Tanzania: Community Transformation with e3 Partners

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Our team recently returned from Tanzania and were blessed, protected, loved, had our eyes opened to new ways to serve Christ. We were also blown away by seeing the fruit of the labor of the e3 Partners team service over the past 4 years and had many, many opportunities to share the Gospel.

Tanzania is the country just south of Kenya.  We primarily served the people of the Masai tribe.  

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We stayed in a very small township. Breakfast was breads and fruits. Lunch was taken in the villages with the ladies cooking for us. We had a wonderful lady, Beatrice, who came into the accommodations each night and served us a home cooked meal of rice, noodles, potatoes, beans, chicken or beef, greens and cabbage with pineapple, bananas, avocados or other fruit for dessert.

We served in 2 villages.  Our transportation was a 3-person bajage (3 wheeled vehicle with a driver), vans or a bus. The meeting places were churches. I just can’t tell you how fun it is to serve in a church where you can watch herds of goats or cows go by the windows! The music was fabulous and I’m very sure they got a kick out of our dancing but theirs was “amazing praising!”

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We served with e3 Partners doing Community Transformation (CT).  We actually were helping with the collection of information, teaching of the 4 Steps to Empowerment and sharing the Gospel.  I must say that on this trip our whole team participated in more actual Gospel presentations and witnessed amazing transformations in spoken word and action. This is one of many examples: a pastor in my small group was anxiously watching for someone to show up.  Once he did, the pastor jumped up and took him to another group and returned to us.  Quietly he shared that this particular man was over 1,000 Masai and was very close to putting his faith in Christ.  Once his commitment to Christ has been made, he will be sharing Christ to his group of Masai.  There is more to the story but, trust me, the Holy Spirit is preparing his heart and there will be much transformation! There are cultural things in the Masai tribe that actually go against Christianity, so once one becomes Christian, the Holy Spirit will reveal these things and all I can say is, “Praise God!”

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We found the Tanzanians very friendly and lovingly warm. They are learning, through CT, NOT to look for handouts but to look around them and see what resources they already have and to work together with their community, because we are better together! One CT group is making beautiful batik, another beaded jewelry, another raising chickens and rabbits. One learned that their village was getting sick due to the trash all around so they started a garbage pickup—as in they literally pick it up and take it to burn outside of the city.  One learned that disease was spreading because they did not use toilets so to date they have dug 12, 16-foot latrines for free in surrounding villages! Another has learned to make concrete tops for the latrines that can be moved to another latrine when the first one is full. Community Transformation is really working!

For our cultural day we visited the Ngorongoro Crater.  It was an amazing example of God’s handiwork!

I’m sure I’m leaving out something I wanted to pass on but if your interest has been peaked, look up e3 Partners online and read more.

Thank you so much for your prayers!  We could feel them and know that God was hearing them.

Houston: Day 2 -What’s in a Name?

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.

Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.”-Psalm 147:3-5

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When our team was reflecting on the day, one of the things we discussed was the power of a name. Think about it for a minute, how great does it feel when someone you’ve only just met remembers your name and continues to address you by it? At every house we’ve been to, we talk with the homeowners and pray with them using two names-the homeowner’s name, and Jesus name. By using the homeowner’s name, we show them we truly care about them, and by using Jesus name, we are calling on the only name that has the power to heal, forgive, give peace, and save!

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Today our team returned to Sally’s neighborhood with the intention of moving the rest of her debris pile closer to the street. But, like yesterday, the FEMA dump trucks showed up and God gave us an opportunity to split up and meet other neighbors. One of those neighbors who we had a great conversation with was a lady named Nicole. When we met Nicole, she was sorting through the pile in her yard with her baby daughter at her side. Her husband had returned to work and her other two children were finally able to return to school. Nicole’s need was quite obvious-she had a giant pile (actually 3 separate giant piles) that needed to be moved closer to the street so it would be picked up…not such an easy task while watching over an infant. So, our team became the hands and feet of Christ and got to work. As we worked, Nicole said, “It’ll be a struggle, but we’ll make it!”, which led into a fantastic gospel conversation. We shared Jeremiah 29:11 with Nicole and talked about how a God uses struggles to draw us near to him.

