“Nimekuwa Kiumbe Kipya!”

Good morning, friends.

I am Davis Rhodes, and we are a team of 4 Tanzanians, 1 Mexican, and 3 Americans, making disciples among the Kuria people here in Northern Tanzania. We are QuadW Missional Skunkworks Tarime, hosted by Wesley College and located at Wesley House in the neighborhood of Songambele B, in Tarime.

Witchcraft is common in Tarime. In Tarime, “witchcraft” refers to attempts to persuade or manipulate the spirits of those who have passed away, as well as fallen angels, in order to receive help and favors here on earth.

I’ve heard many different things about witchcraft in Tarime, and I won’t be able to do justice to them here. Briefly, most Tanzanians believe that when an older woman or man dies, they remain active here on earth, and especially active among their children and grandchildren. They are believed to have great power over almost every aspect of one’s life, and are generally similar in behavior to how they were during their life. Tanzanians also believe that there is a separate class of spirits, often called “jini” or “mapepo”. These are fallen angels; evil spiritual beings of incredible power, who often appear in human form on earth. A recurring theme in Tanzanian folk stories, for example, is a man who looked only for physical beauty in a wife and cared about nothing else. This led him to marry a jini who had incarnated herself as a beautiful woman, and then she kills him shortly after the wedding, or works great mischief among his extended family, etc.

In Tarime, witchcraft falls into two categories. “Uganga” is cooperating with these spiritual forces to do generally beneficial things, and it is legal. “Uchawi” is cooperating with these spiritual forces to do generally malicious things. Uchawi is illegal, and kept secret. There is also herbal/traditional medicine, “tiba asili”, which does not make use of spiritual forces; this is not a form of witchcraft.

Of course, “beneficial” things depend on what the user perceives as beneficial; one very common use of uganga is for men to put spells on their wives to make them docile and obedient. Another common use of uganga, for men and women, is to put a spell on a member of the opposite sex that will make him/her agree to a marriage proposal.

In our everyday work of loving our neighbors and making disciples here in Tarime, we met a practitioner of uganga who I’ll call Salome (not her real name). Shortly after meeting her, she invited 3 members of our team to her house; Mwita, Raphael, and Tucker.

She knew that they were followers of Jesus, and she really enjoyed talking with them about spiritual things. She got excited, showing them all of her tools, herbs, and lotions, talking about where she got each of them and what they were used for. “This lotion was made from a lion’s carcass that I found; this one, from a crocodile.”

After a while, Mwita asked her about how her life was going, and the mood suddenly became more somber. “To be honest with you, I am really suffering”, she began. “Many years ago, my grandfathers came to me in a dream and told me to start living this kind of life. At first, it was good, very good. So much power, and easy money. But the grandfathers, they want more and more. I cure people of sickness, but I can’t cure myself. I help people to conceive pregnancies, but the grandfathers have stopped me from conceiving any more pregnancies, myself. And my husband left me. I used to have another business, selling clothes, but they have forbidden me from doing any other kind of work. They come to me in dreams, wake me up, and tell me to climb mountains, or to travel far away, on foot, even to the Serengeti. I’m so scared of what might happen to me if I say no. These days, my grandfathers even forbid me from taking payment for my work sometimes, and that makes us so hungry, me and my children. I have so many patients who come to me. They tell me about their problems, and I heal them, but me! I am suffering more than my patients, and there is no one to heal me! I want to go to church to see if Jesus can free me from them, but when I decide to go, I find that my feet and legs won’t move on Sunday morning. I sit in place, unable to move, until evening, until all of the worship services are over. They threaten me, too, that if I seek Jesus, they will take my mind, they say I’ll become like a wild animal. To be serious, I do not know what I am going to do.”

Mwita’s own mother had been a practitioner of uganga, and he responded with compassion and understanding. “I know it is scary, mother. It is obvious that you already know what you need to do, but it is difficult. I know. We will be here with you. We will be your friends, and we won’t leave you. Today is Saturday, and we will pray for you to be able to attend the worship service tomorrow.”

On Sunday, we were all surprised to see Salome at Rebu UMC. She said it was her first time at a worship service in years.

Over the weeks that followed, Mwita, Raphael, and Tucker continued to show patient, persistent love to Salome. They visited her over and over, talked with her about her fears, her suffering, and what Jesus was like. She really enjoyed their visits, and one Saturday she told them, “Wait, let me get a little faith, and I will gather all of my things of witchcraft and I will burn them, and then I will tell the spirits to leave. And then, I want to be baptized! I’m telling you, I am ready!”

The following week, Salome, Mwita, Raphael, and Tucker began meeting for prayer every morning at 7 a.m.

And on the next Sunday, October 23rd, she showed up to the worship service with a backpack bursting with gourds, charms, oils, and creams. She was shy, but determined, as she emptied the contents and asked that we helped her to burn them and break her ties with the spirits who had been persecuting her.

Then we all went down to the river to celebrate her entering into a new life.

The following Sunday, October 30th, the pastor asked if anyone had any testimony to share. Several people shared, and then Salome stood up. She couldn’t contain her smile as she said, “To be serious, I have become a new creature! I am free from the spirits of my grandfathers. I don’t have many things to say, but I feel so much joy!”

The title means, “I have become a new creature”. If you could pray for her as she steps into this new life, as she begins the hard work of starting a new business, and as she begins to make disciples herself, she would really appreciate that.

You can make more of this happen at by donating in whichever way is easiest:

Venmo: @DavisRhodes
PayPal: daviswarrenrhodesjr@gmail.com
Zelle: daviswarrenrhodesjr@gmail.com

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Uhuru kwa Wafungwa

Good morning friends.

At QuadW Tarime, we are a community of 4 Tanzanians, 1 Mexican, and 3 Americans living together, praying together, serving together, and making disciples together.

Every evening at 9 pm, we pray with our neighbors.

One of the first neighbors to come pray with us in the evenings was Mama Jeni. After praying with us every evening for a while, she asked if she could make an announcement. We agreed, and in her announcement, she asked if it would be possible for us to start preaching every night. We laughed, and agreed. Since then, we have had a very short sermon each night at evening prayer.

Mama Jeni (center), with her daughters, Jeni (left) and Fatuma (right)

We were looking forward to seeing Mama Jeni the following night, to show her that we had taken her suggestion seriously, but she did not show up. This was odd, as she was usually so consistent.

