Listen to Nyanzwa worship service

Worship Service in Nyanzwa, Tanzania

While in visiting our partner congregation in Nyanzwa, our Easter ambassadors recorded via audio and video, a 2.25 hour worship service. The green button will let you hear the audio from a portion of that service. We hope to share video soon.

Listen to Nyanzwa worship service

Now that the 2018 Easter Ambassadors are back from Tanzania, they have recorded their transformational experiences in a more in-depth way. Read about it here!

June 30, written by Pastor Brandon Newton

Asante sana (thank you very much)!

As we prepare for the long drive and flights back to Minnesota tomorrow, our hearts are filled with gratitude. We are grateful for all the wonderful people who helped make this trip possible. We are grateful for all our new friends in Tanzania. We are grateful to you for your prayers and support of our partnership with God’s church in Nyanzwa.

We have just returned to Iringa after enjoying several days at the Mwagusi Safari Camp in Ruaha National Park. It was a great way to be tourists while in Tanzania. We saw some amazing animals up close (too close for Pastor Brandon, particularly one elephant at night while trying to sleep). In the midst of God’s good creation we saw almost everything—from impalas and zebras to two lion brothers and a ton of elephants (pardon the pun). There were hippos and crocodiles and all the good stuff. We saw so many giraffes that Pastor Paul said they’re thinking about re-naming the park. . . Giraffic Park. J

It was good to spend time with Pastor Paul and Sally and share good food and creation. We couldn’t help but notice the stark contrast from lifestyle and food between Nyanzwa and the safari camp. Our hearts are full, but a piece of them remains with our siblings in Nyanzwa as they strive to live and improve their community.

As we marvel at yet another beautiful African sunset, so the sun is setting on our time in Tanzania. We return home with weary bodies but full hearts and many stories to share. All we ask of you is that you continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in Nyanzwa and that you take some time to listen to our stories and hear what God’s been up to here in Tanzania upon our return.

We’ll see you soon! PBN, Karla, and Randy

June 28, written by Pastor Brandon Newton

How do you put into words the most Spirit-filled four days you’ve ever experienced? One at a time, I suppose.

As we traveled the dusty and painfully bumpy road to Nyanzwa we were greeted with singing and dancing. The sign said “WELCOME NYANZWA PARISH” and I knew they had blocked the road for us. I welled up. My eyes, my heart, my entire body. I had the same feeling the first time I saw my daughter sing in her preschool program (at least five years ago). I have an overwhelming sense of pride for our church and for all God has done through our partnership with Nyanzwa.

After several days, several preaching points, much food, and plenty of dusty feet from long walks with our partners, we gathered in the church to hear what God is doing in Nyanzwa. It was a hot meeting. Not just because the stuffy building was at least 88 degrees Fahrenheit. It was hot because the Holy Spirit is burning—burning in the lives of the 1,147 members, seven evangelists, and two pastors, and the Holy Spirit is moving them to continue sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Our translator through the Bega Kwa Bega program was Pastor Lusungu Msigwa and he was a fantastic companion for this journey. Through him we learned more about Pastor Yeremiah Mponzi who started at Nyanzwa parish just three months ago. Also joining Nyanzwa parish recently was Pastor Godwin Maketa as Associate Pastor. When you are nearing retirement, the Diocese asks where you would like to retire. Maketa would like to return to Nyanzwa where he has family. So he is here preparing for retirement (Saint Paul Synod Bishop Patricia Lull—if you’re reading this, I would like to retire to Florida). They are all very grateful for Easter Lutheran Church.

The seven evangelists were introduced again and, as was a common theme everywhere we went, they were all grateful for Easter Lutheran Church and the 20 pieces of tin sheets we gave each of them. In addition to their seven evangelists, the Nyanzwa parish has seven more theology students training to be evangelists. Most were women and they will serve God’s church very well. Guess what? They are grateful to Easter Lutheran Church.

The parish treasurer continued with his report that the congregation is grateful not just for our visit, but for Easter’s contributions to their construction projects, secondary school scholarships, theology scholarships, famine support, water sources, and much more.

