Tanzania | Do I really make an impact?

Wrestling through the question of, “Do I really make an impact?”


My perspective has never been a ‘filled to the brim, glass full’

It’s been, ‘if I don’t see the water it can’t exist at all’
but when you name a woman’s child
you begin to forget those “do I really make an impact?” doubts


The Inner

One sunday morning in Morrogoro, Nathan and I were at church. I was to be the preacher of the day, but at the end of my sermon the Pastor of the church asked Nathan if he would share as well, “just say anything, we just want to hear your voice!”, They pleaded.
After Nathan’s spirit filled message of the importance of a 7 day faith, the pastor invited us to his house for “2nd service” as he called it. “There is a time to speak and there is a time to be silent, just like there is a time to preach and a time to eat”, he said. Second service as he so affectionately referred to it, was code word for lunch time. The stomach needs to be ministered to, too!
During 2nd service there was a woman named Miriam, she spoke better english than any of the other africans I’d met in a while, she worked with the UN on an agriculture initiative, and she was clearly pregnant. We asked her how long until she is due and she said, “two weeks”.
Timothy, the man who had brought Nathan and I to the church asked Miriam what she was going to name her child and she said, “Benson. My husband loves that name”.
Timothy commented on how nice the name Benson is and then asked if they had a name picked out if the child was to be a girl, to which Miriam told us her husband doesn’t want a daughter, which is why they only have a name for a boy.
Timothy’s rebuttal was, “Well what are you gonna do if it’s a girl?”
And then Miriam turned and looked directly at Nathan and I and said, “I know that everybody around here is a prophet, but especially you two, will you name my daughter?”
We looked at each other and then back to Miriam and said somewhat sheepishly, albeit greatly honored, “Yes”, and went back to talking to each other.
When we noticed that Miriam was still looking at us, I looked to her and I said, “OH! You mean NOW? Name her right now?”
And Miriam nodded and said, “Yes.”
So Nathan and I turned to each other, closed our eyes, and began interceding, seeking what the LORD would name Miriam’s daughter, and I heard God say, “name her Laurel, because she will be like a laurel to her father”.
I opened my eyes, looked to Nathan and he said, “Go ahead, it’s you.”
And I turned to Miriam and told her what God had just told me.
“Name her Laurel, because she will be like a laurel to her father.”
Immediately, she wrote the name Laurel down, committing it to memory.
After lunch we drove Miriam home, and within the hour she went into labor. A 30 minute labor, and the child that was birthed was a girl!!
A girl that Miriam faithfully named Taji (the swahili equivalent to Laurel).
It’s as if baby Taji was just waiting to be named, and once named she bursted forth from her mother!
Two days later Nathan and I went to Miriam’s home to visit and intercede for Taji, and while there the surreality of the moment really hit me.
This family, for generations, will not forget our impact on them. Miriam will always remember how her daughter was named, and Taji, once old enough will hold dear to her how she was named as well, and will tell her children the story as well. God, Nathan, and I are intertwined with the story of Miriam and her family.
How beautiful, and how needed this affirmation and shift in perspective.