The next morning, her daughter Jeni shocked us by telling us that Mama Jeni was in jail.

“Why? What happened?”, we asked, without thinking. We were just so surprised.

Jeni relayed to us how Mama Jeni and her friend Mama Kiri had never gotten along with one of their neighboring families. I don’t want to accuse this family publicly, so I’ll simply call them Neighbor 1 and Neighbor 2, a married couple.

The anger and hatred had built up after years of fighting and angry silence. Finally, Neighbor 1 saw a chance to really wound them. She had hired Mama Jeni and Mama Kiri to fill a large plastic drum with water. When the job was done, Neighbor 1 claimed that she had found poison in the drum, and that Mama Jeni and Mama Kiri were trying to poison her. No witnesses, no pictures, no evidence, but Neighbor 1 and 2 bribed the judge and the police. Mama Jeni and Mama Kiri were taken to the police station, given a very short trial (again, no witnesses), sentenced to 14 months in prison, and taken to their cells, all within one day.

We couldn’t believe our ears. How could a sentencing happen so fast? How could the judge hand them such a long sentence, without any witnesses or evidence?

The following Sunday, we went to the jail with their families and with quite a few of our neighbors. It was certainly true; there were Mama Jeni and Mama Kiri, wearing the yellow gowns that female prisoners wear in Tanzania. We greeted them, and they tried to hold back their tears. I’d never seen grown women of the Kuria tribe crying before. We prayed for them and promised them that we would do anything that we could to help them.

That Sunday evening, we had a meeting with their families. We were all confused as we tried to make sense of the details of the case. What we came up with, though, was that Mama Jeni and Mama Kiri had panicked when they were brought in front of the judge. In their panic, they had asked if we could please forgive each other and end this misunderstanding (the most common way of resolving disagreements in Tanzania). The judge replied that asking for forgiveness means that you have admitted to the crime. He ignored the other required paperwork, skipped due process required to imprison someone in Tanzania, and sentenced them to 14 months; even though his primary court only has the authority to sentence someone to 6 months or less.

We talked about what we might be able to do. It seemed easy enough. The judge had made some very basic mistakes in the sentencing. Couldn’t we just find a lawyer, point out the mistakes, and appeal the case to the Tarime District Court? Surely we wouldn’t encounter much resistance from Neighbor 1 and Neighbor 2 at the district court.

Between the two families, they could come up with $75. Hiring the lawyer would cost $140, so we put together our personal savings to help them pay the remaining $65.

It was easy enough to get an appeal granted, and the hearing was set for July 15th, which still meant 8 weeks in jail. We continued to visit them at the jail each Sunday, usually with their families and our neighbors. We felt so badly for their children, separated suddenly from their mothers. We did our best to visit these children and spend time with them, and one member of our community, Nancy Martinez, became an especially close and constant friend to these girls.

Our lawyer immediately petitioned for bail. But instead of hearing that it was granted, we were stunned to learn that the neighbors who had accused them had hired their own lawyer. Their lawyer was more skilled, experienced, and expensive than ours. He countered our request for bail, and the district judge agreed, and denied our request. We could hardly believe it. Neighbor 1 and Neighbor 2 were really willing to invest quite a bit of money, just to keep their neighbors in jail.

We met with the families again. We talked about hiring a better lawyer, and about trying to reach out to more contacts in the Tarime legal system. Shouldn’t we try and get more help, to counter this lawyer?

After quite a bit of talking it over, one of the families told us that they had good reason to trust this lawyer deeply. They simply, humbly, asked us to trust them and their lawyer. It was a difficult decision, and our whole team felt pretty anxious about it, but we agreed to trust them.

As the district court hearing drew nearer, we became more anxious. There were rumors that the accusing party had bribed the district judge. At one point, the accusing party sent a representative asking Mama Jeni’s husband to sign a vague document, on the promise that it could end the feud and free them from jail. He brought it to the lawyer, and the lawyer told him that this is a common legal trap, so he didn’t sign. Around this time, we learned that the primary court judge who had originally sentenced them had been removed from office and was now being investigated, due to multiple legal mistakes, and accusations of corruption.

Finally, the district court hearing arrived, and it was disheartening as well. Our lawyer didn’t even show up. The prosecuting attorney made an impressive showing, in spite of the original sentencing mistakes, and things looked grim. The judge said that she would review the case and deliver the sentence the following Friday, July 22nd.

We regrouped and met with their families. We all agreed that things looked bad, but we decided to reach out to Mwita, our assistant site director. Someone asked if our dear friend Anna Migera might be able to help as well. We reached out to Mwita and Anna, and they agreed to ask for a meeting with the district court judge to see if anything could be done.

Mwita Baita, a Tarime native, is QuadW Tarime Assistant Site Director, and a dear friend. I’m so thankful for him.

The meeting took place on the following Wednesday. After listening to Mwita and Anna, the judge fiercely replied that the time to take action had passed. She asked them to leave and to just wait for her to deliver the sentence on Friday.

On Friday morning, we met and prayed for the case, but we did not feel much hope inside. Friday is our day of rest, so most of us went back to our rooms after praying. A few hours later, as we were trying to rest, I became very annoyed by a large group of children who burst through our front door and ran into our house. “How many times do we have to tell them not to come in without knocking…” I said to myself.

Dinnah and Doto went to meet them, then suddenly knocked on our door, “Davis, Veronica, njoo!” (Come quick!)

“They are free! The sentence is just 3 months of community service. And even that… it’s only 2 hours, on Monday and Tuesday! They are out of jail, and they’ll be here soon!”

I couldn’t believe it. I called all of the other family members, scrambling to confirm it. Yes, yes, they all agreed. They are free, it’s over.

Evening prayer that night was a lively affair. Mama Jeni sang a beautiful, long song for us. Then she told us about how she hoped that we could continue visiting the other women at the jail. She wanted to continue showing them love, encouraging them, and helping them to become disciples of Jesus. Then, Dinnah preached. We were finally able to show Mama Jeni that we had taken her request seriously.

We had a party together the following day, here are some pictures. The title means, “freedom for prisoners” (Luke 4).

