Christmas gift opportunities – Dec. 2013

Looking for a unique Christmas gift for someone who has everything AND someone who doesn’t?

LVCC grads in Tanzania

Let us share with you a few of the fun giving/investments that our family has been doing for several years….
You are welcome to join us:

  1. Scholarships: $15 x 10 givers = $150 for a Tanzanian minister to study for an intensive term [$1200 for a whole diploma course - like those pictured above]

  2. Necessities for the most needy orphans and widows. Local Tanzanian churches give the most needy what is most needed whether that is food, job skills, school fees, etc. The churches have already carefully selected and sacrificed to help 106 widows and 114 orphans regularly. We get to add something to encourage them in this great work done sacrificially with close-up wisdom. [any amount]

  3. We have enjoyed contributing to the tuition of 9 of the regular LVCC teachers’ children for several year [any amount]

  4. Defending widows and others from persecution as suspected widows: $80 X 10 givers = $800 for each 3 day seminar for village government officials, health officers and church leaders

If you want to give a unique gift like this or an end of year contribution to Training East African Ministers, hit the donate button at http://team.wingriver.com/ or send a check to TEAM, 1466 Portland Ave. St. Paul, MN 55104.

Does your wife work? Oct., 2013

Janice Horsager Rasmussen is staff, faculty, and student at Africa International University as well as working at home. She does not get a salary from any of those, but she does get an office.

Jan teaching “Personal and Spiritual Development” at AIU

As AIU’s International Student Coordinator, Jan has been working very hard for several weeks to welcome and help settle AIU’s 38 new international students from 17 countries. This includes arranging volunteers, having some for meals, connecting them with their housing, taking them for a first shopping trip, giving them campus tours, and connecting them with various resources on campus.

Hosting international students at AIU

“Wageni ni baraka” guests are a blessing!


 

She also manages all of the household, (good) meals, shopping and high school kids’ activities / transport. She keeps the rest of us going. She is an amazing wife and mother!!

But her home not only blesses our family. For example, half of the days in July and August we had families as overnight guests from Tanzania or USA.

For example, Guilds (pictured below) have been missionary friends since 2000. They also hosted us in their guest house for two weeks when we were teaching in Mwanza in June. They enjoyed cool Nairobi July-August weather for fires and smores. (Since we are a bit south of the equator and at 6200 feet elevation, those are our coolest months, like fall weather in Minnesota. The fireplace is our only heat.)

Mwanza missionary friends visit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All of this means that Jan’s M.Phil. research on learning experiences of international students at AIU informs her work, but has not progressed much for three months. She requests prayer as she is trying to make progress on it now. She has typed up her dozen interviews with international students and is now identifying the themes throughout the interviews.

Yes, God works through Jan’s gifts of hospitality, missions, and teaching! Please pray for God’s continued enabling to her in the many opportunities that he has given her. Pray for guidance for her future as well.

 

Family visits, “summer” 2013

In recent weeks we have enjoyed a missions retreat and old friends and family visiting from Tanzania and USA. Most of my brother, Nathan’s family (below) visited us after retreat for the first time since we moved to Nairobi 5 years ago.

Two Rasmussen families collected from East Africa and America: Nathan, Kristian, Isaac, Eirik, Steve, Janice, Rachel, Kari, Karen

What a joy to catch up with our maturing nieces and nephews who are serving Jesus!

Nathan’s family: Kristian has learned to fly solo in Florida where Kari is beginning her Masters in TESOL and continuing ministering to the homeless. Eirik was on his way from two years of teaching missions seminars and Bible school classes around Tanzania to a pastoral internship and living at our home church of Bethel Christian Fellowship – to the joy of Hannah and Justin. Nathan’s oldest, Tori, was four days drive away leading a church planting team.

Jan’s sister’s high school children from Minnesota, Paul and Katie Esslinger, joined us for 10 days of children’s ministry and fun.

Hiking on the rim of Mt. Longonot, about 1 ½ hr. drive from Nairobi. The volcanic crater is to the right and the surrounding Rift Valley floor which we climbed from on the left.

 

These four hiked all the way to the 9105 foot peak which is hidden by the clouds: Paul, Rachel, Katie, and Isaac.