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At one point in the day, our teams split up and went to different locations. One of them went to a 2 story home that had a pile of debris that was almost tall as the house itself. The home belonged to a man in his 80’s named Doug. He had lost electricity and had a poor cell connection but had chosen not to evacuate his home, so when the reservoirs were released he was caught off guard and suddenly had a flooded home. His son and daughter-in-law, Kathryn, were finally able to get the police to do a wellness check the next day, and ‘Doug was rescued by boat. While all the flooring in the home had already been ripped out, our team helped to remove sheet rock and spray a bleach solution to prevent additional mold formation. Initially, when our team got there, only Kathryn was around, but as time passed, Doug showed up as well and we were able to pray for their family as a team.

As our team visits houses and meets homeowners, we’ve been asked, “What makes you guys different.” There are lot of groups serving and offering free help here in Houston from private tech companies to the Salvation Army to the Red Cross. The simple answer for people would be, “well, we’re the Baptists.” And as a denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention is known for having a great presence in disaster relief. But, we’re not seeking to bring recognition to our denomination’s name, or even our church’s name: our team is about bringing glory and fame to Christ’s name. When asked what makes us different, the answer is simple, we go and serve because Jesus gave his own life for us and offers forgiveness and eternal life to you as well!

North Africa: The road has already been laid out before us.

Our beautiful host city for the next few days...

Greetings from North Africa! Our team has had a solid two and half days on the ground, and we couldn’t be more thrilled for everything that has happened and been accomplished in the last few days.

This week, our team from Johnson Ferry is partnering with our good friends J & E, and we couldn’t be more honored and humbled that God would give us the opportunity to join them in the great work He’s doing in North Africa. J & E have felt led by the Lord to open an ESL school as means to reach their community, and already God has blessed it immensely, even in these early stages. One of the most prestigious schools in the city has heard about what they’re doing and wants them to not only teach classes, but also lead classes for the teachers so they can more effectively teach their pupils. 

This week, our small team is here to help codify what J & E are doing into tangible resources they can distribute to other workers who want to use ESL classes as a means to reach their communities. Our ladies have been hard at work each day writing curriculum and everything that comes with that: lesson plans, games, songs, crafts, take-home activities, movements, etc. It’s been a real privilege watching these ladies who have spent their careers teaching come together, and the goal for this week is to provide J & E a comprehensive curriculum plan for an entire year’s worth of ESL teaching. It’s a big task for sure, but they have plowed through in the two days they’ve had to work so far. I can’t wait to see what all they have ready by the end of this week.

While here, we also have the great opportunity of coming alongside J & E as they simply go have Gospel conversations in the community. It’s already been incredibly fruitful. Today for example, we split into 4 teams and went into different areas of the city. Each group was able to have wonderful, gospel-centered conversations… breaking the walls of religion, ethnicity, and nationality. It was really fun getting to debrief over a meal together tonight, listening to each other talk about the different folks they were able to share Christ with. 

Tomorrow we begin day three of curriculum writing, but we also get the chance to go into the school I mentioned earlier and demonstrate how these resources can be used at their school. We’d definitely appreciate your prayers, that many would be reached and that this school would continue to have favor on J & E and the work they’re doing. And ultimately of course, our number one prayer is that God may be glorified in everything that we do. We can’t wait to update you on future things as they develop… thanks for faithfully being a sending church, Johnson Ferry!

Houston: Harvey Relief-Day 1

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power”-Ephesians 6:10

This week, we have a very diverse team in terms of age and ability. Some of us are young, while some are old. Some are men, some are women. Some of us have years of construction experience, while others are better at demolition. However, one thing that’s true for all of us, is that at the end of the day, we’re all tired and worn out from the work we’re doing, and we have to rely on the Lord’s strength to make it through the day!

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Today we went into a community that was hit by two different stages of flooding-the flooding from the rains, and then the additional flooding from the reservoir release. Many of the homeowners in this community didn’t have flood insurance because they were outside of the official flood plain. While many of the homes in this area had already been mucked out, the debris and possessions ruined by the flood couldn’t be placed close enough to the street to be picked up because people were mucking out houses before the floods had fully receded. The city (or FEMA) is collecting all the debris and taking it to landfills, but it must be within 10 feet of the curb in order to be picked up. There are quite literally giant mounds of debris and possessions on every front yard waiting to picked up.

