Sunday, January 26, 2014

My First Preach

So today I gave my first “preach” as the South Africans here in Tanzania call a sermon. To be quite forthright, I wouldn’t really blog about it and hesitate to do so even now, but the circumstances surrounding it were a bit surreal. That, and my wife is encouraging me to do so.

For starters, public speaking, teaching, preaching is a little bit one-and-the-same to me.  I know my seminary/ordained friends would raise issues with me saying that, but my point is simply this: public speaking is something I enjoy, have some modest talent in, and it doesn’t really phase me.  I enjoy every opportunity I get to hone the craft of delivering a good speech or, in this case, a good preach.

Just after the first of the year, one of my colleagues asked me if I would be willing come preach at his church today.  I agreed and was a bit excited to again have the opportunity to prayerfully prepare a message.

A couple weeks passed and last Monday I knocked on his office door seeking a few more details of what I should preach on, order of the service, etc.

“Marc. Have a seat.”


He then proceeds to tell me they have recently found out that their pastor has been having an international affair and has used church money to sustain this relationship.  He then told me that just this last week (the 19th) they told the congregation the news and informed the congregation that they were suspending their young, much-loved pastor whom they had supported through seminary.

I was to be the first sermon post-pastor suspension.

I may have actually preferred at that very moment to have been hit with a ton of bricks.

This was to be my first sermon ever formally preached during a Sunday morning worship service.

And it was to take place in the most awful of circumstances.

My heart sank, not for me, but for the Church.  This church, the church visible and the Church invisible, the bride of Christ.  Yet again Christ’s Bride has been marred by the stain of sin.  This church, with good people, doing a good ministry in a city and a nation starved for the Gospel and lacking in leaders who have integrity, has just been ripped apart by the uncontrolled passions of a broken man.

What in the world, what in the Bible am I going to preach on?  How do you even begin to wrap your mind around this? What do you say in a moment like this? Especially as an outsider, even more especially as a mzungu.

As he told me all of the details, one phrase kept popping into my head, “What you intended for evil, God has meant for good.”  I knew the phrase was from Joseph’s story and my mind quickly recounted Joseph’s life.  The details aren’t pretty.  Sold into slavery by jealous brothers.  Wrongly accused of sexual assault - even today a person’s reputation cannot come back from such a charge, even if it is found out to be wrong.  Sentenced to prison.  Forgotten about. Then made the second highest person in all of Egypt. Great power, great authority.  Anything Joseph wants, a word and it’s his.  Even revenge on his brothers.

I endeavored to show through Genesis 50 how Joseph used his earthly power and sovereignty for good and not for evil.  I then compared him to Christ in John 6.  Both feed.  Both show grace and mercy.

The response was pleasant and several commented on the timeliness and the appropriateness of the message.

So I’ve preached my first sermon and it was a far from exciting and jubilant as I had always envisioned.  Instead of talking about how wonderful life is and “Ain’t it great to be loved by God?! Yeah!!” I had to gentle call God’s people to grace and forgiveness, to remember that the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God.  I reminded them, as Jesus does Simon the Pharisee in Luke 7 (I think I said Matthew in my preach.  Whoops!) that those who have been forgiven love more.

It was quite a position to be in and I believe by God’s grace it went as well as could be expected.  I felt like my delivery was smooth, the content was strong, and the Gospel was faithful preached.  I pray that it may have done some good for God’s glory.

Postscript.  I was able to record my preach.  I’ve been using my iPhone in my Church history class to record lectures for students who might miss.  It’s an idea I got from my beloved friend and former professor, Dr. Doug Felch who meticulous recorded ever lecture for a variety of reasons.  I’m posting a link to the transcript and the audio file, not as a way of bragging or showing off.  Had I done this in the States, I’m guessing many family and friends would have attended and showed support.  As that isn’t possible (even my wife wasn’t able to hear it due to her worshipping leading responsibilities at God’s Tribe), I make it available for folks to have a bit of a shared experiences.  I’m not simply doing it to show off or to get likes or compliments.  Perhaps some may listen and it might do some good I could never imagine.  And I welcome feedback - positive and negative.  I would only ask that it is negative or critical (which I’m happy to receive), that you email me or private message me.  Thanks! And thanks for all the support and prayers - they have been greatly appreciated and comforting more than you could know!