Left to right: Mama Jeni’s older sister, Davis, Jeni (Mama Jeni’s daughter), Dinnah, Nancy, Doto, a relative, Asha (Mama Jeni’s daughter), Mama Jeni’s husband, Mama Jeni

You can make more of this happen by donating in whichever way is easiest:

Venmo: @DavisRhodes
PayPal: daviswarrenrhodesjr@gmail.com
Zelle: daviswarrenrhodesjr@gmail.com

Note: We don’t really understand why they were allowed to go free. Mwita said that he did not know, but his best guess was that the judge was a basically kind and just woman. After our lawyer explained the case and the reason for the appeal, she wanted to set the women free. However, she also understood the pride of the Kuria tribe and their penchant for long-lasting, bloody feuds. After seeing the lengths to which the accusing family was going to win the case, she wanted to finish the matter by making them feel like they had won. She did not want it to be appealed, nor did she want out-of-court violence, but neither did she want the women to actually be sentenced to any time in jail. This was the reason for denying them bail, and for sentencing them to three months of light community service. I can’t say I understand this entirely, but this is our best explanation so far.

Imani ya Mwanamke

Good morning, friends.

What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? What does it mean to make disciples of Jesus?

Living as a mission team in Tarime- 4 Tanzanian young adults, 3 American young adults, and 1 Mexican young adult- living like Jesus, serving like Jesus, and making disciples of Jesus, these are two hard questions that we have been trying to answer each day.

A disciple is someone who practices a teacher’s way of living or way of thought. So at first brush, the answer seems simple… practice Jesus’s way of life and thought.

But then, of course, we are made with a lovely variety of personalities, shaped by our equally unique backgrounds, and we don’t live in 1st-century Palestine. What does it mean for me, being who I am, to live in the way of Jesus in the place where I am?

And then making disciples… it becomes more complex when we start to meet our neighbors where they are and invite them into this way of living. How can I know what this way of living will look like for my neighbor? 

This is what we have been trying:
Every evening, we pray and sing together for about 30 minutes, from 9 until 9:30 pm. To our surprise, this has been very popular with our neighbors. 30-40 of them show up each evening. It’s a happy, holy time, as everyone enjoys singing to God together. According to one of our team members, “The neighbors really like to pray at evening, because it makes them feel safe for the night. They feel like they will be protected from any witchcraft or demons for the whole night, from any evil forces that might try to come through their dreams.”

We wanted to see if any of these neighbors might want to enter more deeply into day-in, day-out discipleship; changing their everyday actions, and opening their hearts to be changed by God. So we announced that we were starting two groups, one for women, and one for young men.

In each group, we come together and read a story from Jesus’s life, and we talk about what we learned from it.

Then, everyone makes 2 promises: 

#1 Something that we will do differently during the coming week to live more like Jesus

#2 Someone who we will meet with and encourage to live like Jesus

The following week, we ask each person if they fulfilled their promises, we study the life of Jesus again, and make new promises.

Many people come once and then do not come back. Living like Jesus is a hard change for someone to make, and we continue to show patient and persistent love to the folks who weren’t quite ready.

When we do see someone steadily attending for 3 weeks, we give them a Swahili recording of the New Testament on a memory card, which they can listen to on a cheap radio or a small phone. Most folks do not enjoy reading, or cannot read, and we want them to have a full picture of who Jesus was and how he lived, so they can discern what it would look like for them to live like Jesus, in their circumstances.


Samweli has been taking steps to live like Jesus, and encouraging others to live like Jesus, week after week. Recently, he got a better work opportunity in the neighboring town of Sirari. We met with him and decided to start another group for young men, there in Sirari. It’s been going for 3 weeks now.

Manchale has been taking steps to live like Jesus, and encouraging others to live like Jesus, week after week. Living like Jesus has helped him to realize that he should start helping his wife around the house. For the first time in his life, he is getting water from the well, washing clothes, and walking his children to school.

Sabato has been taking steps to live like Jesus, and encouraging others to live like Jesus, week after week. He has realized that he should do his best to help people who have handicaps, and people who have recently lost a loved one. He spent all day helping his neighbors to dig graves, when two children (from different families) died within 24 hours of each other a few weeks ago.

I’ll refer to one woman as “Robina”. This is not her real name, and I will not share any pictures of her. Robina has been taking steps to live like Jesus, and encouraging others to live like Jesus, week after week. Her husband has no such faith, and believes that he has the right to dominate her, and he continues to appeal to his ancestors and the powers of darkness for power. Her decision has not been easy, but she continues to become more firmly committed.

At first, going to a woman’s disciple group and making commitments each week didn’t make too many waves.


A few weeks later, though, they noticed that their one child was no longer nursing, or eating. Hadn’t been, for a while now. Robina suggested that they take her to the doctor, and to the church next-door to pray for her. Her husband said they should take her out to a certain rural, remote location; he knew a good witch-doctor out there.


After a few weeks of fighting, the man inevitably won, and he took the child out to the remote village. The witch-doctor forced the 15-month-old to drink a brown herb soup, 3 cups per day, and they appealed to their ancestors each day for healing. As the situation worsened, Robina finally got desperate and asked us at QuadW Tarime to intervene. This was brave and risky; it is a big no-no in Kuria culture to ask for outsiders to intervene, against the will of your husband.


We visited them in the rural village, and were shocked to see that the child was no longer walking, or even opening her eyes. Fearing that the child could die of malnutrition, we pleaded with Robina’s husband to allow us to take the child to the Regional Referral Hospital. He told us that he didn’t think it would help, since something had gone wrong with the ancestors, but if we wanted to pay for it, he would let us do it.

We got the child to the major hospital within 24 hours, and one of the QuadW Tarime members (Gilbert) decided to stay at the hospital to help the mother with caring for the child and advocating for her in front of the doctors.

As far as I understand, the child was suffering from acute vitamin A deficiency. As they gave her IVs and fed her a type nutrient-rich milk, she slowly began to come back to health. The next day, the eye doctor came and said that the child would almost certainly never be able to see. As I understand it, vitamin A deficiency had caused xeropthalmia and major cornea damage. He told us that this normally happens shortly before death, and if we had waited a few more days, we probably would have lost the child.

This was crushing news for Robina, and made much worse by the way her husband reacted.

After returning, we realized that her husband believed that it was his wife’s mismanagement that had caused her child to lose her sight, and he saw that she was unsubmissive and unfit as a wife, due to her decision to ask for outside help. He set a plan in motion to send his wife and child to the village, and to look for someone who, in his view, would be a “better” wife.

