Graduations! Sept. 2017

Above: Great to see our students graduating at AIU in Nairobi!

News from AIU in Nairobi

I (Steve) am excited for my students who graduated from our Intercultural Studies PhD! Two are now home ministering in Nigeria. Moses (above, on the left) completed the World Christianity track. Michael (on the right) became was my T.A. He graduated from the Islamics track. I continue to supervise Abram (in the middle). He has been teaching in a Bible school Tanzania for many years. Adding a wife and 3 children slowed progress, but he recently sent me a draft of his research findings. 

Below: Hannah represented at AIU gradutation, celebrating here with Michael, who became our family’s friend while doing his MDiv in Missions and PhD.

Home assignment:

Itinerating: We have visited all of TEAM’s regular church supporters and nearly all of the individuals. In March through May, we traveled from coast to coast. While some have shifted all or part of their giving to other missions, the majority have continued to support TEAM. Many expressed excitement about continuing to participate in all that God is accomplishing through TEAM.

Writing: I completed a draft of the major section on “What the Bible says about witchcraft” as well as some other sections of the “What about witches?” book. I am working with the co-author in Nigeria and editors in UK and Kenya. Writing is hard work! Writing together is even harder, but will make this much better. Jan is nearly done writing up her 4th of 5 dissertation chapters.

News from LVCC in Tanzania

Above: LVCC graduates and spouses celebrate!

LVCC’s 3 residential sites have continued at the doubled rate for the past 3 sessions! (Including spouses, a record 197 studied in the spring.) In fact, they  need to split the Mwanza site into 2 sessions.

Below, 23 LVCC students graduated Sept. 3rd in Mwanza (18 men and 5 women). It was a celebration, praising God for his faithfulness, with lots of dancing, worship, and food!  See our website for a video:  https://youtu.be/SqVsVU-3OH0

 

Below: Benester is teaching the class in “Christian Family” to students and spouses. (We started giving scholarships for spouses to attend this when Jan taught it years ago.) They taught in the Mwanza PEFA church building, since they could not fit into our one classroom. 

Please pray for upcoming travels:

UN Witchcraft and Humans Rights Experts’ Workshop

Sept 17 – 25, Geneva:

Although this is a secular conference, I have been invited to speak on what the church is doing in Africa to address it. I also was able to convince them to invite Samuel Kunhiyop to speak. Jan is attending as an expert participant, related to her work on the village education programs we developed.

Pray that we build relationships with others addressing this issue.

Travel to Tanzania and Kenya:

Nov 27 – Dec 31 trip with ten others

Ministry at BCF
We have really enjoyed the multicultural community of BCF, St. Paul. It is amazing to every Sunday talk to people I have been in this church with for 35 years and talk to others in Swahili. God has answered my prayer to speak to his people as I have been preaching through Genesis.

Above: Rachel began and taught a literacy program in a Nairobi slum

Family Update

This summer all four of our kids lived somewhere in Africa. Rachel went to start a program teaching English and Swahili literacy in a slum where a missionary friend lives and ministers. She and Hannah enjoyed living together again. Isaac did community development in a small Ghanaian town. Justin continues assisting public health research in Mbarara, Uganda.

 

 

TEAM Pix: August 2016: 3 Rs

Thanks for your prayers for our intensive courses. Jan just finished her grading. I am still grading and supervising PhD students (like those from my intensive class above).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leading, ‘Riting and Relationships

We are now in St. Paul, Minnesota for a year of ministry focused on the 3 Rs: leading, ‘riting, and relationships.

Writing: After 8 years of teaching, AIU has given me a year sabbatical. I will move the “What about witches?” book to the front burner. God enabled Jan to interview over 60 international students and professors around Nairobi. Now she needs to type up and analyze them and then write her dissertation.

Relationships:  Home assignment as a missionary means focusing on relationships with the USA members of the TEAM, this time especially with our sending church (Bethel Christian Fellowship http://betheltwinscities.org/#/home). TEAM is a ministry of BCF. For 22 years, BCF has graciously contributed significant administrative and financial support every month and passed on every dollar from other donors.

