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

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

Wednesday, November 18

Elections African Style

Greetings from 8000 miles away!
  We are doing fine--no real excitement since our house fire.  We both have 25 students in our seminary classes and Diane has begun teaching a course in Abnormal Psychology at the University.  We have monkeys who play in our front yard and Diane is glad to report that we have seen no far!
  Elections have been completed in Tz.  They elect a new president every 5 years and the president is limited to 2 terms.  The office of president rotates between a Christian president and a Muslim president every 10 years.
   The election drew a lot of excitement and energy.  There were party flags on every street corner, giant billboard signs, outdoor political rallies that drew thousands, and trucks with loud speakers blaring their party slogans driving up and down the roads.  We kept a low profile during election week for safety reasons.
  By African standards the election turned out to be very peaceful.  Many countries surrounding Tz. measure their election by the 100's killed, 1000's injured, and countless homes, autos and businesses burned.  Not so for Tanzania.
   Unfortunately most of our seminary and university students were not able to vote.  The government required all students to register at their universities to vote (since that is where they would be residing at the time of voting).  Then just before elections, the government delayed the start of classes until after elections.  Since the students were at home (away from their universities) at the time for elections, they weren't registered to vote in their home district so they lost their right to vote. Interestingly one of the opposition parties consisted in a large part of this youthful population.  (That party lost.)
   The other unfortunate side effect to the elections was an increase in the physical attacks on the albino people. Many politicians who were running for office would use witchcraft in hopes of improving their chances for winning.  Some of the believed-to-be most power witchcraft practices include the use of albino body parts.  Consequently, many albinos (children as well as adults) are maimed and killed for their body parts to be used in these rituals. In the classes we teach, we have the opportunity to address such issues.  The seminarians and pastors are on the front line in working with these beliefs in their villages. By educating the pastors/seminarians about mental illness, witchcraft, and superstitious practices, lives can be saved and changed in many ways. We give them knowledge and hope in helping their people deal with these destructive  customs.
   As we write this we realize that Thanksgiving is just a week away. We wish each of you a Blessed Thanksgiving.  We are grateful for your interest and your prayers.  We are deeply blessed--both here and at home---living in Tanzania makes us so much more aware of that.
  Tim & Diane

Tanzania's new President Magufuli

Flags from opposing parties everywhere. . .
. . .and on everything!!!

Tuesday, October 20

A Very Warm Reception!

                                                                                                         20 October 2015
Greetings from Tanzania!
  We are back at Makumira Seminary as of Monday night, October the 12th, and have the same vehicle and the same house!  We were hoping for both, but one never knows until you arrive.
   On Friday afternoon, I made the comment to Tim that even though we were exhausted (jet lag took its toll), I felt we had completed most of the cleaning and unpacking, and we were about 95% settled in!  He agreed.  Lack of electricity has been a definite issue--making everything more of a challenge, but fortunately the university turns on their generator around 6 pm so we can fix dinner and take showers, then it's off again by 10 pm.
   As I was just starting to fix dinner last Friday night, we heard a strange, loud noise that went on for quite a bit.  Then our electricity went out (oh dear, now its the generator, I thought.).  A bit later, our Tz. neighbor, Moshi,  started yelling, "Moto, moto" ("hot, hot"-- in this case meaning "Fire, Fire"), so Tim went out to see what his problem was.  It ends up that it was our problem----our house was on fire and our neighbor was trying to throw dirt up to our roof.  He did not think anyone was home since we had no lights on and everyone else did.
   There was smoke coming out of our roof from the attic area--the 2nd floor between the ceiling of the bedroom and the roof.  Tim got our fire extinguisher and went up to the attic, having to balance himself on top of the wobbly rail at the top of the steps.  Our full fire extinguisher wasn't enough so I ran over to another family and they brought over their two extinguishers. Meanwhile the men (the security guards had joined in now and some of the local workmen) were outside still digging and throwing dirt on the roof!
    Moshi called the university's electrician.  He came with his fire extinguisher.
    Four hours and 4 fire extinguishers later the fire was securely out.  The electrician wanted to know the cause before he left, and he wanted to reconnect our electricity and see if it was safe.  The large (1 1/2 " diameter) electrical cable that runs outside for our neighborhood had been brought inside our house when the house was built and the cable ran across the center beam  (This is what Tim saw in flames. )  Something must have eaten into the cable and the sparks burned along 5 ft. of the beam 2 inches deep---and the two surrounding 2x4's were also on fire when Tim first went up.
   The other problem was that the hot embers from the beam were falling on the ceiling of the bedroom and had begun smouldering.
   We don't have Fire Depts. in Tz.  We were fortunate this did not happen at 2 a.m. when no one would have noticed, and we would have been sleeping in our house with iron grates in every window and the pad locked steel grates at our front and back doors heavily secured.  There is no way we would have made it out alive.
   When our neighbor, Moshi, left, he said, "Have a blessed night."  We already had---and he and the others who came to our aid were a big part of the blessing.
   Tim didn't sleep  too well that night, but we've refilled our fire extinguisher, have figured out an escape route if ever needed, and focus on what it means to be "community," even in a country so far away.
   If you don't have a fire extinguisher in your home, we seriously encourage you to get one.  And if you do have one, check the expiration date. We live in a cement block house with a tin roof---we thought having a fire extinguisher was just a waste of money---fortunately, we were wrong----it made all the difference.
   Even though Friday evening was a scary event, we  truly felt God's protective presence---that the fire happened when we were awake and not asleep; that our neighbor spotted the fre; that we had a working fire extinguisher and that our other neighbor had 2 more extinguishers. Even if it had turned out differently, we know that God was with us.  We pray the same knowledge and peace for you,

   With our love for each of you,
       Tim & Diane


Friday, October 9

We're Off!!!

