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Steve and Barb Sherman, GMI missionaries in Mwanza, Tanzania, recently sent out an email update and it was so full of good information that we had to share it with all of you. While this isn’t in the same format, it includes the same information and photos.

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Greetings from Mwanza Tanzania. Thank you to all of you who have prayed for and supported us. Barb and I made the trek north (about 22 hours) back in October. We got straight into the ministry and still have not been able to get completely unpacked and moved into our new home.

Since arriving in Mwanza in October, Steve has preached almost every Sunday. We have 3 church plants and one established church. We lack trained leaders so Pastor Methodi Mwendapole and Steve take turns rotating in the four churches. Steve is pictured here at the Nyashimba church last Sunday.

Below the article is a picture of the Nyashimba congregation. They have some pretty lively choirs. Because of the dirt floor they kick up a lot of dust when their choirs start dancing.

Pictured below is the home of our host family where we ate lunch at the Nyashimba church.To the right are the ladies washing dishes after our meal and at the bottom is the beautiful setting we ate in. You would be surprised how comfortable it is eating outside under a mango tree with a light breeze even in the 90 degree weather.

The majority of our time is spent at the Nyangulugulu city church plant. Pictured below is Pastor Methodi, who is a Tanzanian missionary that we work with, teaching the Wednesday evening Bible Study this week. We are averaging about 60 men, women, and children on Sundays.

Barb and Methodi’s wife take turns teaching the kids Sunday School, Junior Church, and also the Women’s Bible Study on Tuesdays. Believe it or not we are in church 12-15 hours a week with each of our 5 meetings lasting 2-3 hours.

Steve had the privilege of leading a man and his wife to the Lord yesterday at the Nyangulugulu church. Their names are Benadi and Zainabu. They have three children—Peter, Margaret, and Leah. Please pray for this family as they have never attended any kind of church before and are the epitome of the phrase “babes in Christ.”

Leah took an immediate liking to Steve. She began to cry when Steve left the building. Later when he came back she came up to the front of the church where Steve was waiting to preach, sat on his lap, and promptly fell asleep.

A huge thank you to everyone who has contributed to help us build a ministry center here in the Nyangulugulu area of the city of Mwanza. The building is now complete with an office, a large classroom, and two smaller multi-purpose rooms. This is where we will run our Bible School, teach seminars, and operate our correspondence school from. It is also our head office for the Mwanza region.

For now the Nyangulugulu congregation meets in the ministry center. Later, after we have grown some, we hope to build a church to the left of the ministry center that uses the fence walls as two sides of the church.

This week we are continuing to work on the fence around our compound. With the current money we have we should be able to finish about 80% of the fence.

Keep praying! Pray for our new congregations that they continue to grow in Christ. Pray as we develop leaders to work in these churches. Pray for our missionary team in Mwanza (Mwendapoles, Shermans, and Capraris who are in the States for medical treatment). Pray as we plan for further development.

In Christ,
Steve and Barb Sherman

Nyashimba congregation

Barb teaching Sunday School

We ate lunch under the Mango tree

Pastor Methodi teaching the Wednesday evening Bible Study

 

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A walk into the village of Kapenta was a common occurrence growing up in the Rukwa Valley. Most of the time it was to visit our friends who lived there, and doing this happened more often as I entered my high school years. This was because my local friends started getting married around the age of 16 and they no longer had the freedom to come to our house to hang out and “play” like they did from the time we lived there until they got married. One of my dearest friends, Esther (now Mama Mishak), was someone I especially enjoyed visiting. We could sit and talk or walk to her garden outside the village until it was almost dark and then say goodnight before the sunset so I could safely make it back to my house.

On one particular walk to Esther’s house I saw a lady carrying a 5-gallon bucket of water on her head with a young child tied to her back with a cloth (the normal way to carry a baby). We greeted each other and then went our separate ways. I didn’t think anything of it, because that’s as normal a sight as seeing a mailbox at the end of a driveway in the USA. What I had missed was the witchdoctor who had passed just before I came to the path and whom this lady was following.

Upon arriving at Esther’s house and after some casual conversation, she asked if I had seen the lady being led up the mountain by the village witchdoctor. I said I had seen the lady and Esther went on to explain what was going on. This story is heartbreaking but as you read the following think of the bondage of fear these people live in. Satan has a stronghold in every culture that needs to be brought to light, and one of those in Tanzania is fear. Fear and the bondage of darkness causes so much heartache. The light of Christ is so beautiful in contrast to these things but when the darkness seems strong, the heartache runs deep.