Leading: BCF’s elders have asked me to serve as interim senior pastor from Sept 15. They want me to split my ministry between pastoring and TEAM for some months while they call the next pastor. During those months, BCF will pay half of my salary and continue fully supporting TEAM. TEAM will pay the other half of my salary. Please pray for effective ministry in all of our roles.

Rasmussen Family Reunion at Sand Hill Lake Bible Camp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rasmussens (above) met at camp in August.  The Horsagers (below) gathered at the family farm in July. What a privilege to be with family!

Horsager Family Reunion at Clar-Mar Farm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pastor-students at LVCC more than double!

TEAM will also continue to support Lake Victoria Christian College (LVCC) with three quarters of its expenses. Those expenses have increased for a great reason: 170 instead of the usual 85 or so ministers were trained last session in the three short-term residential sites. Most of these new students are pastors of churches who have not had opportunity to attend any Bible school before.

Musoma school last session. Please pray for the current sessions.

 

Right now, Musa, our former student and current missionary to the unreached is teaching missions in Mwanza while Nestory is teaching Books of Moses in Musoma. The Ngara school starts the end of August.

TEAM Pix March 2016: Witchcraft Accusations and the Church Conference a Success!

Witchcraft Accusations and the Church Conference

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for your prayers. The Witchcraft Accusations and the Church Conference in early March in Nairobi went great!  Over 200 scholars, students, and church leaders participated for two days – double the number and time we have had at any previous Africa Society of Evangelical Theology (ASET) meeting. We also plan to produce two books. (ASET is finishing its first book from last year’s conference.)

Steve speaking in the general session of the conference

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What does the Bible say on witchcraft?

The first day, various experts, mostly African elders, shared their expertise on the topic. Steve connected the research, the practical situation in the villages, and the Biblical teachings. He really challenged us to trust in God’s power (not fear deceivers and accusers), and to care for the accused (usually widows, orphans, and the vulnerable). Steve’s hard drive crashing that morning made him trust God – and the Holy Spirit REALLY enabled him!

Before the meetings, Bishop Sam Kunhiyop and Steve, with writing expertise from Hannah, discussed the book they are writing on witchcraft accusations for pastors, funded by Tyndale Foundation.  Pray for this book to come together. This will be a priority in our sabbatical this next school year.

Church leaders’ working group

 

 

 

 

 

Church leaders and researchers go deeper

Then, as a follow-up from our 2013 conference,  20 of us committed to working on this issue met for two days to share in depth what we are learning and doing about witchcraft accusations around Africa, and to make plans to collaborate more. Steve’s mentor Dr. Priest led us.

We discussed some of the things we had been posting on the blog at http://henrycenter.tiu/section/witch-accusations/. For example, how Nigerian movies (from “Nollywood”) are spreading witchcraft beliefs in new forms around Africa (The most recent post by Kunhiyop’s on this had over 10,000 hits.)

From the DR Congo, we heard Rev. Abel Ngolo report how families and some pastors identify children as witches and even torture then to exorcise the witchcraft. However, he is ministering to these children and teaching pastors how to better handle the situation. (In Kinshasa, 70% of 20,000 street kids were chased from their homes for such accusations).

Members of this group conducted and conference and then a survey of 700+ pastors. One result of the survey was that pastors with less theological education were more likely to be accusing children. Because Pentecostal pastors have less training, they are also more likely to be involved. (Training saves lives!)

Jan and the deans leading session on Tanzania village workshops

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reporting on village seminars in TZ

Many were impressed with the training being done by the Pentecostal pastors we work with in Tanzania. The Lake Victoria Christian College (LVCC) deans presented with Janice their approach to this hot issue in 19 seminars to over 1000 villagers. Jan contributed her expertise in adult education to the whole four days. She submitted a post for the blog so you can read more soon..

Connections

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We enjoyed this conference because we got to introduce our friends to each other: 10 church leaders from Tanzania we have worked with for decades, colleagues and students from AIU and other theological schools, as well as Steve’s mentors from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago, who sponsored it with ASET. Above, Steve is with the former Dean Tienou of Trinity International University, Chicago and the LVCC Deans from Tanzania:  Revs. Benesta Misana, Raphael Okeyo, and Nestory Lunyilija.

