A few days ago I returned from a mission to Musoma, Tanzania, and it was quite an incredible trip! I saw and experienced things I’ve never seen before. While I was in college, I worked for a summer at an evangelistic ministry called For His Glory, led by Evangelist Rob Welch. They do evangelistic outreaches all over the world, and this July did an outreach in northern Tanzania on the shore of Lake Victory. I was grateful to be a part of the team, and did house to house evangelism, university outreach, and assisted with some team logistics.
We did five days of open air meetings in a large field, with around 25,000 coming each afternoon! It was quite the crowds. Many of them prayed to accept Christ and were very passionate and excited! You can tell by the way they would dance, rush forward at the invitation, and respond to the singers and speakers…
In additional to these crusade-type meetings, we also ran a pastors and women’s conference the first few days we were there. I didn’t teach at any of the conferences but was going out with other members of the team doing evangelism and inviting people to the meetings. They did an excellent job of advertising, I don’t think I came across anyone who hadn’t heard about the meetings. Sixty churches in Musoma had been preparing for a year, so they had done a great deal of groundwork.
Most of the compounds looked something like this, so we would walk up, introduce ourselves and then share the gospel for a few moments with whoever was there. In some ways, evangelism in this context is much easier than in the US, and many were very receptive and prayed with us to accept Christ. The challenge I noticed, however, is that in contrast to the US, it is much more culturally normative to accept visitors, and even if they disagreed with what we were saying, most would be more likely to accept whatever we say than argue with a visitor, especially a mzungu coming from the US… So I wondered at times how much of our message they were actually grasping and accepting. Many of them were Christians, especially Roman Catholic, but we also prayed with several Muslims to accept Jesus as their savior and Lord.
The craziest thing that happened was at one house where I shared the gospel and then prayed with a family to accept Christ. We were sitting inside a mud brick house, a group of four of us and then about six of the family, so ten total. Midway through my prayer, one of the younger women sitting across from me lunged across a coffee table and attempted to grab me and another lady from our team. She was shrieking and flailing her arms around, so we held her down and prayed to calm her down and release her from any demonic spirit oppressing her. After a minute or so, she did calm down and sat there crying while we asked her a few questions. She said she had been to a witch-doctor, and she prayed with us to renounce that. My teammate from the Bahamas, who was very experienced with this, also led her in the process of forgiveness and we spent some time praying with her before we left.
Unlike many, my seminary education did include a class on spiritual warfare, but while I’ve read about these things and heard many stories, this was my first time to personally witness and pray against a demonic spirit…but would not be my last during this trip. During our meetings, we had a tent set up for prayer, and each night about fifty people or so would manifest signs of demonic possession and be carried to this tent. They would start screaming and rolling around, so those around them would grab them and carry them into the tent – often a difficult process. I spent quite a bit of time praying inside the tent, and I have never heard or seen anything like it – twenty or thirty people screaming and rolling around on mats laid out all through the tent, with small groups around each one praying to release them and sometimes violently restraining them, tying their arms and legs. Sometimes I would pray for one person for about 15 minutes, get exhausted and discouraged since there was no apparent improvement or change, and then watch other groups take over, pray, and then give up. I didn’t feel terribly effective, but eventually most of them calmed down and gave their name and information to a counselor who prayed with them. At least a few of them came to the tent on multiple nights. I did attempt to take some pictures and video, but they didn’t come out terribly well and I’m not sure how I feel about posting them anyway…so I decided not to.
Another amazing aspect of this trip was the healings and other miraculous events we witnessed. God was really moving in power, and different members of our team saw a blind lady regain her sight and be able to make out shapes, etc., as well as a little girl have her leg straightened out so she could walk. This girl had never spoken before, but after being prayed for, she started speaking, saying mama (which is Kiswahili as well as English) and other words.
Before Rob shared the main message, there was hours of singing and dancing by many different groups and choirs.
Rose Muhando, one of Tanzania’s biggest gospel artists, also performed, and was a huge attraction.
We spoke at two universities, and also got a tour of the local hospital and prayed for a few of the sick there.
I also stayed with a local pastor who was friends with one of my seminary professors. On Sunday I preached at his church – they don’t have an actual roof and then it rained for a while so that was a bit of a challenge, but it let up and the service continued.
Musoma is a beautiful place known for its many large rocks. I’m really glad I got to travel there to minister, and was encouraged by seeing so many come to faith, be delivered from demons, and be healed. I was pleased at how far I was able to get using my Kiswahili, but also struck by how far I have to go before I’m fluent – need to put in a lot more work. I’m also left with a number of thoughts and some questions concerning doing evangelism in a context that downplays confrontation, effective deliverance ministry, how to best spend your time on a short term trip, and so on. It was quite a trip…