Showing posts with label Land of Tanz. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Land of Tanz. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


I’m always amazed at what I take for granted… until I don’t have it.

In Tanzania, it was often electricity. Hot water (for a shower). Or clean water, even (the kind you’d be willing to use for a shower, not the kind you’d actually drink).
Picture from: Lyndy Henrickson

While I’m still amazed at the ability to get hot, clean (drinkable even!) water out of our shower faucet, and doubt I’ll take that for granted any time soon… most recently, I’ve been even reminded of some even more basic elements of life we take for granted.

Over Christmas, I got a stomach bug – the kind that won’t even let you drink a few sips of water without quickly ejecting them. I was beyond thirsty (although the kind nurse at urgent care didn’t think I was dehydrated, thanks to ever great-looking veins), and was at the desperate point of wanting to quench my thirst. I meditated on the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31) in a very real way, and understood the desire (in some small way) to get a single drop of water from someone’s finger into my mouth to help appease my need for fluid. So I got creative. If I couldn’t actually DRINK the water, I could at least put it in my mouth, right? Enter scene left: me standing in the bathroom pouring water into my mouth, holding it, spitting it out, and starting over again. It wasn’t quite relief, but it was certainly a good start until the anti-nausea meds kicked in and I could keep something down!

More recently (this week, in fact), a cold coupled with teaching Sunday School brought me to the point not just a head-cold, but no voice. While I’ve had students choose to “lose” the use of their voice – or leg – or arms – during Special Needs day in my classroom at school (to understand a tiny bit of what having a disability feels like - often with humorous and thought-provoking results), I don’t think I’ve actually ever lost my own voice to the point of a whisper.
And wow, has it been humbling. When handing off a package to a friend, I couldn’t properly (in my mind) explain why it had taken longer than expected to get them what they needed. And although I’m by nature a listener, I’ve realized in the last few days just how much I try to defend myself through words when I feel I’ve been wronged or judged… often with my husband (who is, in all reality, just trying to be helpful and loving). But when even whispering requires extra effort, and I have to choose between defending myself or sharing my thoughts on something else a little later? Suddenly priorities kick in and I’m just thankful for the few words I might be able to share about my day.

And so, in good ol’ Holland, MI, I’m reminded yet again in ways I didn’t expect of how to be thankful for what I have. Whether electricity, heat in our home, or a voice to ask questions over my ever-working smartphone… I am more than grateful for what I’ve been given. Especially for the people around me who love on and care for me even when I’m not as thankful as I should be!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Request for LVLC Teachers!!

The view of Lake Victoria just behind the school - an amazing place for kids to explore and learn!
If you, or someone you know, might be interested in working with some of the best kiddos (and some of the most amazingly supportive parents) in the world, check out THIS LINK. Then check out all the fun stories on my blog that will convince them/you that this really is the best.job.ever. It's challenging and rewarding and humbling, and a simply incredible, life-changing opportunity to live, work with, and serve families who are helping to make Bible Translation and the Jesus Film a reality for people in Northern Tanzania. 

Chai (tea/break) time
Their need for a teacher is urgent. One of the most common reasons highly-trained missionaries have to leave the field to go back to their countries of origin is due to a lack of high-quality educational opportunities for their kids. Quite literally, one of the best ways to help ensure the continued translation process of the Bible is to get great teachers to the places that need it most.

Learning how guitars are made...
They are looking for someone that can be in-country by January 2016, or at the latest July 2017, with a commitment of 18 months to give the two teachers there a much-needed chance to reconnect with people back in the States.
A temporary class pet, found on the playground
Is it worth it? YES. I've never been so well-supported by parents in prayer and practical help. Yes, I taught three grade levels - but there were 5 kids and I nearly always had a parent helping in the classroom. Imagine the possibilities!

My K-2 kiddos, from America, Australia, and New Zealand
These students are without a doubt some of the brightest, most caring, creative students I've ever worked with, and the mission team community is a fabulous chance to learn and grow with other believers committed to seeing God's kingdom come to those all around the world.

