Thursday, May 31, 2012

Polygamy--Strange and Estranged


A young Christian man from one of our churches moved away to a remote village to farm some land and make a living.  There was no church of any kind there except for one Catholic fellowship.  Soon he and a young Catholic girl became involved and wanted to marry...thus they did...without permission from her parents.  After a while, she was called back home where her parents prohibited her from returning to her husband.  [tribal laws and obligation are heavily respected; when they are ignored, consequences can be horrendous]  Seven years went by and neither had remarried.  Then, the man met and married another lady.  In the mean time, Pastor Isaiah planted his church.  The man and his new wife began attending and after a short time, she gets saved, and he gets his life right with the Lord!  After a few weeks go by, wife number one returns!  He had never officially annulled his marriage with her.  Now, suddenly, and unexpectedly, he has two wives!

Datooga Women lining up to hopefully be chosen for marriage, usually by an elder who already has several wives.

The first question I had to ask the pastor who relaid this situation to me was: "Why did the first wife suddenly come back?"  Two problems which I had to deal with were 1.) it didn't happen in my church thus I don't have the privilege of seeking out the answers from first party sources...and ...2.) since the pastor lives a 4 hour drive away, all that I could advise him on I had to do in just two sittings at the conference where we were both attending (not much chance for follow up to see how things are going). 

Nonetheless, the question still is an important one to consider!  Unfortunately, when I asked the pastor, (again he having to regurgitate what he was told by the husband) the response was that she had remained unmarried for those seven years because she loved him but her parents refused to allow her to stay with him (they married against the parents will) thus called her back home and forbade her to return to him.  It would be an interesting thing to know if she herself stayed faithful to him for all those years...most likely that will never be known.  Probably they got married against the parents will because of heavy requirements to provide the bride price and ‘put on’ a big wedding that no one could afford.  So, they were hoping that if they got married and then went to her parents and said: “Oh, too bad, we’re married so we’ll just have to take our time on the bride price and wedding.”  Then the parents responded with a ‘not so fast’ action of demanding her to return and stay home.  It happens…over and over again. 

As far as why the first wife came back...the husband and first wife would have us to believe that it was because her parents FINALLY grew weary of holding her back and she felt free from tribal laws  and obligations to go ahead and return.  (Hmmmm)  That’s the story, even though eight years of missionary experience makes me skeptical.  I would assume one of two things happened. She spent the seven silent years in an adulterous relationship which yielded neither children nor a marriage proposal so they tired of it and broke it off.  Or, she heard that the husband had never re-married so she figured he would 'wait' for her to return.  When he figured after seven years, she ain't gonna do that, he remarried (WITHOUT annulling the first marriage [mistake, mistake, mistake!])  After marrying again she felt spurned, but WITH a leg to stand on decided enough was enough and returned to him.


Some folks have proposed that the answer is the same as it was in Leviticus when God commanded the Israelites to put away their 'strange wives.'  My problem with the 'strange wives' principle is this: 1.)  God commanded it for Israelites in the OT in order to preserve the nation against idolatry...the strange wives would turn the hearts of the men of the nation--and thus the nation itself—to idolatry.  But, in 1 Cor. 7:11-14, Paul gives the principle that IF the unbelieving wife is pleased to stay with her believing husband, then they should remain married: 'let him not put her away".  From that we learn that God's principle of putting away the strange wife is not a binding command for believers in the church.
 2.)  When Jesus said that because of the hardness of hearts God ALLOWED divorce (for regulation of an out of control practice) it really wasn't a 'prescription' to correct bad marriages.  I think that can probably be applied to Jesus' 'exception clause' in Matthew as well...allowed but not sanctioned.   Even Paul in 1 Cor. 7 seems to PREFER reconciliation other than divorce (vs27-"art thou bound to a wife, seek not to be loosed." and vs11 "...if she depart, let reconciled...")  I know that these verses mainly have MONOGAMOUS marriages in mind but does the 'covenant breakers' problem referred to in Romans 1:31-32 still apply as a sin worthy of judgment even if the husband has more than one wife?
3.)  Paul has pretty strong words in referring to believers as the "temple of God" with the Holy Spirit's indwelling...a KEY difference, in my mind, between modern day church saints and Old Testament believers...their bodies were not considered 'temples of God.'  Was polygamy still wrong/sin in the OT?  Most definitely!  Jesus taught in Matthew 19 that from the beginning a one man—one woman monogamous marriage is God’s plan FROM THE BEGINNING.  But, we see God seemingly ignoring it completely or at least not addressing it directly in the lives of Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, etc.  Did polygamy have its natural sinful consequences because of its sin against the holiness of betcha!  But, even in David's affair with Bathsheba, God judged him mainly based on his coveting another man’s wife, stealing her, and murdering the husband.  He does not directly condemn polygamy itself.  Sin-YES!  Defiling God's Holy Temple? NO!...not in the OT...but...YES! in the NT! (1 Cor. 3:16-18) 


