The Hunter, Turned Hunted and then to Hunting Again

25 06 2013

Mohammad was sweating over the bomb he had planted and did not explode.  It was his third attempt to get the timed device to go off.  His other 5 team members were tired, sleepy and irritable.  They had tried and tried to carry out their mission to blow up this bomb and kill Israelis.  Finally, Mohamed, exhausted decided they could not succeed.  He returned to his base camp with the Mujahedin.  He was berated for returning alive and told he did not have faith.

It is hard to believe this is the same Mohammad that would go on to be beaten and put in a comma for sharing the Gospel.  Later, his wife would abandon him and his children and she would return to Islam.  But he had miles to go before he would arrive at where he is today.  Planting house churches in East Leigh among refugees from the Sudan, Ethiopia, Eretria, Kenya and Somali.  First, he would burn many churches and beat Christians for their faith.  He hated the Israelis, Americans and also the Sunni and Shia Muslims from other tribes.

It was during one of these beatings that a man told him that Jesus loved him.  He returned to his religious leader and told him of this statement and asked how this man could say this.  His leader told him Satan used this as a trick for Muslims.  Why would Satan want him to feel loved?  He was not convinced.  Later one of his students had come to know Jesus.  Mohammad learned of this and went directly to him.  How could one of Mohammed’s own students in the Islamic school he taught at become a Christian?  The young man shared that as a Christian he knew he was going to heaven and had an assurance that emboldened him to share his faith even in the face of sure persecution.  Mohammed longed for assurance of his salvation.  He questioned why women would almost certainly go to hell in Islam.  He loved his mother and this frightened him.   How could Allah hate women so?  Mohammed wanted this assurance; he wanted to know there was hope for his mother.  He asked how to become a Christian.  The young man led him to the Christians that had led him to Jesus.  Mohammed became a Christian.

Now this former Muslim Imam who had studied in Saudi Arabia and served in the dreaded Mujahedin was like one of the very people he persecuted.  He was driven out of his country and went to Kenya.  He boldly preached the gospel with the same zeal he had for Islam.  He began preaching crusades in the cities and speaking out against Islam.  He was captured and beaten, left for dead.  He was in a comma and given diplomatic asylum by the U.N.

A missionary persuaded him that he would surely die holding crusades to reach the Muslims and lead him to sharing one on one with seekers.  He went to a traditional seminary and learned the Western theology in another country.  But he still sought answers on how to reach Muslims using these Western models.  Church buildings, with meetings centered on a preacher in a pulpit trying to train up believers seemed like a method ill suited for his ministry.

I meet Mohammed and began to share a different type of Christianity.  The Christianity of the Early Church.  The value and strategies of the Church in the house and the importance and model Jesus set, of making disciples instead of converts.  We have been partners every since.

But we need your help.  I need two safe houses.  One for the glue boys to sleep in, inside the Muslim communities we are reaching out to.   One where men turning to Christ could flee during times of persecution.  I need a second one for the women with children who are thrown out on the streets by their Muslim husbands when they come to Jesus.   A place to safely make disciples and baptize new believers.  We need funding for equipment and training, to equip these men and women to support themselves while they learn to share their new faith.  Some will certainly return to their home countries to lead others to Christ.  Many simply can’t return due to the nature of their asylum documentation.  Will you stand with us as we stand with these our new brothers and sisters?

I have two former Imams who need your help in reaching the Muslim world.  Go to this web address and make a donation. .  Their world will never be the same.


Anarchy in Africa

9 06 2013

2012-12-29 09.29.53

Got hit on my motorbike again this week.  That is the fourth time.  No injuries.  Again.  My dear brother Marc Carrier was run off the road a couple of months back on his motor bike and had to have knee surgery.  I have been run off the road at 80kph twice but both times I was in a place with a wide and clear hard packed dirt area on the side of the road I could simply coast to a stop on.  Praise God.

Driving in Africa on a motor bike is fun, adventurous and dangerous.  My first few days after buying my little Chinese motor bike, (for around 700 dollars), I was pulled over by a policemen.  Now they don’t have cars or motorbikes to pull you over with they just flag you down as they stand on the side of the road or in this case stand at an intersection.  I had not broken the law.  But I was going to get a lecture about riding here.  I was in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.  He scolded me for NOT running a red light.  You see here red light is great decoration.  They change colors from red to yellow to green just like back home in America.  But NO ONE uses them to either know when to stop or go.  We have rules of the road here but they are not written.  In fact I have no idea why they write rules about driving in Tanzania at all.  It is the unwritten ones the officer wanted me to understand.