Would you join us in praying that God would both call and provide for the right person for this position?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


One of the biggest lessons God has had to teach me over, and over, and over again throughout my life (and that I have often utterly failed at) has been how to rest in Him. No, this doesn’t mean doing nothing. But this does mean not striving for His love that He’s already given, not trying to earn what I’ve already got. And it also means not filling my schedule, my life with so much “good” that I miss out on what He’s got for me that is “best.”

It was about the time in college when I got mono at Urbana 2003. How I got it, I have no idea (and no, I wasn't kissing anyone!) But how I made it WORSE? That I know. I ran on adrenaline… kept going to classes, pushing myself to do one… more… thing. Because that’s what I was supposed to do, right? I knew how to overcome, and there wasn’t much that could slow me down. 

But God could.

And He did.

And my trying to push through this exhaustion made the illness last for over six months.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. - Ps 23:2-3

God used this time to show me things in His Word I’d been too busy to notice before. In fact, I’d been too busy, in general. Sleepless nights, restlessness, and darkened days when all I wanted to do was sleep (my poor roommate! It’s amazing we’re still friends) gave me lots of time to think, and pray, and read, and learn. And the more I struggled to “do” – reschedule my next three years of classes at Hope, start a Spanish minor (I’d need that for missions, right?)… the more God chuckled, lovingly and knowingly, and allowed my plans to fail. Over and over. As did my energy levels. And my understanding of what living for God meant. I was too busy trying to be everything for Him that I missed the fact that He was already everything I needed. So I slowly (and oh so painfully) learned to slow down. To rest. I took time off classes, and read the Narnia series for the first time - all the way through - just to make myself stay in one place and rest. I started asking God at the beginning of the day to lead and guide my time, my directions. And He did. And often, it looked like slowing down, like listening more and doing less. It looked nothing like what I thought I was supposed to be doing for Him.

Fast forward a few years to Tanzania. I’d learned a lot, but the mission field (which is everywhere) is a tough place to accept you can’t do everything. When you’re constantly surrounded by evident needs, and you see amazing people doing incredible things every day to meet just a few of those needs… it’s hard to be ok with going home and just sitting at Jesus’ feet. Or making a good meal from scratch and getting a good night’s sleep. In fact, it’s hard to sit still at all.

And so, that first year overseas, I nearly burned out.

Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. – Mat 11:28-30

It got to the point where sometimes I wished I’d just get so sick that someone would have to send me home (from school, from the field?) so I’d be forced to rest, really rest. Because I didn’t know how to give myself permission to do so. I was fueled by guilt, by trying to match those around me (who apparently had WAAAY more stamina for teaching PLUS everything else than I did). I knew it was too much, but I didn’t know how to stop. I was filling my life with so many good things, that I had no time for rest. And apparently, that was important for sustaining. I was barely surviving, let alone thriving!

I heard God whispering, “Crystal, I called you here to teach. You’re doing that well. It’s ok if you don’t spend your evenings in outreach and Bible Studies and other “ministry.” Your ministry is to these kids… and that is enough.”

So I dropped pretty much… everything. The attempts to connect with after school ministries, the small group Bible Study from church… Everything besides teaching, dancing with middle-schoolers, and living in a tough place… which was enough. For me. I couldn’t handle any more, and, thank goodness, God didn’t expect me to. He didn’t even want me to. I was doing what He put before me- and that was enough. In fact, doing more was disobedience and sin, and it had taken its toll.

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. – Mat 6:31-32

I’d trained myself from an early age to fit things into the schedule. Is there time in the day? Then fill it with good. I used to think that sleep was wasteful – that if I could survive without sleep, I could accomplish so much more! I’d long-since dropped that idea before heading overseas, thankfully. But the waking hours were still fair game to fill to the brim. Which was fine… for a day. Maybe a week. But a month? Year upon year? Teaching overseas and cooking from scratch and making sense of life in a different culture and language, moving and living with (amazing) roommates I’d never met before arriving… then spending springs and falls prepping for summer grad classes on a different continent… only to start all over again… I didn’t realize just how much wear and tear it was taking on me. 

