Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas in Kitongo

Christmas 2011 found our family in the village of Kitongo. The Independent Baptist Church of Kitongo was started in October 2010. This church has had its struggles, but has continued to move forward. It was decided that they would host this year's combined Christmas service. They were thrilled to have this privilege and they worked hard over the past few months preparing for this big day. They also decided to have two days of special meetings leading up to the Sunday service. Since this village is over an hour away from our home we were invited by the Helsby Family to stay with them. (They minister in a family-style orphanage there in Kitongo and attend our church.) What a blessing that was!

Friday and Saturday people visited in the village announcing we would be showing the Jesus Film as well as some other Christian cinemas.  It was exciting to see the people as they clapped when Jesus performed miracles, and with rapt attention watched as Jesus was horrifically crucified and then gloriously rose again! We praise the Lord for the six people who professed Christ through these special meetings.

Christmas Day - Sunday, we had a big combined service with churches coming from Fumagira, Igekemaja, and Mayoka. We had been praying for no rain during these meetings because the roads are pretty beat up with one bridge caved in and repaired. Rain could have prevented these other churches from making it out to Kitongo. The Lord answered prayer with three days of dry weather - something we've not seen much of recently. With joy the churches began arriving. They came prepared with special choir music and memory work from the children. It was neat listening to the children quote the books of the Bible and long passages of Scripture by memory. It was truly a service to look back on with much rejoicing!

On a more personal note...we spent Sunday afternoon with our friends, Dave & Becky Helsby and their six children, Lisa Newland, Alicia Hazlett, and Larry and Bev. We opened gifts and ate a big meal, although not really a typical Christmas dinner - enchiladas, salsa, guacamole, broccoli salad, green beans, corn on the cob, and salad. No matter what it was it was, we thoroughly enjoyed it as we celebrated our Savior's birth together as believers!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Teaching Pastor's Wives

This week I had the privilege of teaching at Lake Victoria Baptist College for the first time. I felt my Swahili had progressed enough to attempt teaching a class. I decided to teach about being a godly woman, with the emphasis on the role of a pastor's wife. I spent months reading over my material, studying, praying, etc. However, when the day finally arrived I felt a wave of panic. I did NOT feel ready to get up there and teach for hours and hours in Swahili! I don't know how many of you reading this have ever learned a foreign language, but let me tell you - IT'S HARD! I could feel my mind going completely blank and a dread fell on my heart. "What if I get up there and can't remember anything? What if all I can do is read what I've written down? What if those ladies walk away having not learned a thing because of my inability to communicate effectively?" All these questions and "Why in the world did I agree to teach this class?!" came to my mind. So the entire drive to the college I BEGGED God to help me. "Dear Lord, I KNOW I can't do this on my own. If  you enable me to convey truth to these ladies through Swahili then I will give you all the glory."

When I arrived the ladies were excited to learn about being a pastor's wife. I started the class by telling them about myself. How old I was (important in African culture), how long I've been married, about my children, when we got into full-time ministry, etc. I went around the room and asked how long they had been pastor's wives. Several of the ladies have been in ministry for about 5+ years with two only about a year. This helped to calm my nerves as we conversed informally back and forth. Then I began teaching and the Lord helped me each step of the way. He allowed me to remember what I had studied and enabled me to teach His truths. PRAISE HIM!

Through this class the ladies are desiring a monthly Pastor's Wife meeting. They asked me to cover the same material over again, but at a slower pace that will allow more discussion and application. I'm looking forward to having more of an impact on the lives of these women as they serve the Lord in their various churches. Please pray for our first meeting which is scheduled for February 9th.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hello, Goodbye

I recently read a post from a lady in our hometown of Greeneville, Tennessee. What a blessing to read it and see how she has grown from a teenager in our church youth group, to a newly married, godly woman. With her permission it is copied below.

