Victory

This trip was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I had such a unique perspective, getting to see the different ways God was working in each of the sub-villages. There were so many faces. There were so many stories. There was so much love. For the final day, I got to follow Amanda H and Brian M, who had spent their week in one of the outer-most sub-villages. This place was definitely off the beaten path, a perfect spot for such bold warriors. They were shown so much love and respect. Amanda ran around with the kids, and Brian sat talking to people about their lives, ultimately hoping to strike up conversations about their faith.

The most amazing part of the day was when they sat down with yet another Imam interested in Christianity. This was the 3rd of the week. He had requested a Bible to read and look at, a request they were able to meet. They sat down for about half an hour and taught him how to use the book and about the grand story that it tells. Many others sat around listening with to what Brian had to say about a God who made them and loved them.

Here’s what I learned this week: Victory takes many different forms, and true victory is determined by God. Everyone on our team worked so hard all week, but not everyone experienced the same results. Some were very content with their Muslim beliefs, while others accepted Christ. The one consistent element I observed in the villages this week was acceptance. Love was given and received in abundance, and whether or not a particular person was open to the gospel, they were filled and touched by the time we spent together. Seed was scattered everywhere, and even if it takes 50 years for it to begin to grow, I trust that God has a plan, and that no effort made this week was in vain.

All of the pictures I took this week are now up. One thing I wanted to focus on during this trip was faces. Crystal Fernandez told me in a letter to search the eyes of the children I met, and to speak life and truth into them. This is what I did, and I captured as many of those eyes as I could. I hope you’ll take the time to look through them, pray for them, and remember that the same God who spent an eternity crafting you gave them the very same attention.

Til next time,

Joey

Nothing But The Blood of Jesus

As evangelists in the village, we learn many Bible stories in preparation for this trip. Some of my favorites are the story of creation, the warrior Nahum, and the ever-obedient Noah. All of it, however, is pointing toward one story in particular, which we call The First and Last Sacrifice. It’s the “altar call” of our conversation, and is ultimately about how Jesus is the only way to have eternal life. This is contrary to the Muslim belief that you must pray, do good things, and make sacrifices in order to get to be saved.

I’ll get back to that in a minute.

Today I got to follow the journey of Sam and Brian R. One thing that has been really exciting to witness is the intentionality of God placing certain people together. Every partnership on this trip was a match made in heaven. Sam had this to say about Brian at the beginning of the week…

"Brian Rafeedy is my partner for the days we are out in the village. I told him and our translators that we met today that I'm scared. I mostly just meant to tell them so they knew to pray for me. Then Brian asked me why I was scared. Well Brian, it's because I don't know what the heck I'm doing, or what to talk about, what part of my story to share and which parts will be lost in the cultural differences. I didn't say all that, but I got my point across. Brian told me to focus on the thing God has been showing me the most in my life recently, because that's what I'll be most passionate about. Of course this is amazing advice but I over thought it, and told him that God has been teaching me so many different things. Then he gave me some golden advice "just relax"... What? Doesn't sound like ground breaking advice to you? Okay, maybe I've heard it before too, but when Brian said it he took my hand and told me God was going to work through me, all I have to do is show up and be His vessel. Somewhere on the outskirts of my mind that truth was hiding. And I needed someone to remind me of that. He said it in love and I realized how much I needed to hear that. I knew quickly it was God through Brian, because it pierced my heart and made my eyes well up. For Brian it probably didn't seem like a lot, the heavens didn't open and time didn't stand still. See Brian has been walking with the Lord for awhile, you build character that way. Brian Rafeedy has become the hands and feet of Jesus throughout his life. And today, for me, Brain was His mouth piece."

We got off the van, and Brian and Sam were immediately greeted as friends. Clearly they had been doing something right. I had heard stories of a woman that Sam called Mama, who she felt a special connection with. Today, she was hoping to tell her about Jesus. I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen.

Sam had felt led to bring her guitar, another incredible move of God. She sat down and began to play, and within a few minutes she had gathered a crowd of men, women, and children. They sat around her in fascination as she played through her songbook. This went on for well over an hour, and the concert eventually escalated to a full on dance party with all the village children jumping and singing around her. It all ended with Nothing But The Blood of Jesus.

Then we sat down with Mama, and after some conversation about her work, family, and home, I told her the story of how God created the world, which she enjoyed. However, when she was asked if we could tell her about Jesus, she denied the offer. This was definitely a disappointment, but to me, the work that Sam and Brian did in the village this week has been a tremendous victory. I was thinking back on the morning, and there was something beautiful and profound about the words Sam sang over these people…

   What can wash away my sin?

