Saturday, June 1, 2013

My Times are in Your Hand

 As I look back over the past few weeks, I am reminded of the words of the Psalmist who wrote, “But as for me, I trust in you, O Lord; I say, You are my God, my times are in your hand….”  It has been quite an interesting journey that our family has experienced up to this point.  Starting with driving to Washington DC, flying to Dubai in the Arab Emirates, then landing in Dar Es Salaam on the African coast.  We were to be picked up at the airport by Bishop Kwangu, but somehow I had told him the wrong day, so we found a hotel that evening for some much needed rest.  The next day, Friday, we drove with the Bishop to the capital city of Dodoma, arriving around midnight.
 Saturday turned out to be a rather eventful day, for we had arrived just in time for the installation ceremonies of the new Anglican Archbishop of Tanzania.  As we approached the Cathedral, our family was directed up to the third row from the front, just a few seats away from the President of Tanzania!  And, much to our continued surprise, the Archbishop of Canterbury was also present at this special occasion.  It was a five hour service, aired on national television, with about 3,000 people in attendance.  After the service, as we were walking around, we had the pleasure of being introduced to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who took a kind interest in our family.  We found Archbishop Justin Welby to be a pleasant, humble man who truly cared for those with whom he met.  We ask for your prayers for him and his family as he seeks to lead the Anglican Communion through these troubled times.
 The next day, Sunday, we were together with Bp. Kwangu as we attended a small village church where he had ministered while a student at the nearby St. Phillip’s Theological Seminary.  Afterwards, we were treated to a fine dinner on the second floor of an old Hostel building located on the grounds of the Seminary.  It was a most pleasant atmosphere, located at the base of some low mountains, overlooking the plains of central Tanzania.  It is a rather dry region, wide plains spread out between mountain ranges; with fat Baobab trees dotting the landscape and footpaths winding through the large, fierce thorn bushes that covered much of the ground.  We were fortunate to arrive just at the end of the rainy season; so much of the vegetation was green, with many beautiful flowers decorating our views.
The next day we left for the last leg of our journey, a thirteen hour drive on into Mwanza, located on the lower shores of Lake Victoria.  The main road was paved with asphalt the whole way, but it was still difficult to gain much speed.  The primary method for controlling speed on the highway is to place a rather large speed bump across the road about every three miles.  Combining them with the “slow zones” passing through the countless small villages meant slow progress indeed.  However, this gave us ample opportunity to enjoy the many varied landscape and to observe life in rural Africa.  One area we passed through was covered with many acres of sissal plants with their tall stalks extending up into the evening sky as far as we could see.  In another region, famous for its fields of sunflowers, we passed between numerous little stands along the edge of the road selling large jugs of the sunflower oil.  I wished later that I had thought to stop and purchase one of them for our family.
 We were expecting to move in to our house right away, but there were some unexpected difficulties, so our move was delayed for a week.  The Lord allowed us the privilege of staying in Mwanza with a gracious missionary family from England, John and Dawn and their two young boys.  They had already extended their hospitality to our eldest daughter, Anna, who had arrived a week earlier to work as an assistant at the Isamilo International School.  However, we were able to come over several times to help clean up the area outside our new home and to meet some of our new neighbors.
 The Anglican Cathedral in downtown Mwanza has three services each Sunday morning, one of which is conducted in English for missionaries, international visitors, and local Christians who want to practice their English.  I was invited to preach the sermon there on our first Sunday in town (which was Holy Trinity Sunday).  Nothing like being put to work right away!  Afterwards, we went with some new Canadian friends to attend the church that is led by the folks we were staying with for the week.
 After the water and electric was repaired and turned on and the house was scrubbed thoroughly, we were able to move in this past Tuesday.  It has been a very interesting couple of weeks as we have been getting ourselves accustomed to the city (a confusing maze of streets), transportation (“daladala” vans filled to overflowing), shops and markets (“Karibu, my friend!”), purchasing household goods (Now, how DO I get these mattresses home from the market?), and straining to understand everyone around us (“Pole, nasema Kiswahili kidogo” -- Sorry, I speak little Swahili).
 Our neighbors have been quite enthusiastic; welcoming us into their homes with big, friendly smiles and good “down home” cooking.  We are looking forward to developing these relationships over the course of the next few months.  Last night, at a big welcome dinner at Babu and Mama Kapili’s home next door, we were told that we are loved and are a part of the “family” now.  Not just with them only, but with the other four families on this compound.  We are grateful for such kind and gracious words from our Christian brothers and sisters here in Tanzania.  Our “times” are truly in the hands of a merciful God, who is leading us to be in the right place at the right time.
 I have begun meeting with Br. Damson Maganga to discuss the overall plans for the Bible School.  It is going to be quite a challenge, but we shall jump into the work this coming Monday, the first week of June, and see what happens.  I have been given a desk in Br. Maganga’s office located just a few yards from our home.  There is also an old “library” in the same building which was left over from when this was a thriving Bible School many years ago.  It should be interesting to see what it contains.  So, until next month….
May the peace of Christ be with you,
Brother Nathan

Baobab Tree, approaching the Rebeho Mts, east-central Tanzania.
Our first Sunday, visiting the Dodoma Road Anglican Church.
The Hostel (built 1917) on the grounds of St. Phillip's Seminary.

It doesn't take long to make new friends wherever we go.
Learning to wash laundry African style, early morning is best..
Welcome to our "new" home in the  Nyakato-Sakoni District.
"May I come in and play?  "Of course, Karibu sana!"
Shopping for household items in the markets of Mwanza.
Looking over the outskirts of Mwanza towards Lake Victoria.
Jonathan assisting with pancakes over a charcoal "cooker".
Everyone is excited about our first successful family dinner.
"Usiku mwema na Safari safi" - "Good night and safe travels".

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