At this point, Robina had a decision to make; to continue following Jesus, or to give up.

The prosperity gospel, so prevalent in Tanzania, would have her believe that these trials were evidence that she was not favored by God, and that she was wasting her time by following Jesus.
But after a few months as a disciple, she was beginning to learn that God wasn’t like that. She didn’t understand where exactly all of this suffering had come from, but she chose to believe that it wasn’t God, and she chose to keep following Jesus.

In fact, she doubled down on her commitment. In addition to our women’s disciple group, she joined the nearby Pentecostal church, joined the choir, and began to meet with the pastor regularly.

Instead of giving up on her husband and submitting to his tyranny, she began to pray for him each day. And slowly, she realized that he had a soft spot. If she could talk to him respectfully, softly, and clearly, he would listen to her. She shouldn’t have had to do this. But she saw it was a way forward in her marriage, and she chose it. Day by day, she would carefully communicate with him, and slowly, he began to see that she was a good, loving wife. He abandoned his previous plans to send her back and find a new wife, and a brittle sapling of love began to grow up between them.

Brittle, because he still sent the child back to the village for further treatment by the witch-doctor.

Brittle, because he chose to have a large ceremony where they killed a goat and appealed to their ancestors and the dark powers to stop interfering with his daughter.

But she stuck with it. 

9 months later, their marriage is not great, but it is better than it has ever been. 

The child still cannot see, but she has learned to walk, and to talk, in spite of the continued treatments from the witch-doctor. 

Robina has taken a leadership role in the women’s disciple group, which eventually matured into a house church.

And recently, Robina came and visited us and said that she finally had the courage to ask her husband for permission to bring the child back from the village. He had agreed, but said that he couldn’t guarantee that his mother would also agree to it. Robina is still at the village, hoping to be allowed to come back with her daughter. If you get a chance to pray for her, she would really appreciate it.

Kubomoa Ukuta (for MWF)

On February 27th, 2021 we launched a missional community here in Tarime, Tanzania. Three Tanzanian young adults and two American young adults living together, serving together, and making disciples… and becoming disciples through the process.

QuadW Missional Skunkworks Tarime site, hosted by Wesley College’s servant leadership program. We call the house “Wesley House”.

In most cases where white people live in Tanzania, they live in gated compounds with a security guard, in a part of town that is isolated and is supposed to be a bit safer than the rest. This is for safety, as white people are assumed to be wealthy and are often targets for thieves.

But for the mission and vision of our community, it was clear that this wouldn’t work. We are here to serve our neighbors and live life with them. We are here to meet with them regularly and show them what it looks like to be a disciple of Jesus, and then to learn from them about how to be a disciple of Jesus. And this couldn’t just be the wealthy… it needed to also include the last, the lost, the least of these.

Fortunately, in 2018, Mwita Baita and I (and his family of 8) lived together for about 11 months, in the same town where we were planning to launch the missional community. So in May of 2020, I asked Mwita,

“Is this really possible? Am I doing something unsafe, too risky? It seems risky, but then, I lived with you for 11 months, and we never had any break-ins or safety issues. Why did it go so well? Could we do the same thing at our community?”

“It is possible, it is possible”, he replied. “What you need is a good plan for safety and good relationships with your neighbors. It is true, Tarime can be a dangerous place. But you saw at our house, we don’t have any gate, and we never had any problems. But you saw, I am a friend, very much, of the community. You always see me always greeting everybody, I know everybody… these issues are helping very much with the issue of safety.”

We ended up hiring Mwita as Assistant Site Director, and made him the safety officer for our community,

and we found a house with a typical gate, no wall, located in a normal part of town, where normal Tarime life happens.

Mwita put together a safety plan including:

  • Close relationships with the neighbors living around our house
  • Close relationships with the Neighborhood Chairman (this is a government position a bit smaller and more local than anything you see in the U.S… roughly, imagine if each neighborhood/subdivision had it’s own elected official)
  • Close relationships with the Tarime police
  • A little dog (who we named Loki) who would bark if there were any issues
  • Living at the same level as our neighbors and abstaining from buying any expensive, high-demand electronics

As soon as we moved in, we began visiting our neighbors, and within the first 3 months, we had visited 38 families around our house. These visits were very rich, and showed us what life was like for our neighbors in this community, as well as offering opportunities to encourage our neighbors in their faith. We started inviting our neighbors to pray with us every evening at 8:30, and now 30-50 neighbors show up and pray with us every evening. It’s so nice to be a part of the community here.

One evening in April, our neighbors showed up for prayer and we tried to begin the first song. As we began, though, one of our closest neighbors, Mama Esta, walked into our prayer room and interrupted us,

“Before other things! Before other things! Today, one young man was talking with a big voice saying that he had a plan to steal from here! He said, ‘I’ve already spied them out, I am ready, you will see!’ “

“Oh, whoa. Thank you so much for the information, mama”, Gilbert said.

We went ahead with our evening prayer meeting, and then the 5 of us met in the kitchen. We decided to contact Mwita, and to be ready. We agreed that it was unlikely to happen tonight, and we talked about steps to take. One member mentioned that we had had 30 or so children over to play the previous Sunday. Maybe one of them had been a spy, sent to check out our place. Maybe we should stop having children over?

Then we talked about trying to be disciples of Jesus, to model how Jesus might live in this community. We agreed that we couldn’t see children as enemies, and so we let that suggestion go. We agreed to take a few minutes, just the 5 of us, and pray for those who persecute us… to pray specifically for this young man, that he might begin to have a better life.

The next day, Mwita and I met with Mama Esta and another neighborhood friend, Mama Jaki. We thanked them for being such good neighbors and caring for us, and we learned that the young man is the son of one of Mwita’s friends. Mwita went to visit his father, with the goal of setting up a meeting between us and the young man. Not a meeting to bring him to the authorities, but just a meeting to let him know that we are his friend and we love him.

Later that day, the 5 of us met with Mwita and he reviewed our break-in procedures, and we had a neighborhood prayer meeting that evening specifically focused on loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us.

Finally, Mwita reminded me about our meeting with the police back in February. They had promised to come inspect the safety of our house, but what if we turned that into a dinner invitation and cooked a nice dinner for them?

(Above are various pictures from our life in community together)

So what happened?

