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

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