Karibuni! The Lord is good! My name is Brandon and the Lord has done mighty things in my life. I am a missionary in Moshi, Tanzania and God is doing good things for us here at Treasures of Africa Children's Home. This website was created to share that story with friends, family and supporters in the states. I also from time to time will share some thoughts on other stuff as well. Each of the entries are a story of what the Lord is up to and to Him be all glory. Please feel free to send comments and questions to me at Thanks for visiting the site and I hope the Lord blesses you as you poke around.

Peace and Grace,
Brandon Stiver

Friday, March 23, 2012

New Blog

I've begun writing on a new blog. Was just looking for a change. Not sure if I'm going to do anything with this blogspot anymore, but you can check out my new blog at 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Flesh and Blood

Over two years ago, I moved to Tanzania with all the answers. People asked me what I would be doing, I replied with confidence. They asked my long-term vision, I told them the plan unabashed.

As I sit in my living room this afternoon, after time to reflect over all that the Lord’s done, not during my time in Tanzania, but the nearly five years since He first called me, I have to say that I have way more questions than answers. In fact, I daresay, that I don’t know a whole lot at all. 

I used to have a few regular readers for my weekly blogs on this site, but as I prepare to send this piece out to get lost in the vast inter-web, I have to ask myself what I’ve been doing the last four months that I couldn’t afford the time to write even one blog, one story, to share with folks back in the states. 

I suppose the best answer to that is that life has happened. In my attempts to be a good husband to Melissa and a good father and educator to the treasures, the whole being a good writer (or a writer at all, more accurately) has been pushed aside. Time spent on dirty dishes, teaching the preschoolers, balancing TOA’s books, feeding the dog, managing the home and just trying to be a good husband have each individually eclipsed, even dwarfed, my time spent writing for this blog.

In the midst of life happening, something profoundly significant and important has happened, a joyous event. Melissa and I got pregnant. Our lives are forever changed by this little one that we are anticipating seven months from now and already, the child’s arrival is changing our plans and we’re being forced to re-shape that which we call life.

Over the last couple weeks since we’ve told people, I’ve had a couple people congratulate us saying, “now, you’ll be parents to your own flesh and blood.” Rita said this herself as we met with her a couple days ago. Its an interesting point, one that we’re undoubtedly excited for, but there’s a reason that they say that.

If you were to go back to that time when I had all the answers a couple years ago and you asked my friends and family, “who is the one person that Brandon is excited to be with when he gets to Tanzania?” Ten out of ten people would say the same name, Awadhi. People without a second thought referred to him as my son, both American friends in the states and Tanzanian friends here.  His picture is up in my parents house in Wisconsin. When people talk about me, they talk about him. He has been indelibly placed in my story and my life. And yet, he’s the one that is more chalk full of questions in my life than anyone else.

When I first got here, I struggled with the new reality in his life that I stepped into. The reality of him being HIV+ and deaf was something that I was already aware of and walking through. I had prayed for him, fasted for his healing out of a deep love that was new and revolutionary to me. As I moved to Moshi, I was happy to be with him now and fully prepared to continue to battle for him and love him with all that I’ve got. I was and still am assured of his coming healing. But the new reality was that he was going to start out at a new school in Kiboroloni, a school for the deaf. I, and the rest of his family at TOA, would only see him on the weekends. I wasn’t as prepared for that. And that went on for a year, until I then left him for six months at the start of 2011. That time in the states was right in step with what God had for me as I did the best thing since I gave my heart to the Lord, I married my best friend. Nonetheless, I didn’t see Awadhi for a long time. On coming back in July, he had come off another poor performing semester at school and the school asked to keep him on the weekends, so he now only comes home to TOA once a month on the week he has to go to the hospital for his HIV appointment. 

And now, as Melissa and I joyfully look forward to the birth of our baby, I, now we, once again are forced to leave Awadhi for a time longer than the previous six months last year. 

Questions. Where to start? 

Why hasn’t he been healed yet? Why haven’t we adopted him? With the restrictive Tanzanian law in mind, is adoption even possible? Why is he performing so poorly in school? What does he think of when he’s with me? What does he think of me and Melissa when he’s at school? What did he think about the six months that he didn’t see me and I came back with Melissa? What will he think when we leave and come back a while later with a baby? How does he see us? What are we to him truly? What does he believe about God? 

I don’t know.