We started our day by helping out a man named David. David and his wife waded through floodwaters with their two children and dogs on their shoulders to get to higher ground. When we arrived, their house had already been gutted and mucked out, but the piles of debris were too far from the curb to be picked up. So, our team joined another group who was serving from Wisconsin, and we moved everything closer to the street. While we were hard at work, we also took time to pray for David and his family. They are going to be making the tough decision of whether to stay and rebuild (raising the foundation of the house), or selling and moving. Please be in prayer for David’s family as they make this tough decision.

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After we finished with David’s house, we were introduced to a woman named Sally. Sally is one of those people who knows her neighborhood and all her neighbors like the back of her hand. Sally needed help moving debris closer to the curb in her own yard, but she was more concerned about helping her neighbors first. She sent us across the street to muck out an elderly individual’s garage, and I’m not sure we knew what we were getting into. Our first challenge was simply to get into the garage because the floodwaters has pushed the garage door off its tracks. When we finally were able to muscle the door up, we began the sad process of removing it’s contents. There were years and years of possessions ranging from tools to old appliances and shelving. Unfortunately, it sat long enough that mold was forming and remediation was no longer possible, so everything had to go to the curb. We never actually had an opportunity to meet the homeowner because it was an elderly individual, and their child was trying to protect them from the reality of the condition of the house. Please pray for that family, asking for peace, wisdom and discernment on how to share the bad news.

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As we finished up with that garage, our plan was to go and help Sally with her home, but a sudden reality set in for all the homeowners on her block-the dump trucks and cranes had arrived to begin picking up debris. There was a race against time to get everything within 10 feet of the curb so a house wouldn’t be skipped. Our team began splitting up into groups walking down the block armed with shovels and gloves asking homeowners if they’d like our help. Not many refused. At each house we went to, we paused to take time to offer prayer with the homeowner, and tried to enter into gospel conversations. Overall, I think we helped about six homeowners today. I know that may not seem like many people, but if we could weigh everything we moved, it probably totaled somewhere close to a ton. We could not have helped these people without the strength of the Lord by our side.

Please continue praying for the city of Houston. We are here to make an impact in this city-to heal their physical needs, but more importantly providing spiritual healing and hope in Jesus Christ. As you read this and go about your day, especially lift up David and his family, as well as Sally and her family. All of Houston needs prayer. These folks just happen to be the people we had the most contact with today. Please also continue to lift our team up in prayer. It’s only day one of five, and the work we’re doing takes a lot of energy and strength. We need to be relying on the Lord and his strength to make it through the week so we can keep making an impact here in Houston! 

Houston: Comfort in Christ During Crisis

Our trip to Houston is not like most global ministry trips: it wasn’t planned far in advance, and it certainly wasn’t the type of trip you pray to come about. On August 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey made landfall in southeast Texas as a powerful Category 4 hurricane, with 130 mile per hour winds, rains, and strong storm surges. As most of us do in times of disaster, we began praying for safety and peace for those in Harvey’s path. However, though the storm’s winds had calmed by August 27 to 40 miles per hour, it stalled as a low pressure front above the city of Houston and dumped nearly a year’s worth of rain in just two days. The images on the news of people being rescued from their homes on national news media were startling. Then, on August 29, two of the cities flood control reservoirs breached, adding to already high floodwaters.

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As more and more images and videos of the flooding were shared on national media outlets, it became clear that there would be great needs in the city of Houston both in the short term, and for many years to come and that Johnson Ferry could have some sort of role to play in fulfilling those needs.

Our ministry partner here in Houston is Houston First Baptist Church. When the floods began to recede and it was safe to begin helping and serving the community, their congregation mobilized-first serving their own members, then their neighbors families and the entire community. While their church is indeed still acting as the “local church”, they are also functioning as a disaster relief center, and they have mobilized each of their staff members to serve in a disaster relief capacity in addition to whatever their normal roles are. Currently, the North American Mission Board is using the church as its home base in Houston, and the church is also hosting many other groups from around the country that are simply coming to serve.

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So, what exactly are we doing in Houston? The short answer is being flexible. The needs in this community are literally changing day to day, so we are here as willing servants of Christ going wherever we need to go, and doing whatever we are asked to do. Our team is prepared to do anything from mucking out houses (when a flood comes, you have to tear out all the sheet rock, and throw out any belongings covered by the water because the water is often mixed with chemicals or even raw sewage) to light construction.

