Fantastic life changing experience

July 14 2006 / ShareHim in Tanzania A, May. 26 - Jun. 10 '06 #33
by Shelanne Ligthhouse

Date Block Report

Share Him Iringa Evangelistic Campaign - Shelanne Lighthouse Personal Testimony

I bought my airline ticket to Nairobi, Kenya for a 6 week stay in Africa back in March 2006. My plan was to go and spend time at two different hospitals, one in Tanzania and another in Rwanda, learning, observing, making suggestions, and assisting where able. Four days before I left, on 11 May 2006, I learned about the Share Him evangelistic campaign that was going to happen in Iringa, Tanzania during the time that I was scheduled to be there. There is no other explanation for the events that followed except that I felt the call of God and He was definitely working out all the details to make it possible on such short notice.

I had no idea what a life changing experience that was. Having never preached before, I suddenly found myself preaching 18 sermons and 14 health lectures in a period of 16 days. For those 16 days my whole life was centered around God’s work. What a fantastic, faith building, challenging, inspiring experience! In studying the sermons and preparing to present the different topics I came to know and understand the message of the gospel in a way that I’ve never experienced before. There were multiple times when I was moved to tears and could do nothing except to fall on my knees, worship God and say, “What an incredible Almighty, loving, merciful God I serve and love! THANK YOU!” We saw multiple answers to prayer and I sensed God changing me as I spent time in prayer... praying with the rest of our group in the mornings, praying as I prepared the sermon, praying before I spoke each night, praying for those who were sick, praying during the call at the end of each evening, praying for those who were made decisions to follow God and for others who were still struggling or debating. God answers prayer and prayer changes lives!

I think the most awesome aspect of being involved in the Share Him campaign was the continual sense that God was leading and the thrill of working together with God, and in unity with a team of fellow believers–white and black; African and American–for the purpose of sharing the good news of the gospel, enlarging the kingdom of God, and glorifying His name. Praise the Lord! What an incredible experience! Life does not get any more exciting or fulfilling than that.

I was so inspired and humbled by the commitment and dedication of my Tanzanian brothers and sisters in Christ. People gave so much of themselves! Starting at the top, I think of the president of the Tanzanian Union, Joshua Kajula. He lives in Arusha and is a very busy man, but he traveled all the way down to Iringa and then on to Mbeya (almost a 20 hour trip) on public transport for no other reason than to meet us and say thank you for coming and helping them in the work of sharing the gospel. Pastor Godlen Mangilima is the southwest Tanzania field secretary and he lives in Mbeya. He came up to Iringa and stayed there almost the entire 2 weeks, leaving his family behind, to help make sure that things ran smoothly. On the final Sabbath, Pastor Mangilima joined me at Nzihi to baptize those who had made decisions for Christ. Although he was sick with malaria and had been unable to sleep most of the night, he came. God gave him the strength to stand in the local muddy river long enough to baptize 28 people.

Another amazing man is Pastor Filbert Mwanga, the local (and only) pastor for Iringa. He has 12 churches and 26 companies to manage and in addition to his very heavy workload, he was the local individual responsible for the evangelistic campaign... making sure we were comfortable, arranging transportation, assuring appropriate preparation and equipment at each site, organizing baptisms and follow-up Bible study, translating for various events, and problem solving as other issues and questions came up.

Subilaga Masebo was my translator; what an incredible, dedicated, intelligent, kind-hearted, gentle man with a desire to serve God and a natural gift for evangelism! It was truly a privilege to work with him. He helped in so many ways–encouraged me, taught me, prayed with me, laughed with me, sang with me–worked tirelessly! Masebo is married, has three children, teaches school, and is also going to university studying tourism. He is a busy man with many responsibilities, but for 16 days, he gave 5+ hours of his time every single day and he did it with joy and enthusiasm.

Stephen Nyandongo was another important member of my team. He was the owner of the vehicle that transported Masebo and I out to Nzihi and he drove us himself about 1/3 of the time. Stephen was a busy traffic police officer. He gave the use of his vehicle and his time, but he also gave the gift of hospitality, advocacy, encouragement, and prayer. More than once he said to me, “I want to pray for you.” He was committed to teaching me Swahili and aspects of Tanzanian culture. He provided valuable feedback regarding my preaching and the meetings. Stephen was also very intelligent and had an excellent understanding of scripture and principles. He had the gift of discernment and teaching and also had a very real desire to share the gospel. Previously, he has held evangelistic series in his home and he told me he wants to purchase a laptop and projector so that he can present the ShareHim series to his friends, family, and co-workers.