You see here we have a hierarchy.  We have goats and donkeys on the road.  They don’t count.  We have pedestrians and they do NOT have the ride of way.  A real problem for me as I refuse to participate in their intimidation.  But I am getting ahead of myself.  Next we have push carts, then three wheeled taxis called tuk tuks or bajaji’s depending on where you are.  Then there are the motor bike riders.  Our bikes are called piki piki because that is the sound they make at idle.  If you use them for a cab and carry passengers you are a boda boda.  We are next in the hierarchy.  Then comes cars, gari’s and then vans, matatu’s and the rich peoples cars, ( I will explain later) and trucks, called lorrys and finally the big buses.  They are the top of the food chain along with the few large tractor trailers.  Piki Piki’s  due to their size and versatility are expected to basically NOT impede traffic.  As I was told by the policeman it was my job to NEVER cause anyone to slow down or stop.  Since no one stops at the traffic lights and I stopped at a red one, he informed me I was going to get killed.  And I would get NO sympathy.  He told me to learn and abide by the unwritten rules or sell that motor bike and get a cab like all other Mzungus.  That is, white people.  Of course I can’t buy a car, only the rich can do that here.  They drive like they own the road and everyone else is a peasant.  They drive like the road is theirs and everyone else is scum and need to bow and scrap when they near.  And the Africans do.   The most self seeking and intimidating drivers on this continent are Africans that have “arrived” and drive an expensive vehicle.  I have literally seen them push a pedestrian off the sidewalk with their front bumpers and then roll the window down to cuss them for not getting out of the way.  The pedestrian apologized.

Now goats, donkeys, cart pushers and pedestrians are basically excused for their actions due to their inability to maneuver at high speeds.  Although they are hated by the rich Africans.  Or at least they treat them like they hate them at rush hour.   Everyone just tries to intimidate them into staying out of the way.  This is done by incessant honking, purposefully driving right at them as though you intend on murdering them and sometimes using your vehicle to literally push them out of the way.  I did not mention bike riders but they are like pedestrians.  I have witnessed them pushed off the pavement by cars who wanted to pass by but did not get the response they wanted when they honked their horn.  Cab drivers have opened their doors purposefully to bump me out of the way while I am driving and as I mentioned just the other day I was hit.

It was not a normal collision. A driver was next to me.  I was driving near the shoulder.  We are expected as motor bike riders to use the sidewalk, shoulder, median, ditches, passing lanes and in between lanes as our domain if the road is occupied.  As I passed this little Rav 4 a car in front of me hit his brakes.  I then pulled into the lane with the little Rav and apparently he did not approve.  As is acceptable here he quickly accelerated up to where he could get his left fender parallel with my rear tire and then turned left to push me back out of his lane.  As he did he began to push my rear tire to the point of making me turn sideways.  I think he just wanted to bump me and had no idea that this was a possible out come of our contact.  I,  of course, had no idea what was happening.  I had cleanly passed him and was in front of him, so to me for some unknown reason my bike was moving sideways.  We were going only about 20 mph.  I finally realized that a car was pushing me.  I cut my front tire back towards the direction we were all trying to travel and of course the car quickly realized that if he persisted he was going to force me completely sideway meaning I would then go down in front of him and he would run over me.  He hit his brakes.  Now a few months back I would have been furious at this overt and callously aggressive action.  Now I simply understood we were now driving under a set of rules I had not seen in Arusha, Tanzania.  I call those rules.  Dar es Salaam rules.  The rules the cop explained.

You see Arusha is a very nice civilized place to live.  I live 45 minutes from here and we have different rules but that is not relevant here.  In Arusha, we stop at lights use our blinkers to turn and drive a  reasonable speed.  But this was rush hour.  I had not driven here in rush hour.  I quickly realized, we were under Dar es Salaam rules.  I don’t know if you ever saw the movie Syrana staring George Clooney.  In it he realizes he was set up and finds out the man that has ruined his life.  They have a conversation at gun point.  George informs him that if he does one more thing towards him or his family he will murder him, his wife and children and destroy every friend and thing in his life he values.  At least that is how I remember it.  The man looked at him and smiled cynically and said, Beruit rules?  Beruit rules, Clooney answers.  These two men had been spooks and counterterrorist spies in the cold war.  They now had a clear understanding of each other’s intentions.  This is what I now realized in Arusha.  During rush hour everything changes, even in Arusha.  Dar es Salaam rules.

Everyone drives as though there were complete anarchy and that the world is coming to an end and they must get home to save their women and children.  They will batter, swerve, intimidate, drive down the wrong side of the road and yes even push another vehicle just to get a momentary advantage in traffic.   I refuse to drive this way in relation to those underneath me in the hierarchy but I must understand the rules in order to survive and thrive.  I was not angry at the drive of the Rav vehicle.  I just now understood the rules were changed.  But I know the rules.

