Thursday, November 24, 2022

New Maasai Preaching Station in Esilalei, TZ Nov. 2022

On my last full day in Tanzania, Pastor Jeremia, Pastor Solomon (2021 seminary graduate), and I made the trek to the Maasai lands that are located just to the east of the Lake Manyara National Park. It's about a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Arusha. The Maasai who live there are a very traditional clan. 

Maasai Gathered for Worship
After about an hour of driving, we pulled off the main paved highway that takes thousands of tourists to four major National Parks in the northern safari circuit (Tarangire, Manyara, Serengeti, and Ngorongoro) onto a gravel road. We stayed on this road for about fifteen minutes. We then picked up two Maasai men who would direct us the rest of the way. We followed, what seemed to be, footpaths or donkey-train trails for the next couple of hours. We drove through dry riverbeds and lakes, small Maasai bomas, over hills, through valleys, and finally, we could see a gathering of people off in the distance on a small hill overlooking Lake Manyara. As we approached, you could hear the very distinctive sound of Maasai singing as they welcomed us to their newly minted worship area under a tree. 

Pastor Solomon had been invited to come and visit the area and start a TZCLC by one of his relatives who had married into this clan. From what I understand, the lands surrounding the national parks are not developed, and the Maasai are allowed to live there and graze their cattle as a buffer zone around the parks. Most of the land is not useful for farming, and there is always the possibility and danger of animals from the parks making their way into these buffer zones. The Maasai are not deterred. Several years ago, this particular clan migrated from the area where Pastor Solomon is a pastor to find more land for their cattle. There are still acquaintances, relatives, and marriages between the two clans. Solomon was told there was no other Christian outreach in this desolate and isolated area. The Ev. Lutheran Church of Tanzania (ELCT) and Catholics have visited a few times over the years. Still, the Maasai (in general) do not agree with Catholic doctrine and have little time for the more liberal teachings of the ELCT, especially their denial of Biblical creation and the ordination of women pastors. When they heard about the TZCLC, they were eager to have them visit. 

When we arrived, the women greeted us with traditional Maasai singing and dancing and the traditional humming/chanting and jumping by the men. 

We were introduced, and then Pastor Solomon addressed the large crowd by explaining that he had been invited and was eager to come and teach the Bible. They had cleared a large area of rocks and built a low rock wall to outline the gathering place under the tree, as is their custom. Pastor Solomon told them he was impressed by their work and promised to come back regularly to preach and teach.

Pastor Solomon Lazier addressing the crowd

Pastor Jeremia and I were also given the opportunity to speak. I encouraged them in their faith with Jesus' words from Matthew chapter 9 when Jesus looked out on the crowds of people and was moved with compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. I reminded them that Jesus encouraged His disciples to pray that the Lord would send more workers into the harvest and that we can rejoice on this day because Jesus has heard their prayer and sent them a pastor to feed them with God's saving word! They erupted in applause when I concluded with Amen. What a joy to share the truths of God's saving word with these brothers and sisters in Christ who are so excited to have a pastor!

Our afternoon concluded with tea and bread as the elders of the clan gathered near a large Baobab tree to discuss plans to build a church. Pastor Jeremia encouraged them to construct a temporary shelter/tent soon because the rains are coming. He also pointed to all the rocks that are in abundance in this area and said that he would bring a work crew from Arusha after the rainy season to help begin the construction of the church building. They agreed that this was a good way to get started. 

Maasai Elders meeting over tea and bread to discuss future plans

A Beautiful Baobab Tree near the proposed church

We concluded the meeting of the elders with a prayer and the blessing and began the long trip back to Arusha. It was another day of blessings to witness the Lord and His love at work in the hearts of His Maasai children! What a privilege to be a part of it!

It's Thanksgiving eve here in Tanzania as I finish writing this post. I've had a full last day full of meetings, discussions, plans, and proposals. As always, I am a bit overwhelmed by the opportunities our Lord places before us. 