So, the conclusion that I had to come to in THAT situation on THAT day with THOSE folks was this--separating from one of the wives; clinging to the other wife while providing loving leadership and financial stability on both sides. 

I would say that it makes 'logical' sense that the SECOND wife who qualifies more so as the one to be separated from since the man was NOT in adultery until he married her.  BUT! SHE is the one, along with the husband, who got their lives right through repentance and reconciliation with God and the Church...NOT the first wife who actually showed up on the scene AFTER everything happened!  So, does it or does it not make sense that the husband should then cleave to the SECOND wife and separate from the first?

OR (big 'or') Would the second 'spiritual' wife agree to be separated from her husband while being provided for while the first wife who is 'unspiritual' (but very Catholic) be rewarded?  Would it indeed be considered 'a reward'? Should she claim God's promise to virgins that He would enable her by His grace to be chaste while being considered 'Christ's servant' and 'the Lord's freeman.'?  (vs22) 

OR, again, should the husband cleave to his second wife since he could claim abandonment by the first wife who Paul addressed...SHE HERSELF should then remain unmarried (or reconciled!? vs.11)  Does the command to reconcile apply if he is already married?  In the States the answer is 'No!' because people are only allowed one wife at a time.  If the DIVORCED wife wants to reconcile to her REMARRIED husband then 'NO!' the reconciliation command cannot apply...but when the husband is legally married to BOTH WOMEN simultaneously and at the same time??? (which is the expounded meaning of 'Simultaneously') does the command apply or not apply? 

REGARDLESS...I think that what WILL happen is that the husband will SAY that he is clinging to the second wife while providing for the first when in actuality he will secretly sneak over to her as well; which may 'work' in his eyes for a while until she becomes -- 'WITH CHILD' when he will either confess his failure or condemn her as unfaithful!  I suppose it is possible that he will actually cleave to the second, provide for them both without divorcing until his ‘estranged’ wife actually grows weary with the arrangement and decides to depart yet AGAIN!  THEN, he needs to go ahead and divorce realizing reconciliation under those circumstances is not possible and NOT ALLOW HIMSELF TO GET INTO THAT SAME SITUATION AGAIN!!!  ALSO TEACH HIS CHILDREN NOT TO GET INTO THAT SITUATION THEMSELVES! 


As you can see, the adage stands is free to sin...but he is NOT free to choose the results which occur because of his sin.  Then, as he continues to make bad choices, things can only get worse, not better!  Be that as it may, any soul who surrenders his heart and life over to the Lord and seeks to walk with Him daily in humble obedience, God is able to unravel the twisted life which has been contorted by the horrific grasp of the Evil One! 

Polygamy in the Church--Dying or Thriving?

My Datooga friend, Danieli, drinking honey beer out of a cow's horn
I wish I could say that polygamy in the church is a 'dying problem.'  Even though it is not as rampant as it use to be even one generation ago, it is still an ever present issue which is not going away even though the vast majority of Tanzanian churches stand against it.  With roughly 45% of the population being Muslim who believe that they can take up to four wives, and, at least 20% of the population holding to traditional religions, who take as many wives as they can afford, in Africa, at least, the problem of people being saved and added to the church with 'baggage' is indeed a 'thriving problem'...not a dying one! 

With that in mind, I returned the next day to speak with Pastor Israeli about his particular situation. I thought it most beneficial to rehearse Bible principles first; thus, we discussed passages like Matthew 19 and 1 Corinthians 7, in order to clarify what both Paul and the Lord wrote concerning the marriage issue.  After this, it was fairly simple to answer the following two questions.  Just how does a polygamous family serve in the church?  If they have repented of their sin and have done what is required of him from the Scriptures so that they have a conscience void of offense both before God and man, then there is nothing to keep them from serving the Lord in any capacity in the church, except as an ordained minister or deacon (having fallen short of some of the qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3).
Two of Danieli's three wives

Therefore, the lone question which remained was whether or not the husband should come to church with both wives.  My question to him was, "If there was a man in your church who had divorced and remarried before getting his life right with God, would it be appropriate for him to leave his wife at home?"  He agreed that that would not be appropriate.  "In light of that", I continued, "you have three people in a very difficult situation who need, more than anything, to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). What else would you have them do if not sit under your teaching at your church?"  He agreed that church was the best place for people to be in order to grow in both grace and knowledge.