It’s a humbling confession to make. I can come up with something eloquent about how being born of the spirit is more important than being born in flesh and blood, which is true. I can say something about trusting God with Awadhi, which I do. I can talk about the bright side of being in the states for a while instead of being home in Tanzania. I could say a lot cheerful things. I, indeed, have so much to be thankful for and I am. I’m thankful for my wife, she’s amazing. I’m incredibly excited for the birth of our child and look forward to sharing that experience with friends and family in California. All of this is true and I’d be remiss to not mention it.

But, I believe I have something to learn here in the midst of the questions. Not only about Awadhi, not only about the precious little one that’s going to show up in September, but about life and why things go the way things go. 

I recently read “Erasing Hell” by Francis Chan and the number one thing that I walked away with from that book is that God is higher. The way that He does things is higher than I can imagine, I can’t understand it. I’m the pot. Compare the knowledge of the pot to the knowledge of the Potter who made it. He does things in a way that I wouldn’t do them. This isn’t to demean our existence or the image in which He created us, but its rather to exalt Him as Creator.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, 
Nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher that your ways, 
And My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 

God is good. We thank Him for this coming season of life and for the gift of this little one, as well for the gift of having Awadhi in our life. 

At the same time, life is tough to make sense of sometimes, increasingly so I’m finding in my own life. There are questions, so many stinking questions. Questions that I don’t have the foggiest answer to, other than to say that God is God. His ways and His thoughts are higher, for this we give praise.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Belief and Unbelief

I shared on Wednesday during the morning devotional time at TOA about a miracle that Jesus performed in Mark 9. There is a man who has a son who is deaf, dumb and has frequent seizures. It is a spiritually related illness that had nearly cost him his life time after time. The father brings his son forth and asks Jesus to heal him. He tells Jesus what the problem is and that it has been happening since the boy’s childhood (implying that he’s no longer a child - so it must have been a long time). Jesus tells him that “all things are possible to him who believes.” And in completely honest fashion, the man says to Jesus, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!” I encouraged those at devotional that this prayer is good. Jesus doesn’t rebuke him and say its not enough belief or faith. He heals his son. Elsewhere Jesus says that faith the size of a mustard seed is enough to toss a mountain into the ocean. So just because the father had some unbelief, what he did believe was enough.

That’s what I taught and am being challenged in myself. 

Last week, Melissa and I came to a point of high frustration with Awadhi’s situation. I have been praying for him and his healing for nearly four years now and his situation hasn’t gotten any better. It, in fact, appears worse. We don’t get to see him often because of his boarding school schedule, it appears we aren’t eligible to adopt him (nor do we have the money to if we were) and he’s still HIV+ and deaf. My parents were asking us about him today and I really don’t have much to say. I can’t say that there’s much good news or a positive change. That doesn’t appear to be the case and we are profoundly frustrated. Needless to say, I can relate to the father from the story.

Beyond that, things are difficult for me and Melissa here. There’s a song by Jim Croce* and its called “The Hard Way Every Time.” He talks about how he’s been through so much and realized that he’s done life the hard way with every decision. But he gets to the end of the song and says that he wouldn’t have done it any other way. I listened to that song and it resonated with me. As a bright eyed, bushy haired Christian back in SoCal, I said that I would do things the hard way a time ago and now we find ourselves in our first year of marriage on the mission field. Its nuts. Furthermore, this is Melissa’s first term as a long-term missionary, which for every single missionary brings about so many other difficulties. We’ve been getting hit from every side. Socially its hard, because of all the friends and family that we left to be here and the process of cultivating friendships here. Financially its been difficult, because half of our income has been going to our student loans and even if they weren’t there it would still be tight. Spiritually, its been difficult we don’t understand what He’s up to and its hard to rest in His will when things are so crazy around us. And of course each of those areas have a significant impact on our emotional lives. All of the madness is enough to truly discourage us and leave us wondering if this is how it is supposed to be. 

I’m not so crazy about the hard way these days; the romance of it has worn off and this post will prove insufficient to capture all that’s going on over here. Just know that its hard and its trying, leaving us tired and often discouraged. 

Its times like these when the prayer of the father in Mark is all I’ve got. I daresay that I still believe. Indeed, I still believe. I believe the Lord and for the unbelief that has been mixed in, I ask for His help. I believe that I was called here, that Melissa was called here, that God has set Awadhi aside for His glory and that His purpose will unfold in Awadhi’s life. I still believe that Awadhi will be healed, just like the man’s son in the story. If Jesus can heal a deaf and dumb, demon-possessed epileptic child, He can heal our deaf and HIV+ child.  