And while there are many humanitarian organizations, individuals, and teams out with the same mission of helping people, our mission goes beyond the temporal. Our mission is not simply to accomplish tasks associated with recovery, but to participate in the eternal task of expanding the Kingdom of God. Whenever we encounter a homeowner in need of help, we make it a point to pray with that individual and as we form relationships with the homeowner, our team is sharing the good news of Christ. Amidst this flooding disaster in Houston, God has called us to be the people who bring comfort in Christ. Please continue to be in prayer for the people of Houston and pray that our team would have open eyes to know when and with whom we can share the gospel while we are here.

East Asia: Discipling First Generation Believers

We had a wonderful trip to East Asia.  We began our time in the capital city to acclimate to the 12-hour time change.  We walked over 17 miles in the day and half we were there, but it worked and we adjusted quickly.  While in the capital, we visited some historic and cultural landmarks.  One that particularly stood out to us was a large Buddhist temple just outside of the city center. 

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As we were prayer walking through the temple we were overcome by feelings of the darkness of the place and the sadness of seeing so many desperately seeking God, but directing those desires in the wrong direction.

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After adjusting, we flew to our primary city to spend the week with our partners.  They are lovely people, and we really enjoyed our time together.  On the first full day that we were there, we hiked up a mountain and prayed over their city.  It was a very special time of lifting the people up to God and asking him to do a mighty work in their lives.

 

Throughout the week, we were able to see some amazing things and meet some truly wonderful people.  The area around the city is spectacularly beautiful – mountains, rivers, farmland, trees, rock formations, and so much more.  We were treated to seeing the rebuilt and original Great Wall in an area that most people like us never get to see.  Our ladies made instant friends with everyone they met.  The people there were so interested in them and wanted to take lots of picture of and with them.  It was very sweet.  As they would take pictures and interact, we would pray silently for each person we encountered.  Being in such a remote area, we considered that we might be the only people to ever pray for each of them. 

One night we had a very special authentic local dinner complete with indigenous food, music, and singing. 

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We will never forget that special night as we learned so much about the culture and way of life of the people group around us.  It was also a great time to fellowship with our partners and a first generation brother around the large table inside of a ger (yurt).

Our ministry time was especially encouraging for all of us.  The men in the group met with a couple of young men that our partner is guiding.  We taught a lesson on the importance of purity in a society that has abandoned that value.  We were surprised at how open and vulnerable the guys were instantly.  The opportunities for this type of guiding are so rare that there is no time for shyness.  They have learned that they need to take in as much as possible when they get the chance.  There is no local body for them to regularly learn from, internet is restricted, and there simply are very few like-minded people around them from which to learn.

One of our ladies had a special evening of baking with our partner and her local friend.  It was a great opportunity to do life one on one and truly pour into our new friend.  It was also a nice opportunity for our partner to have her friend over to meet her American friend. 

We all had a ton of fun helping at a local English language book club for kids.  We were blown away by how smart, kind, respectful, and talented these children were.  They speak three languages and the oldest was probably around 12 years old.  We read the book “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie.” 

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After the story they worked as a group through an “if…then” exercise in English where they recapped the whole story.  Then they did three different craft projects that reinforced elements of the story.  They each painted a 4x6 canvas however they pleased.  Most of the work they do is so structured that it is a rare treat to have creative license with their task.  They also made little mouse/cookie foam ornaments, and finally decorated their own cookies.  Turns out that cookies with icing and sprinkles crosses all cultural barriers for kids!  They loved them and had so much fun.  At the end of our time, they sang a few songs for us before they left.  We were so thankful to have the opportunity to spend time with local children as well as adults. 

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We also visited another Buddhist temple where our partner has made friends with a monk in the monastery.  They have formed a special relationship and it was clear that they both truly enjoyed the other’s company.  It is encouraging to hear about the significant conversations they have had.  We again lifted up those we saw and met around the temple.  How wonderful would it be to see that place someday as a place that worships the one true God.

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On our last day in the city, we split into two’s and walked around the mall lifting up those we saw and tried to engage people in significant conversations. 

The weather in this area reaches well below 0 degrees in the winter, so the malls are huge and have just about everything in them.  Each mall we went in had a huge old-school ball pit with a giant slide that led down into it.  It was packed with kids and families laughing and having a great time. We were especially encouraged to see how many dads were there playing with their children.  These kids were so cute!  Every one of them just captured our heart.  As we were enjoying watching the fun, it began to occur to us that most likely all of them were headed for a future apart of God.  We prayed and prayed over each little face and their parents. 