"What about participation in the Lord's supper?" he inquisitively asked?
"What about it?"  I retorted.
"Should he participate, or not?" he continued.
"What does 1 Corinthians 11 say?  Does he have unconfessed sin in his life?"  I responded 
"I suppose not." he concluded

I was getting a pic with one of Danieli's kids when another lady jumped in
I understood the struggle in his mind was not so much that he was looking for some way to condemn the man as much as he was looking for a way to not condone his situation.  In light of that, I recommended that he not place on him a yoke of standard that was not commanded in Scripture.  Instead, have him testify in church of what his situation is; and, that he repented of it and turned his life over to the Lord.  After doing this, you as pastor can teach what the Bible says about it so that no one can accuse you of condoning "polygamy in the church."

We reached the end of our discussion.  I could tell he was thankful to walk away with renewed confidence in the Bible.  I was thankful that he had indeed placed that confidence in God's Word and not in mine!  For the truth is, missionaries come and go, but two things will always be there--polygamy in the Church and solutions in God's Word.

[For a more extensive reading of my thoughts on this particular polygamous situation, please read the follow-up post entitled: Polygamy--Strange and Estranged}

Monday, September 19, 2011

Polygamy in the Church....again?

About twice a year I schedule a pastor from America to come and conduct a church leadership conference where he teaches several hours a day on subjects ranging from the qualifications of the pastor to the Works of the Holy Spirit.  Inevitably, there is a local pastor who will come to me and ask advice on how to handle a delicate matter in his church.  Usually, it involves polygamy.

"Polygamy?"  I ask myself!  "But this seminar is about _________!  How does polygamy fit in to that context?!?"

Well, in short, it doesn't!  But, these pastors labor faithfully in far reaching, remote villages where they have little help and support.  Therefore, when they have a chance to get together with 60 or so other church leaders, I can understand why they would want to talk about what is most urgent to their immediate problems.
From questions such as these thence cometh my bloggings...

Guest speaker, Pastor Chris Luppino, teaching on Spiritual Gifts while Tanzanian church leadership takes diligent notes.  Isaiah is seen here listening with open Bible seated near the front wearing a pink long sleeved shirt and vest. 
This last May, a local pastor by the name of Isaiah asked to speak to me after the second day of the seminar.  He had planted a church in the remote area of Giatara about ten years ago.  During that time he has faced some hair-raising scenarios, but God has always been faithful.  The one which sticks out in my mind is when the local witch-doctor saw how effective the church was becoming in witnessing to the very people who used to fear him! Because of the obvious lack of respect (as well as lagging income) he came by to curse the church building.

"I will tear down this church!" he was reported to have declared.

I guess he was ignorant of Jesus' promise in Mathew 16 where He said that HE would BUILD His church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it.  Nevertheless, Pastor Isaiah handled the situation with patience and tact; thus, nothing violent ever transpired. On the contrary, he eventually diffused the 'bewitched' doctor by showing him the love of Christ.  I wish that I could report that he eventually received the Lord, but, alas, I cannot!

Isaiah had shared that story with me during the time I was attempting to plant a church in the village of Mdori where a different witch doctor was trying to intimidate the people of that area.  I am sorry to say that that church plant never did get off the ground...not because of any efforts by the witch doctor; contrariwise, because of the unbelief of the people. And so rings clear Jesus' question of: "When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" Luke 18:8


I knew that Pastor Isaiah had most likely already thought through his scenario biblically and was coming to me for reassurance.

"I'd better be on my toes spiritually...especially when it has to do with polygamy in the church." I thought.

As I stood with him to one side of the building, he began relaying his scenario...