Of their six preaching points (Nyanzwa is the main station, Katya, Mgowelo, Pele Pele, Igunda, and Majengo) they identified seven priorities and asked for Easter’s help. Pastor Msigwa helped me politely point out that they currently have several unfinished projects. Rather than doing a little bit on each one, in our culture we would rather see one project get completed and then work can begin on the next. Also, seven priorities was a lot to support at one time.

Pastor Msigwa met with them for another three hours while we left the meeting to play with children and walk through town. After dinner I was informed they have narrowed their projects into phases. Phase one has two projects, phase two has three projects, and phase three has three projects. They will not start work on the next project until the prior project has been completed. Their first priority? Putting a roof on the church at the Katya preaching point.

Katya is a Maasai settlement quite far from Nyanzwa. It is rare for these nomadic people to convert to Christianity or to settle in one location. But they assured us that Chief Yeremiah has told them they can build a village on that land and they would like to stay. I had the honor of meeting Chief Yeremiah and, you guessed it, he is grateful to Easter Lutheran Church. The people have already built the walls for a church building in only two months to show they are serious about staying and growing. They would also like to have a building so they can petition the government to send them a teacher so they can have a school. Currently their children have to walk so far to school that they miss school a lot. They have a big dream, but they work hard and they work together and it’s an honor to be invited as partners.

Everywhere we went we ran into secondary school scholarship recipients. These students were sponsored by Easter Lutheran Church and guess what? They are very thankful! One student stood up during worship to announce he completed his secondary education and he has returned to serve as the chairperson of the area’s water committee. Many of the scholarship students go on to continue with education or return to the village and contribute to the community. Several become teachers!

As we toured the Image Secondary School (one of the Diocese’s schools where Easter has sponsored students) we ran into Stephen Maketa. He was sponsored by Easter Lutheran Church (he’s grateful, just so you know!) and is currently teaching Divinity at Image. He would like to be a pastor one day.

Easter is making an impact. YOU are making an impact!

Lastly, we toured many different water projects, including a new water project right by the Nyanzwa Primary School. The school and local government . . . they say “thank you!”

In closing, I’d like to say that I’m very impressed by what God is doing through our brothers and sisters in Tanzania. I’m impressed by Easter’s involvement and support of the church and community’s growth. And mostly, I’m proud of our Easter ambassadors. Randy, Karla, and I decided we each represent 1,000 members. It has been a complete joy to see how Karla and Randy have been open to this experience, have been great representatives of Easter Lutheran Church, and have provided insight to our partnership. We are missing all of you but know you are prayed for by hundreds of Tanzanians each week.

I am proud to serve as a pastor at Easter Lutheran Church and, I too, am grateful for you!
Photos from June 2:

June 27, 2018, written by Karla Kosel

Habari? Nzuri.

How are you? Fine. We heard and used these phrases multiple times over the last few days. The time spent in Nyanzwa was wonderful! The women of the congregation worked very hard preparing to welcome the “Easter Eagan” visitors with extra cleaning and cooking.

We stayed in the pastor’s home and enjoyed many delicious meals prepared by the women, commonly referred to as Mamas. It is more amazing when you realize that they cooked all of the food over a fire with pots balanced between three stones, babies strapped to their backs, and at one point took a break to kill a scorpion. The temperature of the fire was controlled by the amount of wood that was added or removed throughout the cooking process. They even baked delicious brown bread using this method; the crust was perfectly browned. And the rice. Not even a rice cooker can make rice as well as the women in Nyanzwa. Much fellowship occurred amongst the women as they cooked together. I was invited to join in the fellowship in the cooking room as we compared stories about cooking, a typical weekday, and tasks that must be done.

A typical weekday means getting water and heating it for drinking, bathing, or cleaning. Then they make breakfast, work in the fields (typical crops in Nyanzwa are onions, corn, tomatoes, beans, and potatoes), then return home to prepare lunch. After lunch is a short rest before household cleaning (dishes, floors, bathrooms, sweeping the dusty ground around the home, and washing laundry by hand) followed by preparing dinner. As they say in Swahili, uff da.

