I'm excited to have a guest blogger share with you today! My wife Beth and I just returned from a mission trip to Tanzania, East Africa and she has written a series of blogs on the adventure. These are not only great stories but great real life application of God's Word lived out today. May you be blessed and challenged as you read. --Frank Banfill
Matthew 28:19 "Go and make disciples..."
It was the first day of witnessing in Bukabwa, and it was the first hut that I went to. I was teamed up with Katelyn, a recent high school graduate, Gladys, an amazing translator, and a handful of local church people. I was the designated "speaker" at the first hut. I remember one of my first trips to Romania about 13 years ago. Our team leader said, just knock on the door and breathe...God will do the rest. That advice always crosses my mind just before I share at the first home on mission trips.
In this case, it was a mud and straw hut, and there was no door to knock on. Sanjura and Julius were sitting outside, and they seemed very open, even anxious, to hear about why I came from Texas to Bukabwa to tell about the most important decision I have ever made. I took a deep breath, and just like my leader said so long ago, God did the rest.
As best as I knew how, I shared the plan of salvation and what the Bible says about becoming a Christian. I told them how I made that decision for myself when I was a child, and that it was only by accepting God's free gift of salvation, turning from your sin, and putting your faith in Christ that you would know for sure heaven would be your eternity. Sanjura Juma Magige. The first person in Bukabwa that my prayer partner Katelyn and I had the opportunity to lead to Christ.
As we went hut to hut in an area that was very widespread between homes, there's one thing I noticed. Not all people allow the change that took place in their hearts to be reflected on their face. As an emotional girl, (yeah, I'll admit it this one time) people can read me pretty well, and if I just received the best gift of my life, the joy would explode all over my face. But that's not always the case with the people of Bukabwa. I observed that emotions are often guarded, and the joy on the inside doesn't always show to others on the outside. The Bukabwan people had varying reactions to accepting Christ. Miraculously, no one we talked to refused, but I couldn't always see immediate joy. And how I longed to see that joy on their faces, a tear in their eye, reflecting the decision they were making.
But you know what? I didn't need to see the joy. God knew what change did or didn't take place in their hearts, and Sanjura is a perfect example. When we left his hut, we were off to the next hut about 1/2 mile away. We walked through thickets, corn fields, briers, cattle, and just about everything else you can think of that would go with those surroundings. I had plenty of time to think about Sanjura and Julius during that walk. I prayed for them. I asked God to solidify that decision so they really understood what they were doing. I asked God to allow their roots to grow deep so they would grow as Christians.
You see, the church in Bukabwa is about a two hour walk from where Sanjura lives. For him to fellowship with other Christians at the church, it would take some serious commitment. It was Saturday, June 9th, when he gave his life to Christ, and I thought the first test of his commitment would be the next morning, if he showed up at church. How wrong I was.
The plan for the days in Bukabwa was to witness to the people, hut to hut, in the morning, and then break for lunch. Then the afternoon was spent in discipleship groups, often under trees, sitting on rocks for chairs, studying the Bible together with the Bukabwan people. I was anxious to see who would come to that first discipleship group, and sure enough, Sanjura was one of the people there.
I recognized him immediately, but Sarah, another translator, started to tell me his story. My brain started to scramble, because Gladys was with us, not Sarah, when Sanjura gave his life to Christ, and I was quite sure I already knew his story, but it sure didn't match what Sarah was telling me. Then Sarah went on to tell me that her team had passed Sanjura's hut and noticed he had a tract in his hand. They knew one of our teams had already visited with him, but he looked up and asked them to stop and talk. Then he asked them if he could take them to visit with his neighbor. Sanjura then went on to take them to several huts of people he knew that needed to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. Straight from the New Testament, he had an urgency to tell others about this Jesus, his new friend, that he had met.
Sanjura, a baby Christian, was already becoming a disciple. How humbling it was to see this in action, right in front of my eyes. After the Bible study time, I had the opportunity to go over and talk with Sanjura some more, through a translator of course, because my Swahili is non-existent. (I kept wanting to revert to Spanish, but somehow that doesn't fly in Tanzania!!! No beuno!!!)
Sanjura went on to say that he had heard about teams coming into his village, and he kept wondering, "When are they going to come tell me about Jesus?" Like I said, Sanjura lives quite a distance from where the church in Bukabwa is being started, so it took "the teams" a while to get to him, but in God's perfect timing, we did just that, and Sanjura became part of the family of God, my brother in Christ.
Still, that long walk to church might prove difficult, and when I told Sanjura goodbye, I knew in my heart I may not see him the next morning at church. I don't know if my faith is so weak as much as I'm a realist. In reality, how many people do you know that will walk two hours to church? I dare say not many. Well, I walked in the door of the make-shift church after a very bumpy ride, and sure enough, there sat Sanjura, with a massive smile on his face. It was his first time ever gracing a church, but no one would have known it. He worshipped, he prayed, and he even came forward for people to pray for him at the end of the service. He went out witnessing with us again Sunday afternoon, and this time it wasn't even in his neighborhood. He was going hut to hut blindly, much like us. He was becoming a disciple, right before our eyes.
When I said goodbye to Sanjura on Sunday, I knew we were working in another area of Bukabwa on Monday. This new area was in the complete opposite direction of where Sanjura lived. It would be another two hour morning walk to the church, and again being a realist, I didn't expect him there. No one even asked him to join us. So what I saw on Monday morning brought tears to my eyes. As we drove down that bumpy dirt road, a few miles from the church, we passed Sanjura Juma Magige. He had a bounce in his step, and he waved as our Land Rover passed him on the dirt street. He was ready once again to share Christ with us. I pointed him out to Peter, our driver and host from the AIC (African Inland Church) and Peter agreed to go back and pick him up after he dropped us off at the church.
On Monday, once again, Sanjura went hut to hut with us, this time sharing at every single home about the decision he had made on Saturday. When he shared, he smiled, and he talked about how God had already changed his life and given him peace.
I said goodbye to Sanjura on Monday and just assumed he would be with us again on Tuesday, but unbeknownst to me, he had a sick family member he needed to attend to, and I never got to really say goodbye. He tried to tell me goodbye, but silly me didn't realize what he was doing. He pulled me aside and thanked me for coming to his hut and sharing the Good News of Christ. He asked how he could remember me and how he could give me updates on his growth in Christ. I just smiled and said I didn't know when I would be able to come back, but that our church is committed to work in Bukabwa, so I'm sure I could hear updates through the team and the leadership.
When Sanjura wasn't there on Tuesday, my heart sank. I showed Pastor Samuel, the pastor of the church in Bukabwa, Sanjura's picture. I wanted to be sure he knew about this newborn sheep, one that I want so desperately not to be lost in the pasture along the way. I made sure Pastor Samuel knew he needed to follow up with him. I told him every detail I could about Sanjura, as if I was leaving my own son in the care of a new daycare worker. And then I left a picture of my family with the pastor to give to Sanjura, so he could share in the memory.
Matthew 28 says to "Go and make disciples." I went. I went all the way to Bukabwa, in the Mara Region of Tanzania, East Africa. Make disciples? I can't take the credit for that. God's love took root in Sanjura's heart, and those roots grew deep. Sure, he watched me as I shared the Gospel with others, but somehow, as soon as he made a commitment to Christ, he started his path to becoming a disciple.
Romans 10:14 says "How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?"
How will they hear? By Christians being obedient to what God tells us to do. Obedience. God says go. The answer isn't yes or no, the answer is "Where, God?" Bukabwa is where God sent me this last week. Sanjura Juma Magige, I dare say, will never be the same, but I will never be the same either.
--- Beth Banfill