Evangelist and Founder of Malambo Bible College at his retirement service (credit: Stewart Ayling)
MAF’s been partnering with Malambo Bible College – founded by Elisha Moita in northern Tanzania – for over 35 years. Every year, new evangelists graduate and every month MAF fly them to remote communities to spread the Gospel. Only 63 Christians used to live amongst Tanzania’s Maasai, but today as Elisha retires, there are nearly 10,000 converts. MAF Tanzania’s Country Director Stuart Ayling attends Elisha’s retirement celebration…
MAF Pilot Jarkko Korhonen flies some special guests to attend Evangelist Elisha Moita’s retirement service. The 45-minute flight from Arusha to Malambo has saved them nine hours of overland travel.
MAF’s Stewart Ayling (L), Bishop Solomon (C) and MAF’s Jarkko Korhonen (R) on their way to Elisha’s retirement service (credit: Stewart Ayling)
On board the plane, MAF Tanzania’s Country Director Stuart Ayling is accompanied by Bishop Solomon who will be participating in the ceremony. The service is packed with representatives from a range of Maasai churches, testament to Elisha’s ministry says Stuart:
‘It’s a joy to witness Elisha’s many years of faithful service being recognised and celebrated.’
Four new evangelists from different Maasai villages are commissioned by Bishop Solomon to continue Elisha’s ministry.
Guests from a range of Maasai churches attend the celebration (credit: Stewart Ayling)
Although Elisha has retired from his senior position at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania, he will continue to oversee the work of Malambo Bible College.
Christianity is flourishing amongst Tanzania’s Maasai
One year ago, a new cohort of Maasai evangelists graduated from Malambo Bible College following four months of intense study.
For over 35 years, MAF has been flying trained evangelists every month from Malambo Bible College to isolated Maasai villages in a bid to share the Gospel with their own people.
A series of short flights over a few days or ‘evangelism safaris’ enable the evangelists to visit various remote communities in a short space of time, which would otherwise take many hours to reach by road or days on foot.
Lead evangelist and founder of Malambo Bible College, Elisha Moita, remembers the time when he evangelised barefoot:
I got sunstroke and couldn’t walk because of the pain. I stopped under a tree and cried. MAF was the answer to my cries.
Some villages are so remote but with MAF, our evangelists reach people more easily without too much energy and preach the Gospel. Before, walking so many hours was difficult. Now we have the strength to sit and talk to people because we’re not tired.
Through MAF, we’re really seeing the hand of God – we are harvesting much fruit. Flying helps our ministry work faster.
Lead evangelist and founder of Malambo Bible College, Elisha Moita
Nowadays, Elisha and his ever-growing team of evangelists can cover over 100 kilometres of Maasai territory by MAF plane – a distance not feasible on foot.
Women are taught to read
For 16 studious weeks, the 15 graduates have been staying at the college learning the tools of their trade.
As part of their course, they undertake the ‘Maasai Link Initiative’. They travel to a different part of the region to apply what they’ve learnt to real life situations and practice outreach amongst the Maasai.
At the customary annual graduation ceremony, the newly trained evangelists are excitedly joined by friends, family and church colleagues.
Following a feast of roast goat, chapattis and milky tea, speeches and worship songs ensue. A short sketch based on the Good Samaritan – adapted for a Maasai audience – is thrown into the mix.
Bible readings by seven of the graduates are greeted with applause. Before the course, they couldn’t read. Now they are able to share the Bible with their own communities. MAF Tanzania’s country director Stuart Ayling is particularly moved by proceedings:
‘It really strikes me how the love of Jesus is transforming Maasai communities. In a patriarchal culture, where many girls aren’t sent to school, young Maasai women are being taught how to read so that they can explain the Bible alongside their male counterparts.
‘These women will be sent out to isolated villages to share the Good News with whole communities. It’s easy to see why this is such a celebration – many obstacles have been overcome. It’s exciting to see what God might accomplish through these graduates.’
Ordinary people doing extraordinary things
MAF pilot Andrew Parker – who regularly flies Maasai evangelists from Malambo to mountainous or remote areas such as Loliondo, Piaya and Loolbilin – says MAF’s work in these areas is positively palpable:
‘I love to see the impact of what we do in Tanzania. Malambo Bible College trains very ordinary people – some can’t read and write or haven’t been to school, yet they teach them to read the Bible in Kimaasai before MAF returns them to their community to spread the Gospel.’
These evangelists are not community elders or educated pastors – they’re just ordinary people doing extraordinary things as Andrew testifies:
‘What struck me about one particular flight was that the lady who I picked up from Loolbilin had her baby with her. We’ve seen quite a number of evangelists flying with their babies back to their home villages.
‘These young ladies fly to Malambo Bible College and fly out again to do the work with their babies. They are going out to their own people who can relate to them – that’s really effective. It’s exciting to be a part of that.’
‘The plane makes our ministry more attractive’
So once they graduate from college, what does the typical work of a Maasai evangelist look like?
In one week, MAF could fly five pairs of evangelists and a generator from Malambo to ten remote villages where they visit people, pray, run Bible studies, share communion and encourage those who are struggling with their faith.
The evangelists also help to settle disputes and support the village churches who are already working to reach their communities.
The generator is used to power a projector to show ‘Jesus’ – a powerful evangelistic film, which has been watched by millions of people all over the world in their own language since 1979.
‘Jesus’ is watched outside every night on a big screen in every Maasai village scheduled for the trip. Hundreds of people receive the Gospel for the first time. People are healed and demons are cast out. Baptisms are performed and a witch doctor surrenders to Christ.
Even the MAF plane is an evangelistic tool in itself. It’s a sign of encouragement for the Maasai Christians and grabs the attention of non-believers as Elisha explains:
‘When the plane lands in the village, people come closer. Some come just to see the plane, but they end up staying, so we have time to talk to them. The plane makes our ministry more attractive.’
Serving a living God
‘We thank God – who gives us courage and wisdom – for our new students. The remote villages where they will serve are challenged by many things – extreme poverty, harassment and oppression of women, and children not attending school.
‘Many people follow traditional beliefs, but they need Christ to save them. God is delivering them – instead of worshipping idols and creatures, they’re believing in and worshiping the real God.’
It’s MAF’s privilege to support the work of Malambo’s evangelists and to see the fruit of their faithful labour over so many years.