Stephen is a generous man. About half way through the series, we received a written question from a lady in the audience. She wrote that she wanted to prepare for baptism, but that she was visiting from another area and she said that there was no Adventist church in her village. Basically, she was asking, “How will I continue to learn and grow? With whom will I fellowship? What will happen when I return home?” We asked the church elder to contact her and request her to stay after the meeting so that we could meet and pray with her. After the meeting, we were putting things away and someone notified me that this lady was waiting for us. Several times I tried to coordinate with Masebo to talk with her, but one or the other of us kept being pulled away for other reasons. Finally, I realized she had been waiting for almost half an hour and it was getting late. I had a spare moment and I saw Stephen standing near so I grabbed him and said, “Please come and help me; we have to speak to this woman before she leaves!” Stephen came and began talking to the woman. She lived in a small village about 2 - 3 hours drive away (other side of Iringa). He found out that she was recently widowed. Her husband had died and been buried in Nzihi and she had come to show her children where their father was buried. After arriving, she found she did not have enough money to return and so was trying to work to earn money for the return trip. While staying in Nzihi, she had heard the preaching and began coming to the meetings. I was not able to understand all of the conversation, but Stephen talked with the woman, encouraged her, gave her the equivalent of 3-5 full days wages (for a common, unskilled laborer) in cash so that she would be able to return home, and promised to make arrangements for a lay Bible worker in that area to follow up with her. We had the privilege of praying with her and knowing that God takes care of His children.

There is more to the story. That was Tuesday night. Usually, Stephen only drove on the weekends because, as a traffic police officer, he was very busy during the week. However, there were some problems with drivers at other sites and our regular week day driver, Sefu, was needed to fill-in elsewhere. So Stephen wound up driving us out to Nzihi. On the way out, he was giving me suggestions and pressuring me to finish early so that we could get back early because he had many other responsibilities at home. I understood his concerns and promised to try my level best to cut out extraneous information, be concise, and keep things moving. However, as usual, there were extra things that came up and I felt the Holy Spirit working. By the time everything was over and we had encouraged and prayed with the above-mentioned woman it was well after 9:00pm when we were finally getting in the car to leave.... not at all early! In my heart I felt a little bit discouraged, frustrated, and that I had somehow failed, but then I just prayed and said, “Lord, I did the best I could. You need to work and make up for my weaknesses!” We rode in silence for several minutes and then I heard Stephen say something, “Not my will, but Thine!” Initially, he spoke in Swahili and wanted to know the English equivalent. As we began talking, he shared how he believed that God wanted him out there so that he could help that woman. He said that he hadn’t wanted to come because he was so busy and then he said again, “Not my will, but God’s!” Praise the Lord! He is working is so many ways that we do not realize or understand. In that moment, I also had peace in my heart because I realized that Stephen wasn’t brooding about the fact that we were, once again, coming home late. Rather, we spent the drive home marveling over how God works in mysterious ways and we sang of His greatness. God’s finishing touch to this story is that a few days later, we met a Bible worker who told us that he was on his way to this very lady’s village to work there for a period of several months. Wow! Who would have imagined?!? Only God... Praise the Lord!

One other note about Stephen and his generous spirit is that on the last Sabbath there were about 10 baptized individuals who had not yet managed to bring their portion of 1500Tsh (one day’s wage for common laborer) to receive a Bible. Stephen came to me and said, “It is very important for every person to receive a Bible today. I will pay the 1500Tsh for 10 Bibles so that everyone can have a Bible.” I was just so inspired by Stephen’s heart for God, his generosity, and his desire to spread the gospel. God blessed in so many ways!

