Thursday, June 25, 2009

Bagamoyo, Tanzania

As I write, it is late Thursday afternoon, June 25. We have a short break, enough time for me to compose some thoughts of the last few days. We came back to Bagamoyo on Monday afternoon. We love the beauty of this area, lots of palm trees, sandy beaches.
We are staying near a Muslim mosque. We are reminded of how the sounds of the ocean, the wind in the palm trees, and the birds compete with the five daily prayers broadcast over loud speakers everyday. Those prayers drown out all other sounds during those times each day. The Christians here feel that they are fighting the battle for the hearts and minds of their friends and neighbors against those who are devoted to Allah.
Our workshop for Building a Comprehensive Marriage Ministry was Tuesday morning. This workshop is just for churches in this area; we are doing another one on the 30th for those in the Dar es Salaam area. We had a good turnout. Everything starts late in Africa. We had a lot to cover, our training lasted 3 hours. We had some encouraging sharing; most of the time they listened and took notes diligently as we talked.
One of the questions we asked was about the main issues concerning marriage. Most of the issues were tied to male dominance in marriage, including beatings, controlling the money, and ignoring the family.
They also shared what impressed them from the weeklong conference we had conducted. They shared a wide variety of issues and were very open and honest.
Several pastors shared their lack of giving priority to their families. Some shared about how it impressed them when Alvin talked about being affectionate with their children and he demonstrated through hugging his teenage daughters (a very uncommon practice here). One women shared how a Muslim neighbor was asking about the seminar and wanting to attend such a seminar, none being available in the Muslim mosque. Another woman shared what she had learning about budgeting with her co-workers and how they had gathered around, wanting to learn all that they could.
After lunch, we meet with the pastors/church leaders who had come from the remote villages outside of Bagamoyo. Our purpose in meeting with them (and later individual churches) is to see what challenges they face in developing a marriage ministry. Many feel that them must conduct a seminar in the same way we did and they don't have the means to provide meals, etc. A common concern is that they think the church members or others will question why they have expertise to teach on marriage.
At every meeting we have conducted, the common agreement is how much they need teaching on marriage. When you say the word "marriage" many of them giggle and act embarrassed because they equate the word "marriage" with sex. Sexual preoccupation is heavy on the minds of many men here, resulting in abuse or demands. When we present all of the other aspects of marriage and present God's view on sex, they see a very new perspective.
They are very encouraged with our presence in meeting personally with their churches. We have had some very good meetings and some sad ones. However in each meeting, we have found individuals with a real passion and commitment to see a marriage ministry succeed. This extended ministry time has given us more insight into the challenges of the African people and into the dynamics of their marriages. We are better teachers and trainers because of this new understanding.
We have had a wonderful interpreter, Nickson. He has a common heart in training leaders and started a ministry for that purpose. He has not only interpreted our words but has been a bridge for us to interpret the culture. Even though he lives in the Dar es Salaam area, he comes to this area regularly to minister. He is a young pastor and leader in his denomination, but has a great understanding of leadership and a strong sense of networking among different denominations. He has offered to be a link, resource, and source of encouragement between the churches and us as we return to the states.
We meet with more churches tomorrow and then Ed will preach on Sunday. We will return to Dar es Salaam on Monday for our final week. We hope to see the historical sites of the area on Saturday.
We appreciate your prayers for our ministry work and our continued good health.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

sunday worship

We had a great morning of worship! At an Assembly of God church! The music is always good in Africa, they worship with their whole bodies, like they really mean it. There were 150-200 there, packed into a small space, sitting on hard benches. The service lasted at least 2 1/2 hours (the time we were there)

Ed spoke about forgiveness. The pastor had been at our conference. After the message, the pastor had all the married people stand at the front, even if the spouse was not there. He had the couples stand together (they don't sit together in church). He had Ed pray for them. There was lots of hugging and crying, both unusual for public display in church. The pastor had learned well at our conference. He said that the message of forgiveness was just what they needed. We told him that everyone needs it. Ed clearly presents the gospel but also talks about how we are to forgive each other in the same way.

They gave us all the paper money in an envelope from their offering, 49,500Ts. We were very humbled. That's about $38. We will find somewhere to give it away before we leave.

Thanks for all of your prayers. Will send more info later,

Ed Edwards
Donna Edwards
"Giving Life to Marriages"
Livng Well