Good Friday morning ...

For nineteen years I have been taking mission teams to Tanzania, most often passing through, if not actually visiting the village of Ketumbeine. Beyond the village is the mountain of Ketumbeine upon which is the smaller village of Njoro. It is in Ketumbeine that Dr. Steve Friberg and his wife, Bethany, have made their home and from which they have centered their medical ministry to outlying bush dispensaries.

Ketumbeine has served as either the starting or the ending point of most of my trips. It has become my "home-away-from-home" in Tanzania. From there I have reached beyond to Gelai, Arash, Piaya, Gelai Lumbwa and Malambo.

It was in Ketumbeine that the Naapok Bead project began and where several teams helped to construct a covered outdoor pavilion under which the bead ladies can gather and work, protected from the extreme equatorial sun. It was in Ketumbeine where I met the men who would become the first to enter training to become Evangelists in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania. It was from Ketumbeine that God would select Evangelists to study to become pastors and assume responsibilities for as many as 33 bush congregations. It was to Ketumbeine that church leaders would come and marvel at the number of men entering Christian ministry from the area and applaud the number of new church buildings being constructed ... even without their knowledge ("Where did this church building come from? How did this church afford a tin roof? Who supported these men to train for ministry?").

Just as the ministry in and around Ketumbeine has changed over the years, so has the "road" to Ketumbeine. Located some 30 miles off the paved road, Ketumbeine is much easier to get to today than it was nineteen years ago.

There was a time when the "road" to Ketumbeine was no more than a cattle path. It was marked by a small white sign at the edge of the paved Namanga-to-Arusha Road (the A104) located just south of the village of Longido. It was quite easy to miss the sign unless you were paying special attention.

The "road" meandered over flat, dry terrain that wound its way around small boulders and unusually shaped lava rock formations left from volcanic actions years ago. It dipped into washed-out riverbeds and deep gullies formed by flash flood waters from the rainy season. It bent around a common watering hole where elephants, giraffes, zebras, eland, gazelles and kudus gathered for an evening drink or bath.

The "road" was treacherous back then, not only from a layer of six-inch deep dust during the dry season and six-inch deep gloppy mud during the wet, but also from the threat of Somali bandits. They would swoop down from the Kenyan border thirty miles to the north and attack vehicles, stealing food, water, money or whatever was of value. This was done during broad daylight. There was no protection other than the ability to outrun them or somehow make your passage when they weren't present. There were occasions when travelers were harmed, even killed, especially if they were wealthy westerners. Consequently, most travel on the "road" to Ketumbeine was done in groups.

Today there actually is a ROAD to Ketumbeine. About five years ago equipment from the Tanzanian government cut a more direct route over the plain, leveling out the passes through rivers and gullies and providing a gravel and clay-like base for the roadbed. There is still no pavement, the dust can be extreme, the washouts during the rainy season can still divert you around deep gullies cut into the road, but it is a much smoother, more enjoyable thirty miles than ever before. And whereas it once took over three hours to travel the thirty-mile distance between Longido and Ketumbeine, it can now be done in a little over an hour and a half.

Cattle, goats and sheep still use the road for passage from one grazing place to another and one must be cautious for animals sharing and sometimes hogging the road. Bandits no longer prey on vehicles making the trip, but Maasai herdsmen still wave you down to request a sip of water or ask for a ride. You can imagine that the road might need constant maintenance, but it receives such attention only about once a year following the rainy season.

With the improved road in place, transportation to and from Ketumbeine is more frequent, allowing several trucks to traverse the distance every day bringing supplies to and from the village and beyond. In addition, there are several cars now located in the village and lots of motorcycles (piki pikis) that provide transportation to and from. Ketumbeine has not only become a center for the growth of Christianity in this remote area but is now becoming a center for commerce and communication. A cell tower is even located at the edge of the secondary school property. Though still inhabited by primitive-living Maasai, Ketumbeine has snuck into the twenty-first century with the use of the cell phone.

In the west we take our roads for granted. They are modern thoroughfares, paved and curbed, with signage and lane markings. They are well-drained and lighted. We travel them day and night without much thought. They are part of our daily lives. We count on them to get us to and from work, to school, to church, to shopping centers and the grocery store.

Roads always lead somewhere and our travel upon them is always meant to get us from one place to another. That's their purpose and unless there is some traffic congestion or road construction, we are generally well-satisfied with our roads.

There is another road which is far more important than any road we will ever travel upon on this earth. It is the narrow road that leads to heaven. Jesus speaks of it in His widely read Sermon on the Mount. Here Jesus makes it clear that though the path to heaven is open to everyone, not everyone will take it. Salvation, Jesus says, is found only through Him, for He is the way, the truth and the life.

We must travel the road He has designated. We cannot create our own path or try to come to Him based on our own efforts. Compared to God's righteousness, we are all filthy because of our sin. And God cannot simply overlook our sin. He is merciful, but He is also just.  And being just, He requires payment for our sin. That payment came in the form of Jesus' death on the cross where he paid the price with His own precious blood. Without the blood of Jesus covering our sin, we stand guilty before the God we rejected.

The road to heaven is through faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

While we travel roads every day, some more clearly marked than others, some smoother than others, some better lit than others, some wider and faster than others ... let us make sure we are on the narrow road of faith that leads us to the end of our road on earth and into eternity with our gracious God.

Have a blessed weekend in the Lord ...

PR

Jesus said: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. [Matthew 7:13-14].