   Nothing but the blood of Jesus

   What can make me whole again?

   Nothing but the blood of Jesus

   Oh precious is the flow

   That makes me white as snow

   No other fount I know

   Nothing but the blood of Jesus

This has been a theme I’ve noticed throughout the week… whether or not these people are open to or interested in hearing the gospel, they have been deeply touched by the love we have shown them. They are eager and excited to talk to us and hear our stories.

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I also got to hang out with Brian and the village leader, who he had spent a lot of time talking to over the course of the week. He led us to a small lake behind his house, and he shared with me that he had 8 kids, but only 2 were alive today. It made me realize that the hardships we endure are universal, and that these people are not poor in the way we think they are. If you attend Rocky Peak and joined us for the journey through Rooted, you’ll remember that we are all poor. We are all broken, and we are all in need. The people of Tanga may live differently than we do, but I’ve observed a joy that we don’t seem to have in America. That’s something I’m trying to work on in my life, and it’s always a wonderful reminder that the luxuries we enjoy are not what brings us joy.

Much love, 

Joey

Juma

Traveling with Maddy and Quinn today was like following an elderly married couple. They’re both very direct and have hard opinions on the way things should be done. Having been to this village before, Maddy was definitely the leader, but Quinn did his fair share of talking to people and entertaining the many kids that followed behind at all times. Their first stop was a porch where Maddy had agreed to return to get her hair braided. The process took about 15 minutes, and it was a great opportunity to get to know the many villagers sitting around in fascination.

This was a very exciting day for Maddy. When she was in Tanzania is July, she befriended a man named Juma, a highly-respected Muslim leader in the village. I would have paid money just to see this process take place. What do a white girl from the valley and an Imam have in common? Almost nothing, expect for a desire to learn more about each other. She had been looking for him all week, and after the hair braiding had taken place, he came walking along the road. Maddy got so excited I think she scared half the village, but he was just as delighted to see her.

Their chemistry was amazing. He led us to his house, where they sat on a mat in the shade for an hour and a half, telling each other about their religions, sharing stories from their holy books, and discussing topics like the Holy Spirit, trying to please God, and who Jesus was. It was the first time I’ve seen a conversation taking place where it didn’t even feel like there was a translator present. It flowed naturally and seamlessly. It continued on as he took us to his Mosque, holding Maddy’s hand the entire way. It was a beautiful collision of culture, and I was so thankful to have witnessed it.

Much love,

Joey

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World Cup & Baby Ducks

Of all the partners working in the field, Will and Amanda V are the only two who have both never been in Tanzania before. As I watched them work together, this was evident, but not inhibitive to their ability to spread love around their village. They sat down with several families, introducing themselves and asking about their livelihood. They both brought a unique energy to the conversation. Will played soccer with one of the boys in the village, or as he put it, “Tanzania won the World Cup!” and Amanda got to hold a baby duck! They both jumped in headfirst and weren't afraid to give it their all.

Amanda said she was coming to Africa for love. You can tell by the heart-shaped sunglasses she brought along. She didn’t have a set agenda or expectation for this trip. She has just been loved by Jesus, and wants to give others a chance to experience that love. Amanda asked if that was enough… should she have more of a plan? No, she shouldn’t. If love alone brings her to Tanzania, it’s because she is full of faith. And that’s what God needs; that’s all he needs. I’m sure Amanda’s faith will give God the space to move mountains this week.

Will is a servant, and he’s willing and ready to help anyone in need. Not only that, but he is obedient to the Holy Spirit. As soon as he read about the trip, he felt a call on his heart, and couldn’t say no. It’s obvious why God called him here… these people needed him. I watched him quickly offer to help a woman who had to carry 3 buckets of water to her home. He had conversation with her as they walked, and she was truly grateful.

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Amanda and Will ended each conversation by offering to pray for the people they had been talking with, asking if there was a miracle God could work in their life. One woman asked them to pray for improved eye sight, and another woman simply asked for “a better life.” I listened to Amanda and Will both pray with authenticity and an earnest desire to bless these people. I guarantee they will never be the same.

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Much love,

Joey

Home Again

Today was our first day in the mission field. In teams of two, we headed out into villages, none of us really knowing what to expect. My partner on this trip is Tricia, and we were going back to the exact same location where we spent a week in March. Going to Tanzania is a once in a lifetime experience. Returning to visit the very same people 4 months later was an incredible gift, and very surreal. It’s the kind of place you think you’re only going to see once, and then suddenly you’re back and it looks exactly the same. It was like stepping into a memory, and in many ways, it was like coming home.