Dear Family and Friends,
   It's time again to "take to the friendly skies," and head to Tanzania.  Our bags are nearly packed and I'm doing last minute checks---like how to put pictures on the blog post.  So this is actually a "test run."  Enjoy some pics from last year, and we're connect again next week once we've settled in and have internet service!
  Much love to all of you,
      Tim & Diane

Monday, February 9

Packing Up---But not the Memories

                                                                                                4 February 2015
   Today we went into Arusha for the last time before returning home this weekend.  On our drive back to campus, I was thinking about our blog and what to write.  How do we capture our experiences, our expanding/still-forming thoughts, and maybe most of all--our feelings (I am still a therapist at heart, you know!)  So I decided to just write down what I was seeing outside our car window.  I think that says it best.

--Cows tethered to the side of the road

--Women, assorted sizes & shapes, wrapped in colorful fabric, balancing unfathomable mass/volume on their heads

--Stuffed daladalas and reckless, life-threatening driving (It is estimated that only 50% of drivers have a license and less than that have any training.--I think driving is an extreme sport here!)

--Maasai, feet cradled in sandals made from car tires, walking with stick in hand, red shuka (blanket) draped over their shoulder.

--Countless, intimidating lorries exhaling nauseating, swirling diesel fumes and inducing carsickness that even Dramamine can't help.

--Mighty Mt. Meru, whose intriguing appearance conceals so many villagers living without electricity and clean water, and practicing traditional customs that keep people bound to the past.

--Uniform-wearing school children walking home from their class.  Yesterday's paper reported on the status of education in Tz.  Headline: "3000 pupils share single latrine, 250 students make 1 class"  Only 1 teacher per class.  Quote:   "Students occupy all the spaces here (1 desk per 10 students--so most sit on the floor and others are outside looking in the window.)  You can't even move and if you want to write on the board you need to send out the pupil sitting near the board," said Ms. Suzana Anthony who was teaching Standard Four (4th grade) pupils." (Quote from The Guardian 3 Feb 2015 about a school in Geita but repeated throughout the country.)

--Market Day. . .Kiswahili buzzing in the air, dust swirling, and mama's  whose strong necks are transporting 40# bunches of bright green ndizi (bananas)

--A spontaneous, white toothed smile on a round little black face waving at our passing vehicle (innocent joy in those color-blind adorable eyes!)

-----Can you see them, these, our sisters and brothers?

And then our experiences this term began to replay in my mind:

--4:30 a.m. Call to Prayer (chant) by the local village Imam via loud speaker---beautiful actually...

--Immediately followed by the screeching of the rooster (who was just awakened by the Imam!)--not so beautiful.

--Paka's (the cat who "adopted" us for the past 3 years) savage death by the wild dogs that roam the grounds at night...wondering if her kittens are still surviving?

--The class discussions about how can you tell if a person has demon possession or mental illness.  The students are so shocked--and sometimes relieved--that there may be another explanation for bizarre behavior.  But this new thinking can be very disconcerting and challenges many basic faith beliefs and personal experiences.

--Reflecting at night inside our home, listening to the choirs practice and the amazing natural harmony of these Christian disciples.  Music is in the blood of Tanzanians.  As one professor recently stated at a faculty meeting, "You aren't a Tanzanian if you can't sing!"  They all agreed!

--A class discussion about culture and traditions.  The students became very animated regarding the role of tradition and how globalization challenges/dismisses it.  One student strongly stated that "Tradition is always right."  At this point, the students really took their stand as the divide widened and they struggled to identify with what they personally believe---in this culture that is so heavily laden with tradition.  One mild-mannered student stood up and said, "Then if that means that killing twin babies is right ---because that is a tradition of some tribes, then I can never agree."  Powerful, honest, painful, growth.

--Deception---a survival tool. . .but it hurts to be its victim. . .

--Corruption---it exists at all levels and in all aspects of society here.  It keeps the country and its people on their knees with the breath blown out of them, struggling to exist while others gorge themselves.

--Our students' personal faith stories reveal their genuine desire to follow God's call.  Their pure trust in God's promise to be with them and their spontaeous joy and delight in "having another day" is humbling for 2 American "muzungu" (white Westerners) to observe.

--The privilege of worship every morning with students who enter Chapel so reverently, and make music that starts deep in their soul and fills the air with seamless harmony.