A young Christian man from one of our churches moved away to a remote village to farm some land and make a living.  There was no church of any kind there except for one Catholic fellowship.  Soon he and a young Catholic girl became involved and wanted to marry...thus they did...without permission from her parents.  After a while, she was called back home where her parents prohibited her from returning to her husband.  [tribal laws and obligation are heavily respected; when they are ignored, consequences can be horrendous]  Seven years went by and neither had remarried.  Then, the man met and married another lady.  In the mean time, Pastor Isaiah planted his church.  The man and his new wife began attending and after a short time, she gets saved, and he gets his life right with the Lord!  After a few weeks go by, wife number one returns!  He had never officially annulled his marriage with her.  Now, suddenly, and unexpectedly, he has two wives!

Pastor Isaiah's question then is this--How does this man serve the Lord in the church?  Does he come with both wives?  What do the Scriptures teach about his situation?

I paused for a moment to allow the facts to sink into my ears...I asked a few clarifying questions like:

"In seven years neither ever officially got divorced?!?"  
"In preparing to get married again, he never filed for divorce based on abandonment?"
"Does he truly want to get right with God now, or is he looking for the church to sanction his marriages?"

Afterwards, I asked if I could take that night to think about it and talk to him again the next day.  I didn't get a chance to talk to him the next day...but the following day I did.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"That's how it is!" in Arusha

Growing up in America, especially the mid-west, I have grown accustomed to many colloquial sayings such as: “When it rains it pours!”  Of course, we understand it to mean that trouble is no isolated incident.  It tends to increase both in frequency and intensity before letting up.  The analogy is lost here in Tanzania being almost completely an agricultural society that depends on rain for almost everything.  Rain at any time of the year is a blessing; thus, to use it as an example for trouble is almost seen as a curse in their minds. 

Not only that, but 65% of the electricity in the country is generated by hydroelectric plants.  Having had nearly no rain since September of last year has caused the whole country to be on scheduled black-outs since around December.  That, coupled with mismanagement, the water levels to operate these plants have dropped to within two feet of total shut down.  We reap the consequences of daily (and nightly) blackouts which usually leave us with about 6 hours of power out of every 48 hours.  We are thankful to have a generator to rely on which we can run for a couple hours each day; but, with fuel prices reaching more than $5.50 a gallon, it is a costly alternative.  In this case, the “When it rains it pours!” analogy loses its effectiveness on the average Tanzania because if it did rain, they would WANT it to pour! 

Nonetheless, it makes sense in our minds…especially right now.  Not only have we gone through extended black-outs since November 2010, but also, we have spent more than $10,000 in vehicle repairs since returning to the field in February of the same year.  This is, of course, because it is 10 years old…and…the majority of its life has been spent being driven in the bush where the roads age a car at a yearly ratio of about 2 to 1. 

On Monday morning, I brought our vehicle back into the garage where I have developed a long-standing relationship with the management and mechanics.  They have proven themselves to be trustworthy in their analysis and reliable in their repairs over the past seven years.  Well, I was hoping that they could help me by fitting a new belt on our A/C when the mechanic and I uncovered a short list of major and minor problems ranging from replacing the A/C pulley and bearing up front, to re-welding the chassis in the back.  The chassis will have been re-welded three times in the last six months.  This time it came dangerously close to crushing both the break line and the power steering line which run along the chassis under the wheel well.  It would be superfluous for me to list all of the new-found damages here…but I would like to now refer back to the “When it rains, it pours!” principle. 

After leaving the car at the garage, I perilously made my way back into town by using the over-stuffed, lawless, public transport buses.   Once there, I withdrew our monthly pay from the bank.  Afterwards, I met up with my partner in ministry, Aaron Shipe, who was in town with his roomy, safe, comfortable vehicle.  After getting a quick lunch together, we returned to his car to find the drivers-side door lock ‘compromised’ and both of our bags missing from the back-seat floorboard!  Mine had about $1,200 in Tanzanian shillings—the bulk of the paycheck which I just withdrew!  We stood stunned!  We had just 30 minutes prior been warned by a Tanzanian lady selling tangerines on the street that it wasn’t safe where we were because of robbers prowling around.  It was because of this, we decided to move the car forward two blocks and park it directly in front of a bank where we supposed ample security cameras and personnel would deter the average robber.  We were wrong!  Like it or not, we had been robbed—what was done was done!

After finishing a story like this, the average Tanzania would conclude by saying: “Ndivyo hivyo!” which basically means: “That’s how it is!”  I concur…but I would like to add that, for us, right now—it’s not only raining: it’s pouring…like it or not! 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Arusha Factor Part 2

Oh yes, the Arusha Factor!  That is, after you rehearse every possible scenario that could happen to a guy on a bike and how best to react to it, you have to remember that you can't factor in everything all the time.

