and I have been eager to collect as much advice from him as possible. He has challenged me to not get carried away with work load, but to keep God first in my life. His wife, Lauren, was awesome when we spoke at the school. Her teaching abilities were used as she told the Bible stories from memory to the kids. God has clearly gifted her in this area.

Mrs. Carol is so much fun to be around, there is never a dull moment! I really look up to her in the way that she has no concern with what anyone thinks about her. She is happy in the moment where God has her and its awesome to see.

Brianna might be the youngest person to ever go on this trip. I questioned whether a high school girl could survive, but she proved me wrong. Her confidence is a rarity found in girls her age, and I know God will use this.

It has been great getting to know Amy. She follows God and His plan without worry, even when it is against her own wishes. It is clear that she wants to do God’s will no matter what. I want to be more like her.

All of these people combined made a perfect team, and it was awesome to be a part of a group serving the Lord. My prayer for us as we return home, is that we would continue to witness to others wherever we are. There are so many who are lost all around us. I pray that we forget about ourselves and our own well being, to commit our lives dedicated to sharing the Good News with everyone!

Weston

Tanzania 2012 Trip Summary

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By David Sinclair

Greetings

We arrived safely back in Houston Saturday afternoon. On the way back, I had a chance to reflect on some of the events over the past two weeks. While the trip and mission is not about numbers, it is a way to communicate what happened. I also asked several team member what God revealed to them on the trip and have included some of those comments below.

Technical Information:

• The local church at Ifumbo was supported and encouraged.

• The Safwa missionary team @26 people were provided training in forgiveness, restoration, and the role of the Holy Spirit.

• Helped resolve a conflict within the Safaw team.

• Showed the Jesus film to 400+ people in Ifumbo and 2 surrounding villages.

• Shared the Gospel with @350+ children in 2 village schools.

• 50 +/- decisions for Christ throughout the 3 village area. Several families looking for a church home were also reached.

• Provided the Safwa team with 3 mini projectors containing the Jesus film complete with back packs, rechargeable batteries, speakers, tripods, and cloth screens with ropes that will allow the film to be shown in any location from a grove of trees to a soccer field.

• Provided the Safwa team with 20 additional solar powered mp3 players containing 83 Bible stories for use in training additional Safwa and sharing the Gospel.

Team Impressions:

“Realization that God is a work even when we’re not.”

“We prayed for God to prepare the hearts of those we would meet and he did. Why am I so surprised we were well received?”

“We communicated the Gospel and God did the rest.”

“I realized that I don’t need many of the things I thought I needed. True happiness comes from God.”

“Our cultures are different, but we have similar problems. The human condition is the same…we all need Christ.”

“Teaching is humbling and can convict you of issues not addressed in your own life.”

“You can trust God to take care of the details.”

“I learned how to better share the Gospel by watching others share.”

“I never realized my testimony could be important to someone else. There were people who were having the same struggles I had.”

“I was intimidated by the settings we were in from time to time, but God helped me overcome that fear through prayer and the boldness of other team members.”

“I was stretched far beyond what I thought were my capabilities were.”

The list could go on and on and I’m certain as you speak with the different team members, they will share more details of their experience. Each of us found out something new about ourselves and discovered more about how God works.

It was an honor and humbling to serve with this team. We really came together and supported each other. Where one was deficient, another filled the gap. We are truly grateful for all the prayers of support we receive from Katy to San Antonio to Austin to Amarillo to California to Bangladesh and other locations around the world. We are glad to be home, but will never forget the experience and how God worked in our lives and the lives of others.

Blessings all,
David

Glad to Be Home

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By Karl Kurz

Arrived in Dubai around 11:45 PM. I went to hotel and showered and returned to airport to access wireless connectivity around 1:30 AM. I was able to catch up on some emails and news. The flight to Houston departed at 9:30 AM with expected arrival at 4:45 PM. One more long flight to return home.

When I think of the Safwa I go back to I Thessalonians 1:1-7…

To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:  Grace to you and peace.

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.

You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.

The Holy Spirit is on the move. Come quickly Lord Jesus!

God is so good and glad to be home,
Karl

Can’t wait to get some Mexican food, get mobbed by my 3 dogs, and hold my wife (with the last being first!).

The Road Home

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By David Sinclair

Greetings

We traveled from Ruaha to Dar Es Salaam today and are now at our hotel, CEFA House. It was a long 12+ hour drive. No major concerns other than typical TZ traffic and highway maneuvers that would cause most Americans to go into shock.

We learned today that in TZ there is the road and then……there is the road. An accident on the highway ahead threatened to delay us indefinitely. Our drivers……being the resourceful professionals they are……exited the highway and traveled over to a dirt road parallel to the highway. I wouldn’t classify it as an “access road”, but it served a good purpose for us. Aside from a few hard bumps, this worked out very well. Going through the herd of cattle as we got back onto paved road capped off a nice detour on what has been a very long day. Our driver. Ezekiel said, “we are in a Land Rover, it’s not a problem”. I guess he’s right, they don’t call the vehicles Land Rover’s for no good reason.

We depart Dar tomorrow afternoon at 4:50 PM (9:00 AM Houston time) to begin the air portion of our return. We’ve heard that weather has been a problem in Houston, so we’ll monitor things from here and try to let folks know what the airlines are saying.

Blessings all,

David

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