Coalition formed

Out of the desire to make a difference we formed a coalition: Light: Christians Addressing Witchcraft and Witch Accusations. Steve was encouraged to lead this group into vision, a mission statement, etc. We formed a board of ten top scholars and church leaders, which includes the heads of three churches based in Nigeria, Ghana, and Malawi totaling more than 14 million Christians. Other members are from Kenya, DR Congo, Burkina Faso, USA, and UK. Please pray for this community of Light to move ahead in bringing light to local communities.
Prayer update:

  • Thanks, too, for your prayers for Chinyere Priest.  She is recovering.
  • Jan got ethical review board approval.  Pray for the Kenyan government research permit to come quickly and for her interviews.
  • Jan and Steve have 3 intensive courses to teach in April as well as Steve finishing his regular semester courses.
  • LVCC in Tanzania: Record numbers of students in the one-month intensive terms (53 now studying in Musoma and 59 in Mwanza) have brought great opportunity and challenge.
  • Thank you!  We appreciate your  concern and prayers.  God is faithful!

 

 

 

 

 

 

TEAM Pix March 1, 2016: Pray for Witchcraft Accusations and the Church Conference This Week!

Witch Accusations and the Church conference

For the next four days, Jan and I will be staying at another university. Wednesday and Thursday we will discuss with a small working group what we have done related to Witch Accusations and the Church since the 2013 conference and make plans for next steps. Friday and Saturday we will be presenting to 150 leaders on these topics.

We are sponsoring 12 top Church and Bible College leaders from Tanzania to come and be part of this. I look forward to friends who I have worked with for decades meeting each other: from Mwanza, Chicago, Nigeria, DRC, Ghana, Malawi, Canada and Kenya.

I and others have been working hard to pull this all together.  But this will only be worth anything if God does his work. I know that Satan loves accusing, deceiving, and threatening with this, but I also know that God is trustworthy and all-powerful.  He loves the vulnerable especially (who are often accused). Please pray!

We had a good few days in Mwanza in January working with the LVCC deans. Here Janice discussed the presentation she will do together with them at this conference about the 15 seminars about witch accusations that they did. All but Pastor John Mwanzalima will come. Almost a year since his accident, he is still not well enough to travel far or sit long.

Please pray for complete healing for him and also for Chinyere Priest. She is my teaching assistant, PhD supervisee, and an enthusiastic learner from Nigeria. She planned to be part of this conference. She had an operation, but they cut her colon so she needed another operation to fix that. She just got home after 24 days in the hospital – mostly in intensive care. She is still in much agony, but praising Jesus for sparing her life.

Pray for Jan. She completed all revisions on her PhD research proposal. Now she is completing a detailed ethical review process, but is running out of time to do her interviews and survey before summer.

We also appreciate your prayers for our daily life, relationships and tasks. We are well and our teaching is going fine. Pray for our revision of our MA theology curriculum. Continue to pray for AIU leadership, vision, finances, and future. God enables us through your prayers.

 

TEAM Pix Aug. 2015 Tenwek Hospital Missions Week

Thank you for praying for our ministry to Tenwek Hospital staff this past week!

God touched people as Steve spoke in three evening services at their Medical Missions Emphasis Week.

Tenwek Missions Week

“We treat, Jesus heals” is seen everywhere. We learned from them and Steve challenged them in following Jesus model in Luke: declaring the kingdom of God with teaching, healing, and dealing with demons….even to our “enemies.”

Tenwek Hospital sign

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our host, Elijah Bii (pictured with his family) is chaplain to the staff and a 2015 AIU graduate.

 

Tenwek hosts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the mornings Steve spoke for various departments’ devotions, like the doctors’ below.   He drew on his research and writing on holistic, integrated Christian responses to sickness.  We also discussed with doctors, chaplains, and others how they do this and their questions and plans to do better.

Tenwek morning sessions with medical personnel

We interviewed leaders in the Community Health and Development Program which is doing amazing outreach work in so many communities. Since this is one of the effective Christian organizations we have been studying in our Africa Leadership Study, it was great to meet them and learn more.

 

Interviewing Community Health professionals at Tenwek

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Community Health Development Program’s motto, translated is “prevention is better than cure.”