Saturday, January 25, 2014

What do we actually DO each week?

I've had a few people ask what our weeks really look like here, so I thought I'd give you a rundown. It might be kind of boring, but will likely give you a feeling of what 'normal' life is here!

Marc's weeks are a bit more regular than mine are at this point. He is teaching Bible to grades 7, 9, 10, 11, and 12, plus spending his free time with students around campus building relationships. This is why we came and our biggest ministry avenue right now.
My biggest " job" right now, besides the girls, is learning language and culture. I spend about 9-10 hours a week in actual 'lessons' and then time outside of that watching recordings to refresh my memory. My hope is that putting in all this time now will open up doors for ministry in the future. It's a bit hard to tell people about Jesus when you don't speak the language!
So, into our week...
Drop off Marc and Isaac at school around 7/7:15am. I head to Swahili lessons with the girls from 7:30am - 11:00am.
Leave the girls with a friend & go to HOPAC to teach Grade 8 Bible at 11:20am

Go pick up the girls & hang out a bit with my friend before heading back to school.
After school (2:15pm), Marc coaches basketball and I coach swimming, so another wonderful staff member watches our kids. We head home just after 4pm and have the neighborhood kids over from about 4:45pm - 5:45pm.
Dinner, baths, reading, prayer and Bible time, bed. Most adults here go to bed between 9 & 9:30pm. I'm still working on being in bed by 11pm, but see the value in an earlier bedtime...this heat really is extra draining!
Marc has a mens prayer meeting at 5:30am with other guys from our church. He comes home around 7 and we load up to head to school.
Head to Swahili lessons.. Tuesdays lessons are a bit further drive, so we usually don't get done until noon. Then we sometimes stop by the mall if there is anything we need from one of the bigger grocery stores rather than the road side 'dukas' that don't carry everything.
Pick up Marc and Isaac around 2:15pm and head home. Tuesdays are the only day of the week we do not have after school activities. That being said, I have bible study at 4pm and get home around 6:30pm.

Dinner, baths, reading, prayer and Bible time, bed.
Wednesdays are my day at home. I let Marc take the car in the morning and we have Swahili lessons at my house, so I don't have to pack up the girls and go anywhere, which is nice. We alternate homes the 3 days a week we do Swahili between the 3 of us that have kids at home yet.
We usually wrap up around 11:30am on Wednesdays and I'm home the rest of the day. I typically get worship music together and send out the email for our worship team on Wednesdays. I try to get some guitar practice in as well - I need as much practice as I can get!! Marc has a staff meeting after school and then has bball practice after that, so he doesn't get home until almost 6pm. We quick eat dinner and he's out the door again to a leadership team meeting for church (kind of like elders) until 9:30 or 10pm.
Drop off Marc and Isaac then head home for the morning., I teach Grade 8 Bible again at 12:00pm, so have to do any last minute prep for that. On Thursdays I've been leaving the girls home with our 'dada'. Dada means sister, and it's what we call our houseworker, Elnert.