When we ponder who we are without Christ...dead in our trespasses and sin, and then marvel and rejoice in who we are with Christ...redeemed, restored, forgiven, and called out of darkness into His marvelous light that we may proclaim His praises, how we do anything else than give thanks to unto Lord, knowing by faith, that His mercies endure forever!

What a privilege to be a part of God's work here in Tanzania and so many other places around the world. Thank you, Lord, for Your grace and mercy, in giving a sinner like me the opportunity to serve You by serving others. 

   "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us." 2 Corinthians 4:7  

Maasai Boma near the proposed church site

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

TZCLC Hadzabe Gospel Outreach - NOV. 2022

I woke up early yesterday in anticipation of a long and exciting day. Last year when I visited Tanzania, I spent a few hours visiting with Pastor Nathan Lengutai the day before departing. Pastor Lengutai is an elderly Maasai Lutheran pastor with whom we've had the privilege of working for many years. He was fortunate to attend the Lutheran seminary here in the Arusha area many years ago. He was led by the Lord and his conscience to leave the Ev. Lutheran Church of Tanzania several years ago as that church body drifted further and further away from the truth of God's word. He is respected by everyone and known as a humble, wise, and kind student and preacher of God's saving word. I'm not sure how old he is, but he's getting up there. 

Pastors Jeremia Issangya (L) and Nathan Lengutai (R)

Pastor Lengutai always has so much wisdom to share, but he does it in such a humble way. As we were visiting last year, he asked if I had ever heard of the Hadzabe people living out in the forests. He explained that this tribe was one of the oldest in Tanzania and, perhaps, one of the first to live in this area of Africa. DNA evidence suggests that they are not related to any of the other tribes or people groups living in Africa. Amazing to think that the ancestors of these people may have been the first to settle here in the years following the flood and the Tower of Babel! He also went on to tell me that they really needed to hear the Gospel. Apparently, missionaries have tried many times to approach them with the Gospel, but unsuccessfully because they simply don't trust outsiders. Because the Maasai stick more to their traditional ways more so than others in Tanzania, the Hadzabe have traditionally been more trusting of the Maasai that cultivate crops and graze their herds in the areas where the Hadzabe have lived for thousands of years. Pastor Lengutai began to tell me that he had heard from some of his friends that the Hadzabe were becoming increasingly open to outsiders and that some Hadzabe clans were beginning to send their children to schools and trading in the cities and villages that surround the lands where they live. 

The Hadzabe are described as a "primitive" or "uncivilized" tribe, meaning they do not cultivate crops, raise animals, or live in houses. Traditionally, they gather and hunt for their food and have been doing so for centuries. Until recently, they have not built homes but instead, live in caves and under bushes and trees. According to what I have read, there are still about 1,200 Hadzabe and about 400 of them still live by these traditional ways and have very little contact with outsiders. The majority of the Hadzabe have begun interacting with the people and towns that surround the lands where they live for the past several years.

Their traditional religion is centered around the Sun, from which they believe all blessings and curses come. They also believe the Sun to be the place where the spirit goes at death. Interestingly, part of their oral tradition shares a story of a man named Indaya who returned from the dead to bestow gifts and customs on the Hadza people. It's not a much of a stretch of the imagination to assume that the story of Jesus made its way to the Hadzabe people many years ago, perhaps through Ethiopia and the migration of settlers who came from the north.

So, after last years conversation with Pastor Lengutai, I began to wonder if the Lord would open an opportunity to share the Gospel with these people. Unbenounced to me, one of the 2021 graduates of the seminary, a young Maasai pastor named Solomon Laizer has a close friend who works for the government office that overseas the welfare of the Hadzabe. This friend asked Pastor Solomon if he would like to visit the Hadzabe. Pastor Solomon mentioned it to Pastor Jeremia, who in turn asked me a couple of months ago if we could schedule a visit when I was in Tanzania. Of course, I said yes. That visit took place yesterday.

