Sunday, January 15

The "Little Things"

                                                                                                        15 January 2017
Dear Family and Friends,

We give thanks for the "little things":
---Waking up in the morning to the chapel bell's call to worship in an hour
--Lifting a patched mosquito net and feeling relief from a night without bites
--Discovering that this morning we actually have electricity so we can turn on the electric pot to make clean, boiled water for coffee
--Appreciating the available boiled water so we can also refill our bathroom bottle to brush our teeth
--Giving thanks that the dust caused by the current drought isn't stirring yet
--Enjoying the luxury of having a small, 30 year-old washing machine that can wash one bedsheet at a time
--Experiencing a "safe" trip into Arusha via our missionary vehicle so we can worship.  The emphasis is on several things--primarily the word "safe"--another trip without incident in which people walking on the road, animals who have strayed or have decided to cross the road, carts that "take up" the road as the one who pushes tries to steer an unwieldy cart uphill/downhill, and the menacing dala dalas that dart like bullets in and out of traffic and squeeze into niches between vehicles that seem impossible to enter.
--The other emphasis is on worship.  On Sundays we attend a Christian church with an international community and have the joy of hearing God's Word in our own native language.
   These things seem so "little" to us that we often take them for granted here. . . . .but, there are those in the villages for whom these "little" blessings would seem so "Big". . . . because they:

--Wake up in the morning to the Imam's call to prayer
--Lift their blanket off the dirt floor and feel for any mosquito bites from the night
--Light a paraffin candle until the sun lightens their space
--Go to the stream to fetch their water to boil and drink for their awakening
--Pray as they go that the shrinking stream of water has not dried up yet
--Wash their clothes in whatever amount of water they can find, no matter what shade of brown it is
--Walk to their destinations--on the road--alongside their animals--- behind an unwieldy cart--- or, if they can afford it, ride in a treacherous dala dala
   These things are BIG to them. . . . . and they don't take them for granted.. . . . . . . .

     There is much to learn from the poor. . . . . .
           Wishing you a blessed New Year,
                 Tim & Diane

Sunday, November 6

The rest of the post-read after the first entry

 (This follows the first entry--sorry it didn't arrive in one piece)
Two weeks ago, shortly after arriving in Tanzania, I flew back to the States for the unexpected death of my niece's 32 year-old husband.  The services were also powerful but more "sanitized," yet the felt emotions were the same--shock, disbelief, and heart-wrenching grief.  The short life of this young American man who had so much potential, left a precious wife and 13 month-old son to make meaning out of death. . .and life.
   Tim and I are deeply grateful that the same promises made 2000 years ago on a hot and dusty road near Bethany still hold true today---"Your brother (loved one) will rise again." Jesus could not have said it any clearer than when He said to Lazarus' sister, "I am the resurrection and the life.  Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die."  Then He asked her (Martha), "Do you believe this?  The answer to that question is what gives us the assurance we know today for Bill and for Julianna.
  Both of these young people, one whose ashes will stay in America and the other thousands of miles away buried in the soil of Tanzania, knew and loved Jesus. . . and the comfort is that Jesus also has known and loved them all along. . .
   Each time we come to Tanzania we are never quite sure what we will experience.  This has truly "taken our breath away."  On the other hand, however, we have a great group of 29 seminary students who are very engaging, eager to learn, and even some are willing to question---so progress is being made!
   We hope that this letter/blog finds you well.  Our thoughts and prayers are with our country as we go through the national elections on Tuesday.
   With our love to you all,
        Tim & Diane

Back in Tanzania November,2016

Saturday, January 16

Life in the "interior"

