Back in our January–February prayer update, we wrote about the tremendous opportunity in the region of Kigoma. The pastor out there has faithfully continued to stay in contact with us and desperately wants us to come back. Our schedule has freed up a bit, and the dirt roads have been graded, making a trip back out to Kigoma a possibility in September. We believe, at this point, that the Lord has kept this door opened for our family to minister. The pastor is really a visionary, which is a rare trait. A few years ago, he purchased several plots of ground around the region, intending to start churches in the future. What an opportunity it would be to see churches started in many areas of Kigoma. The first step in ministry for our family out in Kigoma is to take everyone who attends the meetings through the 20-lesson discipleship course that we have been using for years. Instead of going through the lessons on their own, we will be able to teach the lessons and help them to finish them in less time than it normally takes when done on their own. We hope to go through about 5 lessons a month. Doing this will help to insure that we are all on the same page concerning the basic doctrines of the faith found in our Statement of Faith. After that, should the Lord continue to lead and provide, we will be able to start a Bible institute with the hope of training men and families to go out and start churches on the plots that the pastor has already purchased. Please pray with us for this door of opportunity. Our family will be on the road a lot, as has been the case for the last six months, where there is always potential for problems. We also want to remain humble and sensitive to the grace of God in the entire situation. He wants to do a work through us that only He can do, so only He deserves the glory. We invite you to have a part with us!
On June 12, we held the first baptismal service on the current church property. God really blessed the day with 16 believers being baptized. The missionary whom God used to start the church, now a pastor in the States, was present and participated in the service by baptizing two young ladies his wife had led to the Lord a few years back and a daughter of another couple that began attending the church when he was here. We had the first “dinner on the grounds,” and God blessed with many more than we had anticipated. We had catered beans and rice for around 150 people. We also purchased bananas and had kachumbali (a tomato, onion, and carrot mixture), which was prepared by Sarah, Timothy, and another young man in the church. Thankfully, God performed a “Feeding of the 5,000” type of miracle by His grace, and more than 180 were fed. This was the largest attendance the church has ever experienced. We are so thankful for the many faithful members whom God used to help make the day special. Please pray for the continued discipleship of these new believers. There are about 15 actively going through the discipleship lessons.
On August 7, we will have a church-covenant-signing service. We have been preaching through the Statement of Faith for Faith Baptist Church—Ipuli for several months. We will hold another baptismal service that day right before the covenant-signing service. Please pray with us for this special day in the life of Faith Baptist Church–Ipuli. Pray that the Holy Spirit will bond our hearts and that we may, as Paul wrote in Philippians 1:27, “. . . stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”
We are rejoicing in the provision of the Lord! His GRACE is amazing! We were burdened concerning the need for Bibles among the believers here in Tabora. The basic no-frills Bible costs about three days’ wages for the average Tanzanian. Not long after beginning to bring this tremendous need before the Lord in prayer, we received an email from a group that helps to provide Bibles to missionaries around the world. They normally like to print the Bibles and send them to the missionaries, but in our case, due to copyright laws, we needed to purchase the Bibles here in Tanzania. The money needed to purchase 100 Bibles was sent, and just this week they arrived. PRAISE THE LORD!! Without asking for the money from man and completely relying on God’s provision, HE miraculously supplied in a way that was unexpected!! We are looking forward to the special Sunday when we will distribute these Bibles to the believers.
In 1999, our precious Mom Russell went home to be with the Lord. After several years, Dad Russell married again. He and Joy went into a retirement center several weeks ago. Approximately two weeks ago, Joy went Home to be with the Lord. The day of her funeral, Dad Russell was hospitalized with pneumonia, a staph infection, and the flu. We are so thankful for the love, prayers, and investment he and Mom Russell have made in our lives throughout the years. Dad has visited us in Tanzania three times. Many remember how he ministered through Gospel magic and visited in their homes. Just as the Tanzanians prayed for Mom Russell and Joy during their bouts with cancer, we are all praying for Dad. We earnestly covet your prayers for Dad at this very difficult time. We are able to talk often with him through SKYPE, and he especially enjoys talking with Sarah (just celebrated her 19th birthday on July 7) and Timothy (age 14).