We traveled for eight hours (one way) waaaaay off the beaten path and into, what seems like, a wilderness area that is south and west of Arusha. We had one flat tire and had to stop at three different government offices to get permission to go into the area. We visited with the Senior Welfare Executive Officer for the region, who is the brother of the friend of Pastor Solomon. 

It takes a village to change a tire...or at least to watch :)

When we arrived, there were probably at least 100 people gathered under a large Baobab tree that apparently serves as a local gathering place. We were greeted by a group of ladies dancing in their traditional style. There was a little confusion at first about why we were there, but the government appointed guide found someone who could translate from Swahili to Hadza language. I didn't really notice it, but the Hadza language involves clicking and therefore is difficult to learn. The interpreter spoke with the government guide and explained that we were there to discuss the possibility of bringing pastors to their area to teach them the Bible. We were each given an opportunity to speak. I gave a simple Gospel message by explaining that the reason we had come is because we want them to know about the One True God who loves them and sent His Son Jesus to be our Savior. And because of God's love for us we also love them and want them to learn about the Bible and their Savior Jesus. I left them with a brief explanation of John 3:16 and the joy that God's love provides to all people. 

When we finished speaking, individuals from the clan were given the opportunity to speak. There was a man and woman who spoke. They both welcomed us and thanked us for coming. They both told us how they needed food, water, and schools for their children. Pastor Jermia explained to them that we hope to bring pastors to teach them about Jesus and that we would pray for all their needs and that the pastors who come will also help the children to learn their lessons.

I'm not sure how I feel about all of this. It was certainly a great opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus. And I hope and pray that this will be the first of many opportunities for TZCLC pastors and evangelists to come and teach the Bible. But, at the same time it was heart-breaking to see these people so dependent on others. I was told that the clans that have refused to come near to society and have stuck with their traditional ways of hunting and gathering are actually better off because, while they are poor (by most standards), they make their own way and they have not been reduced to essentially begging for food. On the one hand, you can see the wisdom of "protecting" the more traditional clans from the rest of society and letting them live as they choose. But, on the other hand, if they are denied the opportunity to learn of their Savior Jesus, they are not better off. There needs to be a way to bring them the Gospel and at the same time, not corrupt them with the allure of free stuff. This is certainly something to bring to the Lord's throne of grace as the TZCLC has a seemingly open door to evangelize among the Hadzabe. Praise the Lord for the opportunity share the Gospel and plead for the Lord's wisdom to do so in a way that truly serves His kingdom and the Hadzabe people.

Three Hadzabe Clans in Western Tanzania Await Our Arrival

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Pastor Nolting...Wrapping things up in Tanzania

The LORD has continued to bless the work here in Tanzania. On Monday, Tuesday, and half of Wednesday, I continued the overview of the Gospel of John with the students of Wittenberg Lutheran Seminary here in Arusha. [Arusha is the third largest city in Tanzania, with a population of about 900,000 if you include the city itself and its suburbs.] On both Monday and Tuesday we spent the last hour of the class from 3:00-4:00 p.m. discussing a sermon text and then putting together a sermon outline. It was delightful to see the students examining the text and identifying its key points, and then come up with their own themes and parts. 

On Wednesday afternoon, we traveled 70 kilometers (about 45 miles) east to the city of Moshi, which lies at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro--the tallest mountain in Africa. There is snow at its top throughout the year. We held the conference at the Moshi YMCA. The building was erected in 1959 and certainly shows its age, but the dormitory-style rooms were adequate, and the meeting room airy and pleasant. They had an outdoor pool, of which I was sadly unaware. Otherwise, I could have done some lap swimming. Temperatures here are in the mid-sixties at night and mid-seventies during the day. 