Such were my thought the day before we were to leave.  I was eager to get to our computer so I could capture the images and words---but the electricity was out and there was no internet connection for the rest of the day.  Such is life in Tz.  The next day was "countdown" meaning that every hour was filled with last minute packing/cleaning/moving all our belongings to another instructor's attic/spontaneous "kwa-heri ("good bye") visits from friends and students---then, a quick shower before leaving for the airport.  I got into the shower and decided to wash my hair and added "extra" shampoo so I could empty the bottle---only to discover that scalding water was burning my toes and bountiful suds were burning my eyes---the cold water wasn't flowing---only the hot!  We'd been having water issues and our last day was to be no exception.  Then I realized that I had packed all the towels and only a "somewhat clean" rag was in the other room!  Reality hit---Tanzania's people may have a big place in our hearts but our bodies really miss the Western world comforts!

But now we are back safe, sound, and "spoiled."  It is good to be home.  We can't wait to see family.  They are in our hearts when we are gone, and now we can't wait to have them in our arms!

Thank-you for following our blog.  We hope it has been a blessing in some way.  God willing, we will return to Makumira in the Fall and continue our postings then.

  Tim & Diane


Tuesday, January 13

Celebration--Tanzanian Style

12 January 2015
   During our stay in Tanzania,  we have been attending the Arusha Community Church.  This is an international, interdenominational, English-speaking church that was begun about   25 years ago by American Lutheran missionaries.  Occasionally Tim preaches at this church.
   In the last year the big Lutheran Cathedral Church in Arusha has also begun English-speaking services.  This is an African congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT).  They have a Swahili service at 7 a.m. attended by over 1000 members.  They have a second Swahili service at 9 a.m. also attended by over 1000 members.  And now they have an English-speaking service with about 150 worshipers.
   A few ELCA missionary pastors have been asked to preach and help lead this service.  So besides teaching at Makumira Seminary, Tim has also been leading some services at this Cathedral Church.  The church is quite large with a pulpit that is about 10 feet tall.  The service they use is an adaptation of Setting I from the green Lutheran Book of Worship.
   Recently the Cathedral Church celebrated Confirmation at their 2nd service.  They had 150 Confirmands--the girls dressed in full length white dresses with veils, high heels and lace armlets.  The boys were in 3 piece black suits.
   The service began with a procession through the streets of downtown Arusha led by a brass band---150 Confirmands, and all their pastors an catechists in full robes!  There were no police escorts--the traffic just kind of "gave way."  Tim was the only white person ("mzungu") in the procession.  It was quite a beginning to a very special day for these African Lutheran families.  After the service, several families rent decorated cars to parade through town--also led by a brass band playing from the back of pickup trucks!
  That afternoon we attended the Confirmation party for our gardener's twin daughters.  They live about 5 miles up a dirt mountain road.  Their modest mud brick house with a tin roof is located in the middle of their banana grove.  There were 3 shaded homemade tent sites--one for extended family, one for the friends and neighbors, and one for distinguished guests including us as the only mzungu.
The twin daughters, who had just been confirmed, sat in a specially decorated booth with their attendants.
   After 20 minutes of introductions of guests, the party continued with the ceremonial feeding of the parents and distinguished guests by the confirmation sisters.  This involves each girl putting a very small piece of food into the mouth of the recipient while, at the exact same time, the guest is aiming to put a very small piece of food into the mouth of the Confirmand.  First the girls fed us a piece of the confirmation cake tentatively "secured" on a toothpick! (Of course we were simultaneously balancing a small piece of cake on a toothpick and hoping to deposit it in their mouths at approximately the same time---not such an easy feat for 6'6 Tim and the petite sister who must have drawn the short straw before the party began!) Then the servers (neighbors) carried in a big table with some object covered with a white sheet and set it down where everyone could see.
   When they pulled the sheet off, there was a whole roasted, fatted goat.  Everyone burst into applause and African cheering.  By "whole," I mean complete with attached legs, tail, head and hide, with a mouth stuffed with hay!
  The servers then carved the meat off the goat in front of the guests.  Then the twins came and served us the ceremonial pieces of the goat on tooth picks (while they also received a piece from us).  When you are attending as honorary guests you graciously receive what is presented with gratitude and smiles.  I was very brave and kept my thoughts on the kindness being extended---Tim actually went back for seconds!
   The celebration continued with a DJ, music, dancing, the traditional presenting of gifts to the girls and a huge Tanzanian feast of fresh fruits and  vegetables, stews, ugali, and pilau.
  We consider ourselves very fortunate to be included in the spiritual and celebrative life of these Tanzanian families.
   Yet, like so many things we experience in life, there is another side.  The expense of such celebrations often costs more than the parents make in several months time.  The average Tanzanian, if employed, earns less than $2 USD/day. By Western logic, it doesn't make sense.  But these are a Collectivistic people.  Their roots are firmly intertwined in their clan and with their neighbors (even including mzungu  ). Tanzanians have a saying, "I am because we are."  That saying embodies a love and respect and acknowledgment of their connectedness to one another.  So to elaborately celebrate with your whole community one of the most significant events in your child's spiritual development is an expectation and a desire here.
   We're learning to focus on understanding...and appreciating..and letting the judgments percolate until we are wiser---if even then.
   Wishing you an interesting and Blessed 2015.
      Tim & Diane