We have arrived -- back to our Tanzanian home in Nyakato! Thanks be to God for safe flights and for the good friends on both sides of the world that helped us to depart and to arrive well. It has taken us a couple of weeks to get our minds adjusted to living back here again, but I think we are settling in quite well now. There was the sadness of leaving our personal families and church families in America, and the joy of greeting our African friends and “family” here. It’s not easy moving between two worlds, but God has grace for us as we look forward to what He wants to do while we are here. One step at a time, He reveals the way.
After many goodbyes to the folks in Kentucky, we drove up to the Chicago area to stay with our dear friends of St. Andrew Anglican Church. We were surrounded by much loving care and kindness for a couple of days before flying out of the O’Hare airport. Our spirits were greatly encouraged for the journey and transition ahead of us through the love shown by this church family, who has adopted us as one of their own. The Lord knew what we needed!
This year we were able to spread out the journey better, so not to arrive as tired as last time. We spent one night in Dubai and one night in Dar Es Salaam at a Catholic retreat center before flying into Mwanza. Our Nyakato home is located about 10 miles from the airport. We were assisted at each stop by kind and caring people. In Dubai, we had an interesting encounter with a Pakistani man in the hotel restaurant. He came up to greet us after our meal and said that he was impressed with our family in how we interacted with each other. He said that he could see that we had love for one another. We need to remember that, where ever we are in the world, our lives can show forth the glory of God, and this can make an impact in the lives of others.
That first evening, we had joyous reunions with friends who had been eagerly looking forward to our return. Then there was a big (actually, “huge”) meal of talapia, ugali, rice, tomato sauce, and greens awaiting us at the home of our African grandparents, the Kipilis, whom we call “Babu” and “Bibi”. We were able to sleep the first night in our own place because our friends had cleaned and set up the house for us. The walls had been painted, the water and electric turned on, the beds and nets set up, the toilet repaired, and our boxes of possessions that we had left last year were waiting for us. When we left the Kipili's after dinner, Babu handed me a bucket containing rice, peanuts, soap, matches, candles, salt, tea, and suger. He wanted to make the first couple of days easier for us. How thoughtful of them!
The next morning we were off to church for some more joyful reunions. It was the Sunday for their Bible study after the church service. This is a pleasant time once a month to sit with our church family and discuss some portion of Scripture over coffee and snacks. It was a good time to reconnect with everyone. Much to our surprise, the weather has also been very pleasant. It is the rainy season, with rains coming about every other day. The days are not too hot, and the nights are cool. We had expected it to be steamy hot, so this is great. It will get hot eventually, but until then we are sure enjoying this time! Another thing we are enjoying is the fresh fruit. There's nothing quite like eating fresh ripe papayas, mangos, and bananas straight from the trees!
Truly, God’s grace has been evident in every turn of the way, but to be honest, there are the difficult things too. For example, that first night in our home was a real challenge. We had expected it to be noisy, but there was still the shock of exactly how noisy it can be here. I think that our neighbors really out did themselves that time. There are several bars and several churches near us, and to be honest, I am not sure which ones are the loudest! The dance music went on (loudly) until about 3:30 or 4 a.m., and then at 4:30 someone woke up and began their music for the day. By 5 a.m., we had an interesting mixture of African hip hop rock music, the Islamic call to prayer, contemporary Christian music, and a Muslim man singing religious songs from a mosque – each one trying to outdo each other over loudspeakers big enough to wake the dead! Really folks, is this all necessary?!
To help you understand, we have come from a very rural environment where we would fall asleep to the sound of frogs and crickets, while waking up to the sound of songbirds and roosters each morning. Moving to the edge of a city of 2 million people takes some adjustments! I sleep with ear plugs in each night. Not every night is as bad as that first night, but it does have its trying times, when someone decides to start playing dance music full blast at 2 a.m.; or when a church decides to start their worship service at 4:30 a.m.
There is also the concept of personal space to deal with here. At home we were at the end of a long driveway at the edge of the forest. Here we have people walking and motor cycles going past our home on all sides at all hours of day and night. Theoretically it is our personal space, but here, the shortest path between two points takes precedence. No one complains when total strangers constantly walk through their back yard, because they all do it to each other all the time. It makes for a relaxed atmosphere and makes it easier for someone who is “just passing by” to stop and chat with you. However, it’s just one more thing for us to adapt to here.
Of course, the water and electric turn off at random, anytime of day or night, for any undetermined length of time. One has to be prepared and just go with the flow. We bought a 100 gallon plastic tank for emergency water storage and have that in our extra room. It is also good to have a supply of candles and flashlights for the nights when we have to prepare and eat dinner and do our cleanup when the electric is off. It was a challenge learning to start charcoal fires from scratch each morning (this can take 30 minutes or more). Our neighbor reminded us of the trick of burying some coals in hot ashes to have an easy way to start the fire the next morning. Wow! That sure helps! After cooking breakfast, heating water for coffee and washing dishes, we keep a low fire throughout the day, ready for use at any time.
I had the opportunity to preach twice already. The first time was in giving a sermon at our second church service. The second was a time of sharing with a group of 18 men who were to be ordained priests and deacons at a special service at the Cathedral on Sunday, November 30th. Bishop Boniface had been out of town for a week, and I was finally able to meet with him to discuss ideas for our ministry here. These men were having a week of special sessions preparing them for this momentous occasion. The Bishop requested that I come the next day to share whatever the Lord put on my heart for them. I went home to do some fervent praying and preparation for this opportunity to speak into the lives of these men. God was gracious and my words were well received.
For me, it has been a pleasure to sit with our neighbors, or with a group of men, conversing over coffee and laughing together. There has been a natural acceptance of my presence with them that goes much deeper than my former stays here in Tanzania. There is a patient teaching and congenial assistance with my stumbling attempts with the Swahili language. Which reminds me – we need much prayer that we can learn the language well. This is probably the number one thing we can do to be received well by the people here. The people are so gracious with us anyways, but it really means a lot to them to have a foreigner care enough to speak to them in their own language. But oh, my poor head! I have always had trouble memorizing stuff, and I sure need the prayers!
By the way, your prayers are much appreciated and needed. Keep it up please! It is only the Grace of God and the caring prayers of our friends and family that make this all possible and keeps us safe and well. It is truly through your prayers that we stay connected to one another – we feel it in our spirits. Thanks so much.
I will share more in the next blogpost about what my ministerial duties will be. We don’t have all the details worked out yet, but we should know more in a few weeks. It takes time and patience to get anything done here. Everything is in God’s hands and on His timetable.
Moving forward in joy,