I come home after teaching and depending on the girls naps, either go pick up Marc and Isaac or have them take a bjaji home after Marc coaches bball.
Thursday nights I have worship rehearsal. I usually leave around 6:30pm and get home around 9:30pm. Marc handles dinner clean up, baths, bedtime by himself.
Drop off Marc & Isaac then either run home for about an hour, play on the school playground for an hour or find an errand to do. Our church has a women's prayer group at 9am on Friday, and we always meet close to school. We catch up for a bit, spend a lot of time in prayer and worship and have a few snacks together. From there, I've typically been running some errands - going to the grocery store or whatnot. After school I have swim practice again. After swim practice, the school pool is open for swimming, so we periodically bring all the kids stuff and the whole family swims for about an hour. We usually have the pool to ourselves or maybe one other family. It's great!
Friday nights vary. Some nights we just come home and lay low. Some nights we meet have friends over for games or movies. Every once in a while we might go out to a 'restaurant' called Vernas. She and her husband are from South Africa, but make mexican food & serve it out of their home. :)
Saturdays are different each week. Some weeks we visit the orphanage that our church is partnering with. Some weeks we have leadership training through our church. Some weeks we have nothing and stay at home. Some weeks we head to the ocean and pay $6 for our family to sit poolside at the local resort. Some weeks we invite other people from our church over for a meal to get to know them. As we get to know more people and as Marc gets more involved with the leadership of the church, Saturday afternoons or evenings might become a prime time for discipleship groups to happen. We'll see!
We get to church by 8:30am. I am currently the worship leader, so we get there early to practice for the morning. Marc heads up the greeting team, so he hangs out by the entrance to welcome people as they get there. We are so grateful that a few other families are there early & their kids usually keep an eye on our kids. During church, I am obviously up leading worship and Marc has the responsibility of passing out welcome cards to the visitors, and we both take up the offering. After church we typically head home, though sometimes we visit the local 'fast food' which is anything but fast, but it's good and cheap food when  we don't have the energy to spend an hour cooking when we get home. Sunday afternoons we all rest and usually most of us actually sleep for a bit. It's amazing how much we really need the rest. The added stress and heat of living in Dar certainly takes it's toll on us and we're all exhausted by the time Friday rolls around. Having not many plans on the weekends is such a blessing! Marc did just start meeting up with some others on Sunday nights for Ultimate Frisbee as well, which is a  fun physical and social outlet. I stay home with the girls and Isaac usually goes along and plays with friends.
So there you have it, if you've stuck with me for the whole thing! :)
Life is similar in so many ways to what it was before and completely different at the same time. Feel free to ask questions about anything we're involved in right now! We'd love to answer questions!





Monday, January 6, 2014


Lucy, my Swahili instructor, shared the gospel story for two hours on Christmas day and two people responded to the call of God and gave their lives to Jesus Christ!

Let me tell you this incredible story.
Lucy is a Tanzanian woman who meets with me and two other ladies three mornings a week for three hours. I feel so blessed to work with her as I learn language and culture here in TZ. She is incredibly encouraging, patient and joyful. You cannot help but smile when you are with her.
The three of us wanted to get her a little something for Christmas. She had mentioned her desire to go home for Christmas (to Moshi, a town hours and hours away by bus), but that the cost was too much for both her and her husband to go. So, of course, we decided just giving her some money to make that trip possible was a great idea.
We all chipped in and wrote her thank you notes in a Christmas card, and on our last day of lessons a week or so before Christmas, presented her with the small gift. She was literally jumping up and down with joy! I think we were all a bit teary as we saw her genuine gratitude for what seems a not all that significant of a gift.
This morning we met again after our Christmas break and immediately asked about her trip.
Lucy's father had invited a Muslim family to join them for Christmas, as well as other family members, and desperately wanted Lucy to come and tell the Christmas story as he was apprehensive  and felt ill-equipped to share.
As the family gathered, a woman and her three children were walking by the house and asked boldly if they could come in and have something to eat - they were hungry. Lucy and her family graciously brought them in and fed them. They told the woman that she was welcome to go after eating but was also welcome to stay. She stayed and was able to hear Lucy share the truth about Jesus life, death and resurrection.
God gave this woman the gift of faith, and she believed the words Lucy shared from the Bible! It seems she was not only physically hungry, but spiritually hungry as well.
Lucy's uncle also responded to the message of Jesus Christ and became a believer! She shared that she had been telling him about Jesus for years and years and he always rejected her words and didn't want to hear more. Christmas day, however, the Lord softened his heart.  Four days later he died unexpectedly.
A few others that were present have taken Lucy's number and are curious about Christianity and who Jesus is. She eagerly told them to call or message her with questions and she also wrote out things for her Father, so he might be ready to answer questions as well.
Here we thought we were merely learning about Lucy's world and language, but much bigger work was taking place through the power of the Holy Spirit. It's amazing and humbling to think that a small gift enabled Lucy to go home and share the gospel where LIVES WERE CHANGED FOR ETERNITY! Small things can make a huge difference.
It's also inspiring to see Lucy's obedience and boldness. I wonder if I would welcome in a mom and three kids on Christmas day to my family gathering - I might make a few plates of food or give them some money, but invite them to join us for the day?  Or would I invite a Muslim family  to share in our traditions, food, and fellowship with the hope of sharing about Jesus with them? Holidays typically hold special meaning and involve certain traditions in our families. It's hard when people or situations mess with those plans - and to welcome those 'messy' people and situations into our lives, on CHRISTMAS, is not an easy task. I admire Lucy and her family.
Friends, Lucy is teaching me so much more than just Kiswahili. She embodies compassion, obedience, boldness, passion, and joy. I hope her huge heart and her longing for others to know Jesus rub off on me as much as the correct vocabulary and grammar.
So let's take a moment to say a pray of thanks for Lucy, lift up this mom who accepted Christ on Christmas day, pray for those who have had seeds planted in their hearts and ask God to tune our ears to hear what little things (or big things) we can do that could make a HUGE difference in the Kingdom of God! 

