Changing of Seasons

The change of season is upon us here in beautiful Dar es Salaam.  The excruciating heat has subsided.  The heavy rains have passed….and now the wonderful cooler breezes and winds are here.

As I lay on my couch yesterday afternoon resting on a Sunday I felt the lovely, windy breeze blowing through our open windows.  How refreshing a cool breeze can be in a hot place.

Another changing of seasons has been upon us as well.  As we come to the close of our third year on the mission field I am discovering that ‘change’ is the norm around here.  People come.  People go.  Beautiful new friendships blossom and bud and deep connections are made, precious individuals that you do life with and who take up wonderful space in our lives then suddenly are called to move on to other arenas of life.

How does one process the multiple losses one experiences in this life?  We all have them. My personal temptation is to hide, to escape away from new deep relationships and self-protect even though my heart desperately longs for it.  In our desire to self-protect from the pain of loss or the vulnerability of new beginnings many of us may have our means of ‘hiding’.  Unfortunately, this often leads to missing out on the beauty of the budding of new relationships or wonderful new opportunities.

Jeremy & I are also experiencing the winds of Holy Spirit blowing through our lives and in the life of our community in new ways.  Holy Spirit is always there, always ready to go deeper with us but how many parts of His beautiful Bride are also hiding from Him?  Afraid of what the deep intimacy of relationship with Holy Spirit might do?  We doubt.  We are afraid of the unknown and yet we desperately long for the intimacy that we avoid.

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The change in seasons cannot be avoided, not in the natural cycles of the weather patterns in the earth nor in our lives and even in the spiritual realm.  It is good to grieve the ending of a good season.  Grieve and grieve it well.  But it is also good to accept with open hearts the coming of a new one, as unknown as it may feel.

What season are you in right now?  Has it been an good one or a difficult one?  The promise of changing of seasons gives us hope that a difficult one will not last forever either.  Are you still clinging to a season that is actually past?  Can you look with hopeful anticipation and abandoned trust to the next season ahead?  Would love to hear your thoughts!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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WANAWAKE WA TANZANIA

It has been a little while since I’ve posted but I would like to welcome you to follow me in the coming months as I do a series of posts called, ‘Wanawake wa Tanzania’ which means ‘Women of Tanzania’.  It is my heart to share with you some glimpses into the lives of a few of my dear friends here and to share with my western community a look at another side of ‘Africa’ that doesn’t always get highlighted as much…which is the strength, competence, ingenuity, beauty, power & love which is revealed in these women.  So, Karibuni!

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I will begin my series with glimpses into the life of a woman I have mentioned in the past, my neighbor, Miriam.

Miriam was born in northern Tanzania in a lush place called Arusha.  She is the youngest in her family and had an opportunity to go to a western missionary run boarding school where she finished her high school education.  A privilege not available to everyone but it gave her a good start in life.

Miriam is married to Bahati and together they have 2 children, Ivanna age 10 and Ivan age 4. Bahati has studied in the UK and for a time they as a family lived there while he got more training for ministry.  They felt called to return to Dar es Salaam to start church planting and to train up church leaders.  They are about 3 years into their church plant and it has not been an easy road.

Miriam and ivan

Miriam and Ivan

It would have been a much easier lifestyle for them as a family to have remained back in the UK but they felt they must obey God’s call to return to their home country and help build up the church.

Financially it has been a challenge for them since returning to Dar es Salaam as up until now the church cannot support them.   Thankfully their church in the UK is supporting them as much as possible but of course they hope to be self-sustaining in the near future.

Miriam, being a true Proverbs 31 woman, has prayed and worked hard to find ways to help support her family.  She is slowly growing a Chicken business.  She has two barn areas and about 300 chickens, and roosters.   This allows her to sell organic eggs, and Chickens & Roosters.  It is a lot of work and upkeep for her and her family but we see how it is growing.  She also has a beautiful vegetable garden where she has managed to grow vegetables that she can sell in the market and to provide food for her family.  She has grown tomatoes, pumpkins, eggplant, spinach, cabbage, beans, maize, and several other items as well.