I found out Wednesday night that my presentation on baptism was the entire agenda for Thursday, with the exception of Missionary Ohlmann's slide presentation on CLC World Missions set for late in the afternoon. It turned out that we spent approximately five and one-half hours on the presentation. There were many questions and much discussion, with Pastor Michael Gondwe, one of the teachers at Wittenberg Seminary, providing all the translating from English to Swahili and from Swahili to English for the entire day! He was quite the trooper! 

Friday morning was spent on various reports from the district heads of the Tanzania CLC (TZCLC), as well as discussions with four pastors formerly affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania (ELCT). They left for doctrinal reasons and have begun discussions with the TZCLC. They were favorably impressed by the conference, and arrangements are being made for further meetings. Apparently, there are another thirteen independent pastors and congregations that they were representing. The Lord truly seems to be opening a door for the TZCLC at this time.

Tomorrow I will be preaching at the Graduation Church Service at the seminary church. Missionary Ohlmann will join Pastor Jeremiah in distributing the ten diplomas. Five of the students will be going back to their home congregations as evangelists and serving in the role of assistants to the pastors. The remaining five will begin a three-year seminary program in January to become ordained pastors.

What was so interesting and encouraging to see was the fact that three of the young pastors who graduated last year (Robert, Israel, and Solomon) were all at the pastoral conference and contributing to the discussion in significant ways. You could see that the ten current students all knew and respected these young pastors. That all bodes well for the future of our sister church body.

Paul Nolting--feeling quite privileged to serve the LORD here in Tanzania!

Thursday, November 17, 2022

TZCLC Outreach Among the Maasai...Nov. 2022

I arrived in Tanzania on November 7th. It's been a busy, fast-paced, and encouraging ten days. I've had the opportunity to spend a couple of days with the Wittenburg Lutheran Seminary students when I first arrived. Since then, I've hit the road almost every day to visit a TZCLC congregation or preaching station. It's been especially encouraging to visit the preaching stations that have been started in the past year by 2021 graduates of the seminary. Three of the 2021 graduates are of Maasai descent and continue to live according to many of the traditions and customs of their tribe. 

The Maasai are historically a nomadic and pastoral tribe that roam in search of grasslands and water for their cattle. Oral histories and recent DNA studies tell us that this tribe migrated to the Great Rift Valley of East Africa from the middle east. They are known to be honest, incredibly brave, and hard-working. It is among this tribe that much of the TZCLC Gospel outreach is being done. And the Lord is blessing these efforts. 

The Maasai are spread throughout Kenya and much of Tanzania. The TZCLC has opened five preaching stations over the past year. Most of these Maasai preaching stations are located well off the beaten paths. A lot of Gospel outreach is being done in Ruvu and Arusha districts of the TZCLC. The Ruvu district is in the Same' region that is found to the south and east of Arusha. Much of the north and central regions of Tanzania have been in drought conditions for the past several years. Some of the villages we drove through and visited seemed almost deserted because many of those who live there were roaming far from home with their cattle, sheep, and goats in search of grazing land and water. At one village we visited, Gunge, we were told that they considered themselves fortunate that the nearest water source was only about five kilometers away. What that means in practical terms is that they must carry all the water they need for cooking, cleaning, drinking, and watering their animals more than three miles. Most of these villages had several donkeys that are used to carry the water for the village. We passed several donkey trains, with each donkey carrying four plastic containers filled with 10 liters of water each. 

There are so many things that I see on these visits that leave me amazed, humbled, and thankful for so many "luxuries," like running water, that I too often take for granted.

Yesterday (11/16), we left the main road at about 9:30 AM and spent the next several hours driving through the rough, bumpy, and very dusty roads of the Ruvu district to visit three preaching stations. We didn't see another paved road until around 3:30 pm. That was six very long and grueling hours of travel, but so very much worth it to see God's hand at work in these fields so very ripe for harvest.