Luckily I was given a small stool to sit on as I’m unable to squat and work/talk as they do. In addition to the women, the cooking room was also where the small babies were fed and played with on large mats when they weren’t bundled onto a Mama or older sibling.

Not only did the women have amazing cooking skills, many shared their love of Jesus through song and dance. Yes, Lutherans dance in church… at least in Tanzania. We were welcomed by festive, spirit-filled song at each preaching point we visited, typically led by women and children. Anna, the pastor’s wife, was the first person to invite me by hand to dance in church. Later the children giggled as they led me through dance moves they had choreographed to the festive music. I think they enjoyed teaching a Mama to dance. “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” was a big hit as we continued dancing after church.

I knew I was fully accepted when I walked outside of the pastor’s home without sandals on my feet and had another person’s flip flops promptly placed on my feet. Talk about giving someone the shoes off of your feet! Sharing what you have so no one goes without seemed to be a common theme.

In the Nyanzwa parish women work behind the scenes and also lead as evangelists, church elders, committee members, and church school teachers. Sound familiar? Whether in Eagan or in Nyanzwa, women take an active role at home and at church.

May you be filled with the strength and faith of the Mamas I met.

Kwaheri (good-bye), Karla Kosel
Photos from June 27:

June 26, 2018: What’s New and What’s Not, written by Randy Dufault

During our visit to Nyanzwa Parish these past three days, I had a distinct advantage over Brandon and Karla in that I have been there before in 2014. From that experience, it is possible to see some of the changes that occurred over the course of four years.

A key change is cell phone coverage. While virtually everyone had a phone during my prior visit, they only worked when you got closer to the main highway or, apparently, when you stood under a particular tree. We heard Phone ringtones during the Sunday service. Ultimately, this is good. Pastor Mponzi can communicate with the Evangelist team and others without boarding a bus and riding for an hour or more. Consider too the benefits to the population at large in any sort of emergency.

Many houses now have some sort of solar powered electrical system. Artificial light emanates from many houses and there are TV satellite dishes seemingly everywhere.

While the number of trucks and other vehicles in the village surprised me four years ago, the sheer number of motorized conveyances, particularly motorcycles, is a big change. I recall Easter funding the purchase of bicycles in the past for travel to preaching points and other parts of the village. The parish already wore out one motorbike and is on their second.

By far the biggest change is the growth in the parish, both in membership and in their community presence. They are now 1,200 members strong and a recently added preaching point, Pele Pele, covers a part of the village that is quite distant from the main church. Pele Pele alone counts 250 as members, along with about 150 children (400 total). They are worshiping in a makeshift tent.

The roads have not improved at all. In fact, portions of the 48km trip off the main road seemed markedly worse than four years ago. Road maintenance (or much maintenance of any kind) is not an obvious priority.

Projects that were incomplete during my first stay are still not complete. In addition to funding, there is other work to do in order to ensure particular initiatives are finished and are serving the intended purpose.

One thing that hasn’t changed much is the way our friends worship. There is much singing, dancing, and prayer both during the typical two and a half hour Sunday service (our presence as guests apparently caused it to extend to three this past Sunday) and during almost any organized activity. It is really something to be a part of and to witness.

In short—you have to see it to believe it. You must be present to feel how the Spirit is moving. I hope I can bring a piece of the experience back to Easter.

In Christ, Randy Dufault
(reminder: you can usually find Randy behind the sound system at Easter by the Lake on a Sunday morning)
Photos from June 26:

Day Three: June 22, 2018
Greetings Dear Ones,
What a day! We started with an orientation at the main offices for the Iringa Diocese. Did you know that the Lutheran Church in Iringa is made up of approximately 142,000 Lutherans, 104 parishes, over 800 evangelists (who lead at preaching points), and 300 pastors? Currently 70 of those parishes are partnered with a Saint Paul Synod congregation. If you can read between lines, you know this means 34 parishes still need a Saint Paul Synod partner. Talk to your friends!