I learned to ride in Dar es Salaam and the policeman’s advice was correct.  I have been in a pack of 30 motor bikes riding mirror to mirror spreading across two lanes and both shoulders at 60 kph and approached an intersection with cars going in all directions.  I glanced at the other riders.  They were all inches from each other and I was completely surrounded.  They smiled.  They all hit their horns about 50 meters from the intersection and we just went through the red light.  There were cars going every direction.  But without a single word of conversation these young men all knew we were a formidable force since we were so numerous and that by our ability to intimidate the other vehicles we were in fact moved up the hierarchy to near the top.  No one hit their brakes we just went through horns blazing.  All the cars hit their brakes and we went through.  They looked at me and smiled again.  Dar es Salaam rules.

Now in Dar it is crazy.  I have driven all over the Eastern side of Tanzania.  It is beautiful.  I have driven in Nairobi, Kenya.  A much larger city than Dar. But there Is NOTHING like Dar es Salaam.  We are the Beruit of driving aggressively.  It is insane.  But out on the highway I just love it.  I think of my dad as I ride.  Dad used to love to drive around our county back home.  I have a feeling that when he was younger riding his bike he would have loved to drive here.  Not in Dar perhaps, but hey even here, it is fun.  Piki Piki riders never get caught in traffic jams.  We almost never stop.  We go between lanes of traffic, jump curbs, drive in medians and the police give us the thumbs up.  Now I still get pulled over sometimes. But mostly so policemen can practice their English.  I am not kidding.  They ask me where I am from, where I am going and how I like Tanzania.  I tell them I am a missionary.  I am here to tell people about Jesus and that I love it here.  I tell them I have a house here now and I have been adopted by the Wameru.  They laugh approving of my presence and constantly chant, karibu.  It literally means welcome.  But it means more.  It means they personally welcome me into their lives and approve and applaud my being here.   They are thrilled that I love their country and people so much that I have built a home here.  They slap me on the back and keep saying karibu.  I say asante kaka.  Thank you brother.  They grin so big I thing their face will split.  They wave me on.

I get back on the road.  Sometimes I pull off the road and drive into the bush.  Less than 5 kilometers off the road where I travel sometimes the Masai still kill lions.  I see baboons and antelope.  I don’t do this often and I don’t go far.  But I do love to go.  But I soon return to the road.  I have to remind myself not to stare at the mountains and splendor of the plains, bush and animals.  I have to remember to keep my eyes on the road.  Sometimes it’s hard.  There are speed bumps here that are enormous.  They call them tuta’s.  It’s the same word for the explosion of bombs.  That is because if you get distracted and hit one without slowing down you will get a real close and personal understanding why they call them that.  Been there, done that.  Not fun.  But remember we don’t have policemen with police cars to enforce the speed limit.  We have tuta’s.  Speed for long and you will find one.  They are quite effective for keeping the speed down.  My dad would love the freedom of having almost no rules or laws.  Just you and the road, your wits, a few informal rules and a world of adventure.  You are all on your own here on the road.  Even in traffic.


Well I know this is not my usual post.  No baptisms, no hungry and the poor that I love.  Just a story about Africa and motor bikes.  It’s different here. I know it is not for everyone.  Especially the driving part.  But I must tell you that if you pay attention, and the sun is shining and the mountains are near, the plains to your side and the zebra are staring at you as you pass you can’t help but just sigh.  I am a guy, what can I tell you.  What can I say?  Yes there is anarchy in Africa.  Especially on the roads.  But sometimes I ride along on my way to tell someone about Jesus and I think.  Does it get any better than this?  The scenery, the adventure, the opportunity to tell people about the Lord and have this much fun.  I know people think this is a sacrifice.  And I dearly miss my family.  But sometimes I ride along and smile to myself.   I am humbled by the kindness of the Lord to allow me to be here and serve Him.  Sometimes I am lonely.  But at those times on the road, I am overwhelmed by this wonderful life.  This privilege, this adventure and my God.

Running with the Monkeys

7 06 2013

I go running most every day here in Tanzania.  I live in a beautiful area in the shadow of Mt. Meru.  I can see Kilimanjaro from my front door and bedroom window.  I am a missionary here and I have a team from my home church coming in a few weeks to do some dentistry and evangelism.  We are basically going to bless the least of these here in my local area with practical help and the Gospel of the Kingdom.

