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Cover Story


To Dream an Impossible Dream



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Does it do any good to have a dream when there is no possible way to see that
dream through? Does mission work ever amount to more than touching a few lives for a short time? Just ask Gilbert (Gil) and Sebashan. One had an impossible dream, the other a call from ADRA. Their two worlds collided in Tanzania, and the results could only be described as a God thing.

Sebashan was born into a Muslim family in Tanzania. He and his brothers grew up with a father who held strictly to their religion and taught his sons to be obedient, too. Beatings were something his father had no qualms about. Disrespect for his father or his religion was intolerable. Discipline was the way to keep everyone in line, according to his father, and Sebashan and his brothers often were on the receiving end of his wrath.

They grew up knowing that they had to work hard to survive and earn the respect of their father. He had built up a family business and wanted his sons to grow and work with him. Anything else was simply not an option.

Sebashan had other dreams, though. He wanted to get an education. He liked learning, and for him, continuing his formal education was important. Education for most in Tanzania ended with primary school. After that, the fees became a difficulty for most families, and only the best students even got the chance to go further.

Sebashan studied hard. He wanted to make sure that if a chance came for his dream to come true, he would be ready to seize the opportunity. As he was working hard to study and do the work required by his father, something happened that would change all of their lives.

While Sebashan was still in primary school, one of his older brothers found time to attend messages being given nearby. There, his brother learned about a religion very different than what they had been taught at home. He learned about the Son of God, Jesus, who had actually come to this world and had lived and died for him. He learned for the first time that love was important, and even more importantly, that he was loved by God.

His heart responded to the message. It had to. As he learned more, he read the Bible for himself and saw that Jesus worshipped on the seventh-day Sabbath. It wasn’t long before he was ready to take an unheard of stand and be baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

You can imagine how the news was accepted by Sebashan’s father.
Sebashan watched as his brother was beaten repeatedly. His father, like King Saul, threw spears at his son. There were times that he had to go away to save his life. But never did Sebashan see his brother back down from his newfound faith. Instead, as the beatings grew, so did his courage and beliefs.

Sebashan was intrigued. This new faith his brother had found made him different than those around him. It wasn’t long before Sebashan had to know more. As he studied, he knew that there was something to the beliefs that beatings could not destroy. After his father’s death, the older brothers took up the beatings and threatening. Sebashan met with his older brother, and soon he, too, took a stand for the truth. He was 16 years old when he was baptized into the new faith.

His brothers became very bitter. They had plans for him. They wanted this studious young man to join them in the family business, which included working on the Sabbath. Refusal met with more opposition and beatings . . . and sometimes much more!

Still, Sebashan had a dream. He wanted to continue his education. He worked hard and saved all his money. His mother, also a Muslim, had a mother’s tender heart, and she loved her youngest son. She saw the changes in him and reached deep to aid him with the school fees.

Soon, Sebashan had completed grade 10! To go further, Sebashan would have to take a national exam and again come up with money that seemed far out of reach. Sebashan knew that to pass the exam, he would need the help of God. He spent days fasting and praying. He now had a clearer dream. He wanted to become a pastor. If that wasn’t God’s will, then he decided that he would become a doctor and work with the SDA Church to help those in his country who were hurting.

He took the exam and scored well. There was that dream. It seemed impossible. But was it? A friend looked at his exam grades and gave
Sebashan some advice that would change his course of action and put him on a collision course with Gil, an American who was coming to Tanzania to help in his country.

“Why waste time going to high school? Your grades are good enough to go to the Seventh-day Adventist University. Don’t waste your time here. Go to college instead,” his classmate told him.

Could it be true? Sebashan decided he was going to find out. He packed his meager belongings and the money he had been able to save and returned home. He had enough saved to help him start on the journey to his seemingly impossible dream.

Gone. That’s what he found at home. His mother’s roof was gone, taken off during a severe storm. What was he going to do? All the money he had was for school, but could he leave his mother in such impossible circumstances? Of course not. The God he now knew had taught him about loving others, and his mother was very important to him.

Sebashan spent all his money to fix up his mother’s home. He had no choice
but to stay at home for a year and grow corn, rice, and cotton to help him save
for his continued education. His mother watched her youngest son closely. His loving nature was so unlike her older children who were nearby. He worked hard and spent long hours with his crops. He didn’t spend money on things other young people did. He saved. He had a dream.