The Diocese supports the growing congregations and many ministries. Most known by Easter Lutheran is Radio Furaha, reaching thousands of listeners with preaching, theology, music, health information, agriculture programs, and more 24 hours a day. Randy was able to volunteer at the station all day. It was a bit stressful, but we’ll let Randy tell you about that another time. The station does great work with limited resources and low-budget equipment. They have plenty of ideas for Randy once he retires and moves to Iringa (don’t tell Laurene).

In addition, the Diocese coordinates scholarships for secondary and post-secondary students. Over 1,000 secondary students receive scholarships from partner congregations (including 42 students supported by Easter). We are visiting another ministry of the Diocese tomorrow on our way to Nyanzwa—the Ilula Hospital. As if that wasn’t enough, they also have six secondary schools, the Huruma Center, Millions of Trees project, a veterinarian, teach a sewing class, and support the University of Iringa. Much more happens, too, but Karla ran out of paper for note-taking.

Karla and Pr Brandon had a VIP tour of the University of Iringa. We couldn’t get far without someone stopping to greet our tour guide, Pastor Paul Harris. Currently they have over 2,000 students and are hoping for more in spite of many government changes, financial restraints, and limited resources. Once again—tell your friends there is a great university in Iringa! Also housed on the campus is the micro-lending office (SACCOS) that helps low income people get small loans for agricultural or business start-up costs.

What’s a night in Iringa without another meal with Pastor Paul and Sally Harris? We are grateful for their hospitality. They gave us some pointers in preparing for our visit to Nyanzwa in the morning.
This being said, we leave tomorrow at 9am for Nyanzwa. We return from Nyanzwa on Tuesday. We are looking forward to visiting our partner parish, seeing what they’ve been up to, worshiping together, and learning from each other. Please keep us in your prayers as we’ve grown accustomed to running water and pedestal toilets. You won’t hear from us for a bit, but we’ll represent your presence, greetings, faith, and love with our brothers and sisters in the meantime.
In Christ, PBN, Karla, Randy

Photos from Day Three:

Pictured from Left to Right: Randy, Frank Mkocha (scholarship secretary), Pastor Brandon, Pastor Msigwa (assistant to the bishop), Karla

Day Two: June 21, 2018
Mungu aku bariki (God bless you)! is another phrase Pastor Brandon keeps mispronouncing. We had our first full day in Iringa and it was jam packed with God’s grace and blessing.

We began with a trip to the Lutheran Cathedral which is modeled after Bethel Lutheran Church in Hudson, WI. We were not allowed to sit in the bishop’s chair, but lace adorned the ceiling and paraments abounded.

From there, our wonderful “guide” Deacon April Trout from the Saint Paul Synod took us through the Open Air Market. Farm goods were displayed in mounds including beans of every color, rice of every grade (did you know there are different grades of rice?!?), dried minnows, hand-made baskets, and new or gently used clothing and housewares (think grandma’s estate sale).

Following the market we toured Neema Crafts. “Neema” means grace and it is a craft shop with 140 deaf and/or physically disabled employees. The employees spun their own thread, wove it into cloth, and turned it into a number of beautiful hand-crafted items. There were carvings, clothes, jewelry, and everything we experienced was impressive—including the food.

That brings us to nap time. After nap time our driver took us to Soma Biblia to pick up 22 English Bibles and a 40 kilo bag of rice to bring to the Huruma Centre. The Huruma Centre cares for around 65 children. The Bibles were requested by Pastor Joyce for the secondary students who are practicing their English. They say “thank you to Easter Church for the Bibles and for being with us.” Shortly after arrival we were greeted by a very moving presentation by the children. They sang and danced and took turns welcoming us (through a translator—Chaplain Harrison). The center’s “mama” said a prayer and gave us a blessing. What an honor and joy.

Karla had the important job of showing the children all the games we arrived with, including soccer balls, bubbles, coloring pages, hot wheels cars, Jenga, and Uno. The children quickly learned that Pastor Brandon is terrible at soccer but can take up a lot of space in the goalie box—telling him to “stand here and don’t move any more.” Karla’s presence was a gift to the children who enjoyed coloring pages and showing her all their tricks on the playground. Randy is our resident photographer and the kids loved seeing pictures of themselves on his camera.