What a privilege to visit and encourage these brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Pastor Jeremiah (president of the TZCLC) has only good things to say about the Maasai. He especially appreciates their bravery, work ethic, honesty, loyalty, faithfulness, and independent spirit. He often laughs as he comments that you will never see a Maasai beggar because if a Maasai begs, he would be kicked out of the tribe. He also admires their approach to Scripture. He talks about how they do not argue; they simply want to know what the Bible teaches and if you teach them clearly and simply, they will follow the Scriptures. He says if you show them what the Bible says, they believe it. Praise the Lord!

After spending so much time over the past five years in prayer and discussions and preparation with the leaders of the TZCLC to get the Seminary organized and started and then able to continue functioning through the pandemic, it really has been a special gift from the Lord to be able to witness, first hand, the fruits of these labors! What a privilege to serve the One who is always faithful to His every promise!

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10–11

Enjoy a few videos and pictures from the past few days and pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ among the Maasai. 

Bwana Asifiwe
Praise the Lord!

Monday, November 14, 2022

Tanzania Pictures...

I haven't had a lot of time for writing the past few days and I'm heading south today with Pastor Jeremia to visit the Tanga and Ruvu districts. Over the past week I've had the privilege of visiting several congregations in Maasai areas. Here's a few pictures...

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Nolting Update from Tanzania...Nov. 2022

A summary of the Mission Trip--I thank you all for allowing me to carry out this work in one of our foreign mission fields!

I flew out of North Platte to Denver Monday, November 7, at about noon. I then flew from Denver to London. I had a ten-hour layover there and so took the subway train into central London and visited the British Museum. I was able to see many of the artifacts I taught about years ago while serving at ILC--it was delightful! I flew overnight from London to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, and from Addis Ababa to Kilimanjaro International Airport in northern Tanzania arriving about noon on Wednesday. Because I was traveling east, I essentially lost a half day, which I will regain next week when returning home.

Missionary Ohlmann met me along with Pastor Jeremiah, who is the head of the Tanzanian Church of the Lutheran Confession (TZCLC), and Professor Michael, one of the seminary teachers. We traveled about an hour to Arusha where the seminary is located. 

Missionary Ohlmann and I are staying at Christina House. Christina is Pastor Jeremiah's cousin. It is a delightful small resort that caters to tourists coming to Tanzania to go on safaris and climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. This is not the tourist season, so we are the only guests at this time. The rooms are very comfortable, with windows you can leave open twenty-four hours a day. It is about 65 degrees at night and about 75 degrees during the day. While there is mosquito netting around the beds, I have yet to see a mosquito and there are few other insects--no screens on the windows. The resort, which is surrounded by a wall, is a bit like a tropical paradise--lush trees and bushes with flowering plants everywhere. Our rooms are on the second floor along with two unoccupied rooms and a small veranda with chairs and couches. This morning I went out to the veranda about 6:00 a.m. and was able to quietly read my daily devotion while listening to the birds sing, a few roosters crow, and (sadly) the sound of traffic on the highway in front of the resort. We are provided breakfast each morning and supper each evening, both of which feature fresh fruits and lots of vegetables.
The seminary is about one mile up a bumpy road from the resort. I keep thinking it would be marvelous to purchase a small tractor with a blade to simply grade the road! I would make a lot of friends and do a fine public service! The seminary is built on land owned by Pastor Jeremiah, which he is transferring to the TZCLC. It has a wall around it. Inside the front entrance, there is a simple dirt courtyard with a wonderful shade tree right in the middle, which covers the entire area (probably 70' x 70'). The main church is there. It is a concrete structure, which looks like an octagon. It has a double entry door and windows around two-thirds of the building on the ground level. It is two stories high with a tall metal roof. There is no glass in the windows and there are open window areas on the second-story level in which they hope one day to place stained glass. The building is not finished, but each year they strive to push the project toward completion. Behind the church is a connected seminary classroom (probably about 15' x 20') in which all classes take place. There are five long tables at which two students sit per table. There are ten students enrolled, but only seven have been in attendance these last two days. I have been told that one young man is sick, but I do not know where the other two are--presumably at their homes. Behind the church and classroom, there is a courtyard (probably 20' x 40). In the center of the courtyard is a long table under a tent which is used for meals. On either side of the courtyard, there are long buildings with, I believe, seven dormitory rooms for the students--two to a room. At the end of the courtyard is a kitchen building. An older woman serves as a dorm mother for the young men, and she cooks their meals over an open fire using wood as her fuel. There is a double outhouse for taking care of those necessities. They have a rather ingenious hot water system. A tank of water is contained within a brick housing. Under the tank and within the housing is a place to burn wood. The hot water is transferred by gravity feed through a hose to two concrete sinks for washing bodies and clothes.