Miriam in her vegetable garden.

Miriam in her vegetable garden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feeding time for the chickens.

Feeding time for the chickens.

Upon asking Miriam what she loved most about Tanzania and her culture she replied, “That people really pull together and help each other out when you need something.  If you are struggling financially there is always a family member or friend who is willing to help you get out of a difficult time without much expectation.  People are ready to help each other.”

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Some fresh organic eggs!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In terms of what she thought was not great in her country she stated that,  “Although Tanzanians are known to be a peaceful people and we are a peaceful country, but I don’t believe it is true peace because many people are fearful and afraid to really speak out their mind or their rights.  There is a lot of corruption and people are afraid to speak and often we are told to just keep quiet and not make trouble.”

Miriam’s words seem to ring true.  As I spoke with another Tanzanian friend recently she agreed that most Tanzanians are not ones to speak up against injustices all around them, and she said it was a challenge for Christian’s because it is seen as not being Christ-like.  They are often told to just ‘keep the peace’.  It is a very real dynamic for many Tanzanians I have met which leads to feelings of defeat that little CAN actually be done to overcome these injustices in society.

Take a moment to pray that country of Tanzania would grow in the area of true justice for its people and for people to grow in boldness and speaking the truth.

I asked Miriam what she believes the strengths and weakness’ are of the Tanzanian church.  She stated the following:

“I think there is too much Prosperity Gospel in our churches in Tanzania.  Most people only want a church that will give them their healing or promise them wealth.  Many people pay to have these Pastors promise them all kinds of prosperity and it makes it more difficult for us to do church.  Bahati has to spend a lot of time teaching people properly about God’s Word.  Also, people are slowly more reluctant to give to the church because many have been taken advantage of by false teaching.”

Please pray for the church in Tanzania in this area!  It is difficult soil for Pastors who are trying to lay a good foundation of the true Gospel message.

What Miriam felt is a strength of the Tanzanian church was;  “I think that many born again believer’s here really pray and really intercede and they do this a lot.  In the western church they are good loving Christians but I don’t think they pray as much from what I have seen.”

I can say that this is very true.  Tanzanian Christians are quite devout in their prayer life and could really put the western church to shame in the disciplines of prayer and fasting.  I have been stirred up and often so encouraged by the commitment to prayer here.

Thank you for taking a moment to take a glimpse into ‘my Africa’ through the eyes of Miriam.

 

The Grace of ‘Failed’ Plans

I had a plan.

A good plan.  A GLORIOUS plan.  It was all for Jesus, of course.

I think it may have had a few holes in it.

” ‘My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the LORD.

‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.’ ”  –Isaiah 55:8-9

I can just hear Jesus in his ‘I-love-you-child-but-oh-honey-you-are-way-out-of-your-league-here-sweetheart. Please would you just leave the heavy lifting to me?’

You know, believe it or not, this little Mennonite girl (if you don’t know what that is…it’s my ‘tribe’:)) from Manitoba had some pretty big dreams for how to serve Jesus.

“Here I am LORD, send me!”  -Isaiah 6:8

This resonated in my heart and spirit from a young age, like a little kid in Kindergarten class, just eager to be chosen for the task,

‘Ooooooo!! OOOooohhh!! Pick me, Jesus! Pick me!’

All too often though much of it contained by a self conscious, insecure exterior, with anxious smiles thrown on top for good measure.

Unfortunately, still my natural default when I don’t trust.

 

“Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” -Mark 16:15

‘Yeah, sign me up…let’s do it!  World evangelism!!!  Preaching, teaching, caring for the poorest of the poor, breaking the chains of oppression!  I’m in.’

