Return to Africa

Hazel & Bob portrait b&wMy recent trip to Kenya and Tanzania reminded me that Africa holds a special place in my heart. My first visit was shortly after Bob and I were married in 1960.

 

Our first home was a mud house with a thatched roof in the interior of Senegal.

Our visit to West and East Africa spanned a period of  2 ½  years. Most of the territory we covered during that time was in a small Volkswagen out of Accra, Ghana. Our initial impressions of the natives were that they always had warm smiles and gracious hospitality to offer us. This is still true today. In spite of hardships and in many cases, poverty, Africans in general have a certain joie de vivre, which is contagious.

Despite being very busy attending meetings in Kenya and Tanzania, we did get to go on a safari at the Ngorongoro Crater in Kenya. The scene before us looked like it was right out of the movie, “Out of Africa”. We were awed by the wide, sweeping landscape, dotted with spreading acacia trees, an occasional towering giraffe or graceful gazelle.

 

It was a peaceful, mystical, surreal experience; we felt like we were peeking into the Garden of Eden, observing God’s ordered, beautiful creation.

But, as in the Garden, sin reared its ugly head. A week later, just a few kilometers away, we found ourselves holed up in our hotel as terrorists attacked the upscale Westgate mall in Nairobi, killing more than 60 and injuring over 200 people.

We were heartbroken, but reminded that where sin abounds, grace does much more. The lady cleaning our room feared that we might be nervous and tried to sooth us by saying, “Don’t worry. God has everything under control.”

And He does.

We heard wonderful stories from our amazing team. In Tanzania alone, over 6 million children have been reached, and many more in Kenya. God’s Word is the only thing that can change the hearts of the next generation.

Afternoon sessions at the Council in Arusha began with enthusiastic singing and dancing. The head Bishop explained, “We are basically an oral culture, as a great percentage of Tanzanians are illiterate. That’s why we teach scripture using music and dancing.” This reinforced that we are using effective methods with the illiteracy program—depicting God’s story through film, pictures, and storytelling.

1376371_10151663645456795_551283591_nThe highlight of the Council was the morning meeting where they invited Bob and I to come forward so leaders could pray over us and our family. In 1960, Bob and I went to Africa to tell the story of Jesus. As we were being prayed for, I realized that we had come full circle. A powerful presence of God overwhelmed us and we were blessed and uplifted.

In 1960 in Sierra Leone, we had visited the graves of missionaries who had died from Blackwater fever and malaria. It is said that the church is built on the blood of the martyrs. We are blessed to be recipients of their sacrifice.

My return to Africa brings good news. The Church in Africa is in good hands; it is alive and well!

“Bwana Yesu asafiwe”                                              

(“Praise Lord Jesus”, in Swahili)

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