Outreach in tanzania
Wow it has been a crazy almost 3 months since I’ve written last. For those of you following along during the lecture phase of my DTS you would have last seen that our two teams from YWAM North Cascades were leaving for East Africa back in September. It’s been exactly three weeks since I’ve landed at SEATAC with my outreach team after flying for like 20 hours out of Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. So SURPRISE I went to Tanzania! The 2 months spent living, learning, and ministering there changed my life in so many ways, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it.
Despite all the processing and debrief time I’ve had over these past few weeks, I don’t think I can even begin to know or understand everything that God taught me and my team in Africa. I just know that I can’t wait to see more of it all as God begins to reveal those things in His timing. All I can confidently say right now is that I am not the Lauren that left the States on September 11th. Outreach was incredibly difficult for many reasons, the typical reasons one might experience - cultural differences, jet lag, living and working side by side with people, etc, but my team also experienced a lot of unique challenges. But despite it all, we found and lived out the inexpressible joy Peter talks about. And it was so clear to every single one of us almost immediately after the fact that God was moving in us and around us in every single one of the things that seemed and were so difficult. And honestly it was in those moments that God seemed to grow me as an individual and us as a team the most.
Before I get too far ahead of myself, I suppose I should start with the beginning.
Our flights out were quite the adventure. If you’ve never travelled for about 36 hours straight before, I would honestly recommend it. The delirium is something that must be experienced for yourself. We took 3 planes (or 2 and a large car with propellers if you want to look at it that way) but we took off and landed a total of 5 times. Like I said, quite the adventure. We met our contacts Silas and Geoff at the Arusha airport sometime in the afternoon on the 13th and headed straight to the YWAM Arusha base where we were so lovingly welcomed. As you can imagine, I don’t remember much of the rest of the day, but we were told that the next day we were going to be given a tour and head into town, and the day after that we were jumping straight into ministry at the Tumaini home, a home for orphans and vulnerable children associated with YWAM Arusha. We did skits, gave testimonies, gave messages, played games, and worshipped with the teens there as they were on break from school. I know for a fact I learned more from the kids in those four days than we were able to teach them. I was blown away by their knowledge and understanding of God and who He is. And it was incredible building friendships and hearing their stories. We were able to hang out and have fun and teach and learn, and I vividly remember realizing that laughter and joy had no language barrier.
It was also in these first few days of ministry that God told me I was to give the message at church that weekend, and it was going to be on His forgiveness. That is not at all what I prepared to speak on in my preparation from outreach prep, but if there's one thing I learned in all my DTS it's that obedience is key. So I prepared a message, and looking back on it it was INCREDIBLY healing for me, but I’ll get to that soon here. Church in Africa looks very different than church in America. For starters the service is about 3 hours. And that may sound long, but I loved every second of it. And I hope I never lose sight of the beauty, worship, and heart for God the Tanzanians have. The love they have for Jesus was so clear in every worship session and church service we went to. It was indescribable, and it was truly an honor to be a part of it.
During week 2 about half of the team went to a Masaai village called Engikaret and were able to build a house for a woman and her family. Myself and 2 others stayed behind for food poisoning related reasons, but we were able to pray for our friends on team Ethiopia and write them little notes of encouragement for our outreach guru, Josh, to bring when he went back for the pastoral visit. I remember feeling so grateful I was able to hear from God for the first time in what felt like YEARS. Especially after the personal challenges I experienced during lecture phase about hearing God’s voice (week 2 if you wanna read about it ;) ).
Week 3 was our first week full time and full team in a village. We went to this beautiful place called Shambarai Bruka. It was an intense week with lots to do. Door to door in the morning, open air with testimonies, messages, worship, and skits in the afternoon, and Jesus Film (the bible story in Swahili) in the evenings. Our schedule wasn’t written until we got there and our contacts were able to talk to the pastor of the church we were doing ministry with. It was this week I had to surrender all expectations and I realized just how much I HAVE to rely on God and His strength and not my own in order to survive. This week was incredibly difficult, but so much fruit came from it in so many ways. We saw people give their lives to Christ, we saw people healed, and we were able to give a woman a bible who had been praying for one for 3 months. I gained the understanding that a language barrier didn’t exist in worship. I saw God replenish my strength and my spirit when I asked. And I was able to speak again on forgiveness, but including my story this time, talking about how God healed me and delivered me from mental illness, and how He had forgiven me for the person I was in active addiction. I remember telling someone I met at the base before we left for the village about my story and how I ended up at YWAM. My past felt so far away even though I was only in treatment a year and some change before that. As I was walking back to our house psalm 103 popped into my head. “You remove our sins from us as far as the East is from the West” and I was just in awe of that very important fact that we are MADE NEW in Christ. I felt different because I am different. And God forgave me for and removed from me all crappy things I did while using. And I got to TALK about it! My prayer and desire for my story to mean something outside of an AA meeting was answered that week. I was able to see God’s faithfulness in my own life not only in the past, but as it unfolded.
