During the African Reformation Overland Mission, our team had to separate in order for me to minister in Tanzania. I had to leave my wife and other team member in Zambia and head for the border by myself. Throughout the first day of travel, there was no end of harassment from the police. They were particular about checking my paperwork and I was convinced that they were looking for an excuse to fine me and try make me pay a bribe. One policeman told me that I had to pay an outrageous fine for something I am not sure is even a crime. I told him that at the most, he should just warn me and let me go. He told me that a warning would cost 50 kwachas—in other words, he wanted a bribe. I told him that I would rather pay the full amount than pay that “warning fee”. He told me that he would make me pay the full fine, to which I responded that I was very disappointed in him for making me pay for something so silly. He then let me go without paying anything.
The first night, I stayed at a lodge by myself. It was the under 20 soccer final and Zambia was playing. Many people came to the lodge to watch the game. Some stayed late into the night to celebrate Zambia’s victory. Of course, no African celebration is complete without loud music. Eventually, in order to get some sleep, I had to get the lodge staff to force the people to turn their music off or down!
A Nightmare at the Border
The next day, I left early in the morning for Tanzania. I passed through about 10 more police stops before I reached the Tanzanian border. Arriving at the border was arriving at complete chaos. The entire process of exiting Zambia is done on the Tanzanian side of the border and many of the border officials do not speak English. There were border agents all over the place. I had about 7 of them harassing me. The third party insurance and photocopies of driver’s license are done in Tanzania itself, so one has to leave the border to go and take care of those things and then come back to the border before one can proceed through the border! I had to use a border agent in the end because I had no idea where anything was and how to get anything done. When I went to immigration to get my passport stamped, the agents told me that I needed to purchase a $200 visa because I was entering for business purposes. I refused to pay this for the few days of ministry I had planned. By this stage, I was ready to turn around in exasperation and abandon the Tanzanian ministry! I was feeling overwhelmed and I had feelings of guilt for having to spend so much money just for a few days of ministry. I just kept telling myself that God must have a plan in all this and that I just need to go and do the ministry that I had planned. When I eventually made it out of the border control, I had a long drive.
Perseverance Pays Off
The next morning, our conference began. I ministered to a group of about 80 to 100 pastors, bishops and leaders from four different countries. I spoke about salvation and the priority of the Gospel. I then spoke about the true Gospel and the need to defend it. It turned out that many of the pastors were fighting with those who are preaching a false gospel and they were full of questions about doctrine and Biblical practices. The people were so enthusiastic about the teachings they were receiving, that by the end of the first day of ministry I knew that the hard driving and frustrating border crossing were worth it. Many of these brothers and sisters in Christ had travelled for days to hear the Word of God and receive some much-needed encouragement from the Body of Christ.
A Desire for Discernment
The following day, continuing with the conference, I spoke about Biblical preaching and what it means to be filled with the Hold Spirit. Again, the pastors were full of delight as they listened to the teachings. Every time someone stood up to ask a question, he thanked me for the teachings. They had many different questions from member care to doctrine. One pastor asked if it is possible for God to get glory when His people suffer. I simply answered by telling him to look at the life of Job. But the most urgent questions were those related to discernment issues. One asked if it is ok for the pastor of the church to give his congregant members pictures of himself so that the members can pray to it for blessings in the pastor’s absence! Obviously, I said No, and I turned them to Exodus 20:4 “You shall have no graven images”. They were very pleased, for apparently this is a big practice. Participants were so energetic when they spoke of these things, but it is of utmost importance that they go back and speak about these issues in their own home countries and churches. Some of the dangerous practices and doctrines I addressed may have even been held to by people at the seminar, but the leading pastor was very appreciative with most of what I taught.
Celebrations in the Village
I went into a rural village to visit a small church in the mountains and we were met with singing, dancing, drums, flags and waving leaves. They were very excited to receive a visitor from the outside; it is a rare treat for them. I stood up to address them. If I said 10 sentences in 15 minutes that was a lot. Every time I said something the people would jump up and cheer and dance and beat drums. I went outside with the pastor to take a look around and the congregation of singers and dancers followed us. The whole time we were talking we had an accompaniment of singers and dancers. Even when we left the village they followed the vehicle, chanting and beating their drums.
Witchcraft: The Plague of Africa
I commented to one pastor how beautiful the rural areas of Tanzania are, to which he responded, “Yes they are beautiful but they are full of witchcraft.” The pastor pointed to the lush green mountains and told me that there are many people who are enslaved to witchcraft in those areas.
One example of the dangers of witchcraft in Tanzania is the way that albinos are being killed, or mutilated, for their body parts. These body parts have strong magical powers which can apparently lead people to find diamonds! They sell for hundreds, or even thousands, of US dollars. In fact, there is an organization dedicated to protecting and creating awareness for albinos in Tanzania and they report that there have been 161 violent assaults on albinos in recent years. A pastor told me that when a woman is pregnant she prays that she does not have an albino baby because people will attack the family and chop off the limbs of the child. Village children are told that albinos do not die, they simply disappear when they get older. An albino grave will be almost impossible to find because people will harvest the corpse for body parts.
Answers to Prayer
During my time away from the team, I was kept safe, the vehicle worked properly, my wife and child were under the Lord’s protection and the team was able to encourage the believers in Zambia and remain productive in ministry. The pastors who attended the conference left with enthusiasm, encouragement and resources to tackle the many challenges they will face back home. I am grateful to God that He decided to use me in the lives of these faithful ministers.
Pray for Tanzania
Please pray for the growth of the church in Tanzania. Faithful pastors are constantly facing the pressure to preach the prosperity gospel. Christians are also under the threat of Islam, which makes up over 31% of the population. Many believers, even church leaders, are under family pressure to participate in African traditional religions. Pray that the Holy Spirit and the Word of God will lead the Tanzanian Church into righteousness, effectiveness and Christlikeness.
“Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lost heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the house-hold of Faith”Galatians 6:9-10
Rev. John Clifford
P.O. Box 74 Newlands 7725
Cape Town South Africa
Tel: 021 689 4480