You see, this woman was about to take part in a ritual led by the witchdoctor, in fear of disobeying him and in fear for her child’s life. Her young boy was very sick, running a high fever among other things. Normal “dawa” (medicine) wasn’t working, so she went and surrendered herself to the ways of the witchdoctor. They were now on their way to a special site on top of a local, worshipped mountain where, Esther explained to me, the mother would have to collect sticks and they would make a fire from those sticks. They would then boil “special” water and poor this hot water over the child to wash the sickness from the child’s body. When the deed was done, the mom would have to leave the mountain without looking back. If she looked back or ever returned to that spot, she was told and believed, the sickness would return to her child and possibly take his life. My heart ached and I wished there was some way I could have stopped what I knew was happening as it was being explained to me.

The sun began to set and I said my goodbyes to Esther for the day. At the same time that she walked me to the path from her house the mother was returning down the mountain with a screaming little baby re-tied to her back and her child in worse condition than before. Oh, my heart cried inside. Why does she believe these lies? Why does she do these things?

Lies and darkness and sin. That is why. In many places throughout that culture witchcraft is a real and serious issue that many live in bondage to and in fear of daily. It is just one area where the missionaries fight a spiritual battle in their daily work. I tell you this in order to raise the awareness of the need for prayer in these cultures and lands where our missionaries are serving. Pray for the spiritual battles that are fought every day. Pray for the people affected so intimately and painfully with this darkness, shame, pain, and fear. For in Christ there is light and freedom and joy and he came that we might have life and have it to the full.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’” John 8:12.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” Galatians 5:1.

Zach and Erin“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” Ephesians 6:12.

This post was written by Erin Kemper, GMI’s Director of Social Media, who spent many of her growing up years in Tanzania as part of a missionary family. She is married to Zach Kemper who was also raised in Tanzania.

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As many of you know, several of GMI’s Tanzania missionaries have been on the move recently and it is hard to keep track of exactly where they are. Of course, you can always reach them by email which is the most reliable mode of communication at this time or you can send a card or letter c/o Grace Ministries International, PO Box 9405, Grand Rapids, MI 49509. We will make sure it gets to them in their monthly mail packet.

TED AND KIM RABENOLD: Ted and Kim are hard at work in the Rukwa Valley of Tanzania. We received an exciting email update of their work this morning which you can read HERE.

BROOK SEEKINS: Brook is currently in Ohio spending time with her parents and getting some rest. She would love to hear from you!

JOHN AND NAOMI CAPRARI: John and Naomi can be found in Grand Rapids, MI, where they are awaiting the birth of their baby in a couple of months. It was advised that they be near a doctor and hospital when they were having some complications and South Africa was not an option for them due to visa issues.

STEVE AND BARB SHERMAN: Steve and Barb continue their ministries in Mwanza, Tanzania. They would love to hear from you via email. It is always an encouragement to hear from people back in the States.

CORY AND KIM HODGSON: Cory and Kim and their three children are currently in Portland, OR, where they are spending time with family and just adjusting to life in the U.S. That back and forth transition always takes a bit of time.

MIKE AND LYNN CARAWAY: After spending time with their daughter and son-in-law in Dubai, Mike and Lynn, along with Luka, just recently arrived in the States. They continue to work with Grace Community Development & Education (GCDE) from a distance.

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Ellie Ratter is a recent graduate of Grace Bible College who was given the opportunity to relieve Kim Hodgson of three months of home schooling responsibilities so Kim could focus more on ministry and just take a break from the home schooling routine. This trip allowed Ellie to get a taste of a different culture and to sense the Lord’s leading in her life concerning what He has for her in the future — a win win, for sure! Below are Ellie’s reflections about the experience:

“Shortly after I graduated from Grace Bible College, I went on a three-month mission trip to Tanzania, East Africa. Before the opportunity was presented to me I had never given much thought to going on a mission trip, let alone Africa! In fact, I had never been out of the country or even on an airplane!  I was searching for different options for work after graduation. I had a handful of different jobs that I would really enjoy to choose from, yet none of them felt right to follow and I couldn’t figure out why. When I was told about the possibility of serving in Tanzania, seemingly everyone and everything pointed to that!