"My life has been a series of hellos and goodbyes. Jesus gives me blessings disguised as people, jobs, and activities…only to ask me to give them up. At times, the aftermath pain seems worse than the initial joy. But I have come to realize that while I thought I had to have that thing, I didn’t really know what I wanted. Jesus always knew what I needed and wanted better than I did! Whether it was a person, or a possession, or an experience, I found that true fulfillment came when I was driven to find it in the Lord instead of getting it from something material. 

I was sipping coffee with a friend on Thanksgiving eve and discussing with her what I considered to be my losses. I was dropping phrases left and right like, “I gave up” and “I lost” and “God denied my request…” Despite the obvious Cara-centered problem, I had allowed multiple idols to take the throne of my life. With their granted powers, they had overtaken my priorities, my passions, and consequently, my joy. 

She opened her Bible (so cleverly concealed in her large suitcase purse) and turned to Jonah 2:8. The Lord warns that when we focus on vain idols, we will throw away our hope of receiving from God. When I look to my blessings for my value, I am, in actuality, refusing the Love that I so desperately desire. Blessings do not love back; they simply point to the Ultimate Blessing. If I depend on my blessings to satisfy me, they become an idol to me, denying the supremacy of God. When my Savior, in His perfect omniscience, withholds something from me, He promises that I don’t need it. If having that “treasure” would have fulfilled His plan for my life, He would have given it to me. In abundance (see Psalm 84:11)! 

What appears to be a loss suddenly takes on a new light when compared with the gain that I have received in Him instead. With my idols gone, I find myself crawling back to my Savior, back where I belong. And in its place, I have gained something far more eternal and permanent than I could ever have received from the thing that I lost. The times when God said “No, my Child,” were painful, but in the long-run not nearly as agonizing as if He had granted me my desire. When He denies a request, He permits His divine plan to continue in motion, uninterrupted. As Beth Moore puts it, God’s ‘no’ is just making room for His ‘yes’. 

I imagine it like this. God has a box with my name on it. His omniscience and goodness determined before I was born the things with which He would fill my box to make my life complete. Every time I create my own idol and place it in my box, I am, literally, boxing out God’s plans for me. The more I try to stuff my own box, the more I crowd Him out. And the less I give way to Him, to that extent I will experience less of the fulfilled life He has for me.

Every time the Lord takes something away from me, He always has a replacement in mind. And it is ALWAYS better than what I was clinging to for dear life before. 

Because, usually, it is more of Him."

 Cara Michelle Cobble, 2009

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Cultural Differences In Cooking

Even after all the years we've been in Africa I still shake my head at the way Africans do things. It always cracks me up when they remind ME of the crazy way I do things!!

Today while preparing dinner Pelegrino and Elisha were sitting at our dining room table with Bill studying the Bible. I was making a garlic-ginger paste for my new Indian recipes. Out came the blender, which made so much noise they had to take a break and just watch me. It was at this point that Pele asked Bill, "Do all American girls go to school to learn how to cook?" I've been told before by African women that there are way too many steps in our food preparation. I guess Pele was of the same mind because he thought there was no way an ordinary woman could learn to do this without a proper school. Little does he understand that my schooling came from the school of Trial and Error!

You know, actually going to a school to learn how to cook from scratch would be a great idea for the new missionary wife. I mean let's face it. Unless you've been blessed with a mother or grandmother who taught you how to cook we are clueless to what real "from scratch" cooking is.  I can well remember our first term in Kenya and my attempt at making re-fried beans from dried beans. I didn't realize I needed to clean them first. Weren't we surprised when our first bite showed it was full of BUGS!

Now I have an even better idea that is actually do-able... Maybe some of you older ladies can teach these new missionary wives how to cook! I know a godly lady in our church who often hosts a missionary family in her home during our church's Missions Conference. She happens to be a GREAT cook and could be such a blessing to these wives. Life can be so overwhelming when a new missionary family first arrives. There is so much to adjust to. If you add to that a wife who hasn't the faintest idea what to do with an open market, dried beans, and rice that is not done in a minute, well just picture her standing in the kitchen with tears rolling down her cheeks in despair while a hungry child pulls on her skirt! You think I'm exaggerating? Nope, I've been there!