Week 4 we were at the base in our house. We worshipped and prayed as a team and we painted out so many of our prayers (which I loved) and we went through Phillipians together. And I spent a lot of time praying for other people and taking every feeling I had to God. He taught me what it meant to have discipline when it came to my faith, and what it meant to choose Him in every moment. I spent an entire day probably praying for my classmates and getting different verses for them and painting them out to give to them with letters I wrote over the course of outreach at graduation. I was going through Proverbs and playing lots of guitar (oh yeah! I learned 4 chords on the guitar! So I can play pretty much every worship song ever!) We focused on and prayed into the concept of deliverance, and God taught me what it meant to hope in Him.We also got to celebrate our leader Amanda's birthday with pizza and pound cake this week. And any birthday is a special day, but especially this lovely lady's.
Week 5 we were back in the village we first went to church in. It was definitely a full circle moment, and physical proof of God’s redemption. Working with the church in Kisongo was incredibly impactful for me. Seeing the humility and love for God the pastors led with was so beautiful. And seeing the hearts the people had there was amazing. Doing door to door, I met a woman who was a believer, and her prayer request for us was to receive a burden to pray more and that blew me away. The peoples’ hunger and desire for deeper relationship with God and their love for Jesus inspired me endlessly. I was able to give the message at church again which was such a blessing and an honor. Every week I preached it seemed as though God wanted me to talk about the thing He was teaching me the week before (it's funny how that works aint it). So I got to talk about Hope in God, or Tumaini Mungu as they would say in Swahili (which I TOTALLY DIDN’T get tattooed the week we got back to Washington). Our time in Kisongo allowed us to see people come to Jesus, and we were able to get those people bibles, and we were blessed enough to see 3 of those women come to church that Sunday! I was and still am in awe of how God is moving in this village, and my whole team saw the church being a light that would spread into the rest of the village, and into the region, and into the nation. I have a lot of love for Kisongo for a plethora of reasons, but what I see as my most impactful moment of outreach occurred one night during Jesus Film in this village. Now don’t get me wrong, I am so grateful that the story of the bible exists for Swahili speakers to understand, but I don’t speak fluent Swahili, and the speaker was loud enough for the whole village to hear. So as many of us did, I put my headphones on to control the volume levels in my ears. We did Jesus Film 4 out of the 5 nights we were there, and I spent every one of those evenings looking at the stars, playing worship music, and praying and talking to God. I had a lot of realizations over the course of outreach, but one of the main ones was realizing that my life is going to look COMPLETELY different than I ever envisioned because of my experiences. And I was able to lay all that down at the feet of the King and say that wherever He took me I was going to follow. God reminded me of all the ways He has grown me and all the things He has brought me out of. Here's part of what I wrote down that night:
“I can no longer just sit and do nothing when it comes to You.There is a pull in my heart for more. More of You. More of ministry. More people to see You for who You truly are. It’s just more and more and more. I just know I’m not done. I can’t go back to my old life because my old life is dead. Who I was isn’t who I am now. I am seeing You for who You truly are and it’s beautiful. My call is to love You. And know You. And spread Your name across the Earth. My business is not finished here in Tanzania. My business is not finished here in the world. I know You are calling me to more. And I pray I don’t become complacent. That I follow the “more.” Whatever that may be. I will follow You. I just have to be obedient.”