I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. – Ps 4:8

I loved it. It wasn’t always easy (following God never is) but it was without a doubt what God called me to – and I would do it again in a heartbeat. But I’d do it differently. I’d take more time to write. To enjoy sitting under a banana tree, or on the front porch taking in the Indian Ocean breeze instead of fretting that the power was out – again – just as we were getting ready to make dinner. To not worry so much about what I wasn’t doing or couldn’t do, but give thanks for the opportunities God gave me in the classroom, in the ministry He had put in front of me. To stop living in a sense of guilt, but to embrace a sense of God’s grace and the Truth that I am enough. Already. That yes, there are huge needs out there, and they need doing. But that I’m not God – and that He is.

That I am enough.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Scripture Celebrations Close to Home

When I was in Tanzania and got the chance to go to a Scripture dedication, I thought it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And it pretty much was. Nothing can compare to being with a group of people in person who have never had the Scriptures in their own language before get them for the first time. Or watching as they see the Jesus Film in their own language and huge transformations take place.

So when I got invited to a Scripture Celebration at Wycliffe USA today, I was both excited (mostly to see my dear friends the Bitikofers, who were on my team in Tanzania,) and a little hesitant that the event itself might be a letdown. I was pleasantly surprised, however. While it definitely wasn’t quite the same as being with a language group in Tanzania, it was still an amazing example and celebration of 27 Scripture Projects that have been completed and dedicated in their local communities throughout the world over the past six months. (I was excited to take pictures of a few of them, since I have friends working (or from) many of these countries!
This New Testament translation had to be written in two versions, since the language group lives across a country border and the people have learned to write their language in two very different scripts!
What a blessing to see some of the things I’ve been involved in coming to fruition – and to see how great God is using ordinary little people like myself and my teammates to bring about transformations in hearts and communities around the world, in ways we could never do ourselves.

It was also certainly a pleasure to take part in a celebration where I could actually understand the Scriptures being read - though half the fun of not understanding what's being said during a Scripture dedication is knowing that the words I don't "get" speak to the hearts of so many who haven't "gotten" God's Word before this time. With over 100 English translations of the Bible available, we are beyond rich in our ability to read and comprehend the story of God's grace, if we choose!

One of the interesting aspects of a people group making choices about the book they are translating and dedicating is the unique design and colors they choose to use for the published book. Oftentimes Christians in highly Muslim areas will choose a green cover with a gold border, which is the clearly accepted style for any "holy book" in that region. Another group that lived in the arid desert chose a brown color for the cover of theirs, to show the dry, desolate area that they live in... but made sure the outside of the pages were colored with a rich water-blue to show the contrast of God's ever-flowing, never-running-out Living water that was there's to drink of in God's Word. What a clear picture of God's salvation!

Despite being close-to-(American)-home in Orlando, I had to smile as I heard the chosen song that the recently-translated Bibles (and flags, and individuals representing each country) marched into with. It was a Swahili worship tune that I've sung so often in the past, both with my kids church in Michigan and more often in churches across Tanzania!

And despite having been in the States for about 9 months now, I was still nearly in tears (as I often am) worshiping in English, my own heart language, with a sea of others as we will someday all do around the throne. So many beautiful ways that my heart was captured today, and so thankful for the things I’ve been able to be a part of!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Musoma Miracles

I may not be living in the Land of Tanz these days, but many of my heart’s prayers (and so many dear friends) are still very much there. In Tanzania, a good bit of our lives were focused on survival, on the work that we were doing at the office, or on the support work we’d gone there to do (eg. teaching missionary kids). But in-between and in the midst of these things, we became the lucky recipients of great Tanzanian friendships with neighbors, coworkers, and employees at our houses and in our communities. Many families and individuals have done this well, much better than this introverted, lacking-Swahili-skills girl ever did. One teammate in particular shared an amazing story recently that I wanted to pass along.