I'd love to hear about any other missionary wife's story about learning to cook from scratch. I'd also enjoy hearing how you older ladies have lived out the Titus 2 woman by teaching your valuable cooking skills!


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Our God Of Miracles

I had the HUGE privilege of seeing God work a miracle! Some months back a pastor's wife, Justa, came to me for some advice. She and Pastor Delphinus have been married for going on eight years and she had never been able to conceive. She had gone to several doctors and was finally told that it would be next to impossible to conceive, and even if she did her uterus was off to the side and would burst about three months into the pregnancy. However, she continued to pray for a baby. Being childless is a major deal here with African women. Their total identity and security is wrapped up in their children. To not have a child is a great shame here. It was also a hindrance in her being accepted in her role as a pastor's wife. Then about a year ago her brother agreed for her to adopt his child since the mother had died in childbirth. Maria was 1 years old when she came to live with Justa and Delphinus. They took that as God's answer, although never stopped praying if it be His will to give them another child.


The day Justa arrived at our home for some counsel she was coming up on three months pregnant and was fearful that any day her uterus would burst and she would lose this baby and possibly die. She hadn't even allowed herself to experience the joy that she actually got pregnant after 7 years. She just kept thinking of the news that doctors had given her about a year prior. I had heard of a good clinic about 30 minutes away so we made plans to drive there the next day to see a doctor. When we arrived they took her in for an ultra-sound and the Tanzanian doctor reassured her that her uterus would NOT burst. That as the baby grew, her uterus would also grow. Justa and I got to see the baby's little heart beat. When we left the clinic and got into my car I asked her if I needed to further explain what the doctor had told her. She said yes and could hardly believe it was true. She was three months along and the baby was doing great. We sat in the car and praised the Lord! She just kept saying over and over again, Mungu ni ajabu!!! God is amazing!

I went to visit Justa one day to explain about what to expect in childbirth and how to know when she should go to the hospital. I wasn't quite sure the baby was head down and the local clinic she was going to hadn't said anything on her last visit. I felt the Lord urging me to take her back to the Nyakato Clinic so we made plans to go a few days later. When we arrived the place was packed! I hadn't realized there was going to be a team of doctors from the States there doing surgery. We waited, and waited, and waited. When we finally got to see the doctor he did another ultrasound and told us the baby was breech.  He told Justa that she needed to go to the hospital to have her baby and that they might have to do a c-section. Now I'm not a doctor, but as far as I understood most breech babies in the United States are taken by c-section. I was nervous about going back home so told Justa to wait for me and I would try and find the American nurse who helps run the clinic. As soon as I explained the situation she said she needed to be seen by the American doctor who was there, who "HAPPENED" to be an OB/GYN. So we waited some more and then the doctor checked her and found that the baby was presenting feet first. A c-section was in order and he and his team were willing to do it. So what was a visit turned into an overnight stay with the c-section scheduled for early the next morning. However, the Lord knew she needed to be in that clinic that very day because in the night her water broke and she went into labor. Bill and I picked up her husband and rushed to the clinic. We got there just in time for her to be taken into surgery. We waited (again), with her husband who could not stop smiling and praising God. A few minutes later we watched him hold his beautiful little girl, Rachel.

That night I stayed with Justa and Rachel and went over again and again in my mind about what a miracle this baby was. She was born to parents who never thought they would conceive. She was carried full-term when the doctors said it could not happen. She went to the clinic and when we found out the baby was breech there were American doctors there to do the c-section. We serve a GLORIOUS GOD!!!!!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Enjoy the journey!

