"I'm not sure why I said 'yes' for this project in Tanzania," quipped Viorel Catarama, vice president for evangelism, Adventist-laymen's Services and Industries (ASI), at the training session in Tanzania, East Africa. "Once we arrived," Viorel continued, "it became evident that it indeed was God's will."
The team traveling with Viorel included Rachel (formerly Twing) and Randal Terwillegar from Illinois, and Carol and Curtis Frembling from Texas. Tammy Twing Pannekoek, a vocalist, came from Sydney, Australia. Their project was just one of many conducted by ASI officers and board members in partnership with the church. Their mission is to teach laypeople around the world to use the New Beginnings DVD series, written and produced by Mark Finley and It is Written. Part of the "Train Them Now" program, the goal of ASI is to empower more than 2,500 laypeople to preach the gospel in their home territories, using materials written in their own language.
The tools for the training session were taken as excess bags on the flights of the team. There was no trouble getting all 30 bags, weighing 70 pounds each, through Kenya customs, but Tanzania was a challenge. Twenty-four hours after entry, negotiations were complete, and the bags were released. With joy and thanksgiving to God for His goodness, the team continued to Morogoro for the two-day training event.
The team toured the facilities at the East Tanzania Conference, including a local church where the seminar was to be held. On their way to the church, the team passed a cemetary. "I did not know that our training session would be held just a few hundred yards from the place where my father-in-law, Dr. James Twing, was laid to rest," Rachel explained. "Seeing his grave put finality to the story of his death I had shared with my children."
"It was amazing to me that almost everyone I talked with had a connection to Ethel "Mama" Twing, who served the church in Africa for 30 years after the death of her husband Dr. James A. Twing," Viorel explained. "It is fitting that we train laymen here."
Training coordinator Musa Mitekaro (a pastor and professor at the University of Arusha), was just 14 years old when he came to work with Mama Twing, who at that time was a nurse at Heri Mission Hospital. She believed the work in Africa would be successful if Africans were educated and empowered for ministry. Musa is one of her many "children."
Laypeople traveled as many as three days to attend the training session. Upon completion of the two-day seminar a dedication service was held and Randal taught them how to use the DVD player. One by one each layperson was given their new tools, complete with accessories, New Beginnings DVDs, and a printout of each presentation in Kiswahili.
After the training was finished, some of the team visited the Kigoma region where the Twings served. Musa proudly escorted them through the region where he grew up. He pointed out church after church proudly displaying the Adventist logo. "Mama Twing helped us build that church," he exclaimed. "And this one too," he added.
Throughout their travels the team saw many people walking down the side of the road. These people walking down the road early Sabbath morning were different. Smartly dressed, they were carrying Bibles. It was evident they were on their way to church! It was exciting to see results of the work of one small woman with vision, one who was bold in her approach to ministry, whose personal sacrifice included more than her own personal comfort. "I didn't know all that time why Grandma spent so much time in Africa. She was not around much when I was growing up," her granddaughter Tammy explained. "Seeing the results of her work helps me understand her absence in my life. I have no regrets. I'll use what time I have now to fully understand her, and quite possibly, tell her story."
The team briefly toured Heri Mission Hospital and brought gifts to 230 students at the newly established Twing Memorial School. Their trip was perilous, and they even got stuck in the mud with a vehicle renamed a "4 Angel Drive."
As the team began their journey back across Tanzania, they stopped for a photo at the entrance to a refugee camp. They later learned that Musa was concerned about a man standing there, worrying that he would notify friends hiding in the jungle down the road that a profitable ambush target was headed toward them. The photo was quickly taken, and Musa made haste down the highway. A phone call later confirmed that indeed was what happened. Two vehicles following the team were robbed! "Yes, we were riding in a 4 Angel Drive, with the Master of the Universe watching out for us," exclaimed Rachel.
The story of this project is told and illustrated on a blog at africaoutnback.blogspot.com.