Elisha describes himself as, ‘just a normal Maasai following my tradition,’ when he came to faith. The evangelist was born in a remote village on the shores of Lake Natron in northern Tanzania.
Interview and photos by Mark and Kelly Hewes.
‘I got call when I was very young,’ he explains – ‘one day the Lord called me by vision, and he told me that I have to change. I have to become a Christian. I didn't even know what Christianity meant or what it was.’
When a friend gave Elisha a copy of the New Testament he began to read. As the words sunk in, he says, ‘My heart became very comfortable and encouraged. Since that, I started to speak what is written in the Bible.’
In the beginning, Elisha walked huge distances from village to village sharing the Gospel. ‘At that time, it was dangerous because there were many dangerous animals like elephants, lions, buffaloes,’ he remembers.
‘One day when I was walking and, I met with a big gang of elephants, and they chased me. I ran just from the place which I found them, and they chased me to the mountains. I climbed on a big rock and the elephant went away when they realise that they can't get me.’
On another occasion he had to climb a tree to escape an angry buffalo and the wait out his opponent below.
‘One day when I was in Malambo, the MAF plane came from Moshi.’ The pilot of the plane at that time, Peter Hampson from England, heard about my story, my problems. They [MAF] told me that we want to help you to fly to visit Maasai people in this area.’
'We thank so much MAF for having that kind of heart, which is with us in our pain' Elisha Moita
At first, Elisha couldn’t imagine how a plane could help his work. ‘I didn't even believe when I started, I said “it can't be possible to use a plane for evangelism?”’
Peter shared MAF’s vision for using planes to reach remote communities. ‘I became happy, and they helped me to reach more places - it was a time that God did a lot,’ Elisha reflects.
The number of Christians Elisha served increased tenfold, from 63 to 600, from that time onwards. Many more of his countrymen have come to Christ since then.
Faith in a changing world
The Maasai Bible school Elisha opened is helping to overcome barriers for Maasai Christians. Evangelists no longer have to leave the area or study the Bible in Swahili – a language many don't speak. Instead, they can stay closer to their communities and embark on their ministries sooner.
‘We built a special Bible school, which can receive those who are not even sent to school,’ Elisha explains. ‘We teach them how to read and write… to deal with Maasai Bible so that they can read it for themselves. That is our aim, to train local people who can deal with evangelism in a Maasai community easily.’
Elisha recognises the challenges that younger Maasai face in a changing world. The Gospel can help young Maasai navigate the new opportunities opening up to them, as it once helped him to discover his own identity and purpose.
‘Traditionally, Maasai, they have their own beliefs. They believe in gods… they do worship and sacrifices and other things. So, when we preach the Gospel, a conflict can appear because of that kind of beliefs, which are brought by traditions.’
‘The time that we are living now, it is a time that even Maasai are trying to discover, or to know, that their tradition is not enough for their life,’ he explains.
Flying for life
Today Elisha visits Malambo every month with MAF for two to three days at a time. As well as sharing the Gospel, he helps communities to access treatment when they’re sick - caring for their body, soul and spirit. During a recent trip, he arranged for a woman in childbirth to be flown out of a nearby village. She reached the hospital in time a delivered a healthy baby girl.
‘We thank so much MAF for having that kind of heart, which is with us in our pain, you know, a bad situation, in our remote area like this one. They are sharing just a lot of normal life. Sometimes we become proud of MAF because it is helping much.’
Evangelists like Elisha and simple life-giving words that they share, are a big part of why MAF still serves in Tanzania. Four decades after his ministry began, Elisha is covering as much ground as he ever did to bring others to Christ. It’s a privilege for MAF to share his journey and his calling to support and build the growing Maasai church.
‘I didn't even believe when I started, I said “it can't be possible to use a plane for evangelism?"' Elisha Moita