Saturday, November 9, 2013

Two Interesting Days

Hello there. As you may have guessed, you haven’t heard from me in a while because Internet service has been spotty. Last night, the power was out altogether. Then earlier this evening we had both power and Internet, and I had a long Skype session with Lorie. That was amazing. Good, clear signal. I took the computer around and showed Lorie to the Tanzanians who were at the Soards’ house at the time. They greeted her in Swahili, and she learned how to greet them back. She met Moses, my translator, and Eric, and his 16-month-old son Kaleb. I just could not believe that I could not only talk to, but see my wife—from 8000 miles away---and it was FREE! But then when I sat down after supper to post on this blog…no such luck. I almost gave up and went to bed, but then when the power flicked off and came on again--voila! Wi-Fi! So, the past two days have been very interesting. Yesterday I taught on the Holy Trinity--the doctrine that God is one God in three persons--Father, Son, Holy Spirit. After a lot of Scripture study and teaching, I divided my pastors into pairs, and I asked that one of them pretend to be a Muslim, and ask the other one, "Why do you Christians believe in three gods?" Here in Tanzania, there are as many Muslims as there are Christians, and the Trinity is one of the biggest objections Muslims have to Christianity. Well, you should have seen the lively discussions that went on. They were having so much fun that I asked one pair to stand up and do their dialogue for everyone. The pastor who was pretending to be Muslim was tearing into the other one, so I jumped between them and asked for help from the class. One fellow said, "Ask him (the "Muslim") if he believes the Koran when it says that Jesus will come back to judge." The question was asked, and the "Muslim" started spouting off again. So I put my hand in front of his face (to make him stop talking) and said, "He's trying to avoid the question! Don't let him do that!" And another pastor jumped up and said, "Yeah! Make him say yes or no, nothing else!" The "Muslim" said yes, and one of the pastors said, "Well, then, Jesus is God, because only God can judge!" and all the pastors applauded. Fun! Then another pair got up and tried. This time when I asked the class for help, one of the pastors said, "God created the world by the power of his word. Jesus raised people from the dead by the power of his word. Jesus is God because only God can create life by the power of his word." Again, applause. These guys were really getting into this. Then in the afternoon we had a guest speaker--Joseph, a local Tanzanian pastor who's been involved in CCMP -- Church and Community Mobilization Process. WOW. Not only was this guy an exciting, dynamic speaker--but the stuff he talked about--how churches could use this process to help themselves move out of poverty--it was amazing. When he got done I was so excited that I stood up and applauded, and the Tanzanian pastors joined in. It was a great day. Today was a bit more frustrating. Not bad--but frustrating. It rained. I mean poured. As in torrential. Cataclysmic. You say, "So what, Claude, you were inside." Yeah, but the church we're meeting in has a tin roof. And the rain was so loud we simply could not continue. Then the rain began to blow in through the windows, and just about everything got wet. The picture above is of the non-paved street right outside the main door of this church. As you can see, it's flooded. My normal translator, Moses, had to take off because someone took his computer. He had left it at the office of his school to recharge it -- something most of the students do -- but somehow it walked off. He was trying to both recover his computer and make a deadline for an online class. So he left me with a friend who knew English OK but was not familiar with me, or the pastors, or the subject material. So that made for some long, tedious, and frustrating discussions. At one point the pastors starting asking him to just tell them what goes in the blanks on their outlines (I had a filled-in copy for the translator). Which he did, until I realized what he was doing and said, "Wait a minute, I have more to say than just what's on those outlines!" Meanwhile, the rain continued off and on (mostly on), and it was cold! Here we are, within 200 miles of the equator, and we're all shivering! But despite the dampness, there were still some great moments. Like when we talked about the importance of the church. I acted out my arm disconnecting itself from my body, crawling off by itself, and dying for lack of nourishment. The pastors loved it. Or when we talked about how to conclude a sermon. I pretended to be an airplane, flying around the room, starting to land, but then taking off again, starting to land, but then taking off again (exemplifying the pastor who keeps preaching long after he's "finished.") There was a lot of knowing laughter in the room at that point. I finished up the teaching outlines for both classes today, doctrine and preaching. I gave the pastors the assignment to write a 10-minute sermon, using the process I taught them, that they will present in class next week. Tomorrow we are off from classes--some pastors (including yours truly) will be preaching at the churches around Tarime. We begin again bright and early on Monday. Those who do not preach in churches tomorrow will present their practice sermons first. Those who do preach in churches tomorrow will present on Tuesday. Eric and I are hoping to bring Joseph back on Wednesday, and then Thursday we will have a discussion of their needs for continuing pastoral education in the morning--and a closing celebration in the afternoon--complete with certificates, a big meal, and closing worship! (In the pictures below, the pastors are working in pairs on an assignment...)
SPONSORS: Please forgive that I have not sent many of you pictures of your pastors yet. With internet so spotty (and slow), it's a time consuming process. Some of you may receive your pictures after I've returned home. Please know, in the meantime, that the pastors are very, very appreciative. I mean, like, they are really grateful.

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