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We were immediately greeted by a man we met in March, who had expressed interest in our faith and had very intelligent questions to ask. We had ended the week by giving him a Bible. We also gave Bibles to 2 other women in the village who had professed faith in Christ, but were not open about their beliefs for fear of being thrown out of their village. Throughout all these months, we received no updates from our translator and guide Lazarus, who said he was going to go back to do follow up visits.

Then, on Sunday, we were reunited with Lazarus, who shared that he had gone back many times to visit these people. They had been meeting to discuss the Bible and their faith. This brought Tricia to tears (not just a single tear, by the way, it was a waterfall).

This man took us to a place outside his home, laid out two mats, and we sat down. For the entire day we shared stories from the Bible, taught him and others how to pray, and what it means to be a new creation. Another man joined us who we learned was the village leader. Tricia and I both prayed a blessing over them, and said we would come back tomorrow.

That evening our whole team gathered together and discussed the things that had happened during the day in each of our villages. There were amazing stories, and I wish I could share all of them with you. I’ll be teaming up with some other people throughout the week to document all that God is doing in their village.

See you soon!

Joey

Pursuing His People

Today I'm proud to present a guest post from Amanda H!

In the wee hours before the sun peeked through our windows and as the crickets chirped a morning tune, we gathered back onto our bus for our final trek to Tanga. We arrived in time for a traditional Tanzanian lunch of rice, French fries and chicken. In the later afternoon some of us were reunited with translators that became friends and others were welcomed into this amazing international family. We sang songs of worship both in English and Swahili and it was an amazing time of loving our Almighty Creator! We also received wonderful news that the people who were reached back in March are meeting with one another and one of the interpreters talked to one of the religious leaders of that village and he wants to receive a Bible! It’s truly amazing to witness God’s handiwork in all of this and how passionately He is pursuing His people. We closed the night with a group meeting where we professed who God calls us and prayed for the rest of our journey. We all then curled up in our cozy beds and prepared for our teachings and testimonies in the surrounding churches.

We Made It!

Well yesterday didn’t go quite as expected. We were a little late getting out of the Dar Es Salam airport, and we weren’t going to be able to make it to Tanga before midnight, so our leaders decided we should stop and spend the night at a hotel. This was a significant upgrade to the original idea of sleeping on the bus. We stopped, got some sleep, and jumped back on the road at 6 in the morning. Four hours later, after a total of 3 days of travel, we finally arrived in Tanga.

This bus ride is one of my favorite parts of the trip. It features fairly comfortable seats, incredible scenery, and great conversation with members of the team. This particular trip even included a bit of worship, some of which I got to lead, but most of which was led by Sam. It was her guitar after all. Speaking of Sam, she wanted to share some of her thoughts she wrote down on the plane.

We've lost a day in the travel. It probably wasn't lost, I just wasn't keeping track of it. I felt so little leaving for this trip. Now my heart is so full. I asked God to give me the strength to love Him with my yes and my obedience. I was worried because I felt nothing, my heart was heavy at best. Now, at this moment I am so full of joy. Everyone is taking pictures of this trip, so I'm sure I'll be in some of them. But I'm trying to pause. I never remember my trips the way I want to, I look at pictures years later and think "that is a cool picture" but it's not attached to a memory. So what I want to remember from today is that Amanda Horn has a fire for Jesus that encourages me to love God more. And Madison is so honest and true. I've never seen her be anything but authentic and in that I get to see what God is doing and be reminded of truth with her, because she allows people in to the process. And Brian Morehead is a lot of things- a fast walker, loud, fearless. But he is also obedient to the call God has put on his life. I know I'm getting to Tanzania not because Brian is fearless and a world traveler (which is also true). I know we are all getting there because Brian walks in the purpose God has given him, and with that comes authority and favor.

I'm so in love with all these people. Those are just the few I've been thinking about since waking up this morning. I'm trusting that the joy of the Lord will be my strength on this trip. How could I not be joyful? I'm surrounded by gifts from God. I forget sometimes that the best gifts God gives are wrapped up in skin. But right now, I'm so confident that I am loved because of the team. I know they are going for the people in Tanzania, as am I. But in this moment, it feels like they are here just for me. And I am thankful.

Side note: traveling tip- aisle seats are cool, but sitting next to the people you love is cooler. Don't pick comfort over a chance at community

Side side note: if you end up sitting next to a stranger, ask them their name. There's always more people to love in this world, even if all that love looks like is giving them your neck pillow.

