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Intense ‘hunger for God’ fuels student’s visit to Tanzania

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Sleep became somewhat insignificant to Boyce College student Charles Juma for eight weeks this summer.

Juma and a team of Youth Ministry International students traveled to Tanzania in late May to spread the gospel and train that nation’s youth workers. The team left after two weeks, but Juma stayed in the country for another six weeks to do follow-up visits and in-depth training.

He led devotions before sunrise and spoke until well after sunset. He watched as Tanzanians hungry to hear the gospel followed him from town to town. His days were long and grueling, but worth it.

“Each night I would get around four hours [of sleep] — if I had a lot,” said Juma, a student at the undergraduate school of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. “I would go to bed at midnight and wake up at 5 in the morning.

“Their hunger for God drove me to do what I was doing. They just would not let me rest.”

Juma knows Africa well. He grew up in Kenya — a country that borders Tanzania on the eastern coast of the continent — and served as a youth pastor in his home country for eight years before coming to America.

But even he was surprised by the receptivity of Tanzanians to the gospel. A total of 823 first-time decisions for Christ were recorded during Juma’s stay there — 680 during the Youth Ministry International’s team visit and 143 thereafter.

“There is just an opening in Tanzania like no other place as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “People are so receptive to the gospel, and people are just coming to the Lord in an amazing way.

“Even two weeks wasn’t enough to do what we were doing there.”

Juma and Boyce College student Bill Orange were part of a group of 25 Youth Ministry International workers from various colleges who preached open-air church services and conducted seminars for the first two weeks, teaching youth workers the basics of youth ministry. The team was led by YMI President and Boyce College professor Randy Smith. Team members conducted training seminars for youth workers for half a day before moving on to another church.

Following the YMI team’s departure, Juma made a follow-up visit to each church and conducted a more in-depth, three-day seminar. Three disciples followed him wherever he went. They will now teach fellow Tanzanians what they learned under Juma.

Juma began and ended each day with Bible studies for local families. The rest of the day was spent conducting seminars. But his seminar audience wasn’t simply youth workers. Juma often found himself speaking to laypeople who had simply come to hear a biblical message and to ask questions.

On one Sunday, a group of Christians listened to Juma preach and teach from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. Most of them had not eaten all day.

“They said, ‘We’re not leaving,’ I said, ‘You cannot stay here for another two hours.’ They said, ‘No, we want to be taught.'”

But their hunger for the gospel didn’t stop there. Often Juma would arrive in a new town, only to find the same group of people he had just left sitting in the crowd. They had made the 30-45 mile trek via bus to hear more of the gospel preached — even though Juma was teaching the same lesson at each stop.

Everyone, though, was not initially receptive to Juma’s message. Juma had a late-night encounter with a man who had a Catholic background and was very hostile to the gospel during his last week in Tanzania.

“He was very argumentative,” Juma said. “He would not even let me speak.”

Juma decided to take a more basic approach.

“I said, ‘If I brought the Bible here and opened it for you and give you verses and passages to read, would you still argue with that?’ He said, ‘No.'”

Juma pointed out several verses, and the man said he understood each one.

“I was tired. It was about midnight, and all of the family members were sitting there,” Juma said. “They were quiet. I told him, ‘If you really feel convicted, if you really feel you understood everything you read … then go to your room tonight, kneel down and ask him to come into your heart and forgive you of your sins.'”

The next day, Juma discovered that the man had asked Jesus into his heart. Even better, the man brought four friends with him to hear the gospel.

“He was pointing to his friends and he was saying, ‘I want you to talk to them.’ He was on fire,” Juma said.

The trip to Tanzania also gave Juma the opportunity to teach teenagers and young adults the biblical truth about sex. Juma said AIDS is a rampant problem in Africa because of ignorance and promiscuity.

“I created an area of awareness, but I also talked the spiritual side of it,” he said. “I said that when people begin to live a promiscuous life and a careless life — they’re not obedient and following God’s plan for sex. The Bible says that the cause of sin is going to be death. I told people that when we disobey God we can be assured that we will reap what we sow.”

On his final day in Tanzania, a group of believers presented Juma with a song they had written as a farewell gift. The song’s content? The lessons they had learned during Juma’s seminars.

“They remembered every bit of my points on the outline,” he said. “I loved seeing God work. It was amazing.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at www.sbcbaptistpress.org. Photo titles: CHARLES JUMA.

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  • Michael Foust