My first two days of classes have gone well. We begin at 9:00 a.m. and end shortly after 4:00 p.m. with an hour break for lunch. I eat lunch with the students and my translator. The first lunch was a large bowl of brown rice with small portions of beef to give it flavor together with either coffee or tea. Tanzanian tea which, by the way, is very mild and while the young men used sugar, I drank it without--very nice! The second day was an even larger bowl of cooked corn with carrots mixed in for color.

For my classes I am presenting material on the Gospel of John. I am using the materials we used at both Grace and St. Paul's but in an expanded form. At this point we have covered all the introductory materials and have begun looking at specific sections of John. Each afternoon we take a specific text and work through it together as if preparing for a sermon. We come up with a theme and parts and discuss how to take the facts and impress them on people's hearts so that their individual lives will be impacted--very enjoyable! We have also discussed numerous questions raised by the students, such as--how do you answer someone who denies the Trinity and why is it that Christians do not agree on infant baptism?

The young men are eager, intelligent, and well-versed in the Scriptures. As is typical, some are more willing to speak than others, but all have made contributions to our discussions. I shared with them a picture of my family that serves as my computer's home page. I am looking forward to sharing with my daughter, Laura, the fact that I was informed by one student that he intended to marry one of her daughters! That will have to wait a while, however, since she is only twelve!

Yesterday after classes Pastor Jeremiah and Missionary Ohlmann took me along to visit an orphanage. Pastor Jeremiah visits the orphanage regularly and hopes to have the seminary students assume the religious training of the children. There are twelve orphans at the facility, but the orphanage pays school tuition costs for about forty additional poor children in the area. After grade school, if children cannot pass the exams to get into high school, the orphanage trains the young ladies to sew and provides practical training in agriculture for the young men. I was privileged to share with the children and staff the story you will be hearing in church tomorrow--Zaccheaus.

Teaching the Children at the Adonai Home for Destitute Children 

Today after lunch Pastor Jeremiah, Missionary Ohlmann, and I headed southwest out of Arusha to visit a new church being built in a village, Mbuyuni, by a small congregation of Maasai. In a way, it is sad because their former pastor was led astray by the promise of a church body in Nigeria to support him monetarily. They lost their pastor and the church they had just built. But it is a testimony to their faithful resolve. The church walls are built half-way up and a tent has been pitched on the inside of the building in which the congregation will worship until they have the means to complete the building. Their pastor, Robert, is a recent graduate of the Wittenberg Seminary and currently returns to the seminary regularly to instruct the students in their English. He is an outstanding young man. He is married and has three really cute children--Angel, Innocence, and Onesimo. We sang hymns, were greeted formally by one of the church elders, addressed briefly by Missionary Ohlmann, and then I was asked to present a message. I talked primarily to the children and spoke of how Zacchaeus needed the love, forgiveness, and acceptance of God, and that he received it from Jesus. We concluded the service with another hymn and prayer by Robert. What a pleasure to enjoy the fellowship of these saints of God!

Pastor Robert Looskira at the TZCLC Mbuyuni Congregation

Teaching at Mbuyuni

The TZCLC Congregation at Mbuyuni

That is enough for now. May the LORD bless and keep you all!

Serving Christ together with confidence in His presence, power, and promises,
Pastor Nolting