Parting Ways

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By Ross Sinclair

Bill and I got up early and savored a cup of coffee as we enjoyed the view of the Zanzibar Straits. The group spent the morning relaxing on the beach. Today begins the process of traveling home. Travel today will consist of cabs, a ferry and airplanes.

We rode from the hotel to the ferry landing in a taxi. When we got out I noticed that on the front left wheel that only 3 of the 5 lugs actually had nuts on them. Inspector Gadget assured me that 60% coverage was good enough.

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We were able wait for the ferry in the VIP lounge. As you can see from the picture, we took the term lounge literally.

The ferry ride was great. Most of the group played spades or rested. I sat on the top deck and enjoyed the fresh air and salt spray. The ride was a little rough. We were bucking a strong head wind and the seas were 3-5 feet. I thought things might get interesting when they started passing out the “Sick Bags.” I had a vision of what that might be like in high wind conditions. I was glad I was on the second row but I was still ready to employ my ninja like reflexes. Ultimately they were not needed.

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We made it to the hotel, ate dinner, and took a 3 hour nap. At dinner, the waitress strongly recommended that Bill order rice with his entrée. He took her advice and ended up with a saddle of rice. Everyone at the table had an opportunity to enjoy some.

Getting around in Dar es Salaam is always interesting … even at 1:00AM. All indications are that tail lights are not required for night-time travel. Apparently traffic signals are optional. We ran no less than 4 red lights on the way to the airport. Even when there were cars in the cross traffic we just went straight through. It was better for me not to look. As always The Lord was watching over us.

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We just took off from DAR on our way to Istanbul. Most of the group will head home, but a few of us are spending a few extra days in Istanbul for some sightseeing. We shared a group prayer before we parted ways.

The flight provides an opportunity to reflect on the trip. New friendships were made and old ones were renewed. We have shared an experience that will leave us changed. On past trips I could point to a number of professions of  faith as a measure of the success of the trip. That is not the case this time. As far as I know there were none. Our goal was not evangelism, it was equipping and teaching. I think we have succeeded in that objective. The Safwa have been trained and I am confident that they will execute the plan. Please keep Pastor Nelson and the Safwa Team in you prayers.

Bwana Asifiwe – Praise The Lord!

Zanzibar’s Slave Market

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By Ross Sinclair

We had a nice relaxing start to the day. Over breakfast we swapped stories about the events of the evening. Joseph and I are rooming together. Despite the fact that my dog chewed up my snore guard mouth pieces he said my snoring wasn’t too bad.

The big story comes from the Crenshaw family. Brianna scared her room mates when she began screaming in her sleep. She got up and ran around the room trying to get away from the imaginary bugs that plagued her dreams. When she woke up this morning she told Carmen and Melinda that she had a funny dream about bugs. They politely said yeah we know and explained what happened. Full contact sleep walking can be quite entertaining. Dream Screamer seems like a fitting nickname to replace Pigtails.

The group hung out at the hotel this morning. We toured the ruins, walked through the gardens and enjoyed a variety of beach activities. I especially enjoyed kayaking around the beach front. The Indian Ocean is beautiful. There was a steady stream of fishing boats crisscrossing in front of our beach area. It was a perfect location to enjoy a cool Stoney Tangawizi.

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Bill swam for a while and ended up with water in his ear. We began a search for some rubbing alcohol and stopped at a duka, but no luck. We then stopped at a roadside pharmacy. Bill said he was looking for alcohol. The pharmacy owner thought Bill was looking for something to drink and refused to sell him anything. After that bit of confusion was cleared up Bill ended up with the purple concoction. I can’t believe he poured it in his ear. It is clearly marked for external use only. Oh well, if you are going to pour a purple liquid in your ear, make sure it is “highly inflammable.” The good news is that it worked.

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After lunch we headed in to Stone Town and toured Christ’s Church. This Anglican Church was built on the site of the old slave market. The Portuguese and later the Arabs ran the East African slave trade from Zanzibar from the 1400’s until it was outlawed in 1873. The slave trade continued illegally until 1905.

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Hundreds of thousands of slaves passed through here on their way to South America, the Middle East, and the Far East. At the church site we also toured the slave quarters. As many as 75 women and children would be crammed into the room. They would wait in that chamber for up to 3 days with no food or water until they were sold. I can’t understand how people could rationalize treating other people like this. This a dark part of our collective history.  The good news is that the church played an active part in bringing about an end to slavery.

This evening we enjoyed the food of the street vendors again. It is a unique dining experience.

In the next room Bill, Carmen, and Melinda, are teaching Joseph to play spades. It is a fitting end to a relaxing day of fellowship.

