Sunday, January 1, 2017

Heri ya Mwaka Mpwa - Happy New Year!!

    At the beginning of this past year of 2016, we sang songs with Mama Askofu as we welcomed in the New Year together.  “Askofu” means “bishop” in Swahili, and “Mama Askofu” is the title given to a bishop’s wife in Tanzania. We had the gift of a visit with Mama Askofu during the Christmas and New Year holidays, and I tutored her in English during her stay.  We really enjoyed hosting her and were thankful that she joined us in worship at our home church of Christ the King Anglican Church.

   It seemed like a miracle to have had Mama Askofu sitting next to us during worship in our small rural church.  She comes from the large city of Mwanza, which borders the southern shores of Lake Victoria. We live on a small farm in Kentucky with many Amish neighbors. Our worlds are so different and far apart, yet God brought her to our home.

    During the two weeks in which we were graced with Mama Askofu’s presence in our home, we became friends, and I learned about her life as a bishop’s wife.  She helps provide for their family with small businesses such as sewing men’s shirts and women’s skirts after preparing the cloth with various dyes.  She has a small variety store next to their Mwanza home. She is also very active in the Mother’s Union, a large organization of Anglican women in Africa. I saw how she loves Jesus fervently, trusts the Lord through all her family’s trials, reads the Bible every day, and prepares messages of hope and love to share whenever she is called upon to speak. 

    While Mama Askofu was visiting, we invited her to join us for a Sunday afternoon hike on some trails nearby.  We set out together and headed for the highest point of our county.  We were not familiar with the landscape because the area had been logged off since our last hike there.  As we walked, our trail became thinner and disappeared into the overgrown briars and brush. We  had lost our way.  We walked through the brush until we reached another trail.  Later we came to an abandoned homestead and began walking down the dirt road.

     However, we realized that we were walking in the wrong direction, and we turned around and took the trail past the homestead which was going toward our starting point.  We could see the road faintly (maybe 1/2 mile away) where we needed to reach, but the trail was not continuing toward this road, so my husband led us through the woods towards our parked car.  There was only one problem: it was getting dark and we had forgotten to bring a flashlight.  So we held hands and carefully stepped through the trees and thick brush, and down a steep hill in the darkness.  I was quite embarrassed to have brought the bishop’s wife to these cold, dark woods. But as we were slipping and sliding down the steep incline, I heard Mama Askofu laughing as one of my daughters guided her.  I was so thankful when we reached a field, and shortly thereafter, the road which led back to our car.  I was so thankful when we were back in our warm cabin, and Mama began cooking some “ugali” on our stove.  I was so thankful for her graciousness and forbearance concerning our loss of direction.

    Sometimes we do lose our way in life, and we grope through the darkness as we try to get back on track.  I think of Mama Askofu and how she didn’t complain or scold us for our foolishness.  I think of how she trusted us to find the way again.  I think about how we walked together, holding hands and helping each other through the dark. I think of how she saw the humor of sliding down a steep incline in the dark, trying to avoid trees and large rocks.  I believe that God is with us when we lose our way, guiding us back to safety.  He will hold our hand and even laugh with us as we slip and slide down some steep areas on our way to the correct path. 

    Currently, we are waiting to see if Forward in Africa will continue on through the work of others in the Missionary Society of St. John.  There is also a possibility of partnering together with another mission organization that currently provides leadership and spiritual training for church leaders in several third-world countries.   This may be a way to continue the teaching ministry and vision of Forward in Africa. We ask your prayers that God will guide the leaders of MSJ and others as they discern God’s wisdom concerning the future of this ministry.

May the peace of Christ be with you,
Mama Anna and Brother Nathan

Heading out across the fields on New Year's Day

The two Mamas enjoying their walk together

The day started out warm but got quite cold later

Opps - the sun is setting and we're not out of the woods yet.

Wandering through the darkness trying to find the right path

Finally back home to some warm tea -- thank God!

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