I’ve already mentioned my other driver, Sefu. He is 27 years old and just an all-around nice guy. He doesn't speak much English, but he's a very good natured person and likes to laugh. When I remember Sefu, I think of laughter. We spent a lot of time laughing when Sefu was driving. Anyway, there is a story I must tell about him. Sefu is a Muslim. I learned this the very first day he drove and from the beginning I determined to pray specifically for him–that He would give his life to Christ. After the first several nights, however, I became a little discouraged because it seemed that every night after he dropped us off, Sefu would leave and I thought, “Well, he’s never going to make a decision for Christ if he doesn’t even hear the message!” He usually returned sometime during the message, but would just sit in the car.

One night during the second half of the meetings we finished, had packed everything up, and were ready to leave when we realized there was no car and no Sefu! One of the other young men told us he thought Sefu was at a local bar drinking. I was very disappointed to hear that, but we started walking down towards the bar. I think I was relieved to find that he was not there, but WHERE was he?!? Someone else said that he likes very much to play pool and they thought he had gone further down the road to a place that had a good pool table. That place was too far to walk so I was instructed to wait there while they went in search of someone who could send a message. Just about that time, we saw a vehicle hurtling down the road towards us as terrific speed. It was Sefu. We tried to flag him down, but he did not see us and continued past us to the evangelistic site where we had come from. They told him we had walked to the village and very soon we saw him coming back again. Masebo and I had previously talked about what we should do... should we say something or just let it pass? We decided not to say anything negative as it was the first time anything like this had happened. When Sefu came, he said that when he realized he was late he was “trembling in his boots”. He explained that he HAD been playing pool and that he had been winning every game so he just lost track of time in all the excitement. When the whole story came out, I was very glad that I hadn’t said anything negative because it was obvious that Sefu already felt bad and was very penitent. I think he was also very fearful that we were going to give a negative report to Stephen who is his “boss.”

I tell this story because the very next night something changed. Sefu left as usual, but came back fairly early in the message and then for the first time, he got out and joined the audience... pretty much front and center! I was preaching about baptism that night and when it came time for the call, I thought, “Sefu, this is your night!” I looked right at him and said, “God is calling YOU to make a decision for Him and to be baptized!” I don’t remember everything I said, but I know that the call went on for a long time that night because I was so convicted that God was calling Sefu, but Sefu was not responding! He sat there with his head bowed and arms crossed and he would not budge or look up. Finally, I realized that I had to bring the call to a close and in my final prayer I prayed for those who were still struggling with a decision.

After the meeting, when we were talking with people and packing up, Sefu stayed around. Masebo and Sefu were talking and laughing and I realized that they were talking about baptism and Sefu becoming a Christian. Due to my limited understanding of Swahili, I thought Masebo was telling Sefu that he needed to be baptized, but that Sefu was basically saying “I’m not ready for that yet.” We got back in the car and came home. When we got to Pastor's house, I told pastor about Sefu and that he had come and listened to the meeting, but that he hadn't made any decision and that he was still thinking. Pastor went out to the car and said something to Sefu to which he replied, "Yes, I'm going to be baptized on Sabbath!" I thought he was joking, but he said he was serious. I asked him why he hadn't responded to the call during the meeting and he said he was still trying to make up his mind. Later, I found out that the conversation between Masebo and Sefu was initiated by Sefu when he told Masebo he also wanted to be baptized and to “save him a spot” on Sabbath. Wow, what a high day that was! I was so excited!

The next night, Sefu again stayed for meeting and sat in the audience. That night he actually made his decision more public as he came forward during the call. As it happened, Sefu was not actually baptized on Sabbath. I think he is struggling with the decision a little because of his family. They are all Muslim and he will get a lot of resistance from them. He also said that he wanted to study more. I left him with a Bible and some other books which he began to study. He is in God’s care and God is also working through Stephen who I know will continue to care for and encourage Sefu in the right direction.
There are other people I want to mention who inspired me and played a very important part in the evangelistic series. These were the local church members. I think of Tarachizio Nyangalima, the local head elder who was there daily to organize and keep records and who took responsibility for distributing and selling much of the literature I brought. He was a great help! Michael Lusungu was another faithful church elder who walked several kilometers to be there daily even though he was still healing from an accident and walking with a limp. There were many other men and women who worked very hard. Because the site was outside in the open they had to set everything up and take it all down daily. I was amazed and humbled by their dedication. Local choirs were there every night to provide music before the message began. So many people did so much! I felt that my part was only a very small portion. What an incredible experience!
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