This morning as I was taking a walk I began to notice my surroundings. I saw three women in typical African dress (a colorful kanga wrapped around them as a skirt) walking together in companionable conversation with containers on their heads. This is something I see most every day. To me it is the norm. Next I hear a man who is cutting a hedge singing. Again, another very common thing here. All around me is life happening - African style. However, it is easy to grow accustomed to things that make tourists smile and take pictures. In fact, photographers and journalists from all over the world come to take pictures and write articles on the life I don't even think twice about anymore. You see, I'm just like you. I get wrapped up in doing laundry, cleaning the house, cooking, helping my daughter with homework, going to church, etc. It is easy for me to just live and not enjoy the life God has called me to. What about you? Have you taken life for granted? Maybe the beauty of the mountains? The stars? The sound of your child giggling as he plays with the puppy? Maybe the sound of the church choir or orchestra? As the song says, we need to stop and smell the roses. So as for me, I spent some time talking to the Lord and asking Him to help me today to rejoice in the unique life He has allowed me to live in Tanzania and to not get caught up in the daily living, but to enjoy the journey!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Trip to Tabora

Our family took a little vacation and went to the city of Tabora. We have missionary friends there, Tim and Kim Whitfield. We’ve known them since we first moved to Africa in 1995. It took about 7 hours, although it was only 230 miles. It was a long drive, but it was nice to get away from the big city of Mwanza and have some time of fellowship with our friends.
It just so happened that the Whitfields also had guests from the US – Tim’s parents. Bill and Faye have been in the ministry for many, many years. Abby enjoyed spending some time with “Grandpa and Grandma” during our time there. She and Faye spent one afternoon in the kitchen baking a delicious lemon cake from scratch! It’s always a blessing when she gets a chance to be with other godly women and learn from them.

We were thankful for the many days and nights of power while there. Up until our visit the power had been going off just about every day. However, one night it did go off - just in time for dinner. We pulled all the leftovers out and I heated them up on a one burner gas tank. It took a while to get everyone’s desired leftovers heated. (Abby had fun taking pictures of me. She said it looked a bit like a witch cooking her brew. Not sure if that was much of a complement for dear ole Mom, but I do have to agree that the lighting in the pictures was eerie!)

On our return home we stopped to look at a well known tree here called the Baobab Tree. It is an oddly shaped tree that is humongous. To show how big it is, we had Abby stand next to it. Can you even find her?!
Here is a bit of background information I found online:
"The Baobab is called the Tree of Life with good reason. It is capable of providing shelter, food and water for the animal and human inhabitants of the African savannah regions.
The cork-like bark is fire resistant and is used for cloth and rope. The leaves are used for condiments and medicines. The fruit, called "monkey bread", is rich in vitamin C and is eaten. The tree is capable of storing hundreds of litres of water, which is tapped in dry periods.
Mature trees are frequently hollow, providing living space for numerous animals and humans alike. Trees are even used as bars, barns and more. The Baobab also features as the Tree of Life in Disney's "Lion King", and is the centrepiece in Disney's Animal Kingdom."

Monday, January 17, 2011

Hit The Ground Running...

We arrived back in Tanzania on November 5th and hit the ground running! The national pastor we work closely with, Pelegrino, was getting married on December 3rd and we only had weeks to help him plan this big event in his life. We have been praying with Pastor Pelegrino for a godly wife for years. Now those years of praying were finally coming to fruition and we wanted the day to be as special as possible for this new couple.

Right after the wedding Bill taught a counseling class at Lake Victoria Baptist Bible College here in Mwanza. It is always a blessing to meet together with these men and women as they prepare for the ministry. I look forward to teaching a ladies class next term in June.

Next were the holidays and all the special church services in each of the six churches we work directly with. The day found us celebrating with our newest church plant in the village of Kitongo. We also enjoyed a traditional turkey dinner with fellow missionaries Greg and Paige Wagoner and Family.

The New Year has brought some new ministries the Lord has laid on our hearts. This past Wednesday Bill started Bible Institute classes at the Independent Baptist Church of Igekemaja. He is teaching the book of Matthew. We also look forward to the upcoming Family Seminars we'll be teaching at each of the churches in the Mwanza area. Our first being in T-X on January 22. Then on January 28th we will begin hosting a monthly Pastor's Fellowship at our house.

We are excited to see what plans God has for us in 2011!