Sebashan had almost enough to go to the Adventist University of Arusha. When he paid the fees for his first year, he had nothing left. Nothing. He had no money for things like food or other necessities. All he had was a dream. His friends pitched in to help him out. With much hard work, he managed to finish his first year, determined to become a pastor.

His mother called him out of the blue one day, wanting him to answer a question. She made him promise that he would tell her the truth.

“What medication are they giving you at that school that makes you act so different? Remember, you promised to only tell me the truth, Son.”

“They aren’t giving me medication, Mom.”

“You promised to tell me, Son. I want to get some of that medication.”

“It’s not medication, Mom. It’s Jesus!” Soon his mother was studying the Word of God for herself. It wasn’t long before she, too, joined two of her son’s in their new faith.

Sebashan went to the university, asking how he could get help with his fees for the next year. Seeing that he was a hard worker, they allowed him to use two precious acres of land to grow crops. He grew onions and tomatoes on the
borrowed land. He had to carry water from a well far away to water his crops. That’s where his neighbor found him with news that would change everything for Sebashan.

“Sebashan, what are you doing here? There are American missionaries at the college. They have work for you! Go, hurry right now before it’s too late.” Sebashan hesitated. He was shy about asking people he did not know for work. They had heard about Sebashan, though, and soon had hired him to do their washing. They watched him beat their clothes in the water and make them clean. As a kindness, Sebashan even heated water so that the Americans who were building a medical/dental clinic on the campus could take warm showers instead of cold ones at the end of their hard day’s work.

He roasted corn in the fire so that they would have something warm to eat. The kindness did not go unnoticed. Gil, who was the supervisor of the project, had been watching Sebashan. He saw his hard work ethic. The group needed a guard, and there was no one they wanted to hire more than Sebashan.

Now, besides his crops, Sebashan had another job, one that would help him save for the fees needed for his second year of college. His impossible dream was looking less impossible as he prayed and worked hard.

Gil watched the young man he had hired. He knew Sebashan had to be tired, but Sebashan wanted to make sure the missionary group was safe. At midnight that first night, Gil crawled out of bed and stood at the door of the hut.

“Sebashan?”

“Yes, Gil?”

“I just need to go to the washroom.”

“OK, Gil. You are safe.”

At two o’clock, Gil stood at the door again.

“Sebashan?”

“Yes, Gil?”

“I need to go to the washroom.”

“OK, Gil. You are safe.” Sebashan told him with a smile.
At four o’clock, Sebashan heard Gil stirring again.

“Sebashan?”

“Yes, Gil?”

“Why aren’t you asleep? Why don’t you go to bed?”

“I’ve got work to do. You are safe, Gil.”

“OK. Thanks, Sebashan.”

The next morning, Sebashan washed the clothing. He watered his garden. He
heated water for the missionaries. Gil noticed. Who was this dedicated young man he had hired?

Gil asked about Sebashan’s dreams. He told Gil about his passion: to become a minister for his church. It was the reason he worked so hard. Gil began inquiring about Sebashan. He found out that he had grown up as a Muslim and had suffered terribly to accept the Adventist message. He saw that he was passionate in his dreams. Gil began to realize that he had been sent by God to Tanzania for more than building a clinic. God had big plans for this young man, and He wanted to use Gil to make the impossible possible.

Gil paid Sebashan’s school fees for the next three years. For the first time since God had put the dream in his heart, Sebashan didn’t have to struggle to stay in school. He was able to study hard and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in theology. Sebashan’s impossible dream had come true.

At first he worked as a chaplain and then as a pastor in Tanzania. He had eight churches. There were over 2,000 members in his churches, and he used all kinds of transportation to reach them. “If nothing else worked, I’d walk,” Sebashan said.

Gil, who now calls Sebashan “Son,” returned to Africa for another missionary trip, this time in Kenya. Sebashan was in the area, not knowing that Gil was also. The ADRA representative chased Sebashan down in her car to tell him. They were able to meet up at the airport. For the first time, Gil got to hear Sebashan preach. He did it in English, to honor his American “dad”! The best part was that he had to have a Swahili translator translate it back into his native tongue for everyone else.

Do impossible dreams come true? Does missionary work really change lives? You bet! Just ask Sebashan’s fourth child, a little boy named Gilbert Magasi. He knows just by his name that God is in the work of impossible dreams. His middle name tells him the rest of the story, because it means “provider.”

Never give up on a dream that God has implanted in your heart. The impossible and the improbable are God’s specialties.


Kimberley Tagert-Paul is an author and freelance writer. She
writes from Muskegon, Michigan.

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