On January 25, she posted:

"We're so excited! This past Tuesday our outdoor worker (the one who keeps our yard from looking like a jungle and also takes care of our dogs) announced, "My wife and I have been talking about you and we have decided that wherever you worship, we want to worship from now on!" We were stunned because Karume is Muslim but he was very serious about what he said and today he and his wife and new little baby joined us for Karume's very first Christian church service! Please be praying for him as he learns more about the Savior!"

In a place where everyone is "born" Christian or Muslim - and these are more often than not mixed together with traditional beliefs or visits to the witch doctor - any change is a huge deal... and this announcement shows 1. Just how much God is working through my friends to shine His light in very real ways, and 2. Just how much God works in hearts in ways we wouldn't necessarily expect.

Then today, I read:

"Some of you might remember my excitement over Karume, our outside worker who made the decision to start worshiping with our family each Sunday. Since that time he and his family have experienced a miracle. After searching and praying for his missing son (missing for over 2 weeks) the boy was found this past Friday!! Ends up he was abducted and taken to a town quite a distance from his village but somehow managed to escape, PRAISE GOD. Karume can't stop talking about the way God protected his son and everyone in church got to hear all about it this morning. Eleven-year-old Wambura is in the center of this picture - pray for him as he is still really shaken up by this whole thing."

This last post really got to me - not only because Karume was someone I saw around Musomaland on a semi-regular basis, and because I know that abductions do happen - but also because I recently finished reading The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency: Tears of the Giraffe and had read about something similar happening in Botswana... but in a fictional tale. This, on the other hand, is very real. I'm smiling from ear to ear, though nothing like Wambura's parents - and I am just so thankful for this happy ending - and beginning - for this very special family!!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Musoma Blessings

There are those days… when you’re worn out from packing, tired from teaching, and fall asleep in the afternoon only to wake up the next day. When you get to school and realize you’re not just tired, but sick. When you head home to your own bathroom, leaving your kindergarteners in the hands of another teacher, and trust it’s all being taken care of.

When you know that parents called will actually respond and come pick up their kids early. And that your students know routines well enough to keep going even without someone standing over them (at least on the days they’re feeling motivated).

There are those days… when your supervisor knows you and knows teachers (who don’t rest when school’s in session) and calls later in the afternoon not to just ask how you’re doing, but to tell you you WILL be staying home to rest the next day instead of teaching. :) When a parent volunteers not to just teach the kids for half a day (the core curriculum), but has them vote to stay the full day so they have time to make their teacher get well cards. When another parent comes to the door with good-tummy-foods and Miss Crystal cards and a hug and makes sure everything’s alright.

I'll bet you can't guess what our verse of the week is!? ;)
There are those days… like today. It’s my first time in two years to miss school due to sickness, which is saying something here (mostly that I’ve managed to confine my sicknesses to weekends, and have managed to avoid malaria and typhoid thus far!). But it’s such a blessing to know that when things don’t go according to plan, people are ready to step in and make things happen anyway – and care for me along the way!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Bloghopping Around the World

Sometimes a link on FB turns into bloghopping that touches my heart. I find a link to a blog about TCKs*, and click on another related blog, and another, and another, and start to realize and remember that my crazy transitional international experiences are normal, even in their oddities.

Saying goodbye from 2000 miles away? Yep, been there, done that. Thankful for skyped-goodbyes and friends who love me and helped me mourn my amazing grandfather last month in a memorial service here in Tanzania. Thankful for people who asked questions and wanted to listen and hear about this man that loved and supported me in so many incredible ways.

