"Humanly speaking it is impossible, but not with God. Everything is possible with God." Mk 10:29
"For the man who wants to save his life will lose it, but the man who loses his life for my sake will find it." Mt 16:25
"Some want to keep the gospel so disembodied that it doesn't get involved at all in the world to save it. Christ is now in history." Oscar Romero

Apr 23, 2008

Where did we leave off...?

Too long, I know…there were legitimate and illegitimate reasons. Hopefully, that is behind us now, just water under the bridge.

I won’t attempt a full catch-up but instead just start from today. Today, we welcome our pastors/bosses to the east coast of Africa. They plan to stay with us for 1 week, doing extensive psyche evaluations and to ensure none of us have totally flipped out. Truth be told, studies show half of all missionaries develop a clinically diagnosable neurosis whilst on the field (so that’s where my constant desire to drive on the wrong side of the road comes from)…thankfully, we haven’t noticed anything serious, but it’s good to have a 3rd party perspective. Also, we’re excited to do some long term planning and set some goals for the next 6-12 months. We’re pretty much settled and have extensive language under our belts (though I wish we were much further along towards fluency).

Something that was very exciting we got to do today was work with our Kiswahili instructor who was hired by John Hopkins University to translate back into English various HIV/AIDS skits and adverts that have been playing all around Tanzania as part of Tz’s National Campaign for AIDS Prevention (JHU wants to review the content of the programs they’ve supported). Anyway, we sat down today and worked to translate a whole bunch of radio advertisements. It was exciting to understand enough to do the work and participate in something which we like. Another cool piece of the story was that our instructor had thought we’d like to help her and she asked her husband (who also works as a language instructor – they co-own the school we’re in) and he said “…missionaries don’t want to do that kind of work, they don’t really care about that kind of thing [meaning the hiv/aids prevention adverts]”. As she told us later, she countered him and said “…yes, but these are a different kind of missionary, I think they’d like it”. She is Muslim by the way. Needless to say, I appreciated that she approached us and that she thinks of us differently than others with whom she has worked with in the past. We just bought her a New Testament, both in Kiswahili and in English. She was thrilled and said she’d start reading on her own. We’ll see what happens. She is probably our closest Tanzanian friend, and we see her 4x a week for 3 hour chunks. We're hoping to finally meet her family on Saturday b/c they’re all invited to Jude’s 5th B-day party. Very cool!

Mar 3, 2008

The REAL big 5

Most visitors to Africa, especially to a country with acclaimed wildlife parks (actually referred to as “game parks” by our animal-loving British brethren), will certainly hear the term “the big 5”. Traditionally the big 5 refer to the 5 most important, now perhaps rare, animal sightings one could endeavor to see if one were to visit a game park in Sub-Sahara Africa. These are the lion, leopard, black rhino, water buffalo, and elephant. I have seen all but the timorous and furtive leopard. I hope one day to say I’ve seen all 5. On the other hand, I want to propose a tweak to the big 5. After living here for almost 5 months, there are other important, if not in the least rare, sightings one could wait a long time to see. By this I mean; electricity, water, working cars, general health, and the newest member internet. Of course, It’s not that I’ve never seen these things independently – but to see all five at once, working properly – that my friend is a glorious day. Even if I had just one day where I could see the big 5, I would be so happy. But alas, something is always out of whack. If it’s not your car, it’s a health issue; if it’s not a health issue, the electricity is out – and there goes the cycle, round and round until you literally go insane – or develop some other serious neurosis, or as challenging as it might be for a previously full-functioning American, one can instead embrace the dark irony and uncontrollability of this cycle and laugh. That’s it. There is no one to call, no one to blame it one. No company that will send a service man out immediately. No bill adjustment, or free coupons for an inconvenience. Just laugh.

Jan 20, 2008

rice, beans and not so simple things...

Never in my life have I been so keenly aware of the old adage, “the more you know, the more aware you become of how little you know”. Honestly, I often feel like my life is one large demonstration of paradoxes. This of course, can be tremendously frustrating as we have an incredibly hard time not feeling completely useless living within this state of constant blurred lines and tension. In so many ways we realize that our world and the world of our children has been widened and expanded beyond belief (even just in these short 4 months) and yet we often feel so acutely aware of the fact that also our world has been shrunk as we are living separate from our large, familiar and vibrant community. My hope, though I must admit I have not felt a huge realization of this yet, is that living in this state will season and mature each of us to become more accurate representations of Jesus. And that ultimately we will begin to know in some of our deepest places the truths of Jesus, “the first shall be last, and the last first; small is the gate and narrow is the path that leads to life; you must lose your life in order to gain it…”

Living as an alien in a foreign land requires loads of flexibility, not just in lifestyle but in thought, and paradigm. I have found this to be particularly true when you are hoping to honor, serve and achieve some semblance of assimilation. We often find ourselves laying in bed at the end of the day or sitting with our comrade Grace in a muggy, candlelit room (our water and electricity have been spotty at best the past couple of weeks) scratching our heads, completely baffled by any number of interactions throughout the day. This would of course be a source of frustration if we were comfortable living a carved out life separate from the majority of people here, but as individuals that care deeply about being servants to those around us, it can also lead to discouragement, because of our lame state of being unilingual Americans, or complete wonderment at the greatness of a God who created and loves such an incredibly diverse human race. We land on both sides of the fence, often finding ourselves in the position of reminding each other that Jesus’ power is perfected in our weakness…

We have been tremendously thankful for our relationship with our language instructor. She is an incredible bridge for us, and acts as a cultural compass on so many levels. Additionally, she is a practicing Muslim and has been very open and eager to exchange experiences and beliefs together. This has been a fruitful relationship and a source of encouragement to us.