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Finding Norwich's Joy with the crocodiles in Africa

Watching a crocodile glide past, after seeing five boys baptised in Lake Victoria, Tanzania, has been one of the most surreal moments of the last 18 months for Christian  missionary, Joy McCann, from Norwich. Jenny Seal reports.

Since May 2016, Joy (27) from New Costessey, has lived in Mwanza, a city on the shore of Lake Victoria in northern Tanzania. Joy volunteers with the Christian charity Tanzania Bridge of Hope. The NGO aims to lift the local community out of poverty and has recently set up a day-care centre where Joy teaches children about God.

The journey to East Africa began in 2002 when Joy, who was just 11 years old, was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME. The illness confined her to bed for 13 years with exhaustion and light sensitivity. Throughout this extended period of ill health, and despite never having visited the continent, Joy was sustained by visions from God of a place in Africa where she would go when she was better.

In 2015, through a lot of prayer at her Norwich church, Gateway Vineyard, Joy was healed.

Making the most of her restored health, Joy jumped at the opportunity to visit Tanzania for three weeks. Just six weeks later, Joy moved to Mwanza as a long-term missionary.

Now, after 18 months, Joy is back in Norwich for a short break, taking time to rest as well as having a few medical checks after contracting some local illnesses in Africa. As she reflects on her life in Tanzania, she is particularly thankful for the recent delight of finding a new Vineyard church in Mwanza.

She said: “I had a real yearning in my soul for a Vineyard church in Mwanza. I had been sent from Gateway Vineyard Church in Norwich and had really missed many of their teachings, values, deep prayer ministry and the ‘come as you are’ approach.”

Through Facebook, Joy discovered plans to start a Vineyard church in her adopted city. She met up with the newly-trained indigenous church leader, Pastor Daniel, in Mwanza, and was immediately impressed. “There was something very different about him,” she said. “There was light in his eyes, a new vision.”

“It almost felt too good to be true,” she continued. “I very quickly became involved in the church, Vineyard Mwanza. They had just started meeting in a little dusty cinema. I had goosebumps as we worshipped God with nothing other than our voices, hands clapping, and the Holy Spirit.”

Joy tells of when a group of local boys, who live on the street, came to see what was going on in the normally ticket-only cinema. Joy said: “I heard them ask one another: “Is it free?’” and, “Is this a church?” The boys became regular visitors to the church and very quickly started engaging, particularly in the worship. Then one Sunday, Joy was asked to teach the new church about communion.

She said “I found a translator I knew, who took me to church on his motorbike and it was an amazing time. Before we took communion I gave an opportunity for anyone who wanted to become Christians that day and seven boys came forward. I know five of them were from the street and two lived in the   surrounding area.

“Pastor Daniel led them in a prayer and I just stood there in amazement as they so willingly gave their lives to Jesus and received communion with the church. I asked Daniel if we could soon arrange a baptism and also where we could do it. His reply was “Yes, of course, in two weeks, we’ll do it in Lake Victoria.” 

“The baptism was one of the most precious days of my life. The boys were well taught on baptism and counselled beforehand, and we baptised five of them in the lake. The scenery was so Biblical. And, with us all singing the chorus ‘I Have Decided to Follow Jesus’ in Swahili and English on the shoreline, it was breath-taking.

“It was also quite humorous when those around me said, “Oh, look… is that a crocodile? We’d better move up the land now.” I seemed to have far more urgency than the others to do so as I watched the nostrils floating close by!”

Now, while on her break in Norwich, Joy is equipping herself for these new ministry and evangelism opportunities in Tanzania. She is doing an online  theology course, as well as leadership training and evangelism school sessions. She hopes when she returns to Tanzania to put more time into the new church and mission opportunities, as well as continuing her role in the day-care centre.

Joy said: “My role as missionary has been teaching the kids the word of God, and teaching them to pray and sing, as well as doing creative lessons. We have seen so many of the kids come to know about Jesus, and their parents often comment that they have noticed massive changes in their behaviour since they have been at the day-care. The kids come home wanting to pray with their brothers and sisters and teach them what they learned in the lessons at school.”

She said: “The day-care is in massive need of funding in many areas and we ask you to pray with us for provision in all our areas of need. A big need is school transport so that we can take more kids from wider areas of Mwanza. Parents often ask if we can transport their kids yet. Since the new school year began in January, we have been able to receive 13 children but have overall capacity for 80-100.  We have made it possible for donors to sponsor vulnerable and orphaned children to be schooled at our day-care when their parents aren’t able to pay fees.”

You can read more about Tanzania Bridge of Hope and how to sponsor a child at www.tanzaniabridgeofhope.wordpress.com

For more information you can email Joy on joy.elizabeth2@icloud.com, or to support her work in Tanzania, you can donate via her blog: http://joymccann.blogspot.com

And if you would like to follow in her footsteps, there is an open invitation. “Volunteers are warmly welcome to come out,” said Joy.

Read our previous article about Joy.
Pictured top is Joy McCann with young members of the Vineyard church in Mwanza who were baptised in Lake  Victoria in Tanzania, watched by some crocodiles and, above, at the day-care centre.

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