Thus, I turned into the right lane and  was immediately struck by a small SUV type vehicle attempting to pass me on the RIGHT--during my right hand turn! 

She hit me with the front left fender of her car and then she must have veered to the right as to not run me over completely.  My right leg was sandwiched between the car and bike for a moment before I went over.  I hit the pavement with my head first and slid on my helmet and the top of my right shoulder with most of the rest of my body in the air hanging over me right beside the car as it went off into the ditch and I came to a stop behind it having slid about 6 feet or so. 

At least 20 people from all around saw the whole thing and rushed over to us.  I was nervous at first because I have heard stories about how when people get hit like that, a seemingly compassionate rush of onlookers scuttle over and go through the pockets of the half dead so they may steal phones, wallets, and whatever else they can get their hands on before 'real' help arrives.  But, it wasn't that way with me--although, I'm not sure why.  I was in town two weeks prior to this event with my car when someone swiped my blackberry cell phone right out of the front seat with both Shawn and Jamison seated inside the car looking on.  I had stepped out of the car only for a moment.  So, folks have no qualms with boldly stealing from westerners. 

But at that instant, while I laid in the dirt (I had slid from the pavement to the dirt)  there was a vehicle coming down from the bookstore where I had been heading.  Driving it was a Tanzanian whom I knew well, a good Christian man named Joakim.  The compassionate crowd intercepted him from afar and then loaded me into his car.  After playing short game of '20 Questions' he rushed me off to the nearest hospital which was about 15 minutes away. I was, at that moment, concerned for the welfare of my bike; but, I knew that I had to leave it for the traffic police who were on their way to write a report.  After that, I didn't know what would be the final fate of my poor Honda 650! 

As it turns out, after taking x-rays at the hospital, I hadn't broken any bones...just suffered a sprained ankle, knee, and hip.  They released me after about 2 hours.  The total cost of my first hospital visit in the country of Tanzania, including meds, was less than $15! 

The next day, I had to go to the Traffic police station and file a report.  I ended up having to stay for about 6  hours while they got the ladies story straight as well as wouldn't have taken so long if she would have gotten her story a little straighter sooner!  It helped that my rendition agreed with the officers report who went out to observed the crash sight...who also took reports from several witnesses at the scene.  

After the first three hours, I looked out the window and saw it--my bike--and it appeared in good shape!   They had moved it to the wrecked vehicle storage at the Police Station.  The only thing that we could find wrong with it was that it had a few scrapes and the two rear blinkers were smashed...though they both were still in perfect working order even in their limped state.  But, there doesn't seem to be ANY mechanical damage to the bike nor to the frame.  It's a tough bike!  I can probably get the whole thing fixed for less than a $100! 

So, other than suffering through a few weeks of having several annoyingly sprained joints as well as sore neck, back and leg muscles, my over all expenses right now have reached a whopping $115!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Arusha Factor

On Monday afternoon, I finally swallowed the pill and ventured into town to visit the bank.  Ministry opportunities usually can motivate me to climb atop my 'motor beast' more so than the actual thrill of the ride.  Venturing into the city with it, though, is no thrill!  Actually, it is quite the opposite! 

I am not a motorcycle enthusiast; and, if it were not for ministry purposes, I wouldn't even own one.  I HAVE grown accustomed to the adventures I typically encounter seeing 'Africa' from the vantage point of a motorcycle, however.  But, I wasn't headed to the adventure-filled bush land of Africa on that day; on the contrary, I was headed into the overcrowded, under-organized city.   I groaned.  Nevertheless, I hopped on to my Honda 650, cranked it up, and headed out of the gate. 

When I got to the main road, it was as I expected it to be--packed full of buses, cars, motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians very precariously interwoven together on the road, sidewalks and ditches.  This year the city installed their first ever traffic lights which has really paid off in lowering the congestion and confusion by about 1% 

I praise the Lord, though, to have made it relatively quickly in to town and on to the bank where I found that the ominously long line to which I am accustomed was surprisingly short!  That was good news since I needed to make it back out of town again in a hurry if I were to make it to the Christian bookstore before it closed. 

Thus, I was on my way to buy some church songbooks so that I could carry them with me to Babati the next day for Pastor Munah.  He's one of our village pastors who has been pastoring in the same church for more than 30 years.  He had  requested them since they are sold for about $1.50 here in the city as opposed to about $2 in the village.  That 50 cent difference can be significant when you are talking about village life! 