Tomorrow we head back to Dar es Salaam.

On the Island of Zanzibar

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By Ross Sinclair

Well, it took Melinda several days, but she has finally earned a nickname. Yesterday she wore a blue shirt that was relatively new. The blue dye from the shirt stained her skin. The name Smurfette seems appropriate.

We left our hotel and headed down to the ferry landing. We were herded through various lines but we finally made it on board. The 1 hour and 45 minute ferry ride was beautiful. Even though Zanzibar is a part of Tanzania we had enter through immigration again. We all took turns mis-spelling the name of the hotel we are staying at. The Mbweni Ruins Hotel is beautiful. It is right on the water and has a private beach area. The accommodations and the staff are very nice. The picture below is the view from the hotel restaurant.

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We spent the afternoon shopping in Stone Town. Zanzibar is 98% Muslim. It is Ramadan and most of the people are fasting during the daylight hours. We didn’t eat or drink while we were out and about today as to not to offend the locals.

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We finished off the evening by eating dinner at a water front park called Jamituri Gardens. Street vendors served up all kinds of cuisine. You could literally get fresh crab, lobster, calamari, octopus, shrimp, beef, and chicken cooked and served to you on a paper plate. It was delicious and we plan to return tomorrow evening.

Hakuna Matata

First Shower in Nine Days

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By Ross Sinclair

There was a flurry of activity as we broke camp this morning. We packed and loaded our bags, took down the tents and said our final goodbyes to the Safwa. We crammed into a couple of land cruisers and set out for the 2 1/2 hour drive to Mbeya. We dropped off the translators and Nelson and we headed off to lunch at the Utengule coffee plantation resort. The atmosphere and food were great and we enjoyed some fellowship over a cold Stoney Tangawizi.

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Brianna made a critical mistake when she ordered the prawns. They were a little fishy and definitely needed some “Slap Yo Momma” seasoning. Bill’s philosophy is that he never orders seafood when he is more than 50 miles from the coast. This is especially true in Tanzania. Fresh fish transported by truck might not be so fresh. Apparently Bill has no prohibitions on where he will order Chinese food. His sweet and sour pork worked out just fine.

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The Songwe international airport provided the first reliable connection to wi-fi since the Istanbul airport. Twinkle Toes was left out of the fun since he does not have a portable electronic device.

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This is our ride from Mbeya to Dar Es Salaam. A one hour flight is much better than a 16 hour car ride.

Getting from the airport to our lodging spot in Dar is always an adventure. We crammed 9 people and 12 bags in a Toyota van. It would have been tight with 7 people, but 9 people made it like a game of mobile Twister. The cramped quarters kept our minds off the traffic.

We made it to the Tanzanite Executive Suites. For those TZ mission trip veterans this is a gigantic step up from the Cefe House or the Rombo inn.

I showered for the first time in since I left Katy. 9 days is a new personal record for me. I was not the only one who did not bathe in Ifumbo. The shower felt great. We are all looking forward to a good night’s sleep. We leave for Zanzibar in the morning.

The Last Day in Camp

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By Ross Sinclair

I awoke this morning to the sound of rain. Apparently it had rained all night long. As I lay there I could hear something other than the rain drops hitting my tent. It was the sound of the Safwa praying. They prayed for an hour. I have no idea what they were saying, all I know is they were passionate about it. They are a remarkable group of people. I felt convicted so I joined them in prayer as I lay flat on my back. When I woke up they were still praying.

Twinkle Toes had a great idea at breakfast this morning. He put honey on the mandazi. The man is a genius! By the way Lipid Man is back on the donuts and off the bananas.

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Today was the final day of ministry and teaching. The Safwa apprentices taught the Bible stories they learned this week to about 300 kids at  two local schools. What an opportunity to reach the children of Tanzania with the gospel.

Bill taught about the qualifications for church leadership. The afternoon was filled with real and hypothetical questions regarding all aspects of church life. Bill directed them back to scripture to find the answers. This was a great learning moment for the Safwa.

At dinner, Carmen and I shared some comfort food. We had a bowl of Gran’s (my mom) chicken noodle soup. It was great. I shared it because I could not stand to see Carmen stare down another plate of ugali.

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MacGyver came to camp today. Bill did surgery on his camp chair. The zip ties ought to hold it for one more day.

Inspector Gadget’s Tanzanian phone was activated today. We all enjoyed phone calls home.