God is big and He can handle any struggle that we’re having. He can take a little faith, a mixed bag of belief and unbelief and perform miracles. He is able, for this we give praise. 

*Yes, I listen to Jim Croce. If you think that‘s funny or weird, then Jim Croce is too good for your iPod

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I read through the book of Job recently and as always, I find it to be a strikingly intriguing book. There’s a lot of debate about the characters and the whole storyline of it all. People typically sum it up as such, Job was a good guy, God allowed Satan to afflict him, Job argued with a few friends and then God showed up and talked about creating a bunch of random stuff.

There’s a guy in the story that is often overlooked and his name is Elihu. Elihu is a young guy that waits his turn to talk and really sets the stage for God to burst in and speak out of the whirlwind (how righteous is that imagery?). Elihu comes on the scene in Job 32 and I love his introduction:

 “So these three men (Job’s friends) stopped answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. But Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, became very angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God. He was also angry with the three friends, because they had found no way to refute Job, yet condemned him. Now Elihu had waited before speaking to Job because they were older than he. But when he saw that the three men had nothing more to say, his anger was aroused.” (v. 1-5)

There’s a phrase in here that I find fascinating. Basically, this young guy comes in swinging. He’s angry with everyone that has just been going on and on about the situation. Its safe to say that everyone is angry with the friends, and with good reason. They are worthless comforters, as Job said. But what about Job? Why be angry with him? The Bible says at the start and the end that Job didn’t sin with his lips in this book of words and arguments (Job 1:22; 42:8). Yet this guy Elihu is mad him, really he’s mad for the same reason that moved God to put Job in his place - doesn’t this just send chills up your spine? “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you and you shall answer me.” (38:2).

He’s angry because Job justified himself rather than God.

That is a tough pill to swallow. Job didn’t do anything wrong. He was a righteous man, a prosperous man, a family man with integrity. All of a sudden everything hits the fan and he’s left high and dry. In his attempt to defend himself from his friends harsh words, Job points out how righteous he is, which is actually true. But in all of his discourses, he never justifies God, only himself. Its not until God shows up and Job is put in his place that he speaks what he should have from the get-go “I am unworthy - how can I reply to You?”(40:3).

I think that there’s something in here for us, certainly for me. God calls us to things, He calls us to be a certain person and to act a certain way. By His grace and Spirit, we actually do it sometimes. We are the people that He wants us to be. We’re like Job, we serve God, we love Him and fear Him. At some point, whether it be an attack from Satan, or a byproduct of sin and death in the world, we get hurt, something goes wrong. We ourselves didn’t do anything wrong, but now something’s amiss nonetheless.

Like Job, we often start sulking and point out how we didn’t do anything wrong. We didn’t do anything to bring this upon ourselves. We feel as though we need to defend ourselves from what others might think or say to us, like Job did in responding to his friends. We use all of our words to justify ourselves and we never stop to consider God.

You know what the funny thing is about God’s response to Job? He never tells him why He allowed all the hardship to happen. He never answers all those questions that Job and his friends posed. It seems like God comes in and talks about everything, BUT the question of why. He talks about stars, snow, mountain goats and ostriches, but doesn’t tell Job why all of this was allowed to happen to him.

What’s the point of God’s response? He’s God. That’s the point. We’re not God. That’s the first sub-point. What does it meant to justify God? It means to recognize Him as God. To agree with the Bible that He is higher, we can’t understand Him fully (Isaiah 55:8-9). We relinquish what control we think we have over our lives and tell God He is in control. We realize that He is for us and that He is working out things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). We recognize not only that He’s on our side, but that He’s bigger than the problem. Lastly, we relinquish any thought that God needs to answer to us, that He owes us an explanation or an apology. That’s justification.

You might be doing exactly what God wants you to be doing and something blows up in your face. Now you have this huge problem and you don’t know what to do. You might be apt to say, “but I’m a pastor!” or “I’m witnessing to people at work!” or, as I’m tempted to say, “but Lord I’m way over here in Tanzania, being a missionary and helping orphans!” Just stop. He’s God. He is justified in all He does and He knows exactly what He’s doing, for this we give praise.
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