Throughout the week, it became abundantly clear that the harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few.  Seeing all the people in the mall, all the people at the temples, all the people on the crowded streets yet knowing our friends are the only light in the area.  The task is so overwhelming, yet they are committed to following their calling and day-by-day doing their best to do what they can.  We also came to realize how incredibly difficult it is to minister in that area.  It is lonely.  It is culturally hard.  There is little fruit yet they persist as though it were plentiful.

Upon arriving, we quickly felt that one of our primary purposes of being there was to come along side of our partners and serve them.  We tried very hard to be listeners to what their life is like, to be empathetic to their struggles, to commit to pray for them, and most of all not to forget them when we leave.  We truly hope that while we were there we were able to encourage them, love on them, and in some way fill them back up a bit to give them strength to continue in their good work.

We were all so thankful for the time we had in East Asia.  It will always hold a special place in our hearts.  We ask you to please pray for our partners.  Consider all that you have read above and lift them up to our Heavenly Father.  Even if you do not know their specific needs, God does.  Please also pray for the people in their area.  There are a minuscule amount of brothers and sisters among millions of people there.  Pray that many would hear and many would believe.

Zimbabwe: What do the Fruits of the Spirit Look Like?

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control."  Galatians 5:22

Now please reread that verse and imagine a lot of pep, hand motions, and hip action. Cause that's how it's done Zimbabwe style.  --->>

When Jennifer Bosma came up with her hilarious dance and hand motions to the verse, I don't think she was planning on it being such a hit, but it was. Many of us felt we would never forget the verse and it's reference. I'm sure the children would agree.

God had something special for us in regard to the fruits. Not only had He orchestrated this to be the VBS theme long before our trip, He also showed us each of them while we were in Zimbabwe. Let me show you what I mean...

 

 

 

 

 

L O V E

Each of the team members displayed it in a multitude of ways. Whether it was by playing soccer with the kids, mixing concrete, painting the little girls' nails, lugging water from a stream, or someone speaking words of encouragement to a fellow team member. Love was everywhere.

Love was even displayed by Tyler Craft proposing to his girlfriend, Jami Joyner. Congrats you two!

 

J O Y

It was expressed on every child's face. The simplest things brought them so much joy. On the last day of VBS we took a Polaroid picture of each child for them to keep. All of the children thought it was the coolest thing. Something so simple to us meant the world to them.

 

 

PEACE

It was found in our alone time with God. One morning Thomas Nelson challenged the team to go and spend 30 minutes with God through prayer, reading Scripture out loud, and singing God a song. To be in His beautiful creation with no distractions or noise was truly refreshing.

 

 

 

 

 

PATIENCE

Travel will teach you a lot of patience. Our team had many circumstances where we to had to practice it.  After delayed flights, long bus rides, and too much time to kill in an airport, it was very clear this was something God wanted us to learn.

 

KINDNESS

Chris and Norma Ferguson are beautiful examples of this. Being our host and hostess for the week, they displayed kindness in everything they did. The whole team would tell you what a blessing it was to be around them. Chris prayed with many of us, Norma always made sure we were well fed, and they both invited all of us to come back and stay with them. God's kindness radiated through them.

 

GOODNESS

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Every one of the Zimbabweans had this down pat. Every person we came in contact with was always so good to us. Many of them were happy to welcome us into our home, willing to translate for us, show us around, or help in whatever way they could.

 

 

 

 

FAITHFULNESS

God was very faithful to us, especially making sure we always got where we needed to be, with all our stuff. Even when two suitcase fell out the back of the bus, to no one’s knowledge, until much later. God made sure we got them back. No matter what curveball was thrown at us God always took care of us.

 

GENTLENESS

Each of the team members showed this whenever they were around children. It was always so beautiful to watch them spend time with the kids. Many of the guys played soccer with the kids or chased them around. Many of the girls were so loving and gentle as they held babies. Every one was a beautiful example of Jesus' love and gentleness to children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SELF CONTROL

During VBS, we had team members talk about or act out one of the fruits of the Spirit. When it came to self control AJ Baumenn and Robert Moore acted it out. As AJ told Robert he had to wait to eat his sandwich he jokingly squirmed and whined, but waited and displayed self control. I’m sure the children will always remember what self control is and it will bring a smile to their face.