Mwita had a good talk with Mzee Mchina, the young man’s father. His father said that the young man (like most young thieves) rarely comes home and doesn’t have one place where he consistently stays, so it would be hard to find him. Mwita kept trying, but after a week of looking for him, Mwita learned that he had moved to a different part of town.

And the police agreed to come over on a Saturday night. The Assistant Police Chief, the police representative at the Tarime District Court, and five police officers all came together, and we invited the Neighborhood Chairman and our landlord as well. We prepared rice, fish, meat, cabbage, sodas, and watermelon for them, and we had a good time together. Mwita gave a speech to the officers about how he appreciated their protection, and that a big part of our community’s mission was showing new ideas and new ways of looking at the world. Why can’t people build friendship with the police? Why can’t we show them that we are together? Why do we have to be separate? The Assistant Police Chief replied that he had been doing this job for years, but that this was the first time that any Tarime citizen had had him over for dinner, just as friends, to get to know him better. He really appreciated it.

During the meeting with the police, we didn’t mention the young man or the threat. We just enjoyed being together. And to this day, we are thankful that we haven’t had any more safety threats.

The title means “to break down walls”.

Mike Roy

Last night, I was shocked to learn that my dear friend Mike Roy died of a heart attack. He was such a genuinely good human being, and I wanted everyone to know a little about that.

In 13 months of living at The Bonhoeffer House (intentional Christian community), I met a variety of folks who, for one reason or another, were homeless. As I really got to know them, I saw an incredible variety of stories and personalities, and the fact that they couldn’t find a way to handle a monthly rent payment faded into the background.

Mike Roy, specifically, was a genuine fellow with such a loving heart.

There was a lot of his story that I never understood. A Navy Veteran, he was eligible for several government programs, but found it too challenging to get back on the grid. Most mornings he would walk all over the streets of Dallas just after sunrise collecting aluminum cans to sell.

I would go to the Lakewood Branch Library frequently and I would often run into Mike, sitting in one of the chairs, either reading something about World War II or doing a crossword puzzle. Sometimes I would sit down next to him and we would both read and enjoy each other’s silent company.

Whenever you saw Mike, you could always count on him going through the list of all of our homeless friends and how they were doing.

“______ is doing okay, but the heat is really gettin’ to her. Hopefully the rain comes through and cools everything off.”

“Haven’t seen _____ since Tuesday. Not sure where he is. I think he’s fine, though.”

“_____ was in the hospital last week. Something with his foot. He’s out now, though.”

“But have you heard anything from _____? I don’t think I’ve seen him for a week now! I usually always see him around here pushin’ his cart. Have you heard anthing? I hope everything is okay.”

Some of his friends responded in kind and cared deeply for Mike. Others did not, they barely seemed to notice him. Over time, I saw that he was persistently devoted to all of them, regardless of whether they reciprocated his caring. If he felt that one of them needed protection and a watchful eye, he would find a way to sleep nearby and be ready to help if anything happened. He would do this for the same person for weeks, even in cases where the other person did not reciprocate his caring, or even notice him.

Mike loved pets. In late 2019, our friends Pam and James Rogers set up an arrangement where Mike could live with them. They had a cat named Riley, and they told me about how Mike woke up early and always loved to drink coffee and spend time with Riley during the early morning.

During early 2020, we had a Super Bowl part at Pam and James’ house and I saw this myself. Everyone else was watching the game, but Mike was holding Riley, smiling, and scratching her under her chin and behind her ears.

Once Pam and James took Mike in, he slowly started to get back on the grid. One of the first things he got was his food stamps. He decided to use them to buy food for Pam and James, as away to contribute to the friends who had taken him in. He would come to Aldi’s, next to The Bonhoeffer House, and one day he asked if he could park his cart at the house while he shopped.

“Sure, Mike.” I said. “It’ll be here when you get back.”

“Thank you, Davis. Hey, is there anything you need from Aldi’s?”

“No, I’m good to go, but thank you for asking.”

“Okay. Well. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?”

“Hahahahaha. Oh man. Mint Chocolate Chip. I never buy it for myself, and I miss it so much.”

“Hahaha. Well. We’ll see what I can do with these food stamps.”

In about 15 minutes, Mike was back with the Aldi’s one-dollar box of mint chocolate chip ice cream. I wanted to cry from happiness. We opened it together and ate some.

As Mike was about to go, he noticed that I had a bottle of rum.

“Hey, is that Don Q?”

“Haha, for sure. I got it for a party a few months back. It’s just been sitting there. Since the virus came, I doubt I’ll use it now. You can have it if you want.”

“Naw, I don’t need that. But what you say we take a shot?”

I thought to myself… A shot of rum? At 10:30 in the morning?

I replied, “Why not? Sounds good, man.”

After that, Mike would go shopping every week on Tuesday morning. He would always show up at my door with a $1 box of mint chocolate chip ice cream. And we would always take a shot together.

One day, one of the members of The Bonhoeffer House sat with Mike and drank coffee together for a few minutes on our porch swing. Afterwards she came in and immediately said, “Mike has got to be one of my very favorite humans”.

I couldn’t agree more. I wish that I could see him just one more time.

To Help One Lost Boy

(These events happened within 18 hours, and we didn’t happen to take any pictures during that time. But to help you visualize, I’ve included a few pictures of the places and people involved.)

Since 2017, I have been working with Our Father’s House, a ministry that unites homeless youth with families. They are a great ministry and do effective work.

And in 2021, we launched QuadW Tarime, a Christian community of young adults from Tanzania and the U.S. who live together, pray together, work together, cook together, love our neighbors and make disciples together. It is also a great ministry that does effective work.

But we saw the full potential of both ministries on July 4th, 2021 when the two ministries were able to do their best work, together.

Every evening at QuadW Tarime, Dinnah Sylvester would go out and invite our neighbors to come over for evening prayer at 8:30 pm. This was very popular with the children, and a large crew would always come through our doors laughing and running.

Our community house

On July 3rd, Dinnah was making her rounds as usual and a few young men showed up early. They were all between 10 and 13 years old.

One of them was named Chacha*. We had never met him before. He said nothing, but the other boys told his story.

Chacha didn’t live here; he lived about 10 miles away in a rural farming village. He had gotten in a fight at school that morning and had run away. He didn’t know where he would sleep that night, and he didn’t know how to face his parents when he returned home.

This is common. Children run away from home to avoid punishment, or just to try hanging out on the streets of town. Being children, they normally don’t think farther than that.