The "interior"
One of our former students stopped by this week and
was telling us about his internship in the "interior."  The "interior" is another name for the remote area also known as "the bush."  The area is extremely
underserved for numerous reasons--its distance,
its barrenness, and the people who live there have a
lifestyle that has adapted to such sparse existence and traditional ways that they do not seek change.  
 One of the main tribes in such areas is the Maasai.  They are herders, moving their cattle from place to place, wherever vegetation can be found.  Consequently, they live in mud homes (made by the women) so that the Maasai can quickly move from one location to another when necessary.                                   Mother & daughter repairing  mud home
   The men are known for their bravery, protecting
their cattle from wild animals by use of only a spear and maybe a club.  They are often polygamous, having more than one wife, and as many children as possible.
   The Maasai's first love (almost to the point of obsession) is their cows.  They are legendary for the large numbers they own. Their wealth is solely in their cattle.  (There is a saying here that a Maasai's bank has 4 legs!) Our student said that he could go into that area with only 10,000Tsh ($5 USD) in his pocket and come back home weeks later and still have the 10,000Tsh.  There is nothing to shop for there and no place to shop, so no money is needed.
   The Maasai's diet consists of meat and milk.  The men and boys graze the animals and the women and girls gather the firewood, find a stream to collect the water, and take care of building/repairing their mud home. There are no schools and very few churches.  There aren't nearly enough pastors or evangelists to go around, so it is common for a  Christian women and children to gather outside on Sunday mornings under an Acaia tree, place an opened Bible on a tree stump (rarely can the women read but they believe that God reads it for them), and proceed to sings hymns they've been taught and say prayers from their heart. This was a sight that was very familiar to our theology student. He was warmly welcomed whenever he happened to be there, and he said the women would want to stay for such a long time that after several hours he'd have to say, "It is over. Go back to your homes now."
   He also explained to us that Maasai are afraid of dead bodies, so it is a very unfortunate person who has to drag the deceased into the woods where it is left for wild animals to consume. Consequently, when our student would see a dead body, he would dig a hole, put on his robe, have a small service and bury the person in the ground.  The people would gather out of curiosity when they would see him digging.  He said they'd stand around and watch, shake their heads, and question why he wouldn't just let the animals take care of the body.  He took that as an opportunity to talk about God to them.
  He said that they know God.  In fact, he recalled an elder in one of the bomas putting his hand on each cow as it left in the morning, and saying, "God keep you safe until you return."  In the evening when the cows returned, the mzee (old man) repeated his practice, touching each cow and saying, "Asante sana, Bwana, for the safe return of this cow."Our student said that the Maasai are a "religious" people, in that they believe in God, but most do not know Jesus, and their practices keep women in a very lowly position.
Maasai women bringing in charcoal & taking care of the "transport"

One day, a Christian Tanzanian woman who lived in a village on the edge of the "interior," passed by and saw again how hard life is for the Maasai. So as she walked, she prayed that God would show her a way, to help. She prayed and prayed, then thought, "If only I could read Maa (the language of the Maasai), I could read them the Bible so they could know Jesus.
   Our student had heard about this Christian lady and one day he met her, and she told him the rest of her story. She said
she prayed for many days about what she should do, and she got a Bible, opened it, and started reading it in Maa--and understood what she was reading.  Now, she is being sent to a 3 month school by our student's supervisor for leadership training and teaching techniques, so that she can  proclaim with confidence the Scripture she reads to the people.  Everyone there, including our student and his supervising pastor, agree that what happened was a miracle.
  God works like that here. . . .it's 2016. . . technology, globalization, politics fill the headlines in much of the world. . . but in a place, less than 100 km (less 60 miles) from where we are, life is still very much
Old Testament times.. .                                                                   
Maasai woman attending to the birth of a calf
A Maasai woman's wounded toe

We don't always know what to think or make of all that we see and hear (the pictures are ours that we've taken when we've been in "the interior.")  But we pray that as we share the stories with you, God will work in all of our lives and that we can witness His presence and serve his people, wherever we are.
   With hopes that you are staying warm, and safe, and having a good January!
         With our love,   Tim & Diane

Life in the "interior"

Friday, January 1

Asante sana, Bwana

Asante sana, Bwana:
  Asante, Lord, for this past year.  Thank-you for your world which has seemed to grow smaller and closer as we've learned more about the diversity and experienced more of the similarities---and discovered more about You in the process.

  Asante, Lord--thank-you for our blessings of community--for our tribe of Americans, for our clan made up of our parents, our children, our grandchildren, siblings, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins, as well as our neighbors and friends....and for the friendships we've made and those yet to be developed.