My mission or job was to serve the Hodgson family by teaching their two oldest children (Naomi and Elijah). I did not study to be a teacher, so I really felt like I was living the phrase, “God does not call the equipped, He equips the called.” And He did! It was eye-opening to be immersed in such a different culture, but it was also a lot of fun! Being in a place and a culture unlike anything you have ever experienced is a beautiful thing. Your world view expands quickly and it pushes you out of your comfort zone, which is hard but SO worth it. I spent a lot of my time with the Hodgsons and some other GMI missionaries, but I was also able to see and experience some cultural things – such as a wedding in a village, a meal at a national’s home, and even simply learning what I could of Swahili so I could communicate with people on my walks to the Hodgsons’ and elsewhere.

If you have ever considered going on a short-term mission trip and the opportunity is available, go! If you have not ever given much consideration to doing a short-term mission trip and the opportunity is presented to you, go! Experiencing a different culture and building relationships with other missionaries and nationals is priceless. And when you do go, make the most of your short time there by befriending some locals as much as it is possible and learn some of the language. There will be a lot that you have never seen or experienced, but you need to embrace it and let the Lord equip you and guide you – because He will!”

 

Photo credit: swiftsat.com

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This comes from “Crossing the Seas with the Capraris,” the blog of GMI missionaries John and Naomi Caprari and was originally posted October 31, 2016:

It’s an amazing thing to witness the hand of God.

Pregnancy, itself, is a miracle. The way God fearfully and wonderfully makes and creates human beings, His masterpieces, from their very beginning. God has shown us His faithfulness to a higher level than which we have experienced before through this pregnancy. Let us explain:

We found out that Naomi was pregnant in the middle of August. You can only imagine the extreme excitement we felt when we got this news. Maybe, you can also imagine, because of our recent struggles (losing our baby at 5 months, and a second miscarriage last February), the immediate fears and worries that entered our minds.

A couple weeks later Naomi started feeling and having the same exact symptoms she had in our second miscarriage. Because of this Naomi was convinced she already had or was going to miscarry this baby as well. That’s when we started to pray fervently.

By God’s grace, we live nearby a nurse, Joanne Moyer, who was able to direct us to a doctor in the area and gave Naomi the advice to be put on bed rest. Once we visited the doctor, he ordered an ultrasound. After we returned to the doctor with the results, he shared with us that Naomi was pregnant with twins but it was too early to find a heartbeat and that we would need to return in two weeks. During that time, Naomi was to be on bed rest.

Those were two long, difficult weeks. Naomi’s miscarriage like symptoms continued for most of those two weeks and her discomfort only increased. However, we experienced what Scripture describes as a peace that surpasses all understanding. The peace was not necessarily that everything was going to be okay with the pregnancy, but more so, that God was in control and no matter the outcome He has great plans for us.

Those two weeks went by, and instead of returning to the doctor that told us we were pregnant with twins, we decided to go to the main city in Tanzania, Dar Es Salaam, to seek better treatment and accurate results. This is when we met our favorite ultrasound tech.

We’ve visited her twice and she has only given us good news! Also, she is really good at what she does and has great facilities. In our first appointment with her we immediately found out that our baby still had a heartbeat. We were overjoyed with tears of this great news . Then, she also discovered there was a hematoma (a bleed/blood clots) that had formed in the womb.. We’ll never forget what she said about this, “you were going to miscarry, and something stopped this miscarriage.” She then asked us what we had taken or what we had done. Immediately we both knew that it had only been God who kept this baby alive and well.

We were on a high leaving this appointment. Naomi wasn’t required to be on bed rest, but needed to rest often and wasn’t able to do much. We then were to wait 6 more weeks until we returned to Dar to find out if the hematoma had done any scarring to the baby, placenta, or sac that could potentially hinder the continual development of the baby.

As many of you know, we announced that we were pregnant just last week after having our second appointment in Dar. At this appointment our ultrasound tech was astounded that the hematoma had indeed dissolved. She said “that thing was huge” and was amazed that it was completely gone. Once again, we knew right away, that this was surely the hand of God.

We are so thankful to God for his grace, which he has given our family. We anticipate great things for the baby and we covet your prayers for everything to continually develop well. Thanks!

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