Once they have been away from home for a few days, a cruel reality sets in.

The thrill is over, and they are tired of being on the streets. They want to return home.

But then they realize that if they return home, they will be mercilessly beaten by their parents for running away from home.

So they stay on the streets, trapped. They don’t know what to do.

To survive on the streets, they have to learn how to steal scrap metal and small electronics. After a while they inevitably get caught and put in jail, where adults and youth are not separated.

Stealing becomes a way of life, and of course, they don’t go to school. What started as a childish plan to run away and try life on the streets turns out to take so much away from their future.

Our Father’s House exists to combat this cycle. We learned early on that if you can return a child home within 1 month, you greatly improve their chances of a smooth re-entry and staying home. After more than 1 month on the streets, they get used to life on the streets and returning home becomes much more difficult, or, in many cases, impossible.

Chacha had run away and made it to Tarime. And the other kids had pointed him to our Christian community, QuadW Tarime.

4 of the 5 members of QuadW Tarime: Dinnah, Veronica, Davis, and Megan. The fifth member, Gilbert, took the photo.

We went ahead with our evening prayer, and then afterwards, we had a community meeting. If Jesus Christ were living here in this neighborhood, what might he do?

We made a few decisions. 

Veronica heated up some rice and beans for Chacha to eat. 

Gilbert gave one of his shirts to Chacha (permanently), and gave up his bed for the night, so he would have a place to sleep.

Dinnah and Megan washed Chacha’s shirt, dirty from the fight he had been in that day at school.

But how to help him get back home?

We reached out to the seasoned family counselors, Moses Nyamhanga and Mwita Baita, at Our Father’s House. Having returned dozens of children home, they know how to talk to angry parents, calm them down, and persuade them to forgive their runaway child, instead of punishing him.

“Sure. We will return him home. You got him early, so it will be easy. It’s hard if they sit on the streets for a long time and get used to life on the streets. But after just one day, this will be easy work”, Mwita said.

“Just bring him with you to Tarime UMC tomorrow. We’ll all meet together after worship.” Moses said

Moses Nyamhanga

Mwita Baita

Tarime UMC church building

And that’s what we did. After worship, Chacha, Mwita, and Moses all had a meeting together. They quickly realized Chacha spoke very little Swahili (the unifying, national language of Tanzania). Mwita and Moses are both fluent in the area’s tribal language, Kuria, so they switched the conversation to the language that Chacha understood. Happy to have some friendly advocates in front of his parents, he agreed to return home. 

Mwita and I hopped on one motorcycle, Chacha and Mwita hopped on the other, and we headed out into rural Tanzania.

We spent the better part of an hour traversing a beautiful landscape of hills, valleys, corn, and mud huts before we finally came to Chacha’s house. His parents were not home. We could have left him there, but this would leave Chacha back in the same situation; the really critical thing was to meet his father. 

So we started wandering up and down the dirt roads of this village area. We met Chacha’s aunt, we passed by his school, and then finally we saw a man walking down one of the dirt roads. Chacha told us that was his father.

We stopped our motorcycles, introduced ourselves in Kuria, and then Mwita, the older of the two family counselors, softly took hold of the man’s hand and began to talk to him in Kuria.

I don’t know what they said. I know the discussion lasted about 15 minutes. At the beginning, Chacha’s father was visibly angry. As the conversation progressed, he calmed down, and at the end, he was laughing. He took his son back and put a big arm around his little shoulders.  

We said happy goodbyes, and Mwita and I hopped back on our motorcycle. Then I asked Mwita,

“What happened?”

“He agreed to take him back. And he really thanks us for returning his son to him.”

“You don’t think he will beat him?”

Mwita laughed. “No, he can’t, he can’t”

“Ahh. How do you know?”

“Everything is by discussion. I discussed with him well, I helped him to decrease his anger. I talked with him about how this is his child, and the rights of a child that every one knows. I reminded him that his responsibility as a father is to take care of him. He agreed, and this helped him to calm down. You saw how he was laughing by the end of our discussion. He can’t beat him now. But what I am happy about is we have gotten a friend. This father is our friend now. If we come to this village again, we will always have a friend here.”

I am thankful for Our Father’s House. I am thankful for QuadW Tarime. And I am so thankful that we could work together on July 4th, 2021. Chacha easily could have gotten stuck and grown up on the streets, but because of a few followers of Jesus working together, he was returned home and the relationship with his father was repaired within 18 hours.

You can make more of this happen by donating in whichever way is easiest:

QuadW Tarime: https://www.wesleycollegetzfoundation.com/get-involved

Our Father’s House: https://advance.umcmission.org/p-1816-our-fathers-house.aspx

Venmo: @DavisRhodes
PayPal: daviswarrenrhodesjr@gmail.com
Zelle: daviswarrenrhodesjr@gmail.com

*child’s name changed for child protection

Help Expand Our Community in 2022

Friends, you helped to launch something new this last year. 3 Tanzanian young adults and 2 American young adults living and working together in Christian community, making disciples who make disciples. The 5 of us prayed together, cooked together, ate together, worked together, loved our neighbors, and helped them to become disciples.

It surpassed my wildest dreams.

All 5 residents’ lives were transformed (see more here: Resident Transformation ).

We helped many of our neighbors to understand that the prosperity gospel is false, and therefore, the hardships of their lives do not mean that God does not favor them. This brought new hope to many, and they returned to God.

2 neighbors decided to follow Jesus for the first time and were baptized.

After a lot of trial and error, we started a house church. They continue to meet every Friday at 4 pm.

Kikundi cha Faraja House Church

After our trial phase ended, one of the residents chose to continue living in the same area, so that she could continue loving her neighbors and pastoring the house church.

And on June 21st, we found a way to save a precious 15-month-old girl who was at death’s door, due to malnutrition.

Its amazing to see how serious God is about making this world new.

In 2022, we are building on this success by increasing the number of community members from 5 to 10. The 2022 community will have 5 members from Tanzania, 4 members from the United States, and 1 member from Mexico.

(2 of these members will be joining us in September and we are still looking for them. Therefore only 8 pictured above)

Instead of the temporary, “trial phase” community that we launched last year, this community will be permanent and year-round, with all community members committing to 12 months of living in community.

