“So then neither is he that plants anything, neither he that waters; but God that gives the increase. Now he that plants and he that waters are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor.”
I Corinthians 3:7-8
In the realization that it often takes many years of labor to see the fruits of ministry, we often describe our work as “planting seeds”. But as my wife pointed out more accurately to me the other day, what we are doing is more like “watering the seeds”. Many people have come to this region over the past couple hundred years to plant the seed of the Gospel in the hearts of the African people. Countless, mostly anonymous, Christians traveled long, arduous journeys to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with a few native people, buried their wives, husbands, children, and then joined them a short time later in the grave. They faced disease, hardship, loneliness, and violence. But others kept coming to replace those who had died, even knowing full well that within a few months they themselves would most likely be dead, because of their desire to make Christ known to these people.
Now we live in an age of convenience. We fly here in airplanes, communicate by email, drink clean water from a filter, bank at an ATM machine, sleep under mosquito nets, and take malaria medicine when we are ill. Christian churches are everywhere. We fellowship with African Christian brothers, attend Bible studies, listen to choirs praising the Lord, and teach at a small Christian Training School. Are we planting seeds? Perhaps, in some unknown way; but I think my wife is right – we are watering the seeds of the martyrs who came before us.
This watering needs to be done. Satan is at work trying to destroy the Church through gossip, judgmental attitudes, deceptions, covetousness, pride, selfishness, and worldly pleasures. The seed has been planted through great sacrifice and the plants have sprouted up. But, while there has been good soil in some places, in other areas the soil is desperately thin and rocky. There needs to be much watering and improvement of the soil before the harvest can be full and complete. So, much of what we do is to water what others have planted.
Recently we were privileged to water (literally) a seed that was planted by our Lord Jesus Christ himself. This seed was then nurtured by a Lutheran missionary couple from Germany. They were the ones who introduced us to a 28 year old Tanzanian man who was born into a Muslim family. This young man told us his incredible story of what he experianced one night while sleeping:
- He was standing outside and as he looked out over the landscape he noticed a tower and on this tower a man slowly rose up into his view. Somehow he knew this man to be the Lord Jesus Christ, who smiled and held out his hand to him. From Jesus’ hand came something shining like bubbles, like diamonds, that floated over, surrounding and covering the young man. A feeling of great peace and joy completely filled him, as he had never felt before. Then an angel came from side of Jesus and put his arms around the young man. He could feel the pressure of the angels's arm on his neck, like a man pressing on the back of his neck. He could feel peace and love coming to him through the touch of the angel.
He awoke from this vision to discover that this feeling of peace and joy was continuing in his heart and mind. He felt fully alive and a new creature like never before. The vision did not fade as a normal dream does, but has continued to be sharp and detailed in his mind and spirit ever since. He had heard of Jesus, but was now convinced that Christ was real and that he had seen the Lord. Formerly, he had often been to places of Muslim worship, but said that he had never felt anything in his heart, like he was dead. Now he wakes up every morning, full of joy and excitement, praising God for His great mercy. And to show you that this is not just something temporary and fading, this experience happened to him four years ago. Every time we speak with him, he is continually full of enthusiasm and thanksgiving to Jesus Christ.
One Sunday this young man showed up at our English Service with his German Lutheran friends. They had met him several years before in Dar es Salaam and had encouraged him in the Lord there. Now they were friends with him again in Mwanza. When they asked him what church he wanted to attend, he replied, “the Anglican Church”. They did not try to influence his choice, but decided rather to fully support him by coming to our church with him. After attending a few weeks, he asked to be baptized into the Church by our pastor, Capt. Nestor, and myself. So, this is how we came to “water” this young plant with the waters of Holy Baptism.
It was a wonderful Sunday of clear sunshine and joy when a group from our church gathered for songs and prayers on the shore of Lake Victoria. It was a lovely day to celebrate the young man’s birth into the Kingdom of God (September 20th, which happens to be my natural birthday as well – I thought it was a great birthday present!) When given the choice of baptism methods, he requested to be fully submerged. Capt. Nestor dipped him under three times, (“In the Name of the Father”, down and up, “and of the Son”, down and up, “and of the Holy Spirit”, down and up.) and each time he stayed under for some time, floating face down and looking as if he really were dead! I even had moments of concern that something was wrong with him. But he was just fully determined to be completely baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection! He went under in his Muslim name, but came up baptized into his newly chosen Christian name – “Matthew”.
We consider it a privilege to have shared in a portion of what God has done in Matthew’s life. Jesus planted the seed, the German couple watered it, and we joined with them in the harvest. What a gift from our loving heavenly Father; to whom belongs all praise, for He is the One who gives the increase!
We must continue to nurture Matthew while we are here, and we ask for your continued prayers for him. The Church is now his family, for his natural family has rejected him for making the decision to follow Christ. The decision to be baptized has been a significant turning point in his life and has come with a price. "I have decided to follow Jesus; no turning back, no turning back. The Cross before me, the world behind me; no turning back, no turning back." We pray that he will remain strong in the Lord, and trust that God can use him to be a powerful witness to the reality of Christ, especially to his Muslim friends; and, by the mercy of God, even to his family.
May the Peace of Christ be with you,
Rejoicing together for the increase that God has given!