Jonathan Menn, ECLEA Director
JANUARY 2021: First trip to East Africa this year!
I have finished my first trip of the year to East Africa, spending two weeks along the coast of Tanzania. We began with the book of Revelation in Kibamba, near Dar es Salaam, with 18 participants. This was completely new for all of them. Those who had previously studied the book had been taught a very different view. By the end of the course, however, I think they saw how relevant (and challenging) the book is for the church today.
We then went through the book of James with 25 participants in Goba, again near Dar. James is very practical and goes to the heart of what real saving faith looks like.
Lunch in Goba
The participants obviously "got it." On the second day, one woman said that a person had come to her house the night before, having to go to the hospital. The woman thought of what true religion is in God's eyes (Jas 1:27) and that "faith without works is dead" (James 2) and ended up spending the entire night with the person at the hospital!
A man said that he was a Masaai and had always been taught that the Masaai were the best, and nothing should be done for people of other tribes. Now he sees how wrong that is and how it is contrary to the gospel itself.
The gospel is, indeed, life-changing. I'm glad to be able to bring this life-transforming message to these dear people in this vital part of the world.
We finished with two conferences: Christianity and Islam in Tanga with 24 participants and Galatians in Kibaha with 15 participants. Both went well. We had previously taught Christianity and Islam in Tanga. The participants this time were different, except for one participant (Lazaro) who wanted to learn the material again. I'm glad Lazaro came, because he has led a number of Muslims to faith in Christ, and he taught much of the session on bridging the divide between Islam and the gospel.
The Tanga group (Joram and Lazaro are the two men front row, center)
Several of the participants said that, before this course, they had thought that even touching a copy of the Qur'an was a sin; but now they want to get a copy themselves in order to read it and use it in talking with Muslims about Jesus. One of the participants was a former Muslim and another has access to New Testaments printed in both Arabic and Swahili, which can help in presenting the gospel when they are given to Muslims. I hope the group will stay in touch with each other. Much good fruit can come from this group.
The group presented me with a beautiful wooden plaque that says, "You ECLEA are the light of the world East Africa (Matthew 5:14)." I am very touched and am keeping it displayed in my office here at home.
Receiving the beautiful plaque
Galatians helped, I think, to dispel at least some of the legalism that characterizes much of the church in East Africa. Further, seeing the implications of the gospel can make a big difference in the way people "do church."
Just outside our hotel in Kibaha
Most countries now require that one have a negative PCR covid test within 72 hours of travel (and you need it to even be allowed on the airplane). The Netherlands (KLM's hub) now also requires an antigen test done within 4 hours of travel. As a result, KLM threatened to cancel all of its international flights (the government now says that flight crews do not need the antigen test [but passengers still do]). I got my PCR test done on Thursday for the Saturday night flight out of Dar es Salaam. The lab said that I should receive the results on Friday. I spoke with KLM twice to confirm that the flight was not cancelled. They also said that, since antigen tests are not done in Tanzania, I didn't need one.
The situation then got complicated. I didn't receive the PCR test results on Friday, or Saturday morning or even as of the time we ended the Kibaha conference Saturday afternoon. Then at 4:00PM on Saturday I was notified by KLM that my flight had been cancelled and I had been rebooked on Turkish Airways to leave at 4:00AM Sunday and fly home via Istanbul. By 6:00PM I still didn't have the PCR test results. We decided to go to the national lab in Dar es Salaam personally. Joram and I were in the lab for over an hour talking with someone about getting the results. It turns out that the lab in Dar had not even received my test sample until that morning. Eventually that night they gave me the result and I was able to make it home all right. (Interestingly, the airlines now require that all passengers wear masks throughout the flight; I pointed out that every single person in the plane had just been tested and had been certified to NOT have covid--so requiring anyone to wear a mask was absurd. They agreed with me, but "those are the rules.")
I am next planning on going to Kenya in early April. Thank you for your prayers and support. You are making an important difference in East Africa. God bless you, Jonathan
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