Davis and Veronica fell in love during their time as residents of QuadW Tarime 2021 (see their love story here: Nakupenda) and will be married on February 5th, here in Tanzania. Together, they will be site directors for the 2022 community.

We will build on what we learned in 2021 about starting a house church, and we will start several more in 2022. Our goal is for every house church to in turn plant new house churches as more and more of our neighbors find new hope in Jesus.

We need your help with this expansion. I’m hoping to raise $5,000 by the end of this year to help us to start off on firm footing in 2022. I’m asking you for a donation of any size to help us towards this.

Feel free to donate in whichever way is easiest for you.


Official Donation Page: https://www.wesleycollegetzfoundation.com/quiet-heroes
Venmo: @DavisRhodes
PayPal: daviswarrenrhodesjr@gmail.com
Zelle: daviswarrenrhodesjr@gmail.com

If you would prefer to send a check, you can mail it to:
Wesley College Foundation
ATTN:  John C. West, CPA
1872 Lake Ridge Road
Birmingham, AL 35216

Write “Tanzania Christian Community” on the memo line

After you donate, I will contact you immediately with a confirmation that it was received, and I will let you know how close we are towards our $5,000 goal.

Thank you for helping to make this a reality, friends. I’m looking forward to what God will use us to do in 2022.

P.S. Veronica and I are trying to put together a simple, inexpensive honeymoon. To give to it, you can click here: https://www.travelersjoy.com/davisandveronica/

Mioyo Mpya

We were so thankful for the way that God worked in the hearts of all of the 5 community members at QuadW Tarime this last year. Each of our stories is personal and precious, so I’ve chosen to only share a summary of how each of us changed, but I hope that this gives you a general picture of how QuadW Tarime provided a liminal space for God to change our hearts.

First, what was QuadW Tarime 2021?

  • Five young adults living together in Christian community for six months. Three Tanzanians, two Americans. 
  • Praying together every morning and every evening, as well as cooking, cleaning, and eating together
  • Volunteering for nearby churches, doing the work that no one wants to do 
  • Visiting our neighbors house-to-house and making disciples
Tarime marked with location marker, within larger East African context

The Residents and Their Personal Transformation

Dinnah Sylvester

Dinnah caring for her neighbor’s blind daughter, named Annes

Dinnah came into QuadW Tarime filled with self-doubt and unsure if God had given her any gifts (as is common for Tanzanian women). She discovered that God had given her the gift of meeting people quickly, loving them deeply, and helping them to be closer to God. She ended up leading us in our house-to-house evangelism effort and in our evening prayer and worship.

She has chosen to continue living in the same neighborhood so that she can shepherd the house church and continue to disciple her neighbors.

Gilbert Bagaya

Gilbert taking a selfie at the baptism of Elias Chacha

Gilbert came into QuadW Tarime with incredible gifts for worship leading and preaching but unaware of the meaning of Christian service or house-to-house evangelism. Although it was a bit of a shock for him to learn that these are a part of being a disciple, he eventually became consistent and enthusiastic about dishwashing and cleaning bathrooms, even doing these chores before being asked. After he learned how to visit neighbors in their houses and to encourage them to be closer with God, he also became enthusiastic about this work, even visiting neighbors on his own rest time and days off.

Megan Swanson

Megan came into QuadW Tarime hoping to learn Swahili quickly and to be able to communicate with her neighbors. When some things outside of her control made this much harder than she had hoped, she began asking God about why He had led her here. From this, God taught her to be more present to the people around her than she ever had been before. From this, she discovered that God had given her gifts of listening, making people feel safe, and giving them space to open up and understand themselves better.

Veronica Marwa

Veronica opens our Bible study by washing Dinnah’s feet

Veronica came into QuadW Tarime knowing that God had called her to help African women to know that God loves them just as much as men. She was less sure about how exactly to do this, and how to choose her battles, given the ubiquitous mistreatment of women in Tanzania.

She learned to start and lead a house church, and to lead that house church to help women to heal each other from what they had suffered. She learned to focus her voice and energy on cases where women are being either physically abused or unfairly blamed by their husbands, and she was even able to help one of our neighbors to save their marriage.

Davis Rhodes

Davis cooking porridge for breakfast

Davis came into QuadW Tarime afraid of failure and overly obsessed with his own performance. This generally led to self-doubt, indecisiveness, and lack of confidence. 

He learned to find more joy in spending time in God’s presence and to be less concerned about his own success and reputation. This gave him the inner peace that he needed to be more confident, and to step into the leadership gift that God has given him. He learned to lead a Christian community to love their neighbors day after day, to share Jesus’s love, and to make disciples, through all of the inevitable joys and discouragements.

Nakupenda

Veronica Marwa and I have decided to get married.

She’s a good one ❤


About a year ago, I was talking to a friend.
“I can tell that I keep expecting too much of romantic love. Idolizing it. I know that a happy life is to come more in love with God each day, through each thing in my life. But even though I know that, I keep looking for romantic love to make me happy.”

Pause

“Hmm. What if marriage could be one more way of coming in love with God? Instead of me continuing to put it above God? What if I could help her to come closer with God, and she could help me to come closer with God each day?”

Friend: “Wow. That sounds like a good direction to go. There may be a lot of wisdom there. But how would that happen, I mean, what helps you to come more in love with God?”

Me: “I’m not sure. I know that I come closer with God when I become more humble. But I don’t know why I become more humble sometimes, and more arrogant, self-obsessed at other times. Maybe I’ll start praying about that each morning and get back to you.”

I prayed about it each morning, and also went back and reviewed the last few years of my life. The patterns I saw weren’t what I had expected.

The times when I was most humble, and found it easiest to believe and remember that God loves me, were not times when I spent more time in prayer each morning, or times when I read the Bible more, or times when I engaged regularly in deep conversations of philosophy or theology. They weren’t correlated with great books I had read, or even with times when I had worked hardest at having mercy on my impoverished neighbors.

The times when I was most humble were the times when I was surrounded by genuine, loving community.

Those seasons, growing up, when I actually chose to engage with my loving parents and three younger siblings. The times at Auburn University when I chose to spend more time with my dear friends who I met at the Auburn Wesley Foundation. July and August of 2019, when I first moved into the Bonhoeffer House, before I got busy.

And the times when I was most arrogant, self-centered were the times when I was most lonely. The semester I took too many classes. Times serving in Tanzania when I couldn’t find any friends. Times when I bound myself to lofty goals with hard deadlines that required me to work around the clock.