If I’m being totally honest though…too often I’ve been tempted to disappointment in my part in His Great Story.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m here and I’m grateful.  God has been faithful and done some amazing things.  I think the problem was I had my own lofty ideas of how it was all gonna pan out. That I would finally find my ‘sweet spot’ in ministry.  That their would be very clear measurable evidence of it all (I believe the Bible calls that ‘fruit’).  More simply put, I thought God would use ME, the average gal, to do something amazing!

The reality is that Tanzania kinda kicked my immature Mzungu(white person)butt! Truly serving Jesus, building His Kingdom in whatever capacity, giving yourself to it genuinely, wholeheartedly and faithfully over and over again is not always a tidy road of great success.  Just take a look at any of the disciples who followed Jesus.  It didn’t really end well for them, at least not from an earthly perspective.  I came to a similar conclusion while I was reading about the founder of our mission organization, Peter Cameron Scott.  He had the vision of reaching East Africa with the Gospel and moving inland across the continent but he had to overcome great opposition and he died 6 years into his mission in East Africa.  He didn’t get to see with his own eyes all he had hoped to accomplish for the Kingdom of God, or that AIM became an active mission organization that is still serving here 120 years later.  You can read more about this story here:  http://www.aimint.org/eu/about/69-aims-history

All that to say that to REALLY be someone of greatness in His World…

is DEATH.  Death in some form or another.

Death to all your self-centered, self-conscious, self-esteem, self-help, self-glorification, self-promotion etc. (you get my point)

Death even to my idea of the ultimate ministry.

Okay. I think its time.  Time for me to make my confession.  Here goes.

I confess…I kinda wanted to be one of those people of great influence in the Christian world!  Yup…yup, its true.  Ok…perhaps a slight exaggeration…not the world, but like a continent would be fine too(still kidding).  You know, like preaching freedom to the oppressed masses, multitudes are baptized in the Indian Ocean, everyone I disciple would have an enthusiastic vibrant walk with Jesus!

Now you know just how silly I really am! ‘Awwwee isn’t she so sweet…delusional…but sweet.’

So you can see when you start with plans of multitudes….and you are struggling to be a ‘world changer’ through just a handful…well, yeah it can leave you questioning, ‘where did I go wrong’.  You may even go into the pity party where you cry saying, ‘But what about me God?‘.  Hy pathetically speaking, of course!  So what happens?

Well. you either stay a childish, self absorbed Christian, and we all know how attractive they are, or…..

you die.

I’ve been through a recent season of that out here, in this HOT, scorching city of Dar es Salaam.  That dying stuff.  Tanzania has been part of my refining process in Jesus.   There have been some tough battles waged….mostly behind closed doors…. and some not so much.  I thought I knew what I was here to do.  Then Jesus came and turned it all upside down.

The CRUSHING is intense.

“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels–a plentiful harvest of new lives.”  -John 12:24

There’s just no way around it.

My plan was too narrow, too small, and far to much about me.  And it is so not about me.

One day as I was praying, again, about wanting to do my ‘dream ministry’ and the Holy Spirit in His still small voice way just impressed on my heart the following;

‘Angie, your idea or dream of the ultimate ministry, which really is your idea of the ultimate way of serving Me is so small.  Do you know WHO I AM?  I AM He who can ‘do immeasurably more than YOU could EVER ask or imagine’ (Eph. 3:20).  You are barely scratching the surface at the vastness of my power, love, grace and sovereignty, and the thoughts I have towards you (Ps.139:17)  cannot compare with your loftiest thoughts, dreams and ideas.  Come to Me. Choose Me again.  Its all about Me and my Kingdom and my glory so let Me lead you.

When you die to yourself, but in this dying you keep turning to the Cross, to The One who hung on that cross, and you lay it all bare there, in the ugly mess of it all….eventually you WILL find your way to the resurrection.  That’s a guarantee that we have in Christ.

Everything will look a little different in the Light of the ‘life after death’.  It will take on a new form. Perhaps, something you never expected.