We’re about to go meet our translators, and tomorrow we’ll be headed out to several churches in the area to speak and share testimonies. Thanks for all your prayers and support! See you soon.

Much love,

Joey

But First, Dubai

 Stopping in Dubai wasn’t part of the original plan for this trip, but due to some flight issues that I still don’t fully understand, we had an evening to spend in the home of the tallest building in the world! It was definitely a fun opportunity for the team.

After a 15 hour plane ride, we took the metro (or whatever they call the metro here) to our hotel, and then took two taxis from our hotel to the Dubai mall, where Brian gave us exactly one hour and ten minutes to hang out. It was just enough time to run around for a bit and eat dinner. Sam and Amanda V and I decided we wanted to eat at a place that we didn’t recognize. As tempting as the Wendy’s logo looks in Arabic, we decided to eat at a Falafel place in the food court. We some incredible chicken, curry, rice, and meat that looked (and tasted) like sausage. Quinn made sure that we didn’t get overcharged.

I want to take a moment to highlight Quinn. This kid will talk to anyone, and is always ready with a hundred questions to ask. He's really not afraid to put himself out there. I think this is the secret to experiencing the world when you travel. You have to engage with people. Even if it’s awkward and clunky, you have to just jump in and go for it. I’m hoping to learn from him over the course of the trip.

We have one more 5-hour flight in the morning, followed by an 8-hour bus ride to the place where we’ll be staying for the week. Thank you for your continued prayers, and we’ll see you tomorrow in Tanzania!

Much love,

Joey

48 Hours 'til Liftoff

Our global missions pastor Brian Morehead says that when a lot of people on a team are nervous about a trip, it means the trip is going to be good. If that’s true, then this trip is going to be amazing.

God made it clear that this trip is not about me. When I went in March, God did a lot of things in my heart. I learned a lot about myself, about God, and about his creation. This trip is about others. As the official videographer and blogger for the trip, I feel like my job is to tell the story of how God works through the members of our team. I will be capturing every moment, and I can’t wait to share it with you. These trips are once in a life time, and no one, not the members of our team nor the members of the village will ever be the same.

I’m so proud of everyone who has decided to make this journey, and I want to give you a quick introduction right now. You’ll get to know them better over the course of this trip, as they each will play a vital role in the story God is about to tell.

Brian M, our fearless leader, has probably lost track of the number of mission trips he’s been on. He is bold and courageous, and I don’t think anything or anyone will ever get in his way.

Tricia, my dear partner from the March trip, has made the decision to return to the people she fell in love with, in the hopes of spreading more of God’s hope and truth. She also plans on planting a house church among a group of believers in the village. I share this vision with her, and while I won’t be as involved, I will be watching and praying with her in this process.

Maddy is one of the funniest people I know, and first visited Tanzania in July of 2017 with RPYA. I’m SO (yes it needed to be in all caps) thankful she’s on the team, and for the energy and joy I know she will bring to every situation. She’s a warm and loving person, and I’m proud to call her my friend.

Quinn was in my men’s group this past session, and I am blown away by the fact that he is going on a mission trip so early in his walk with God. His fearlessness inspires me and I can’t wait to see him discover the gifts that God has given him on this trip.

Amanda V, who I’ve known for several years, is always smiling, which is one of the best qualities a person can have. She has overcome so much to be on this trip, and is a true source of light, one that I know is desperately needed in this village.

Amanda H is someone I’ve know from a distance but never been close with. She is one of the people I’m most excited to get to know. She has a quiet wisdom and is authentic and down to earth in a way that very few are. She was also in Tanzania in July of 2017, and I’m so glad she’s obeyed the call to return.

Brian R I have only met once in my entire life. However, I’ve heard his name around Rocky Peak for years, and his incredible reputation precedes him as a man after God’s heart. I know I’m going to love having him on this team.

Will, who I’ve known as long as I can remember, is a Rocky Peak legend. He has served in so many capacities and is truly passionate about pursuing God. There was no question in his mind when he felt God calling him to this trip. I know he will be a voice of wisdom and clarity for this team.

Finally, Sam, an incredible poet and woman of God, has amazed me with the gentleness and joy she so naturally shares with everyone she meets. I know the people of this village are going to adore her, and it is no mistake that she is on this trip.

These are the characters of God’s story, the people chosen by Him to carry out his mission of heaven on earth. I’ll be there every step of the way. You won't miss a thing.

With love,

Joey