Photo Credit:
This picture? Yep, totally my heart right now as I sell everything I own, try to think about how much I want to bring back to the States and how it’ll fit into three action packers of 50lbs or less. Knowing “home” in the States is a myriad of places, and wondering how Holland, MI might refit into the picture this time. Remembering that my new niece whom I haven’t yet met is living in FL, half my supporting churches and friends are in NC, family in Kzoo and IN and elsewhere, friends everywhere. I think I have a lot of driving in my near future!

And driving? Come to think of It, I’m going to have to remember how to drive on the other side of the street. Hmm.

Blogs like this - TCKs - that don’t EXACTLY fit (I’m not a mom yet) but which I can totally relate to in many ways as a teacher of these amazing little people, wondering if I’m adequately helping prepare them for their various “home-away-from-foreign-home countries” by teaching money in three currencies, seasons in different hemispheres, time zones, the ins-and-outs of English languages, and praying for and loving on these kids that I struggle with leaving behind as I continue on the journey God’s laid out for me. On every continent I leave. Every.single.time.

Or blogs like this - Debunking 5 Myths about Expat Life - that explain bits and pieces of the good and sometimes difficult snapshots of life I can’t quite put into words, but wish people understood anyway.

I recently wrote a friend, saying: "I totally understand the feeling of missing and appreciating people who are far away... a missionary-friend wrote once: 
"At any given moment, I will always be missing someone, always be appreciating the presence of whoever I’m with, always dreading saying goodbye, and always anticipating a reunion with someone else on another continent." 
I saved it as I felt like it pretty much summed up my existence recently. I also found this quote online:

I realized something very similar to this when I was in the States for furlough, at Christmas, with family, and realizing that some of my "family" was overseas and elsewhere in the country/world. It dawned on me that everyone I know and love will never be in the same place with me all at once - it's the price I pay for getting to know so many wonderfully amazing people around the world!"

It's funny to read the thoughts of people scattered across the world - China, America, New Zealand, Kazakhstan, Nepal, Tanzania, Burundi, Ivory Coast, even America - and realize that though there are differences, we are all remarkably feeling and experiencing many of the same things as we seek to follow God on this journey. And it’s always nice to know that there are people in my life who totally “get” where I’m at – and many many more writing amazing blogs that share my heart and my thoughts and that I appreciate greatly though they’ll probably never know.

*TCK = Third Culture Kids

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Living My Dream

I’ve been doing a lot of organizing, sorting, and looking back through old stuff the past few weeks. It has been interesting to look back at messages and emails I received after moving to East Africa. People often said things like, “I’m so glad you’re finally getting to live your dream!” And while that's true, in a sense, somehow this comment has always made me stop and think. It’s not because I haven’t been wanting to live and serve in Africa for a long time – ask my college roommates about my frustration with classes when I “could be doing something useful in Africa instead!” (Oh, I was so na├»ve!) I’ve been working towards this for a long time. But the fact is, the only reason Africa or missionary kids were ever on the “hope for” list is because God originally put them there.

Rather than saying I’m living my dream because I’m in Tanzania, or working with amazing kids to support an incredible community working to get the Bible out in languages people understand best, I’d like to say I’m in part “living a dream” because I am simply following God. I feel blessed to have spent much of the last 5 years of my life serving here and bringing many of you along as part of the incredible team that has made this all possible. I’ve learned more about the world, grown in my teaching abilities, become better at helping guide and mold the hearts and minds of children, and have grown in my relationship with God. I'll never be the same.

But the truth is that the only dream I’m living is the one where I seek and follow God.

Trust me, there are great days and fabulous experiences here with amazing friends and there are horrific days where everything under the East African sun goes wrong, just as much and even more so here than in the States. Yes, I’m thankful for the adventures He’s led me on these past 5 years (and well before). I’ve gotten to teach incredibly unique kids from around the world and supported some of the work God is doing here in East Africa through this.

And slowly, over the past year or so, the dream God has put in my heart has been changing. And since my “dream” or hope is to seek after and follow God, I’m excited for the next stage of this dream to come to light.