We weren’t quite tuckered out yet so ventured over to Pastor Paul and Sally Harris’ apartment for dinner. They had thirteen guests and we had a great time enjoying traditional African dishes made by Sally and Grace and meeting staff from the Diocese, Radio Furaha, and Iringa Hope—all great ministries we’ll learn more about tomorrow. The evening was filled with laughter, song, and a little dancing. It is great to see Paul and Sally where their hearts reside much of the year (in Tanzania).

That’s all for now. The rooster crows in 7 hours so we better get some shut eye.
Tutaonana baadaye (see you later)~ Your Easter Ambassadors

Photos from Day Two:

Day One: June 20, 2018
After a June 18th departure, two 8-hour flights, several layovers, and a 12-hour land cruiser drive, we have arrived safely to the Lutheran Center in Iringa!

As Pastor Paul told us in preparation for our trip: nothing will work out according to plan, but in the end everything will work out. Our group learned Monday morning that Royce would be unable to travel with us due to illness and we continue to keep him in our prayers.

The journey thus far. Our first impressions of Tanzania are that it is amazingly beautiful. Randy’s second impression (since he’s been before) is that he sees new development going on including improvements for transportation in Dar es Salaam (bus rapid transit lanes and traffic signals). This is a great improvement in just four years.

The drive from Dar es Salaam to Iringa was long. I (Pastor Brandon) enjoyed plenty of cat naps, but I’m told that it was fun to watch the roadside markets change with each region—roasted corn, ceramic pots, pineapple, furniture, and recycled from the US t-shirts changed to tomatoes, oranges, and bananas, and then woven mats and baskets. We also had to pull off the road for a half hour so the Vice President could travel through.

The mountains were gorgeous but my favorite (as a farm kid) was seeing the crops change. We saw corn, potatoes, onions, sisal (used to make carpet backing), sunflowers, and I don’t even know what else. There were also plenty of mama baboons carrying their babies alongside the road as we drove through the Mikumi National Park in addition to giraffes and wildebeests.

There was a persistent smell of diesel exhaust, burning grass, and cooking fires. The food and hospitality has been amazing. All in all, we made it with less travelers and later than planned. But a full stomach and place to sleep means it all worked out in the end.

Mungu aku bariki (God bless you) – Pastor Brandon, Karla, and Randy

Photos from Day One: Pastor Brandon, Karla Kosel, and Randy Dufault!

Entry date: June 5, 2018
Writer: Randy Dufault

Briefly describe yourself (occupation, relationship to Easter, etc.)
Anyone who regularly attends Lake services might recognize me as the guy sitting behind the sound console. We joined Easter shortly after moving from South Dakota to Eagan in 1992 and over those years experience that I had in radio station engineering, and in other technical endeavors, has allowed me to offer help to Easter on many matters involving wires and an other technical needs. My tenure also included a run as the congregation treasurer and a number of years helping with the church school program in a number of capacities.

My spouse Laurene and I wed a bit over 38 years ago. Over that time we raised three daughters, all now married. So far there are two grandchildren.

While I began my career dealing with technology hardware and wires, software came calling. I’ve worked for the same small software consultancy for nearly 35 years and primarily work as a business analyst and systems architect.

What made you want to go on the Tanzania trip?
Pr. Paul, as Pr. Paul was known to do, spent a number of years planting the seeds in me for a visit to Tanzania, and particularly to see Radio Furaha the Christian radio station Easter helped found and continues to support. So I joined four others, Sally and him on a trip to the Iringa Region in 2014. During that stay I had the opportunity to help out at Radio Furaha along with experiencing all the other incredible happenings that come with a visit like this to a culture very unlike our own. I am now serving on the Radio Furaha committee and so it seemed to make sense to make the trip again this year.

Have you traveled internationally before?
As I noted before, I did travel to Tanzania once before. Laurene and I have had the opportunity to visit a few places in Europe. A number of work engagements also took me to Europe, Eastern Europe, and Malaysia so long plane rides and different cultures are familiar–never ordinary, but familiar.

How do you see this trip impacting your faith journey?
To me it is remarkable to watch, and, at least to some extent, participate in the ways other cultures express their faith journey. Staying within a small piece of the world it can be easy to become complacent about the voyage. Experiences like this reinvigorate me and help me find more and more ways to grow my relationship with Christ.