But the JOY.  Oh, the Joy of knowing Him through it all.  That alone will be more than enough that no task will seem too small.  And no death too great.

Anything ‘dying’ in your life season?  Do you see the ‘resurrection’ coming?

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Little ‘Shida’s’ become Big ‘Shida’s’

So, I got a boil.

You know…like that gross, pussy thing that can grow on your skin.

I think I may have become a human petri dish living in Dar es Salaam.

Throw in some sand & dirt that has blown into your hot, sweaty face and add 39oC weather with a little humidity and crazy stuff happens.

I thought I had a zit.

Apparently…it was something bigger.

I thought I had a small shida (shida means ‘problem’ in swahili).

I was hoping it was a ‘hamnashida’ (hamnashida means ‘no problem’ in swahili).

But, alas, it turned into a ‘shida kubwa’ (a ‘big problem’).

A little shida that cost me way too much money by the way!

(At this time I want to thank all of our faithful supporters who will now understand why, ‘Yes, missionaries really do need good international health insurance’.  No more; ‘May I have your Manitoba Health Card please?’ from the receptionist and never even giving it another thought. No sir).

Day 1: Boil appears in the form of a zit on my face.

Day 3: Zit, that is actually a boil, gets bigger, more red, and angry.

Day 5:  Boil is now the size of a quarter.  I wear a bandage on my left cheek everyday and try to avoid all social interactions.

Day 6:  I fail at avoiding social interactions.  This is an impossible feat living within a ‘warm’ culture society. Everyone asks what happened.  “I have a boil’, I say.  “Oh, ‘Jipu’…in swahili..you have Jipu”.   I go to the nice Tanzanian clinic of choice with reasonable consult rates.  The lovely doctor and nurse proceed to remove the bandage and assess the situation. It doesn’t look good. What should they do?  Get out the infection.  NOW. Of course.  But how? They begin with some gentle squeezing.  A bit more squeezing. The patient winces too much. (if only they could tie her down).  Perhaps, if they used only the tip of a scalpel they could release the infection. The scalpel touches the skin but, no, no…it’s to invasive.  A needle! Yes, a small pric is all…just to suction out some the infection.  Yes, yes…a needle.  The patient submits whilst the needle is inserted ever so slightly.  But to little avail.  The final assessment of the boil?  It’s not ready. Yes. It’s not ‘ripe’.  For now begin oral antibiotics and return on Friday.

Day 6 (in the afternoon):  I drive 40 minutes to the International clinic because a friend tells me that they have the ‘special ointment’ to ripen the boil.  The ointment.  MUST. GET. OINTMENT. I pay a slightly higher consult fee and the doctor applies the black, stinky, tarry ointment to my boil, bandages it and says: ‘Your face may swell slightly.  Keep taking your antibiotics.  I will see you tomorrow’.

Day 7:  I drive back across town to the International clinic.  I lie on my side on the table in the doctor’s office waiting.  The doctor removes the bandage and begins squeeze hard. On my cheek….on my face, remember?  I wince several times.  He tells me I must have already had children because most patients flinch a lot more.  Okay.  Yes…childbirth has given me some pain tolerance.  Just a little more excruciating squeezing and we’re done.  We’re done!! You mean it’s done?  Its finished. Oh no, no.  Keep squeezing at it yourself tomorrow and get the rest out.  Oh…okay. Yeah…I can do that. I had 3 kids.

Day 8:  I return to clinic number one because they gave me the antibiotics and told me to come back.  I’m just hoping to get some free gauze and bandages.  I got this!  The general doctor and nurse return to remove the bandages.  They respond with shock! Oh my.  Look at that. Have you seen this?  Yes…yes I have…its on my face.  Oh my that must come out!  That infectious stuff must come out now.  Yes, I know but please…don’t squeeze my face any more…I believe it will come out on its own.  That’s what Google says.  It will be fine.  Just leave it alone…I’m just here for some bandages and I’ll be on my way.

