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By Jimmie Earls
Sun Staff Writer
Chicago. London. Rome. Monduli?
That’s the route a local pastor recently took to do some missionary work in the country of Tanzania, located on the east coast of Africa.
Troy Shelton, pastor at River of Life Community Church in Springfield, left Lexington on Sept. 26 with his wife Sherri, and church member Bo Sherrell. They were joined by Campbellsville residents Jon Hansford and Matthew Murrell for a two-week trip in conjunction with the Imara Ministry Foundation, founded by Australians Mike and Lyndall Rothery in 1994.
While in Monduli, the Sheltons and Sherrell participated in a four-day pastor conference attended by 60 pastors, mostly from the Massai tribe.
“We saw denominations and tribes that didn’t get along come together and were able to pray together and we had a washing of the feet,” Shelton said. “There was a lot of healing that took place and it was great to see that happen.”
The Imara ministry concentrates of four specific areas - leadership training, HIV/AIDS awareness, film evangelism and mercy ministry.
Shelton and his party traveled to the town of Likumba and worked with people infected or affected by the HIV virus.
“Approximately 35 percent of the people in the area we were in have AIDS, but some of the villages not too far away are up to 65 percent," Shelton said. "The problem is that they are uneducated, they have no idea what it is, they’re totally separated from the rest of the world. Because of that, they’re very innocent. They’re very loving and not afraid to show how they feel.”
Troy and Sherri gave up a lot of the comforts of home while in Africa, sleeping on a bed frame with a foam pad, with no electricity or running water. Baths were taken with a quarter of a five-gallon bucket of water, soap and a cup for rinsing. And while they had a four-wheel drive vehicle at their disposal, the Sheltons decided to walk everywhere just like the locals.
“While I was there, I never missed a single thing except for family,” Troy said. The lack of amenities gave him an appreciation for relationships and emphasized the simple things.
Troy said he ate a lot of rice and fruit while there. He describes the meat as being "not too good." The villagers use every part of the animal, nothing goes to waste, so if they use a cow or goat to make stew, the stew would contain intestines and other bits that he found less than desirable.
Living conditions are very poor in Tanzania, something that the Imara foundation is trying to change.
“Part of the problem in Africa is that they have a fatalistic view of life,” Troy added. “If they’re in a bad situation, they think they’re always going to be that way instead of using God’s gifts to work their way out of it. We’re trying to change their mindset."
He said River of Life has partnered with Imara to work with the community in Likumba for the long term. Two new classrooms need to be built by January to accommodate the growing number of students. There are currently five teachers, but he said that they really need 10.
Some of the teachers travel all the way from the town of Arusha by bus. The bus drops the teachers off at the main road that goes into Likumba, where the teachers must walk nearly four miles to the town, and then they can start teaching the students. Once school is over for the day, the teachers walk back to the road and catch the bus to go home. That happens on a daily basis.
The teachers are paid $3 a day but must spend $1.50 of that for bus fare every day.
“Theses are teachers that are well-educated and could teach anywhere,” Shelton added. “But they believe so much in seeing these kids get educated and having a Biblical world view.”
While in Africa, the Sheltons went on a safari in the Serengeti.
“That was an experience, that was pretty neat,” Shelton said. “We saw a lion and two lionesses hunt and kill a wildebeest out of a herd. After they ate, one of the lionesses came and laid down beside our truck.”
While in the Serengeti, they drove four hours to see part of the great migration featuring thousands of wildebeests and zebras.
The most important thing that Shelton got out of the trip was not the talks or the lessons taught to the people, but the relationships that were built.
“I fell in love with the people over there,” he said. “It was a life changing event.”
Troy and Sherri arrived back in Kentucky on Oct. 10. Troy said he is looking forward to returning and seeing the progress the villagers make. People interested in future missionary trips or in sponsoring a child in Tanzania are encouraged to contact him at the church.