So come late July of this year, when I head on “furlough” after two years of teaching in Musoma, I’ll be leaving Tanzania without plans to return. At least not right away… who am I to say what the future holds?

So what does this mean? I would love to have you join me in praying about what’s next! I’ll be going on a regular furlough with Wycliffe and will continue to need regular financial, prayerful, and emotional support during this time... even more so, since cost of living will be higher. I will be living in Holland, MI through December in-between traveling and meeting with churches and supporters, reconnecting with family and friends, processing all that’s happened the past five years and taking a required online class. I’m currently exploring options with Wycliffe about continuing to serve Bible Translation from within the States after furlough, and am excited about some possibilities that have come up, but I also know I need some time to process the past five years and lots of prayer before making any big decisions on what’s next.

So in the meantime, I’m sorting, preparing to sell most of what I own here in East Africa while thinking about what I'll need to start over in the States, putting curriculum records together from all I’ve been teaching, and enjoying my last few months as a slightly-confused-American-misplaced-in-the-Land-of-Tanz. I would love your prayers both for where God is leading and for good transitions along the way.

In case you missed it, here’s a copy of my latest newsletter – including the kid section for any of you with little people! Looking forward to seeing many of you soon!

Friday, February 14, 2014

How to Treat Sickness in Musoma in 8 Easy Steps

I wrote this back in December from my own (not-serious) experiences, and have since watched many teammates go through the same (sometimes scary) process. Sickness here in Musoma is always prevalent and ends up being a huge frustration as well as a roadblock in getting the work done we’ve come to do. Would you pray this next month especially for good health for everyone on our team – parents and kids, expats and Tanzanians included?

How to Treat Sickness in Musoma in 8 Easy Steps
1. Recognize and keep track of your symptoms. Talk to others on team (this can get interesting depending on symptoms – try to avoid these conversations over dinner!) to see if they have ideas or similar experiences.
2. If thought wise, go get tested at one of the two local clinics. Or, if you want, go to both. Take the diagnosis with a grain of salt.
3. Call the health liaisons in your organization for recommendations on treatment. Get everyone and anyone’s perspective, look up things online, check the Where There Is No Doctor book, and self-diagnose as best you can figure out.
4. Look for treatment that is NOT made in Dar es Salaam, Uganda, or anywhere in East Africa. Even better if you can find a brand that you recognize.
5. Treat.
6. If symptoms persist, talk to teammates again. Use prior experiences as a judge and re-self-diagnose, including the clinic, liaisons, online articles, and books in the process.
7. Consider whether the situation is critical enough to bus/drive 4 hours to Mwanza for more reliable testing, or 10 hours for Western-ish style healthcare and better meds in Nairobi, remembering that Med-Evac can't land in Musoma at night.
8. Repeat process as many times as necessary till you’re feeling mostly back to what seems normal. Thank God for the innumerous ways He’s provided along the way.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Finding Christmas (I Want My Culture)

My friend, neighbor during language school, and fellow Tanzania-teammate from the States Robin Gregory recently posted this on FaceBook, and it really captured how I feel each year at Christmastime in Tanzania. Just wanted to share her words with you!

I used to love Christmas. The entire season filled me with wonder anew as the snowflakes fell, and the music played, and the decorating ensued as the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes on my T.V. screen. He must have been able to smell the cookies in my oven. Never mind how warm it would have been where Christ was actually born; to me, Christmas has always been encapsulated in a Midwestern snow globe. I don’t particularly care for winter in general, with all it’s cold and slippery shenanigans. But at Christmas, it’s all okay. As it should be. And I’ve never really been able to consider one without the other. Not even at the church Christmas program. Not even when Linus tells us the real meaning of Christmas. No, not even then. I had no idea what a product of my culture I’ve become.

Now here I am, in Africa.