Having successfully maneuvered the bike back outside the city limits made me somewhat 'giddy' at the prospect of pushing my bike passed second gear.  But the thrill was short lived in that I saw my turn approaching so I  turned my right blinker on and began slowing down.  By the time I reached the bottom of the hill I was going slow enough to make the turn off road so I glanced at my sight mirror and saw a car some ways behind me; but, I  knew that it would slow down because of seeing my blinker AND my brake lights...both of which were working fine.  Thus, I turned into the right lane...

Most people do not show motorcycles the same respect they would for a  much larger vehicle for some reason--even in the States.  But, in and around Arusha, it's even worse because most people don't follow would we would consider to be the simplest of 'road courtesy rules.'  I know that...and have to factor that in when driving...whether I'm on my bike or in my car.  But, sometimes, you can't factor in everything all the time! 

...I was immediately struck by a small SUV type vehicle attempting to pass me on the RIGHT--during my right hand turn!

More to come... 

Friday, July 23, 2010

There was Closure

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In his sober, semi-recovered state, this troubled youth was finally able to answer some important preliminary questions like his name, for example, which was, Mohammed, and where he's from--the village of Kiongozi...literally a kilometer from where I had found him on the road! He provided the nurse with a cell phone number for his mother thus she had called her to come and resume care of her son...then she called me...

I didn't recognize her number so I didn't respond...which prompted her to use one of her five free SMS's from the cell phone company...only...they are pre-set so that you can't personalize the message at all so it simply read "Please call me!" in both English and Swahili. Nevertheless, it didn't benefit me any because I still didn't know who had actually sent me the message. Finally she called me and tried to pack as much Swahili into three seconds as she could as to not waste money...only...I didn't understand any of it so I answered, "huh?" to which she retorted by repeating herself about three times she was a little annoyed because she had gone over her three second time limit.

We continued with this pattern for one more round until she finally just said that I should come to the hospital. I drove down the hill and entered the ward where the troubled but sober young man was recovering and found him surrounded by visitors with his mother sitting against the far wall. After greeting her I asked about any more details she might had discovered. She was somewhat vague. I felt as if I was getting in the way of others who wanted to come in and talk so I took that as my queue to return at a more opportune time...which I did...the next morning...and found him gone!

Feeling that I had somehow missed a perfect, God-ordained opportunity to share with the recovered young man the good news of salvation in Christ, I returned home.

The following week I was enjoying my morning devotions in my office when I heard someone announcing his arrival at our front gate. I came out and stood face to face with Mohammed who was wearing the clothes I had brought for him. Since I'm about 6 feet 5 inches tall and weight about 200 pounds, my clothes looked a little ungainly on his 5 feet 11 inch 135 pound frame. Nonetheless, there he stood staring me in the face. After about 3 seconds of growing accustomed to each other's appearances (he had barely seen me while in his right mind for more than a few moments) he bowed himself to the ground at my feet and began to weep while crying out words of gratitude. I was touched to see his level of appreciation; but, I also felt uncomfortable with the display, though I didn't let on lest he become embarrassed and less open to converse about the Gospel.

I invited him in to fellowship over a bottle of soda and to discuss what had happened on that day...then he relayed this story to me.

He had awakened early that morning and prepared himself to be gone all day looking for work. He knew that he wouldn't have another chance to eat until the next day, therefore, he asked his wife to prepare a meal for him before he left that morning of ugali, greens, and kachumbari. Ugali is a corn meal mush--very common--very tasteless; kachumbari is a cold salad mixture usually seasoned with salt and other spices. Mohammed said that as he ate the meal, he noticed that the kachumbari had a 'different taste'...but he was in a hurry so he neither inquired about it nor gave it a second thought. He left his house and walked up to the main road to follow it into the small town of Babati; but, as he reached the road he started feeling sick. He tried to continue but only made it a few steps before he collapsed in the middle of the road. He had no recollection of being dragged off the road...meeting me...being carried to the hospital...fighting the nurse who was inserting all kinds of tubes etc.

The 'other spice', he said, was the cattle dip capsules which his wife mixed into the kachumbari. The two pills would have been strong enough to dillute 100 gallons of water and dip 50 head of cattle! Evidently, she was tired of the day to day struggle of life and thus wanted to return home to her parents; but, divorce on such grounds is highly scorned and the hopes of her re-marrying into a better situation would be quite low. "Death by poisoning" seemed to be the wearied wife's only logical alternative...for her husband...not herself!