Tenwek Community Health

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Their work reminded me (Jan) of my past Extension nutrition work in communities, but with a Jesus model and a church base.  They are working on issues like safe water, HIV/AIDS, immunizations, and community empowerment

On the four-hour drive out we had a problem with the car, but praise God we got it repaired in just an hour (and the mechanic found another problem that could have caused bigger issues).

This week: 

Today is Graduation at Lake Victoria Christian College in Mwanza, TZ.

Sunday, Pastor Tom and Alice Flaherty from Madison, WI will speak at our church and then spend a few days with us.

Monday we begin our first Semester at AIU.  Steve will teach Social Anthropology and Contextualization for masters and a PhD seminar on Research Methods.  Hannah starts her MDiv, part-time.  I (Jan) will teach Adult Education Theories.

Rachel and Isaac will head out for a week of Cultural Field Studies with Rosslyn Academy – going to different Masaai sites.

 

TEAM Pix March 2015 Writing and Teaching about Witches

My (Steve’s) research on sickness, death and witches taught me how critical this is to people’s life and faith in Jesus in Tanzania, Africa, and the world. For example a person suspected of being a witch is murdered every day in Tanzania alone. But at first, my attempts to teach and write about this met with repeated closed doors. So we kept praying and talking. 

God has now opened many doors! Now we really need YOU to pray us through them!

Teaching counselors and teachers

 

In December, John Jusu and I taught probably the first class ever in “Witchcraft, Accusations and Counseling” at the request of the psychology and counseling department at AIU (below).

Those who we taught in the 2013 seminar in Tanzania have now begun seminars in 15 locations across NW Tanzania inviting church and community leaders to respond better to witchcraft accusations and persecutions.
Writing
The article that Hannah and I wrote for the top missiology journal inspired them to make a theme issue, which is free online. (Go to this link http://www.internationalbulletin.org/issues/2015-01/2015-01-012-rasmussen.html)
IBMR article by Steve and Hannah

 

I have also been asked by the Henry Center for Theological Understanding to join a team of mostly African scholars and church leaders who will be blogging on this topic for the next 10 months. I will write 10 blog posts and respond to others.

I am nearly done with the first draft of an article and 18 notes on particular scriptures related to witches for the Africa Study Bible.

Samuel Kunhiyop, Hannah and I now have Hippo Publishers committed to publish our book on “What about witches: Christian response to sufferers and suspects” – once we write it.

ASET – I am currently chair of the Africa Society of Evangelical Theology. This Saturday (March 7) is our annual meeting. We focused the theme on Christian Response to Suffering and more than doubled the number of presentations on everything from terrorism to Job. Presentations somewhat related to witchcraft will include Janice, myself, Bob Priest (my former supervisor – USA), and 2 students I am supervising. Dr. Isaiah Majok Dau, bishop of the Sudan Pentecostal Church will be flying in straight from the fire of war in Sudan.  We have an agreement with Langham literature to make a book from the best of the presentations.

The following week (March 9-13) Jan and I will go to a writing retreat where I and others will revise and finalize our chapters for a book from our Africa Leadership Study. I am writing about the top African leaders’ use of intercultural skills – NOT about witchcraft for a change.

Please Pray! So far, writing has been a struggle.  All of these have something due in the next week and more in the months ahead! Only the Holy Spirit through your prayers can enable Jan, myself and others to write what will reduce fear, ostracism, beatings and murders. Only God can give us the focus and fruitfulness to write all of this in addition to all of our regular responsibilities (For example, Jan is teaching one class and finishing her last PhD class. I am teaching three and supervising 7 student’s research projects.)

Other prayer requests:

  • Good guidance for Janice as she writes her PhD dissertation research proposal.
  • Challenges at AIU: Clear vision, Student – management disagreements, Finances
  • LVCC: Now teaching an intensive month of classes in both Mwanza and Musoma, Title deed for the 17 acres in Mwanza, Finances

 

Greetings and news from Hannah – Aug. 2014

Dear friends and family,

Thank you so much for your support these last few years. Thank you for calling me, feeding me, letting me stay at your house, sending me cards, doing fun things together and praying for me. Your welcome has made me feel at home during my time in college. I did a research paper about missionary kids and realized again just how rich I am in friendship and how much of my success I owe to you all, and your prayers.