Friday, January 3, 2014


Hello friends & family!

Look for an update soon of our first Christmas in Tanzania!

Until then, however, we wanted to share with you our wish list. Our dear friend, Kelly, is coming to visit us in about four weeks and is able to take with her some wish list items. Many of you have expressed interest in cutting down our costs by contributing an item or two, and we are SO THANKFUL!!

I thought I would post the list here so you can take a gander & see if you might even have an itme laying around your house collecting dust. :)

Please let us know if you plan to get something, so that we can avoid duplicates!
Also, if you can plan to get this to Kelly in Grand Rapids before January 20ish that would be great. Contact me for her email/phone.  She lives near Burton/Breton. Likely you can leave it on her front porch anytime and she'll get it.  

* 4 bags of dry black beans

* 2 containers parmesan cheese

* fruit snacks for the kids

* Cindy Suds (diaper rash cream - Hopscotch) -

* crayons 

* Construction paper

* pipe cleaners & other craft supplies (even on sale Christmas stuff from hobby lobby  - kits, etc)

* scrapbooking paper of fun designs or cardstock

* Size 1-2 crocs for Isaac (new or used!) design of it doesn't matter, just has to have a back strap of some sort

* Pots & pans (our personal ones stored at my parents are TOO heavy to put in a suitcase, but we need some. Used are great, as long as they're not too heavy. Just put this on here in case anyone sees something at goodwill, is getting rid of theirs. We don't have a TON of space, but a pot or two might be good)

* DVD's (new or used)- especially TV shows for the kids. We're all tired of the 3 Dora DVDs we have :) We have other movies too, but would love TV shows so we don't have to put on a whole movie.

* rechargeable AAA batteries (Eneloop brand)

* Speedo bathing suit for Gretchen (for coaching swimming - email for specifics - $50-$75) -

* Projector (email for specifics - in the $200-$300 price range)

* Home security system (email for specifics in the $150-$250 price range)

* Work out capris or long bball type shorts for Gretchen (size M or 10)

* Marc would LOVE some specific posters for his classroom ($20-$40 range - email for specifics)

* iHome of some sort so we can play music in the house(new or used - for a 30PIN classic iPod!)

* amazon gift cards/itunes gift cards are always welcome

* Hand Burr coffee grinder (especially useful when the powers out & we want coffee - we could hand grind it!)

* 3 OLD SPICE SWEAT DEFENSE extra strong Anti-perspirant & deoderant