As long-term friends and supporters, Bay and Emma Warburton recently visited CMS workers, Matthew and Samantha Archer, in Bunda, Tanzania. Bay writes about the family’s visit and their perspective on the Archers' ministry and life in Bunda.
After years of reading the Archers’ prayer letter, it was such a delight to see everything first-hand and, now that we’re back home, to be able to picture them as they live and work in Bunda. We came home so encouraged by the time we spent with them… and we wanted to share why!
A long-term commitment
Throughout our visit, the beauty of the Archer’s long-term commitment to Bunda and its people stood out to us. Language is an easy example: Sam can haggle with the best in Swahili at the local markets and Matt could translate my sermon. Cultural practices were another: they could advise us to stand when privately praying with others and on how to ‘bid’ for a bag of rice given as an offering in church.
But what really stood out most was the depth of relationships formed within their community – people who have become great and treasured friends, deeply caring for each other both physically and spiritually. There are connections with the principal at the local school who came over one morning with some specific needs. We finished the meeting together in much-needed prayer – how special to pray with a brother we had only just met, but with whom the Archers have a special bond.
It was the same with the families of those who work at the Boys’ Brigade Mara Training Centre with Matt. One family graciously had us over for afternoon tea, welcoming us as their honoured guests and sharing their concern for their son (one of nearly six children) with cerebral palsy. Another mother was afflicted with a migraine and we prayed for her while her kids shyly joined the Aussie kids in a game of cricket outside. The Archers’ church family generously presented us with a gift of greens and yummy crops, when a week later their own were wiped out by drought.
A genuine hope
Our time with the Archers powerfully reminded us of 1 Thessalonians’ ‘sharing the gospel, sharing our lives’ (2:8) – opportunities abound for the Archers to speak the hope and peace of the gospel into their friends’ lives out of the love they have for their Tanzanian neighbours. And of course, such is the beauty of the gospel that the blessings of fellowship work both ways.
We were able to visit the training centre while Matt was conducting interviews for the 2017 students. We were deeply impressed by the strategic nature of the work with the boys there, equipping them with carpentry skills and deepening the boys’ knowledge of the Bible. This was such a thrill to see and the excitement over the number of enrolments was somewhat contagious!
Touching and feeling the wooden crosses that the boys make as their first project, seeing the toolboxes and work benches waiting for new hands to create, watching the group of young men waiting patiently for their entrance interview – it gave a whole new insight as to the hope this project offers. It is real hope, an anchor for the soul, with both practical and eternal opportunities for these young men.
The greatest need
It probably goes without saying that one of the overarching impressions of life in Bunda was the relentless poverty. We knew of it, but seeing the extent of it is another thing all together. Many people in Bunda are still manually collecting water from dirty sources. Many see education as the answer out, especially for their children, but the better schools can be expensive. Parents may have to send 12-year-old daughters away to high school to provide them with an education, but that puts their girls at risk of exploitation and abuse. The hardship of everyday life (and the Archers feel the weight of some of this too) involves endless dust and drought, irregular water supply, blackouts and tough choices upon tough choices.
And of course, the needs never end, nor do the requests for Matt and Sam to help people financially. I have come home with a new urge to pray for wisdom for them: how to choose who to help? When to say no?
But at the end of the day, our greatest need is the same in Tanzania and Australia. We share the same burden of sin and death. Even while we were there, we heard that one friend’s 12-year-old niece had drowned in a well, while another man’s brother had been killed in a bus accident. We all suffer the damning and painful consequences of living in a fallen world. Jesus brings light and life into this darkness.
And so we rejoice in the work that Matt, Sam and the kids are doing as they live and share their lives and the hope that they have with their friends in Bunda.
Consider planning a visit to your link missionaries to see what their everyday life is like and to encourage them in doing God’s work.