The African Leader
I just returned from an 11 day mission trip to Tanzania, Africa. Our mission was to assist IMB missionaries, Scott and Jennifer Ward, in their work to the unreached people group of the north and south Pare mountain region of Tanzania. It is an incredibly daunting and difficult work. The mission trip, as are most mission trips, was life changing.
During my time in Tanzania, I met a most amazing man. His name is Fanuel. He is a 46 year old Christian who is also from the Pare region. He is a native. In so many ways, Fanuel is the key to Scott and Jennifer’s work to the Pare people. Fanuel is a mature believer, called to the ministry, and seminary trained. Even before Scott and Jennifer showed up, this mighty African leader had taken it upon himself to disciple 6 other young men who have also accepted Christ and are called to the ministry. Fanuel, by faith, was doing what Christians were supposed to do, not knowing if the door would ever open for something bigger or greater. And then Scott and Jennifer were called. They obeyed and went to Tanzania. And now, Scott and Jennifer are serving as catalysts to catapult the work of gospel forward in this region and Fanuel could not be happier. Scott needs Fanuel because he knows the language, the people, and the culture. Fanuel needs Scott because Scott has the resources, the vehicle, access to mission volunteers, etc. Together they are greater than the sum of their parts.
I spent a lot of time with Fanuel and his story is amazing. He came to know Christ years ago as a young man and was disciple by another Baptist missionary to Tanzania named Jack Hall. Jack Hall is, to this day, legendary in the world of mission work to Tanzania. Then one day Jack collapsed and died while literally working on a new church building in Tanzania. On that day, Fanuel found himself alone in his desire and call to reach the Pare people. As I was talking to Fanuel (who knows English fluently) you could sense the energy excitement and vision of this African pastor. The arrival of Scott and Jennifer has breathed new life into him. It is the fulfillment of years of prayer. At one point he cornered me and said, “Pastor Jeff, I have been praying 18 years for this day to arrive.” Wow…imagine that – 18 years of faithful prayer AND preparation. Fanuel didn’t just sit around. He worked to disciple other young men and as a result, there is a system of rising pastors already in the pipeline ready to go.
One church has already been planted in the last two months by Scott and Fanuel. Fanuel plans to hand this church off to one of his young men named Allison. I expect to see another church planted in another village in 2-3 weeks and Fanuel has plans to hand that church off to one of his boys named Mark. He then points into the distance to another village that I can’t see and may never visit and proclaims with confidence that when a church is planted there, he already knows who will take over as pastor. He then points in another direction and makes another proclamation about one of his “preacher boys.” His vision is vast and strategic. He’s been waiting 18 years after all. That’s a lot of time to think, and pray and prepare. And that is exactly what this African pastor, this African leader has done.
Fanuel reminds me of another great church planter and leader from the New Testament. His name was Paul.