It’s December, and I am waiting. Waiting for the feelings of Christmas and the thoughts of sugarplums to start dancing in my head. Come on, I don’t need a ballet; I’ll settle for a little two-step. How about just swaying from side to side? Waiting. Maybe if I say it out loud, “It’s Christmas!”. Nothing. Why couldn’t Disney have made a Lion King Christmas special? That would have helped me bridge my two worlds. I could write it. Simba would tire of the riff between the good lions and Scar, and would come to him with a peace offering of roast-wildebeeste, and Scar’s heart would grow and then a furry giraffe would stand on tiptoe and hang a silver star on the tallest baobab tree, and a bell would ring and a little warthog named Tiny Tim wouldn’t jump off the bridge at all, but turn into an angel and take flight,as sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti. Oh wait, that’s not right. Never mind. No Olympus, unless it’s an ‘80s Lion King Christmas special, with Toto, too. Now that would be really cool.

Okay, what was I talking about?

Oh, yeah. It doesn’t feel like Christmas, and I don’t know how that could happen. I’m thinking, “this isn’t how Christmas is supposed to be.”

Huh. I bet that’s what Mary and Joseph thought. I bet it was so not what they expected. What anyone expected. A Deliverer; a new King, that’s gonna have to be someone pretty spectacular, and he’s gonna come in here in all his wrappings and save us all. We just need to stay out of his way and cheer from the sidelines. That’s how it’s always been with deliverers and kings. If he comes any other way, it just won’t feel right.

But then He came. And everything everyone ever thought about how he would come had to change. He wasn’t big and strong; he wasn’t a warrior. He didn’t ride in on a float in the parade. He came without lights. Well, okay, he had a light. But he came without swords. He came without tags. He came without chariots, boxes, or bags. But he came. He came, just the same.

It doesn’t seem like Christmas. But it is. I don’t see it. I don’t hear it. But deep down in my overheated, culture-driven, Midwestern heart, I know that Love has come. He’s not wearing a parka and carrying jingle bells, but he’s not wearing sunglasses and carrying bug repellent, either. He’s wearing the weight of a broken world and he’s bringing the light that shines in the darkness. And Jesus, I promise you I will welcome you. I will come thirsty to the well in the heat of the day, and I will find you in this crazy mixture of culture that I find myself in. And I will celebrate you.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Lord of the Rings: Tanzania Edition

Ever have those moments where you feel like you've stepped into a movie??  In the midst of our hike this past weekend, we all agreed we could easily be in the Lord of the Rings, hiking towards Mordor.

(aka a rock hill in a village about an hour from Musomaland...)
We zigzaged through shambas (farms) as best we could till we finally hit a river-gorge dead-end.  (Ok, it was an irrigation ditch, but river gorge sounds a lot better!)

My roommate Ronit's mad 4WD driving skills
The parking spot
We got out, asked if we could leave our car where it stood... and then wandered back and forth for a few minutes before appealing to our friendly neighborhood farmer for help on the best place to cross!

We stumbled, slid, and got stuck across irrigation ditches, mud-sticky swamps, flooded cow plains, thorn bush patches, corn fields, rainforests and massive boulders. All in skirts :)

Since I was the only photographer in our group,
just assume anything they did, I did too! ;)
At one point Gollum (a local farmer) came over to lead us across his marshy cow pasture, then sent us on our way on the other side.  I was pretty sure he had a secret ring in his pocket, but he didn't offer to share... ;)

Eventually we started to wonder what it'd be like to just start walking cross-country for days weeks on end.  Something like Frodo and his band did (but without the orcs).

 We got a bit torn and beat up along the way...
(Can you see the path?  "Just crawl on your belly under the thorn bushes...")

...but we kept our smiles...
...and finally made it!
We didn't have a ring to destroy at the top, but we did eat celebratory chapatis, take a few pictures, and chat with a bull we randomly met near the top. (How did HE get up here?)

God blesses me with family wherever I go!
My Aussie bro, Lindsay...
...and amazing roommate (for 9 more days), Ronit!
On our way back, we couldn't see the car, so we wandered a bit off-course as the storm rolled in.