So this week I have been running and greeted with a pleasant surprise.  Monkeys.  Now I have always known where to go and see the beautiful Columbus Monkeys about two kilometers up the mountain.  But these Vervet Monkeys have literally moved into our area by the gross and are less than 300 meters from my home.  You don’t actually spot monkeys.  You run along and when you see even a single leaf falling from a tall tree you stop and look.  We don’t have fall here.  We have a rainy season and a dry season and a little bit of a cold season.  But even that is relative.  Basically we have spring year round with more or less rain.  The average temperature here is 72.  Yep, 72.  Just about perfect.  Flowers bloom here all the time.  It is amazing.

When a leaf falls, something made it fall.  When it falls and you hear a swooshing sound you have monkeys.  They leap from tree to tree and sometimes the Vervet monkeys will even get on the ground.  So lately I have been running with the monkeys.  They leap all about around me sometimes grunting and chasing each other.  Today’s little baby monkeys raced through the trees.  Fearful of me the possible predator.  The adults just sat and stared.  One look at this old guy and they know I will not climb a tree.  Unless an elephant is after me, but that is another story.

Today I left my home and jogged through the forest starting at about 4000 feet altitude and slowly climbing hundreds of feet up  the hills leading up to Mt. Meru.  I start off trying to do something like a “prayer walk”.  You know, praying for the lost in my area as I pass their houses or greet them on the road in my still juvenile Swahili.  But first the monkeys distract me and then later locals wanting to talk to the crazy Mzungu, white person, curious as to what he is running away from or to.  After 20 minutes of my run I hit a cross roads and change my plan.  I decide to scout out an area towards, Kilinga for places to send my evangelical team when they arrive.  We plant house churches here among the lost and new believers.  So I am not limited by geography.  In fact I have house churches here, four, and in Nairobi about 23.  We are adding them as we add disciples all over the area.  So I am determined to scout out an area we have not been to further away from my home.  I used to dread running in to questioning locals as I could not say much of anything and found myself frustrated.  But now I am better.  I answer questions.  Share what I can about moving here.  I can add “praise the Lord” to my greetings.  And tell them I have built a home here.  I am their neighbor.  But that is about it.  I need James my translator to do much more.

I run first 30 minutes then 40 minutes going further and further from my home.  I am going to turn 57 soon.  But now I can run up to 2 hours at altitude.  Pretty good for an old guy.  UP and up I climb.  Some of these dirt roads go up ridiculous hills.  I huff and puff probably running at a rate considered pedestrian by many.  Especially my young running buddies like Tripp.  I realize that as I head towards this village that I am going to test the limits of my endurance.  Finally, I turn off the main road and begin to run surveying the little house spread among the fields owned by Mzungus, white people,  from Germany and the little sambas  (farms) owned by Africans.  As I suspected there are many here and it is a great place for them to do outreach but I also realize I can’t ask them to walk this far.

At a bit over 50 minutes into my run I notice the duct tape coming off of my running shoes.  I have been here 9 months now and run quite a bit.  So my running shoes are coming apart.  My buddy Tripp is bringing me more.  Till them I am trying duct tape and glue.  You can buy shoes here but not the kind I like.  And not unless you travel many hours from my home.  At least not real running shoes.  I realize that I am running the risk of going home with one sole on my feet if I don’t turn around now.  So reluctantly I do.  I will return again and check it out in a different direction soon.

I think about the gospel we share, my brothers and sisters that are coming.  Some I have not met and others are my dear friends from my old house meetings back home.  I can’t wait to see them.  I want to introduce them to Ulukway.  The formerly degenerate sinner now following Jesus with a passion.  His wonderful children that come to house church wide eyed and constantly beg me to jump on the back of my motor bike when I come by.  To my great host family that has given me land to build my little 300 square foot house.  For them to see this beautiful place God has me in and meet these wonderful people.  Many live in horrible poverty.  But it is all they know.  We reach out to widows and the least of these.  We tell the alcohol brewers, outcast here, of the love of Jesus.  We invited them to come and lay down all they have and become a disciple of Jesus.  I am not looking for converts.  Neither did Jesus.  He came calling men to lay down their nets and come and follow Him.  To deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Him.  To love Him more than mother, sister, father and brother and even their own lives and come and follow Him.  It is an awesome journey following Him.  And today it took me on a jog of one hour and twenty seven minutes.  Turns out I am faster going downhill than up.  God is good.  All the time.  Mungu ni mwema, kila wakati.

I saw more leaves falling on my return but they were back in the deep forest.  I heard the monkeys swooshing through the trees, but too far away to get a glimpse.  Part of me is still a little boy.  I love to see these animals in the wild.  We have buffalo, elephants, antelope and monkeys all around here.  And sometimes if you look around you will see the rare, Mzungu, scheming on how to best tell someone the Good news.  Huffing and puffing and looking for monkeys.