Mohammed finished the story by emphasizing that he had already met with the village leaders who advised him to forgive her and to not charge her for the crime. They told him that God had given him a great gift...a second chance at life!

On that note, I opened my Bible and began to show him that our Creator and Lord has similarly given to us a 'second chance at life.' We, like him, are dead in our trespasses and sins. Not only that, but we, like his wife, are guilty of crimes unspeakable against the very God who created us in His own image and likeness.

"The Lord's hand is not shortened that it CANNOT save, neither is His ear heavy that He CANNOT hear, but your iniquities have separated between you and your God." Isaiah 59:1-2 The word "separated" in the Swahili Bible applies to those who are 'dead' but it may also apply to those who are considered 'close to death' with no hope of recovery. (He could sense the relevance.)

But, because of the obedience of Jesus Christ (I continued), who knew neither sin nor guilt, to take the punishment of our sins upon Himself on the conquered death itself through His resurrection, He now offers us Life Eternal. It is our second chance...our only hope!

After pausing for a reaction, he responded by agreeing with everything I had said. This is quite common for Tanzanians and I have grown accustomed to it. Disagreeing with an elder or anyone you respect is on the top of the list of cultural taboos. Having recognized this, I started to address some of the most common misconceptions among Muslims in Tanzania thinking that, left alone, he could never really accept the substitutionary death of Christ. Some common misconceptions are: the Bible has been re-written by Christians; Jesus, though a great prophet, is not the Son of God, He certainly did not die on the Cross, as well as a few others.

He admitted that he was struggling with these questions so I challenged him to come back another day so we can answer each one openly and honestly. I could tell he felt intimidated and vulnerable, and I, for one, do not like to 'take advantage' of people under those circumstances. Intimidation is not conviction...and...vulnerability is not sensitivity; so, I prayed for him then gave him a Bible to read. We said goodbye. He left.

About two weeks later he came back to visit me. We sat fellowshipping over another bottle of soda. He said that he had been visited by two different Christian pastors in his village--the one, a Pentecostal, the other, a Lutheran. Both women.

Women pastors in Tanzania truly is an enigma! It is, by and large, a male dominated society! Most men value women as they value their cattle. This opinion is augmented with the Islamic teaching commonly found here that women are not meant to think, but work. Nonetheless, he went on to tell me that the Lutheran pastor made more sense to him. Even though he still wasn't sure about converting to Christianity, if he did, he would do so by being baptized in the Lutheran church. He had already picked out a new name for himself--Emmanuel.

I asked him to explain what the pastor had taught him about how to be saved. He said that she told him that he had to be baptized to have his sins washed away. I rejoindered (while hiding my distress) that baptism can't wash away sin! A person can only be saved by putting his faith in Christ who took our sins upon Himself on the Cross. He was obviously confused by the opposing Christian worldviews...Unfortunatly, he needed to go. I asked him to visit me again so that I could clarify the meaning of salvation...and address more of his concerns He asked for the location of our nearest church. I told him that it was here in Babati--8 kilometers from his home. He thanked me and took a tract which I often use here entitled "The New Birth." We prayed. He said goodbye and left.

I never saw Mohammed again after that day. Who can tell if he stayed locked in the shackles of Islam, or if he traded those shackles for the chains of 'churchianity,' or if he received the New Birth and New Life found in Christ! Though disappointed myself, I knew that these had been my God-ordained opportunities to share the good news of Salvation in Christ. I was glad to have had a chance to 'plant' the seed of the Gospel on his first visit then to 'water' that seed on his second visit. I then left it in God's hands to bring the increase in His time. There was closure. I was at peace. I prayed that he would find peace.

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A couple of days later, I decided to go by the hospital to see if Mohammed/Emmanuel owed anything more on his hospital bill. The nurse called me a "Good Samaritan!" I didn't know how I felt about that...but I was glad to know that she was familiar with the story and hoped that it had more meaning to her now. She said that the balance had been paid by the elders from the young man's mosque. I thanked her for her time and left.

The next day, I climbed atop that motorcycle of mine and went barreling down the same long, hot, treacherously dusty road ...Bible 'in hand'...waiting to see what I might encounter along the God's predetermination of course.