BUT we followed our feet through the mud, plunged through the Sea of Swirly Twirly Gumdrops, climbed into the Prado, and found our way back to a dirt road that promised to bring us home. :)
As my students would say, "THE END!!!"

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Door, and other Headaches

This was written about a month ago, but the feelings associated with such predicaments are sometimes all too real on a regular basis...

I don’t often write blogs in the heat of the moment. 

There are a lot of things I like about Tanzania.  I actually do usually appreciate the creativity that is forced on you when living here.  But then, there are some things that just seem like way.too.much. to deal with. 

I remember when the newbies (now more than a year-in families) arrived a year ago last July.  Suddenly, I was reminded of all the things I’d struggled with upon my arrival.  Dads feeling inadequate and unable to provide for their families in the simplest of things… like not knowing how to turn the light on, or where the bathroom switch might even be.  Not knowing how to flush the toilet.  Not knowing what’s wrong with their kiddo who has a fever but won’t get better.

It’s usually not even the biggest inconveniences that give me trouble.  I expect the power to go off at the most random, most unhelpful times.  I’m used to crazy traffic.

But the little things – the things that shouldn’t be a big deal?  Those are the things that add up and end up driving me bonkers if I let them… or maybe that’s to tears.  Depends on the day I guess.

Today it was tears.

Sometimes, you just want a house you can call a home and feel comfortable in.  Other times, you just want to be able to leave said house, without getting sores on your arms and metallic scrapes and frustration boiling over and tears running down.  After the last couple of days (apparently our door has been warping over the past few months) I’ve spent about 30 hours (ok, maybe minutes) trying to wrestle the grill on our front door (through the little hand-hole) into a position where I can lock it.

Why not lock the inside, wooden door, you might ask?  Well, that door has warped too. 

And the back door?  What about that?  Did I mention warping?  This one requires a hammer to get it shut.

I should go ahead and state clearly here that my roommate and I have by far the best (in our opinion) house in Musoma of anybody (at least as a place for two singles to live!).  It's comfortable, feels homey, and usually, most things work.  So generally I can't complain.  But there ARE times at which I'd like to leave said environment and mix with the outside world, and at such moments, locking the door behind me becomes a necessity.

So yesterday when I texted my roommate in frustration as I tried to leave for school (late already, of course), she granted me a reprieve by crossing the street from the office to help me “lock myself out.”

*Have I mentioned what an amazing roommate I have?*

I didn’t come back till I knew she was there.  Though I might have been otherwise tempted by a dinner with my adopted family as well! 

Today, same idea, except my roommate was far away helping someone move.  This time I was finished.  Yesterday I kept it together, today was supposed to be a relaxing Saturday, and this was just too much.  I called my friend who I was supposed to meet, told her I wasn’t coming, closed (carefully, I’m sure) the door from the inside and collapsed at my computer.  To write this.  A few minutes later some friends drove by who had heard about my predicament and between the two of them, managed to wrestle the door into submission. 

Have I mentioned what an amazing community we have here?

I left, WAY more frazzled than usual. 

The thing is, I know it’s stupid.  I know the door has nothing against me, I know that it’s a little thing, but sometimes the little things add right up to make people feel like they’re not competent, and the lies of “you’re not good enough” and “something’s wrong with you” and “why do you even try” start filtering through.  I’m getting better at zapping them with my light-saber flavored Truth, but it’s still easy for the frustration to cloud the view of the silver linings and start to let raindrops start coming down. 

The acid kind, that burn.  Not the cool refreshing ones.

A few days later, we got a fundi (expert/specialist of some kind) to come out and re-solder the door… and for the time being, at least, I can once again leave my house in peace and safety.  Oh, what a relief it is!  But in all honesty, as frustrating as some things are here sometimes, I’m so blessed, encouraged, and amazed to see how the missionary community that surrounds me is willing to help one another with the big and little things every day!