I’d love your continued prayers for my next step. After applying for many jobs, an unexpected opportunity fell into my lap. My new supervisor was praying for help with the Africa Study Bible and happened to connect with my dad. He offered me a one-year Editorial Assistant position in Nairobi. I’ll be moving in mid-August and will live with my family. I’m very excited about this chance to use the writing, cultural analysis and ministry skills I’ve developed at Mac! It was a total God-thing.

I’d love to hear more about how you all are doing. Now that I’ve graduated, the best ways to keep in touch are through email or at my new writing projects website (including a poem about my job decision process): hannahras.wordpress.com

Or Facebook / Skype / visit!

Love,

Hannah

Witchcraft accusation seminars in Mwanza, TZ

President Obama joins us in Tanzania!

The US President arrived yesterday in Dar es Salaam to an exuberant welcome of official bands playing the Star Spangled Banner, followed by traditional drums and dancing. We watched some on the Swahili media, since we are in Mwanza, near Lake Victoria, not on the coast where he spent his 24 hours. Maybe the US will begin to build mutually beneficial partnership opportunities in one of the 10 fastest economies in the world? China has 5 times the trade with Tanzania as the US.   Hopefully Obama’s visit to Tanzania will be as fruitful as ours has been.

Seminar on “How can the church help those victimized through witch accusations?”

 

Seminar participants discuss “What makes a good village?”

 

Ten of us gathered to plan the seminar together for 2 days.  Then about 40 from 6 church denominations (see above) participated in the 4-day seminar with the aim of helping the church help those accused of witchcraft in their churches, villages, and families.  This seminar came out of Steve’s PhD research which revealed that most deaths in this area of Tanzania are blamed on someone causing the death, using witchcraft.  How exciting to bring his ongoing research back home so that Christians here can grapple with local issues and try to come up with solutions.

His student at AIU from this area, Joshua Lusato, also researched on the prevalence of belief in witchcraft and resulting cases of people killed as suspected witches. Great to see how he has been transformed in understanding and passion on this issue! According to his research on police records, at least 67 suspected witches were killed each year in just the Mwanza region [and 500 in Tanzania]. Only 10% of those cases have suspects and only 1% have gotten to court. 80% are women and the great majority older. Joshua’s wife Pendo is a legal advocate and explained the laws against witchcraft and accusing people of being witches. At the beginning of the conference some students were saying that we should be Biblical and kill the witches. By the end most had seen that God loves everyone and He commands that the church love the widows, poor, orphans, and outsider, even those who some label as witches.

 

Eight people at the conference shared their stories of being accused of being witches…

Some of the seminar attendees, including 5 pastors, who have been accused of witchcraft!

One of the widows above had her house burned down and was attacked by her nephew, now no one will sit by her in church. Another widow had to pay a cow as fine for bewitching a grand nephew.

 

Prisca has been a pastor’s wife for nearly 50 years.

We know Prisca’s husband and son well in ministry. She sat next to Steve in the service where he preached on defending those accused as witches. Afterward she shared why she was visiting: One night this April, she found herself surrounded by a crowd of young armed men who intended to kill her.  She managed to get help from the police who kept her in jail to keep her safe until her son came to bring her to the village until things cool down. The root is conflict with her daughter-in-law who accuses her of bewitching her son. The spark was a neighbor accusing her of making her sick.

 

Digging into scripture to see what the Bible says about caring for the widow, orphan, poor, alien, needy as well as about sorcerers, witches, and magicians.

 

Jan leading small group discussion

The seminar laid solid first steps to helping churches see how many helpless people are accused of being witches, because of envy, greed (wanting their land or house), and broken relationships in an extended family or clan.  Afterward at the LVCC board meetings Steve and the leaders made plans to teach interdenominational seminars to encourage churches to defend the victims – usually widows, the poor, outsiders, orphans, and the powerless. Please pray for funding and wisdom for this. Steve also plans to write a book in English and Swahili to help pastors confront these issues. He has asked some of these teachers to contribute to the book.

Thanks for your prayers… and please continue to pray!