Name something you want to learn more about
I am particularly interested in seeing how much the country and, in particular, the Iringa Diocese have advanced over the course of four years. The programs we all support are generally targeted at helping the Tanzanians to help themselves. I saw evidence of that working in 2004 and I hope to see much more of it this time around.

Describe one thing you’re worried about
My job requires that I travel quite a bit so Laurene is certainly familiar with me being absent–nothing there to be concerned about. From my prior African experience I know our group will be well-guided and safe. Frankly, the biggest worry I may have is the potential for my camera gear failing me at an inopportune time.

Entry date: May 29, 2018
Writer: Karla Kosel

Briefly describe yourself (occupation, relationship to Easter, etc.)
I’ve been a member of Easter as long as I’ve lived in Eagan—almost 22 years. My activities at church have morphed over time as my children grew; church school teacher, confirmation mentor, communion server, altar guild, and Easter Cares Team volunteer. Allan and I are the proud parents of two children, Ben (21) and Elizabeth (17). My educational background is in social work and business. I enjoy my work at a local insurance company where I manage a health insurance product for low income Seniors.

What made you want to go on the Tanzania trip?
I first heard about Tanzania nearly 20 years ago from a co-worker of mine, Ione Hanson. Her husband, Mark Hanson, was the Bishop of the St. Paul Area Synod at the time and they traveled to our sister synod in Tanzania. The stories she shared initially peaked my interest in traveling to Africa…. not to mention the fact that I love to travel.

Have you travelled internationally before?
I’ve traveled to Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, and Mexico. I grew up in NW Minnesota and the Canadian border was only an hour away thus traveled to Canada regularly as a child. I’m looking forward to experiencing a trip to Africa.

How do you see this trip impacting your faith journey?
Fully Rely on God. From what I’ve learned, many people in Tanzania take this to heart and live a very faith-filled life. I’ve been working to do the same in my life and hope to deepen my faith as I learn by example.

Name something that you want to learn more about.

I’m excited to experience a culture that is very different than what I’m used to in Minnesota. The opportunity to spend time in communities of various sizes and interact with people from a variety of backgrounds will enhance the learning opportunity. I’m interested in healthcare, education, and the welfare of children thus am looking forward to learning more about these topics.

Describe one thing you’re worried about?
I agree with Brandon and Royce– I’ll miss my family and do think about the challenge in returning to MN if an emergency arises. One additional topic that has me a bit worried is the actual air travel time for this trip. It is long. As in 8.5 hours to Amsterdam and then another 10.5 hours to Dar Es Salam. I’ve never spent so many hours confined to an airline seat. I’ll have to bring a couple of good books; recommendations gratefully accepted.

Greetings to Easter Lutheran Church from Bega Kwa Bega in Iringa.
Pastor Msigwa has received the following news from your partner parish in Nyanzwa:
These greetings are from your friends at Nyanzwa, Iringa, Tanzania. We love you and we always pray for you. How are you doing? My  910 members and 11 staff are doing well.
This year we have a blessing of rain and we have planted different crops like corn, sunflower, onions, raise and groundnuts.
Our motorcycle is not working now, because it is too old. We raised funds and bought a second hand motorcycle which for the time being it is helping our pastor to visit preaching points. This means we need a new ones. Mgowelo construction is going on and you will see when you visit.
As we keep you in our prayers, we also ask you to pray for our members. They have a challenge in understanding the sacraments.
We are happy that this year you will spend some times with us here at Nyanzwa. You are mostly welcome.
On behalf of the staff,
Pastor Yeremia Mponzi (a new pastor after Pastor Luhwano Mwafute)

Entry date: May 21, 2018
Writer: Royce McEwen

Briefly describe yourself (occupation, relationship to Easter, etc.)

Unlike Pastor Brandon, most of you probably don’t know who I am, as my wife (Pat) and I have been members at Easter for only 2 – 3 years. My background is accounting and financial planning, but I’m mostly retired from working for a living and in search of what the next stage of life has in store for me. Pat and I have been blessed with two wonderful daughters, two great sons-in-law, and four energetic grand-children.

