Peter and Tammy Russell work with Wild Hope International in Tanzania after spending years working with Kenya’s Maasai. Peter enjoys training Christian leaders and potential leaders “in the life of radical faith,” with Tammy assisting in the process of discipleship and transformation.
Recently, they had a five-day getaway on the pristine beaches of Zanzibar. Peter had looked forward to the time to “relax, read a good book, enjoy some good food, swim, and exercise.”
“As we flew in over the Indian Ocean, the aquamarine and coral blue of the waters surrounding the emerald archipelago formed a picture so breathtaking that I felt my soul start to rejuvenate,” he recounted.
After they found their hotel, Peter and Tammy slipped into the hotel pool overlooking the sea, and Peter felt God’s love surrounding the two of them.
In the evening they strolled along the beach and saw the locals mingling with the tourists and enjoying themselves, playing soccer, volleyball, and swimming.
But, they also noticed a darker side to the tourist experience. “We were keenly aware of broken and desperate people. In Tanzania as well as Kenya, Maasai men come to the tourist beaches to sell trinkets and play the noble warrior for lonely tourists. It saddens us,” Peter noted.
“Over the years, Tammy and I have developed a principle (right or wrong) when we are on vacation at the beach of not letting on that we know the Maasai language. We have found that once this is discovered, relaxing is a challenge as everyone wants to talk to you,” he explained.
The dream of Massai sacrifice
That night after Peter fell asleep to the whirr of air-conditioning, he had a disturbing dream. “In the dream I saw Maasai going to perform a sacrifice filled with occult meaning. When I woke up I shared the dream with Tammy, we prayed together and the heaviness lifted somewhat. But later in the day it came back and I had a stirring in my heart to have church on the beach.”
When Sunday arrived, Peter and Tammy took a walk on the beach.
When a young Maasai man greeted them, Peter answered him in Maasai. The young man was shocked to hear his language coming from a tourist.
“I have a message on my heart to give to you Maasai here. Can you gather your friends together?” Peter asked.
“Yes!” the man replied, and led them up a small alleyway lined with stalls covered in blue tarps where they were selling their wares.
As Peter shared, he noticed ‘a strange peaceful heaviness settled down on us all.’
Soon about 30 of the Maasai had gathered and Peter began to share from Zechariah 4:6: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.”
As Peter shared, he noticed “a strange peaceful heaviness settled down on us all.” It felt like a holy moment. When he asked if any wanted prayer, a long line formed and Peter and Tammy quietly prayed for each one. Some men had tears welling up in their eyes.
In response to Peter’s invitation, three men gave their hearts to the Lord!
The Maasai escorted Peter and Tammy back to the beach and asked if they would come back again.
“We will come back here tomorrow at this time, but now we are going back to our hotel. Would you please let us rest while we are there?”
The Maasai graciously agreed.
God brings more
The next day at the appointed time they returned to the same place on the beach. Beforehand, Tammy said, “We really need to pray for a leader to carry on with these guys. We don’t want to stir things up and leave.” So they prayed a simple prayer that God would raise up one of the Maasai as a leader, and then they continued walking until they reached their stalls.
“This time, over 70 people gathered! Again, the presence of the Lord was thick and everyone was listening closely. The Maasai language has several dialects and these Maasai were almost all Ilparakuyu from Southwest Tanzania. Their dialect is virtually identical to the dialect Tammy and I first studied 28 years ago and the comprehension level seemed very high,” Peter explained.
Then Peter surprised the group with an unexpected challenge: “So why did you all go and perform a sacrifice?”
The men had shocked expressions on their faces. “Who told you?! We did it because none of our businesses here are doing well and we are desperate.”
Peter explained about his dream and said, “You went to perform a sacrifice in darkness but the God of light gave me a dream and told me to come and tell you that there is no need to continue sacrificing in the dark when God has sent His only Son, the Light of the World, to be a sacrifice once and for all for the whole world. He loves you deeply and if you give Him your life He will guide you in love.”
Then he shared the verse God had put on his heart, Hebrews 10:4: “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”
When they heard this they were pierced to the heart, and fell under the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
“When I asked, over 30 came up to give their lives to the Lord!” Peter exclaimed.
Tammy and I both felt this was a sovereign work of God.
“It wasn’t my ability to speak their language…it was much deeper than that. Tammy and I both felt this was a sovereign work of God,” he added.
After praying with those who came forward, Peter asked if anyone in the group was already a believer and had a Bible. One young man named Petros came forward carrying a Maasai Bible.
“I had noticed him before because he was the only man in the group who didn’t have the skin of the sacrificial animal on his wrist.”
When Peter gave him an opportunity to share, he said, “Didn’t I tell you guys not to do that sacrifice! Now, look at what God has done. He has sent this white man to testify about the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of sins through believing in Him alone!”
A direct answer to prayer for a Maasai warrior
Peter and Tammy laid hands on Petros and prayed for him to be filled with God’s grace as he led them in studying the Word of God. The got his contact information and passed it on to their teammates, Solomon and Sarah, who work with the Ilparakuyu in Morogoro and will follow up with him.
It was a direct answer to their prayer for God to raise up a leader to continue His work after their departure.
As they said their goodbyes and headed back to their hotel, Peter and Tammy were in a state of shock. “What just happened?!” they asked each other.
“We had never experienced God moving quite like this before.”
It was a powerful reminder of their partnership with God, even on a “vacation” when they least expected such a thing to happen.
“He prepared the way and then brought people to Himself. All we did was follow along, caught up in the flow of His river of grace. To God be the glory!”
“Pray for these new believers. Pray for Petros. Pray for Solomon and Sarah’s connection with them.”