We said goodbye to Paul and Katie at the airport 30 hours before a huge fire that just burned down a large section of it. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-23598012 Glad God is in control!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After all the grading comes… graduation!

Steve carrying the mace in AIU graduation procession

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am  privileged to now be following the man walking behind me: Africa International University’s experienced, humble, new Vice Chancellor, Dankit Nassiuma [on the left.] Saturday was his official installation as well as our AIU graduation. They asked me to carry the heavy brass mace which is the symbol of Africa International University. [The VC is equivalent to a USA college president. The Chancellor between us is a symbolic position.]

 

AIU’s 28th graduation ceremony

We have missed the friendship and leadership of Douglas Carew. Please continue to pray for AIU in this challenging transition time. Now we need renewed vision, students, finances, favor, wisdom. Pray that we will together fulfill God’s mission in His world: AIU is “Committed to His mission. Connected to His world.” We have a place in what God is doing! Thank you for taking your place by praying and financially supporting us so that we can freely give ourselves for “Christ-centered leaders in Africa educated to transform God’s people and world.” (see more at www.aiu.ac.ke)

AIU’s 2013 graduates – 95 students from certificate to PhD, with the top leaders in front.

 

                                           

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.

College Kids

Macalester Christian Fellowship retreat 2013

Hannah and Justin have finished the college year. Praise God for their exciting summer ministry and learning opportunities. Hannah felt called to do a full-time internship at our home church, Bethel Christian Fellowship. She succeeded in getting funding and was in Tennessee this past week as part of this Lilly discernment grant.

Both of them are very involved in Inter Varsity, which is increasing its impact for God on the Macalester (Mac) campus. Hannah will be president and Justin heading small group ministry next year.  See photo above on MCF on retreat.

Justin and others are at Inter Varsity Chapter Focus Week now. He will spend July at the Inter Varsity Leadership Institute. He is also life guarding at Mac and being a live-in “manny” for Nathan, son of our long time co-worker at BCF and TEAM, Maura and Dan Hackenmueller .

Heavy Hearts at Losing Kirby

The Smiths visit Tanzania in Aug. 2007

Please pray for Steve’s sister Linda in Seattle as she recovers from open heart surgery to repair a valve on May 14. This was exactly 4 weeks after the death of her wonderful husband of 37 years, Kirby Smith.   Pneumonia and leukemia were too much for him.
We celebrate a life lived faithfully – to God, his family, his church and his work.  We treasure sweet memories at family reunions, in Seattle, and especially when he and Linda came to visit us in Tanzania, Aug. 2007 (see photo above).

 

They were great encouragers to us, TEAM, and LVCC – in their witty comments, through their constant prayers and interest in the ministry, and in their significant financial investment in TEAM (they never missed a monthly check in almost 20 years and doubled it after visiting here).

 

We will miss Kirby on so many levels.  It has been hard to be away from family, but glad that others including Steve’s sister Lynette, his parents and soon Hannah can be with Linda.

Many out-of-the-ordinary opportunities!

ALS Kenya Team planning, with Dr. Priest

Advanced Contextualization: Suffering, Sickness, Death and Witches – yes, that is Steve’s new PhD class. Pray for the whole class, but especially for one student who buried her mother last Saturday.


This week, Steve meets with an international group of scholars to plan the next steps in the Tyndale-funded Africa Leadership Study (ALS). They will analyze 4000 Kenyan surveys as well as research from the Central African Republic and Angola.

He and 3 other Senior Research Directors will report on influential leaders and organizations they have studied (pictured above).  Pray for the results to contribute to effective church leadership in Africa.


Janice has already interviewed a dozen AIU international students for her MPhil research, which will increase her effectiveness as International Student Coordinator and, hopefully, improve how we all teach internationals.


Praise the Lord, the Bible schools in Tanzania are continuing well.  The Ngara school (near Burundi and Rwanda) is in session right now with 14 students and a line-up of teachers, many who gradated from LVCC.


Rachel and Isaac attend a youth group across town.  They are between leaders, so Steve is leading discussions on “Discerning God’s Will” for 5 weeks.  Pray for a real connection with the kids and for God to speak.