A couple weeks later I talked to the same friend about what I had found.

“I’m shocked. And when it comes to romance, I’ve never once looked for someone who loves me well, who makes me feel loved. It’s never even been on my radar as something to look for. It’s like I normally look for affirmation- affirmation that I’m better than others- rather than love.”

Shortly after returning to Tanzania in January, I asked a friend about this. She agreed, and gave me some very good, and very needed advice for dating Tanzanian women. And a couple days later, she called me.

“Mambo. Hey come to NK Restaurant at 3 pm on Friday wearing something nice. And make sure you shower.”

“Okay… what’s going on?”

“Haven’t you ever heard of a blind date? Just be at NK on Friday. I think you will like her.”

It turns out I did. She had a lovely smile that showed her polished top teeth, she laughed easily, and was passionate about her calling- to help African women know that God loves them just as much as men.

As the weeks went by, and I tried to love her, I was surprised to notice that she didn’t make me feel like I was better than other people. But she did make me feel loved.

She listened to me. Very few friends in Tanzania listen to me. Not because they don’t care, but just because it’s a foreign concept here. The closest Swahili word to “listen”- kusikiliza- means something like, “to hear someone explain their problem and then do something about it”. But Veronica didn’t just “kusikiliza”… she attentively listened to me talk about what was on my mind, like she was really interested, and then she asked questions. It was like I was an open book to her.

I asked if we could pray together every day. She didn’t act like this was strange, or too much to commit to. We started praying together every day, and the prayers made both of us feel so loved, and helped us to learn new things about each other, and each others’ spiritual lives. We’ve continued to this day. I don’t understand why she doesn’t get tired of praying with me every day, but I’m just thankful.

One day she ironed my clothes. I never knew that I wanted anyone to iron my clothes. I didn’t especially need my clothes ironed… but the personal attention was so nice.

As with all relationships, things weren’t perfect. I can be arrogant and stubborn, and she has her own growing edges. But this time, everything was oriented differently. We weren’t expecting each other to save us or fulfill us or satisfy us. It was just one more way of coming closer with God. And with things oriented there, we knew what was really important to us, and what growing edges to accept and bear with in the other person.

As we were both members of the QuadW missional community here in Tarime, we got to know each other pretty quickly through living and working together every day. And as our 6-month trial run of QuadW Tarime drew to a close in August, we agreed that we didn’t want our life together to end; rather, we wanted to make our two lives into one, and to live one life together for as long as we both shall live.

Then she said, “You’ll have to meet my family, you know. And I’m Kuria tribe, so they’ll probably ask you for cows before they approve of you marrying me.”

Me: “There’s so many things I don’t understand about Tanzania. And I don’t understand this one, babe. You can’t put a price on you. You’re worth more than a million cows to me. But if that’s what it takes for them to approve, we can do that.”

It turns out they did ask for cows. 22 cows, to be exact. My good friend Mwita Baita, who I’ve talked about some before, helped bargain them down to 9. We gave them the money to buy 9 cows, and her family gave us their blessing.

The title means “I love you”. I’ve never been this happy before, and I’ve never been so close to God before. I can’t wait for our wedding, or for us to live out our callings together here at QuadW Tarime, or to see her again in a couple hours. I don’t know what I ever could have done to deserve this.

*We are getting married in Tanzania on February 5th. We are trying to put together a simple, inexpensive honeymoon. To give to it, you can click here: https://www.travelersjoy.com/davisandveronica/

Hakuja ili Kutumikiwe; Alikuja ili Awatumikie

“So when I say that we are going to be doing service work, what are your expectations?” I began.

“Ah, yes. My expectations are that we will be leading worship, preaching, teaching, leading choirs at the different churches in the Tarime area. Maybe doing training at different times and places as well.”

… as I was preparing our community, speaking to one of the potential Tanzanian members, I began to kick myself. How did I communicate so badly?

I had said we would be doing service work… let’s see, specifically I used the work “huduma”… that was my mistake. Wrong word. But what word should I have used?

“Huduma” is the normal Swahili word for “service”. In fact, waitresses and waiters are called “Wahudumu”.

But when I used “huduma” to refer to work in a church context, my friend, a theology graduate, had interpreted me to be saying that we would be doing up-front leadership work.

I couldn’t think of a different Swahili word that would have been better. And maybe it wasn’t my fault, nor my friend’s fault. It is just a fact that in many churches, the work on cleaning, cooking, washing dishes, digging and moving dirt is never done by the leaders… it is done by uneducated women, by children, and by paid manual laborers. So when I had used “huduma” to suggest that we would be doing this type of work, the possibility didn’t occur to my friend. It was simply beyond their frame of reference.

When I clarified what I had meant by “huduma”, my friend was shocked. We talked for a while, and then I went over several examples of Jesus doing this type of work in the gospels.

It’s the perennial human misjudgment as we try to become disciples of Jesus. “Hmm. Jesus did that. Said that. That was weird. Well, I don’t get it… surely he didn’t mean that.”

As we live in community, trying to live in the way of Jesus, it is these misjudgments that we are asking God to correct in us. We are working together and helping each other to understand how Jesus really lived and how we emulate that in our context. It is also why we insist on being a cross-cultural community; each of our cultures has taken hold of certain parts of Jesus’s example and ignored other parts. In community, we show each other the things that we are missing.

We see each other and think, “Wow. I didn’t know you could really live like that… Do that… Love like that.”

So when we went out to Gamasara to do this service work for the first time, I was nervous. What would happen? What kind of resistance would we meet? Would bad attitudes show up? Would this be interpreted as one of Davis’s crazy ideas?

We swept the Gamasara UMC floor. No complaining.

Then we scrubbed the floor by hand. Again, no complaining. Everyone worked hard, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

As I was finishing my corner of the church, I asked, “Hey, where did Gilbert go?”

“Anasafisha pale chooni”

“?? The bathrooms?” I said

“Yeah, we are cleaning those, too.”

“Oh, yeah, yeah, for sure, for sure” I said, trying to pretend it had been my plan all along.

But the fact was, it hadn’t even occurred to me. And as Gamasara UMC doubled as a preschool, the bathrooms were filthy.

The only thing to do was to grab a broom and thank God for working in our community, for making us into disciples, servant leaders.

The title means, “He did not come to be served; he came to serve”.