What made you want to go on the Tanzania trip?
I had heard a lot about the Lutheran connections in Tanzania at my previous congregation, and always had an interest in doing another international mission trip, so this seemed like a natural fit for me. Photography is a favorite hobby of mine, and I look forward to capturing the many sights we’ll see, whether they be of the people (especially children) we connect with, or the Tanzania landscape and wildlife.

Have you travelled internationally before?
Only to Italy in 2000, and El Salvador in 2010. The El Salvador trip was a Habitat for Humanity International mission trip that really opened my eyes to how content other cultures can be, even without all of the stuff that Americans seem to need to be “happy”. I loved connecting with the young kids at our build site on that trip and look forward to a similar experience in Tanzania.

How do you see this trip impacting your faith journey?
There seems to be so much clutter in our daily lives here in America, with all of the social media, technology, talk radio, news (fake and otherwise), etc. I’m looking forward to “getting away” from it all for a few weeks to concentrate on what’s really important, especially worship, prayer and serving. And I’m hopeful that this experience will help strengthen my own faith and lead me to cut a lot of the clutter out of my life when I return.

Name something that you want to learn more about.
I’m very interested in seeing how the Tanzania education system works. In Minnesota, we take a high school education for granted, and also put a huge emphasis on post-secondary education. I’m looking forward to learning more about their education process and goals.

Describe one thing you’re worried about?
I guess the biggest thing is being so far away from home in the event something back in Minnesota happens, and it takes a long time to return. I was away from my family for a few weeks last fall, but I knew that I could get home in a hurry if necessary. From where we will be staying in Tanzania, it will be much more than a hop, skip and a jump to get back to my loved ones.

Brandon Newton

Entry date: May 15, 2018
Writer: Pastor Brandon Newton

Briefly describe yourself (occupation, relationship to Easter, etc.)
Many of you know me as Pastor Brandon. I’ve been employed at Easter for 4.25 years and an ordained pastor for 3 of those years. One of my roles at Easter is to serve as the Outreach pastor and I get to work with a great group of staff, volunteers, and steward our partnership in Nyanzwa, Tanzania.

What made you want to go on the Tanzania trip?
My father-in-law talks about Tanzania every time I see him and prior to coming to Easter Lutheran I was at Shepherd of the Valley, which has a rich history of partnership in Tanzania. I also worked with Pastor Paul (who lives and breathes Tanzania) at Easter. I’ve heard about Tanzania for at least 10 years straight! I also want to see and experience how our partners live and worship. I want to meet the people I’ve been emailing and visit the students Easter has been sponsoring so I have some context for the prayers we say and decisions we make as we strive to accompany our brothers and sisters.

Have you traveled internationally before?
Yes. In high school I toured Europe with the Sound of America Honor Band. This included Germany, France, Austria, Luxembourg, Italy, and Switzerland. In college I spent a year near Manchester, England, as a volunteer street evangelist/youth worker for a Methodist church. The summer between college and seminary I backpacked Europe (Scotland, Wales, England, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, and Portugal) on my own to “discover myself.” I discovered that I needed to get a real job. Christy and I honeymooned in Banff, Canada (if that counts).

How do you see this trip impacting your faith journey?
Our partners depend on God and each other for everything. When confronted with a decision or barrier they turn to God in prayer as a first and best option. I’m looking forward to a prayer renewal for myself. I may not speak Swahili but I do speak the language of faith and prayer.

Name something you want to learn more about
The three pillars of our partnership in Nyanzwa are prayer, presence, and projects. This is a prioritized list. To be honest, since I was assigned stewarding our partnership in Nyanzwa 16 months ago I have only been contacted about projects or funding for projects. I want to learn how we as a faith community at Easter can be praying with our partners in Nyanzwa and how we can be present to each other even when we’re not in the same room.

Describe one thing you’re worried about
It will be difficult being away from my wife and kids for so long. I’m mostly worried about my wife managing her job and our three lovely yet exhausting kiddos. Oh, and using squat toilets.