In January 2018 a new team began serving among the Swahili speaking people along the coast of southern Tanzania. Living a similar lifestyle to their community, the team have spent a year learning Swahili and developing friendships where team members can discuss faith. Now, the team plans to begin educational ministries like teaching English, conservation agriculture and well drilling. Erin Hawkinson shares about their experiences so far.
This year has been one of the hardest I’ve faced, but through it I’ve seen God at work both among the Swahili people and personally, as he sanctifies me.
We also have been learning how to surrender things that we didn’t even realise we needed to surrender. Moving overseas, we were prepared for sacrifice, but God has revealed to us the numerous little things we need to let go of.
I have wanted to learn Swahili since I was a little girl and so, I thought that learning language was going to be straightforward and enjoyable. Instead I found that I would get angry and frustrated quickly. It was hard, not only to remember words, but to battle the intense feelings of frustration when I couldn’t connect deeply with my neighbours. I long for deep friendships and to have conversations that are meaningful, funny, and that ultimately lead to opportunities where I can express my love for Jesus. Instead, often I am struck dumb when words get jumbled in my mind, or my brain shuts down, or when my language ability is compared to my teammates. Now I see that in the silence, God was teaching me. As I couldn’t speak, my actions needed to show Christ. I had to step aside, and let the Holy Spirit speak.
We also have been learning how to surrender things that we didn’t even realise we needed to surrender. Moving overseas, we were prepared for sacrifice, but God has revealed to us the numerous little things we need to let go of. We have surrendered our schedules (time moves differently in this culture), our food desires, our expectations, our teammates when God leads them to serve in different places, and even our style of jokes.
Turning to Christ
Not only is God at work in the lives of the team, but he’s also changing hearts among the Swahili people. A few years ago, this area resisted gospel workers living among them. Now, we have permission to open a community centre, and to hold outreach events. We’ve been given permission to buy land for a church in one of the villages, and to establish a new team in another place. People are turning to Christ. We have started discovery Bible studies with neighbours, and local believers are seeing the importance of sharing Christ. We have even had a family move out to one of the villages to encourage and teach the believers there and share Christ with the non-believers. All these wonderful things are happening not because of us, but God softening and preparing the hearts of many and we get the privilege to see the fruit of his work.