Week 6 was so much fun for so many reasons. We were working with Nathan and Emily, full time missionaries with the Arusha base and their ministry called New Vision Sports Club. We fertilized the soccer field, dug up some of the damaged stands, prayed over the boys and the field and the future of New Vision, taught some English with Emily, gave devotionals, and played/watched soccer practice. Seeing the physical fruits of our labor (hello partially green field!) and being able to work with a long term ministry focused on discipleship was such a blessing! It was also incredible working with other DTS outreach teams during soccer practice and building and deepening relationships over the course of the week. Nathan and Emily also taught me SO much! Seeing their faith, their trust in God, and the impact they had on the community was the most amazing thing. They also showed me that long term mission work wasn’t only possible, it was sustainable. And hearing how they got to Tanzania, the visions and plans they have that align with the things God has shown them was so inspiring in so many ways. And as if the week wasn’t perfect already, I was also able to give my testimony at church that Sunday, talking about my struggle with addiction on what was my 500th day sober. God’s timing is just really cool.
Week 7 brought Josh back for our pastoral visit. We spent quite a bit of time debriefing as a team and as individuals. We had a worship night with the DTS outreach teams from YWAM Tyler and YWAM Salem, we met the team from Switzerland as they arrived. We spent a LOT of time in fellowship with these incredible people that I am so blessed to call friends. We also got to go on Safari which was so cool. It was amazing seeing a whole different side of God’s creation (You don’t exactly see zebras or elephants just roaming around in the states.) Taking that week to process our time and enjoy Tanzania in a different way than we had been over the weeks before was so beautiful. It was also really great having Josh there! And this sounds a little crazy, but Josh’s presence was honestly really confirming of my future in a lot of ways. Which was so encouraging to me. On a more bittersweet note, it was our final church service. Silas asked me to give the message and I was able to speak on what I had originally planned on speaking on during outreach prep: God’s faithfulness. I was able to talk about how faithful He was to us during our time through struggle in Tanzania and how faithful He is to keep the promises He has for their church. It was such a blessing and an honor being asked by our contact to speak, but also being able to share in the hope that I’ve found in Jesus. Being literally half way across the world teaching to and learning from my brothers and sisters in Christ is truly an experience I pray I never forget.
Week 8 could not have been a better way to end outreach. We got to work with New Vision Sports Club again! My favorite part of the week was making up little parables about different biblical principles to share with the boys at practice. Working with Nathan and Emily again was amazing. Our last official day of ministry was my favorite because we were able to bless Nathan and Emily with doing some work in their yard as a thank you. It was totally my favorite because I got to spend it brushing out their very fluffy dog, Nyota. We also got to teach some of the preform 1 students on the base about the Father Heart of God (which ironically was not a subject we had during lecture phase). It was so cool seeing everything come together despite how overwhelmed we all were. I am literally so proud of my team for that day and every day before that. They are awesome, and it was an honor to be a part of it. It was bittersweet saying goodbye to all of our new friends and family, but we were able to worship and pray one last time together before the Orlando, Salem, and Texas teams left that Friday. I was able to walk around and pray for the base in the middle of the session, and there was worship happening in 3 separate locations on the compound. It’s like the whole base was praising God and giving Him the honor He deserves. The church planting school praising in the main hall, the preform 1 students in the classrooms, and the outreach teams outside behind the dorms. It was so beautiful.
We waved the teams off as they headed to the airport and were off ourselves by Sunday afternoon. I hope I never forget the friends I made or the experiences I had.
I am so beyond grateful for every single bit of my time in Tanzania. I was so blessed by my team and every single person I met while I was there. God taught me so much and I grew so much. I am so much more confident in who God is and who I am in Him, I’m genuinely stable for the first time in years, my prayer is more consistent and it has authority and meaning, and I’m holding onto a hope that will never ever fail me. I finally have a faith that is my own. It’s one based in truth, and it finally won’t falter when the Earth gives way.
My time in DTS may be over (see, I graduated!) but I don’t believe my time in YWAM is. And I know for a fact that no matter what happens God is not done with me yet. And He’s not done with you reading this, or my classmates, or Tanzania… He’s not done until every knee bows and confesses that He is Lord. And it is a deep honor that we get to be a part of that.
In the acceptance email I received almost a year ago now, the staff at YWAM North Cascades said that they prayed for me and felt that God would bring me out of a season of abandonment and teach me what it truly means to be His daughter. And He did just that.
Thank you for supporting me and following along with me on this journey. I appreciate your prayers and love more than words can describe. I just want to leave this by saying that DTS may be over, but this is just the beginning. Nakupenda sana (I love you!)