  Asante, Lord--thank-you for the diversity of people who fill your globe with their uniqueness and perspectives that add depth to our own by strengthening them as well as by stretching them.

  Asante, Lord--thank-you for the privilege of being in Tanzania and teaching at Makumira...for the seminary students whose lives of childlike trust in You teach and give witness to us.

  Asante Lord--for the workers---the Mama's, the nuns, the volunteers who give care to the children, the lepers, the albinos---to all those who are vulnnerable and abused.

   Asante, Lord--for the sweet chai (tea), and robust kahawa (coffee), and stomach-filling mkate (bread) that sustain us all.

  Asante, Lord--for the magnificence and wonder of your creation--from the variety of animals we see on safari, to the people we move through in the marketplace--to the majestic awe of the brilliant African sky--Your artwork, Lord, is vivid, alive, and breathtaking.

  Dear Father, the list is endless--just as You are.  Please help us in this New Year to stay focused on your blessings---and the responsibilities that are our response to such luxuries.  Mostly, we give thanks for your forgiveness of all of our sins at the price of your own innocence and being.  Asante sana, Bwana, for the undeserved joy of being your child.

   And to all of our family ad friends we say,
  "Mungu akubariki na mwaka mpya!"  (May God bless you and Happy New Year!)
  Tim & Diane


Thursday, November 26

Today is Thanksgiving

   Today is Thanksgiving.  I walked into the village to see if the village seamstress could sew a hem for me.  It's a dirty walk on a rocky, pitted dirt road.  When you turn off that road to go deeper into the village there are lots of burned, charcoal-fueled fire spots where dwellers have burned their trash or in one case 3 years ago, a thief was burned to earth on one of those spots.

   The  young woman who does the sewing wasn't home, and the young girl attending the home didn't speak English so we exchanged a few words in Kiswahili and I returned to campus by way of the main highway.

   It's a bit of a walk so I was thinking about different things when I heard a voice call out, "Bibi" (Grandmother).  I wasn't really paying attention and kept walking until the same voice yelled louder, "Shikamu" (A greeting of respect for an elder.)  I turned around and saw a boy about 10 years-old.  He was pretty dirty and carried a heavy black plastic bag on his shoulder.  He started speaking Kiswahili.  I explained (in Kiswahili) that I didn't speak much Swahili, but he kept talking as if I understood! (He must have understood the little I said, so that's a complement to my efforts at studying the language---or else when I thought I said I didn't speak much, I actually said I speak a lot!!!)   Anyway, we soon got to the pantomime version of communicating and he wanted to know what was in my small purse.  I acted like I didn't understand and pulled out the blouse I hoped to have hemmed that I was carrying uderneath the purse.  He must have thought that this "bibi" really didn't get it!  So in frustration and with a rough, strong voice he demanded, "Give me money!"  I looked at him kindly, smiled, and said, "Hapana (no), I have no money."  Then I asked him (via gestures) what was in his bag.  his eyes became stern.  I think he thought I wanted to take his bag, so I gently said, "Your bag is heavy, so sorry."  (At least that's what I think I said.)  So he took  down his bag from his left shoulder and opened it to show me the coal he was carrying, probably to sell.  I again said that it was very heavy and I was sorry.  We walked a bit more in silence.   I noticed his strong arms---yet still those of a boy developing muscle. . .He wasn't inn school and today is a school day here. . .
I wondered about how protective he was of his bag of coal. . .

   After a bit he said, "Good-by."  And I said, "Kwa here. Sik njema." (Good-by. Have a good day.)  He replied, "Asante" (thank-you) and crossed the busy highway. . .

   I said a prayer for him as I continued my walk back to the campus.  He coulld  have been one of my grandchildren----how different their life is.

   Sometimes it's a bit overwhelming here. . .Our life is so abundant inn the face of their poverty. . .

Dear God, please be with this Tz. boy today and with our grandchildren so far away.  Fill all of their stomachs, keep all of them safe from harm, and help each of them grow to know You---and love You with all of their heart.

 Happy Thanksgiving to all of you