It has been fun to be back in Mwanza these two weeks and to see friends, including former students and church leaders.  We will be back in Nairobi in time to grade papers and for Rachel and Isaac to be junior counselors at Camp Blue Sky for a week. Then we go to our missionary retreat on the coast for a week.

African scholars in Minnesota – July 2013

Our couple months in the USA is winding down. We fly to Nairobi Aug. 10.

We asked you to pray for this opportunity…

 

I really enjoyed connecting a dozen of my African colleagues with my missiology colleagues and even my Dad, Janice, Hannah and Justin at the American Society of Missiology (ASM) annual meeting in St. Paul. I also enjoyed presenting and learning with them in both the track on “witches and witch accusations” and on our “Africa Leadership Study.” This was followed by meetings on how to co-author books on each of these subjects. Please pray for our writing.

Scholars with Tite at ASM

(Above) Academic generations together in Minnesota: Tite Tienou and Bob Priest (middle men) taught David Ngaruiya (left) and I. On the right is my PhD student and research assistant, Maggie Gitau. Bob, David, Maggie and I are part of the team researching and writing the Africa Leadership Study. This picture was after the official presentation of a book in Tite’s honor that Bob, David, I, and others wrote chapters for (below):

 

Book cover in honor of Tite Tienou

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day, Prof. Samuel Kunhiyop and I planned how we will write a book together for African pastors about how to respond to those who are suffering and to those accused of causing suffering through witchcraft. I have been seeking for years for an African co-author for this book. He is perfect. He has deep pastoral passion and insight on this subject. He brings his experience as the general secretary of the 6 million member ECWA church of Nigeria and its sister churches around the world. His African Christian Ethics and African Christian Theology books have blessed many. Pray for God’s enabling to accomplish this on top of our many other responsibilities and knowing that the true Enemy  (the Accuser) does not want this to succeed. May God be glorified and widows, orphans, and the poor be protected and encouraged!

 

Working on book for pastors about handling witchcraft accusations

 

My daughter Hannah helped a great deal with her writing advice and will be editing this book with us. She also has other news that we are all excited about… stay posted for her email!

International students, international wedding, and international leadership conference

God really answered our prayer today! We tried lots of hassle for 9 months to get our Tanzanian work permit renewed (so we can be fully legitimate when working in Tanzania), but were finally told we could not have one. This week, in a last attempt to get our money refunded, immigration gave the permit today instead!

Tomorrow until July 4, we will be going back to LVCC in Mwanza Tanzania. We will meet as a board for updates on the Bible school, church, and orphan ministry. But the primary purpose is to meet with leaders from various denominations to design a discussion-based seminar about witchcraft and witch accusations. Then, together, we will train trainers to lead discussions in the villages. Now, people live in fear and suspicion.  Poor widows are often persecuted and alienated as accused witches. As many as 5 suspected witches are killed each week in these areas and rarely is anyone convicted of the murder. The churches have not effectively responded to this. The power, truth, and love of Jesus are needed.  Please pray for the right leaders to come, wisdom from the Holy Spirit in designing and training, funding, and transformation in these villages.

Above:  International students led worship in chapel June 6, singing in various languages represented at AIU.

 

Please pray for AIU in this time of major transition.  As AIU has expanded by adding new programs, the expenses of expansion have exceeded the expansion of students and donors.  This expansion and the sudden death of the Vice Chancellor, V.C. (our college president) has brought new leadership.  We are excited for the new V.C. who begins July 1.  Professor Nassiuma was V. C. of a larger Kenyan university previously and has been at AIU in another job for one year.  Pray for clear vision and wisdom from God for AIU’s many new leaders.  Also pray for a reconciliation process happening in chapel this week.

 

Praying for AIU students at marriage negotiations

 

Two or our AIU students, David and BJ, are getting married July 19.  Above: We represented David’s parents in dowry negotiations in the Meru area of Kenya.  Here, we are praying a blessing on the couple at the celebration, after they had been wrapped together symbolically in traditional cloth.

 

 

 

Mount Meru

 

Great views of Mount Kenya on our way back from Meru.

 

 

 

 

Leadership conference

Above is the very international group who met to further the Africa Leadership Study.  Research continues around the continent.