The Outer

Tanzania granted me a new perspective on missions. In my life I’ve spent time in Trinidad, Mexico, DRC, South Africa, and Tanzania (this is my second time there) and I’ve always wondered, “Are we really even making a difference?
A valid question, given that in short term missions you’re there for a little bit, and then leave. How could you actually know? Of course, you take it back to God, and He says, “yes you made a difference” but for some reason there is still insecurity and disbelief. Only a slight comfort taken in the words of the Most High- with thoughts of, “if only I could SEE”
because, “seeing is believing”, right?
For me it was. Although blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.
In Tanzania we were able to spend a weekend in Tarangire, a location I spent a week in last year.
We pulled up in our vehicle and the Pastor of the church we did the seminar in last year noticed and recognized me, greeting me with warm smile, loving handshake, and asked if I could preach in his church again that weekend, which I eagerly agreed to.
He remembered me.
This moment was the first of many affirmations I encountered in Tanzania, affirmations that had me truly seeing that the work I do, does matter, does make a difference, does impact the lives of those we minister to.
When we finally reached the part of Tarangire where the old church building was- a place where giraffes and elephants could be seen at night, poking heads through the windows of our homes-  one of the girls who had grown close to our team last year, Violet, saw me and came to me, giddy as one reunited with a long lost friend.
The warmth in her eyes was precious as gold, and welcoming as open arms. She asked by name of the girls on my team from last year, “Where is Kyra?” “Where is Kari?” “Where is Corrie” “Where is Katherine?” And she started to sing one of the songs we taught her “Sijui Ki-Swahili” which is a song we made up that means, “I don’t know Swahili” [LOL. because she actually doesnt. she speaks masai
She remembered us.
Our ministry was founded on relationship, and endured because of the relationships that we cultivated.
Such a surreal moment to be back there, to be remembered, and in turn to be pursued by them to continue working amongst them, affirmed of the impact of the work we do.
And now that I’ve seen that we do make an impact, hopefully I don’t question that anymore and I can continue in faith that everything done in Christ is impactful.


The Photos

Nathan with Niwaeli (our translator) teaching on Joshua during our seminar in Morogorro (I joined the team at the beginning of this seminar, flew in from Congo.)

goin to the city!  Ft. Nathan, Matthew, Cameron, and Emily

Nathan, “Should we climb up the mountain?”

Matthew, “HA. Nah, let’s not”
*Turns around and goes back to base after realizing he is severely out of shape and should start working out back in america*

This is Miriam and her newborn daughter Taji. One day after a church service that Nathan and I preached at she asked us to name her then unborn child. We prayed and I heard the name “Laurel”. Taji is the swahili equivalent.


This is me holding Taji. She was 2 days old.


All the seminar graduates dancing their way to the front

GRADUATION YAYYY!!!!! This is  Pastor Mark. He told me that I am exactly like his younger brother. He’s a great guy and he graduated woohoooo!

Group graduation pic! YAYYY CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES!

The gave us Masai garb, which is what is draped over us.


This is in Tarangire, we spent a weekend here and it was amazing! During my DTS outreach I spent a week in Tarangire and these two ladies, Vi and Rafiki were close friends of our team. When I showed up in the village this time Vi came to me and asked by name about all of the girls who were on my team last year and she sang some of the songs we taught them last year. It was a tremendous affirmation that the work we do, even though we can’t always see the fruit, is fruitful. That weekend was so lovely.

I GOT TO SEE JOSIAH!!! He is Elisante’s (our contact in Tanzania) son and my little brother. We bonded last time I was in Tanzania, he is overjoyed to see me, and I him!

This is Josiah, Jesse, and Joshua, 3 of Elisante’s 5 children

After the weekend in Tarangire our team drove to a village called Leguruki. This seminar was smaller and a great deal more challenging.

It’s not all beauty shots of me. Here’s me teaching on David and the importance of having a pure heart and clean hands. Ema, our translator is at my side.

This is Mama Fadilly (Mother of Fadilly), she and her husband opened their house to our team. And she always encouraged me to shower. Because of her I was the cleanest person on our team. Thanks mama!

Mama Fadilly’s family and our team! Fadilly is the boy, Debora is her youngest daughter, and her husband is the man in front of me.



The Poems

being compiled into a chapbook which will be available for purchase…



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3 thoughts on “Tanzania | Do I really make an impact?”

  1. Great stuff Matthew. I have come to find like you on this trip that the key to valuable short term mission work is relational consistency. Hopefully this was not your last trip there. Well done!

  2. Hi Mathew…love your updates
    ….and Yes…you do make a difference!@# can ypu check and make sure we are still supporting you….i know one of our credit cards expired…dont see the bills as my husband hsmdlrs that. I. Very proud of yoy my friend! Keep gping God has a great plan for your life!!!

  3. I love this update Matthew. God is amazing and He is loving people through you. I am so happy to be a partner in your ministry. Love you. Aunt Linda

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