Our village outreaches are an exciting time of bringing help and hope to remote villages along Lake Tanganyika. The usual three-day to one week outreach consists of several different parts:
Pastor/Church Leader Seminars:
Pastors and church leaders are invited from the surrounding areas to attend seminars at the church hosting the outreach. Only about 5% of the pastors in our region have had any training, so they are very glad to be involved. We usually have at least 5 to 7 denominations represented. The morning and afternoon sessions cover such topics as Biblical Missions, Purpose of the Church, The People God uses, and even Marriage. When we take visiting teams from the west, they are able to also teach seminars on other subjects. Invariably, at the end of the outreach, the church leaders beg us to come back with more teaching. It is exciting and humbling to see people so hungry for the Word!
Our Kid’s Club leaders travel with us to do two things: First, they lead the ministry to children during each day of the outreach. Hundreds of children show up in every village we visit. It can seem overwhelming at times, but our Kid’s Club leaders do an excellent job of engaging the children in games, songs, and Bible study. It is amazing to watch them handle so many children with such love and ease. The leaders also do a great job of integrating visiting outreach teams in the ministry.
Second, Moses and our Kid’s Club leaders teach local church leaders the importance of ministry to children. Very few, if any, churches have any kind of ministry to children whatsoever. Most don’t even know what to do with the children. They try to keep them quiet and out of the way till the children get older. Then, somehow, they expect the now youth to want to come back to church. Our leaders teach the churches how to plan and carry out a ministry to children – and why that is so vital to the health of the church. As a part of that training, the church leaders are taught how to start and run a Kid’s Club in their area.
When we are able, our village outreach includes medical services. Adoneth Marco is our staff nurse. She teaches Basic Family Health, HIV/AIDS Awareness, and Traditional Birth Attendant classes. When possible, we will also team up with Dr. Larry Pepper who is a missionary doctor in our area.
With the doctor and our nurse, we are able to hold medical clinics each day of the outreach. People come from miles around to see the doctor. Christians, non-believers, and Muslims stand in line from the early morning hours to receive medical help. We take advantage of that “captive audience” to share the Gospel through dramas, teaching, and one on one sharing. No matter who they are, they will not get out of line for any reason!
After seeing the doctor, the people proceed to our portable pharmacy that we set up in each village for medicine and prayer. It is so encouraging to see our team members praying with each person before leaving the pharmacy. We believe that God will bring fruit out of showing His love to people in this way.
Door to Door:
One of the most effective tools we use for evangelism is the door-to-door ministry. The culture in Tanzania is very conducive to this kind of approach because of its welcoming nature. Every “hodi” (pron: ho-dee), which is a verbal “knock-knock” in Swahili, is met with a hearty welcome. People in the village will drop whatever they are doing and sit and talk for hours. In the privacy of their own yard, even Muslims will ask questions and be open to hearing the Gospel for the first time. Many have prayed to receive Christ sitting outside their own home.
Each person who receives Christ is encouraged to attend discipleship classes that start while we are still in the village. In addition, we try to connect new believers to one of the local churches for further discipleship.
Each evening we show films out doors and invite the whole village to attend. The Jesus Film, in Swahili, is a standard that we show in every village. We also use a series called “More Than Dreams” which includes 5 true stories about Muslims from 5 different countries who God reached through visions and dreams. The videos are done in the native language of the country where it took place, but English subtitles are provided. One of our staff is able to translate the subtitles on the fly into Swahili. As he speaks, the sound of the film is in the background. It has proven very effective and has raised many questions.
We also use “The Passion” in the same way. Yes, there is some “Hollywoodness” to the film, but it is still effective. As it is being translated, all the parts are addressed and put into perspective.
The other film we use is “God’s Story.” Through Swahili narration and artist renderings, the film tells the story of the Bible from Creation to Resurrection.
For villages on the lake, we travel by boat. The HofN boat can carry 25 people and all the gear/food. We use local boats for the overflow when we need to transport more than 25 people. For villages in the bush, we use our Land Cruisers to transport everyone to the village. We have seen much fruit from the village outreaches over the years.