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The Gospel in Tanzania

By Doug Smith

In the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 58:3, the Lord tells us that all nations will be invited into the marriage feast, the supper of the house of the Lord. First the rich, the wise, the noble, and the learned nations will hear the invitation. Then the Lord tells us that after that will come the day of His power and the poor nations will hear the invitation. This prophecy is being fulfilled even now in many parts of the world and I was blessed to share with Elder Eric Odida from Kenya as the Lord moved in His power to take the gospel invitation to Tanzania.

On March 27th of this year, the Saints in Kenya held a Women’s retreat in the town of Oyugis. There were over fifty people there, and they came from all over Kenya. One of the people who came was a man named Paul Ochieng, from the town of Mwanza in Tanzania. He is a distant cousin of Eric Odida. When he heard there was going to be a meeting, he traveled all the way from his home to share in the experience. The Lord’s Spirit was poured out in abundance during the week-end retreat. On Sunday, Paul asked if someone could go to Tanzania to share with his family and friends. Eric had been hoping to go before but had not had the opportunity so we determined that we would travel together to Tanzania on April 8, by bus and share with those who were desiring to know the truth. However, the Lord had different plans for us. In fact, none of our notions of how the trip should go were to happen, and the Lord used the trip as an opportunity to teach us to trust in His strength alone.

It started with the bus. Easter week-end is one of the busiest times for travel in Kenya. Good Fri- The Gospel in Tanzania by Doug Smith day and Easter Monday are national holidays so everyone travels to their home places if they can. We knew we had to get tickets early if we wantedto ride the bus. The tickets we finally purchased were from a company called “Falcon Bus Lines,” which turned out to not be a reputable company. We were told to be at the bus stop no later than 8:00 P.M. but at 1:30 A.M., we found ourselves watching as a bus that was completely full (not just the seats, but the aisles and door well, too) pulled away without us. On Friday we began looking for alternative transportation but were unable to rent any cars to cross the border or find any other open transport. Finally, Pamela Odida told us, “You’ll just have to take Betsy.” Now Betsy is a twenty-year-old Toyota Corolla that I knew very well because I have personally helped push it up every hill between Nairobi and Kisumu. We had been having trouble even keeping her going in the few days we had been in Nairobi traffic, this time. Because of her frequent breakdowns, Betsy had been retired from any long distance trips so Eric and I were a little apprehensive, but Pamela assured us that Betsy would not fail on a mission.

Since we were going to drive, the Lord inspired Eric to ask Hulda Simba, a church lady who had lived close to the Tanzanian border, to come with us. Hulda had been baptized in November, and has a wonderful testimony that can be shared elsewhere. She agreed to come with us on a moment’s notice. We began the trip to Mwanza, Tanzania.

It is about a fifteen hour trip by bus from Nairobi to Mwanza and we were getting a late start. I had been unable to get any extra cash for the trip Tidings of Zion because all of the ATM’s in Nairobi had been emptied by holiday travelers and the money would not be replaced until the following Tuesday. We stopped in Nakuru and found a working ATM. I got about 10,000 Kenyan shillings which I figured would amply provide for our needs on the trip, forgetting, of course, that it is God who supplies our needs, not the ATM! So the Lord gave me a gentle reminder.

When we got to the border of Tanzania, we found that the information that I had been given at the Embassy in Nairobi was wrong. I had gone to get a travel visa, and had been told that my Kenyan visa was good for all of East Africa, so I could visit Tanzania without another visa. However, at the border I was informed that I not only needed a Tanzanian visa but that I would have to pay for it in US dollars. The Lord softened the heart of the official however and he finally let me pay in the only money I had–but it cost four thousand shillings. Then we found out that we had to temporarily register the car in Tanzania which was another five hundred shillings and that we would have to get the Comesa, a type of car insurance, once we got to Tanzania. We thought we had everything organized to cross the border, but the official told us that we really shouldn’t travel at night in Tanzania–that it was not safe to stay in the first town that we would come to in Tanzania because of some local gangs that operated there. We ended up finding rooms in a guest house at the border, eating some bread and jerky that we had left in the car for supper, and getting up Saturday morning to continue our trip.

Hulda had to walk across the border because she didn’t have a passport. We gave her a head start and then we followed. When we met her on the other side, she got into the car and kind of reclined in the back seat. Eric asked if she was all right, and she smiled and nodded. We then started our journey into Tanzania.

Hulda told us later that she was experiencing a spiritual battle at the time. As she had started walking from the border, she suddenly had a lot of difficulty breathing. Something inside of her told her that she couldn’t even say a prayer because if she spoke, it would be her last breath. She thought she was going to die. She had almost collapsed and would have fallen to the ground, but Eric and I arrived with the car just at that time. She was able to fall into the car instead. She said she just smiled when Eric asked her if she was all right because she knew that if she said anything, I would insist on taking her to the hospital and the trip would be canceled. As she prayed in her heart, she was released and she began to softly sing songs of praise to the Lord. The words were in Luo, but the spirit of those songs offered a backdrop of peace for the rest of the trip.

After an hour or so, we came to a T-intersection in the road. To the left was Mwanza and to the right was Musoma which was the last town where it was likely that we could purchase the Comesa we had been told to obtain at the border. It was going to take more fuel and time to backtrack to Musoma, but if we got stopped by the police and didn’t have the insurance, that would be the end of the trip anyway. We decided that we could not ask the Lord to be with us if we were not going to obey His commands and keep the laws of the land.