The last day in camp is always a little sad. It’s hard to put into words all the feelings I have right now. In the evening worship service Joseph shared his testimony and preached on the security of the believer. He did a great job. The service closed by us praying for the Safwa and the Safwa praying for us. There is much love and respect between the mzungu (us) and the Safwa. We will miss our brothers and sisters in Christ. I think we can leave here confident that we have done our best to equip the Tanzanian church.

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I have included a group picture plus one. She wanted in the picture and we let her stay.

The dance party just ended. Time to go to bed.

A Good Day in Tanzania

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By Ross Sinclair

Last night we experienced a heavy thunderstorm. This is an unusual occurrence since it is the dry season. It made for some really good sleeping weather.

We had a breakfast of tortillas, peanut butter, and honey. We washed it down with some coffee and chai.

The ministry day started with more teaching. We have not done any house to house evangelism this trip. This year’s focus has been to train the trainers. We are teaching the Safwa team the church planting material with the expectation that they will teach this material in their home congregations. It was exciting to watch them strategize on ways to reach specific people groups. Hopefully this will result in exponential growth. We also discussed  strategies for the discipleship of new believers.  It’s not quite as exciting as door to door evangelism but it is kingdom work non the less. On second thought, equipping the Tanzania church to win Tanzania for Christ is pretty exciting.

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Bill and Terry went to town to run errands and replenish our supply of water. They came back with some fresh fruit and tomatoes. Mama Naomi turned the tomatoes into a gravy for the ugali. It was delicious. After the lipid comment yesterday I have decided I’m going to eat more fruit. I devoured about 4 of these mini-bananas. They were much better than any I have had in the States.

No Hablo spent a portion of the day providing pastoral counseling to those who needed it. Gil has a special bond with the Safwa. It is neat to see how they interact with him.

Since Gil is in somewhat of an incapacitated state due to his ankle he has been relying heavily on his tent-mate Joseph. You can hear him say Joseph go for water or Joseph go for food. Joseph’s nickname is now Gopher.

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The evening worship service was preceded by a time of music and dancing. It is amazing what you can do with a generator, a 100-watt sound system and a 40-watt light bulb. Evil Eye got out there and kicked up some dust. It was great to watch Carmen worship The Lord through dance with her Tanzanian brothers and sisters in Christ.

The sermon is over and the dance party is starting again. I think I will join in. It is a good day in Tanzania.

A Man of Many Lipids

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By Ross Sinclair

Today got off to a tough start for me. Let me set the stage.

The weather here in Ifumbo has been quite cold. It has been overcast and windy with a few sprinkles of rain. The temperature this morning was around 42. I was eating my mandazi (Tanzanian donut) and enjoying my morning coffee. The others in the group were laughing because one of the interpreters, Emanuel, said that he was cold because he did not have many lipids. He said that Baba Mathayo (me) has many lipids. I’m not sure what a lipid is but I’m pretty sure it is Swahili for fat. Emanuel said in Tanzania it is prestigious to have lipids. It is a sign of great wealth. Apparently I’m banking in Tanzania. It’s nice to be in a culture that has an appreciation for girth. The team has begun to refer to me as Lipid Man. I think I prefer Last Rights Ross.

The training classes continued in the morning.

In the afternoon No Hablo, Evil Eye, Inspector Gadget, and Twinkle Toes took Melinda, Bri, and Joseph to a local public school. The team shared Bible stories and played games with the kids. There were over 300 kids who heard the stories.

1 1/2 times and I got a report on how the Safwa are using the solar-powered audio players. These players are loaded with 72 Bible stories and 10 True Love Waits lessons. The Safwa missionaries are using them in their evangelism and church planting efforts. They are used to teaching new believers the stories of the Bible. We gave them 20 new players.

At dinner we had a sweet time of fellowship. We shared our personal testimonies and shared our lives. It was a good bonding time.

The day of ministry came to a close as Inspector Gadget showed the Jesus film to a crowd of approximately 150 people.

Please pray for the local Ifumbo church as they contemplate the restoration of a brother in Christ.

I hope my lipids will keep me warm tonight because it’s kind of chilly.

Up Hill Both Ways

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By Ross Sinclair

Today marked the first full day of training for the Safwa. Bill and I continued teaching the church planting material. We reviewed the person of peace material and identified 5 roles of the church. During this training we received a report regarding the progress of the Safwa church planting efforts. We heard about the successes and struggles of local congregations in the Usangu area. There was a good report from a church in the Taturu area. The most encouraging report was from a church in the Bungu area. This church has struggled for the past 10 years. It now has some strong leadership and has grown to around 80 people.