We went to Musoma. Hulda was happy because she had some family members that lived in Musoma. We were able to stop for a short visit with them before finding an insurance place that was open. We paid another 2500 shillings for the Comesa. Then we tried to find a bank with an ATM so that I could replace our dwindling stock of shillings. We were told that they couldn’t do such things there, but that in Mwanza we would have no problem. I changed a twenty dollar bill that I found in my luggage, and we topped off the fuel and started to Mwanza.

The land has a few hills around Lake Victoria, but opens onto the flat plains of the Serengeti. There were several small towns as we traveled along so we assumed we would have no trouble getting fuel as we traveled. It soon became obvious that none of them had petrol stations. We began to get a little concerned when our gas gauge neared the empty line, and Mwanza was still some hours away. We all felt that the Lord had sent us, so we knew we would be able to get where He wanted us to be. We prayed that the Lord would take care of the situation.

It is difficult to describe to someone who has not felt the hand of the Lord at work, the feeling of assurance and joy that came to us as we watched the gauge rise. We traveled on for another hour or so watching the gauge slowly dropping again. This time, with more assurance, we prayed and again the gauge rose. I don’t know if God put more gas in the car, or just moved the needle so we would know that He was taking us there. Either way, we knew that it was not Betsy who was doing the work.

We arrived in a small suburb of Mwanza in late afternoon and used up most of the rest of the money we had to put fuel in the car. Hulda said she Tidings of Zion knew some people in town so we went to their place, only to find that they had gone to Kenya. We decided to call Paul and make contact with him, but Eric found that his Kenya cell phone did not work in Tanzania. We then found a place with a telephone that we could pay to make a call from. We found that the number that Eric had for Paul was not a working number! We didn’t have enough money to make a long distance call back to Nairobi to check the number. Once again, all of our efforts seemed to be in vain.

We knew the Lord had not sent us this far for nothing. We prayed that the Lord would give us direction. Then Hulda, lady of faith that she is, told us to take her to the main market in town. Eric and I stayed in the car and prayed while she got out and disappeared into the crowd. In about fifteen minutes she returned. The second person that she had talked to in the market was a lady that had come to the market with the sister of Paul, the man we were looking for! Hulda brought Paul’s sister back to the car, and we went to find his place.

Paul was still at work in his tailor shop so we went and picked him up. I initially thought that we should make sure that we had found a station that accepted credit cards or find a bank with an ATM. After about an hour of searching we were told that credit cards had not made inroads at any of the petrol stations, and that the hotels were not familiar with payments made with anything but cash. The banks did not have ATM’s you could use unless you had an account in the bank and were withdrawing your own money.

Paul kept telling us not to worry about it. Eric thought he was just trying to make us feel better, but we finally realized that what Paul was saying was, “God will take care of it.” As the realization dawned on us, we turned our hearts from the temporal concerns and went back to Paul’s house to meet with the people.

The Lord truly blessed our sharing. As we have seen many times before, the scriptures were opened to us. As one of us would finish what the Lord placed on our heart to share, the other would be given the next words. At one point both Eric and I had finished what the Lord had given us and there was a pause. Then Hulda was moved by the Spirit to share her testimony of how the Lord had changed her life. She spoke in Luo so I didn’t understand the words, but through the tears in my eyes, I could see that no one in the room was untouched by the power of her testimony.

On Easter morning the sun rose over the granite hills of Mwanza, a beautiful clear morning with gentle breezes from the bay. But even more beautiful, the light of the gospel dawned in the hearts of the people in Mwanza. About midmorning one of the ladies got up to go somewhere. We thought she was going to go to a service somewhere else, but it turned out that she was going to get a change of clothes. She wanted to be baptized!

We walked down off the hill where Paul lives and found a small crowd of people around where the car was parked. Paul said something to all of his neighbors which humbled me more than anything during the trip. He said (by Eric’s translation), “The last trumpet has sounded, the gospel that has been preached here today is the last gospel that will be taught before Jesus returns.”

As we were getting ready to leave to return to Nairobi that afternoon, Paul gave us some money that the people had collected for us. It was about the equivalent of $150 US. We felt that we should accept it, knowing that every shilling would count on the journey home. Putting all of the rest of the money we had into fuel for the car, we were able to get the gauge up to 3/4 full. Knowing full well that we could not make the trip, and that if we ran out of fuel there would be no place along the road to get more, we finally put all of our trust in the Lord and started for Kenya. With the extra money that the people in Mwanza gave us, we had enough gas to get all the way to Kisii which was the first town with stations that would accept credit cards. It also had an ATM. The gauge was on “empty-empty” as we went down the hill from the bank to the station. The Lord had shown us what He and Betsy, and a little faith, could do! And just as Pamela had told us, we did not have one cough or false start from the car for the whole trip.

There is still much work to be done in Tanzania. One of the men we met in Musoma traveled all the way to Mwanza to hear more of the gospel. If time had allowed, we were to have returned to Musoma to share with this family. There were several in Mwanza who were asking for baptism. Eric and the priesthood in Kenya will be continuing to share with them as the Lord makes the resources and opportunities available. What a blessing it is to see the hand of the Lord at work so that the gospel of the kingdom is again being preached in all the world–even in Tanzania.



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