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Churches in other areas of Tanzania have heard about the work of the Safwa. Some of them have requested Safwa teams to come and teach their congregations how to do Bible story evangelism and church planting techniques. Please pray that the Lord will continue to bless these efforts and that He would provide the funds for the new opportunities.

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Gil and Carmen’s team provided training for teaching the kids. After lunch Terry, Carmen, Melinda, Joseph, and Brianna walked to a local primary school for a visit. This is the point where Carmen went “beyond.” According to Carmen she walked uphill both ways to the school. The 45-minute walk was near vertical at points. It was at this point she admitted that she hated Joseph and Brianna for being young. She hated Bill for telling her to go. She hated Gil because he could not go. Upon return to the camp she underwent post-excursion counseling while she picked grass burrs out of her skirt. She took a nap and is fine now, but she has earned the nickname “Evil Eye” for the look she has in the picture above.

Here is the list of nicknames so far:

Bill is known as 1 1/2 times. Use this multiplier to any time estimate Bill gives you.
Curtis is known as Twinkle Toes
Terry is still known as Inspector Gadget
Gil is still known as No Hablo
Carmen is now known as Evil Eye
Ross is known as Last Rights Ross
Brianna is now known as Pigtails. This is up for a new nickname because she updated her passport photo.
Melinda: None yet (stay tuned)
Joseph: None yet (stay tuned)

Please continue to lift us up in prayer.

The Lord’s Day in Tanzania

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By Ross Sinclair

Wow, I don’t know where to start. The Lord’s day in Tanzania is always special. Carmen got things going by teaching the adult bible study. She did a great job teaching on the life of Joseph.

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Brianna got in the mix with a testimony about God’s sovereignty, His forgiveness and His restoration.

Gil preached on Daniel. I’ve seen speakers use a podium as a crutch but this is the first time I have seen a crutch used as a podium.

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Joseph, Brianna, and Melinda taught the children’s Sunday school. There were about 20 kids at the start and about 50 at the end. We are working with the Safwa on ways to effectively reach the children with the gospel.

Terry and others visited a local primary school teacher to get permission for our group to visit the school tomorrow afternoon.

Bill, Curtis, and I provided a lesson on Church planting and how to identify a person of peace.

It’s hard not to compare American Christianity with what we see here. In the US we have a wealth of resources but we choose to be unhappy. In TZ believers have few resources but they worship with such joy. Bill said it best. It’s like looking at an X-ray and the news isn’t good.  Too often we forfeit the joy that is found in Christ. I want the kind of joy that I see in the faces of my Tanzanian brothers and sisters in Christ.

After church activities included dinner on the grounds with music provided by Marvin Gaye, Elvis, and CCR. In the spirit of the World Cup we had a futbol game of sorts. The ball was an empty water bottle and the goal was marked by two dirt clods. The kids took turns shooting penalty kicks at a former goalie that was well past his prime. It was a good time for all.

You are all probably familiar with the US Marine motto of semper fidelis always faithful and the US Coast Guard semper paratus always prepared. Our motto has been semper Gumby always flexible. Bill got the word at 5:30pm that one of the Muzungu would be preaching tonight at 8:30pm. Bill looked deep into the bullpen and I got the nod. I was Ryan Rush-like and finished in 20 minutes short by TZ standards. The moral to the story is to be flexible and be prepared.

The first opportunity for a bath was today. Most of us opted out. We will see who can hold out the longest.

Tanzania or Bust

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By Ross Sinclair

After 32 hours of straight travel we finally made it to the village of Ifumbo. It is a beautiful place. I imagine this is what Eden may have liked like.

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The trip has had its interesting moments. First you will notice that Gil is not in the group picture. Gil twisted his ankle a few weeks prior to the trip. This injury afforded him VIP treatment. He had an airport entourage that wheeled him from gate to gate. He got priority treatment and he used a fast pass to go through security. Consequently, he spent his time in Istanbul sequestered from the rest of the group. He said he didn’t like it but I think he really enjoyed all the attention. I’m thinking of faking a hamstring injury so I can join him on the way home.

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We had on crisis moment at the DAR airport. Terry and his passport and boarding pass got separated as he went through security. That can be a desperate situation when you are over seas. Lesser men would have crumbled under the pressure but Terry never lost his calm demeanor. Literally a few minutes before our flight was to leave his passport was turned in to security. Praise The Lord!

We are spending the afternoon resting and visiting with our Safwa brothers and sisters. Apparently we are still tired.  Inspector gadget, Terry is trying to convince the group that there is a mongoose hanging upside down from a tree in camp. There will be more discussion on the mongoose situation but generally group hallucinations are not pretty. More nicknames to come!