Oh no…no.  That needs to come out. You can’t leave that in there.  (My senses are heightened as I frantically scan the room for the scalpels!)  The older nurse tells the younger doctor to just get those metal tongs and remove ‘that piece’….’that piece needs to come out’.  I’m getting more anxious.  I just want the bandages please.  The doctor starts to come near my cheek with the tongs and I loose it.  What are you doing?  I told you, please don’t touch it.  It hurts.  What are you doing coming at my face with metal tongs? Step away from the patient. NOW.  I literally begin to cry.  Like the ugly, uncontrollable, heaving cry!  Oh dear.  No where to run, no where to hide.  The emotions are spilling out all over the doctor’s office floor.

I was just coming for bandages and this boil was supposed to go away on its own and now people have been poking and prodding and squeezing and staring and I’m done….and worse yet I don’t trust any of you anymore!!!

They can tell…they have lost me now.  They pass along ‘my case’ to an older Cuban doctor (a trained surgeon) who comes in to save the day!  He spends 1/2 an hour empathizing and explaining everything to me.  I feel validated once again as he says in his Cuban accent, “Jes,of course, you are still human.  Jou want to understand what is happening. Don’t worry. Hh-its Hh-ok.“. Yeah, I just want the play by play before you come at my face with more pokey things! If I return in 2 days he will do the ‘mini surgery’ himself.  And he will use a small, insulin needle for the area freezing…more humane. Yes, that is what I want.  The smallest needle will be just right.

In the end I’m happy to say, that my boil was lanced a few days ago and seems to healing up ok.  I think the whole process just taught me a few things…

Number one; I don’t ever want to take my health for granted again…when everything is just going smoothly, which most of my life it has, I tend to assume I’m in control.  I was especially thanking God for having kept our children so healthy since we’ve been here and feel its just his grace to us.

Number two; I appreciate a little more the easy access healthcare system we have in Canada and will enjoy it much more when we return home!

Number three; I am thankful for the access to clinics here in Dar that we do have and that they are working so hard to do their best with the means they have and I will continue to return to the very clinic that ‘made’ me cry!

Number four; Ultimately God is the Only Great Physician and our health and healing in the end are all in his hands.

Number five; When I am tired and overwhelmed….I cry like a little girl.

Number six; Should a scar remain on my cheek from this nasty boil…I intend to make up an amazing, heroic story of how I  got it while living in Tanzania. 🙂

Our Tanzanian Christmas Photo Collage

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Our A.I.M. team had a nice Christmas party at our Mission's guesthouse.  Here we were playing some games.

Our A.I.M. team had a nice Christmas party at our Mission’s guesthouse. Here we were playing some games.

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The ‘white elephant’ style gift exchange at the AIM party.

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Angie with 2 of the 4 girls in her mentor group.

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Carson – This was not set-up!

 

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God’s Tribe Leadership Team – 2 Canadians, 2 Tanzanians, 1 South African, and our token American 🙂

 

 

 

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Avery at her Christmas program.

 

 

 

 

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Carson with Sheshi and I – pre-baptism.

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Post-baptism

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Carson at his Christmas program.

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Nuru Centre Christmas party. This is a place where Angie and I volunteer at times throughout the year. The Tanzanians here have different disabilities but use their talents to make the most amazing crafts.

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Nuru Centre

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Eden at Nuru Centre

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Avery with our neighbour Ivanna.

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Angie with Mary at Green Pastures Orphanage.

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Avery colouring pictures with some of the kids at Green Pastures.

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Christmas lunch with a bunch of our neighbors. Great Tanzanian BBQ!

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Angie with her good friend and neighbor Miriam.

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Angie with some of her prayer buddies from school and church.

Year End Family Photo!! Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Year End Family Photo.
Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Ripe for the Picking- No pictures. Just words. Come on you still like to read, right?

“Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” – Jesus said that.

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So, I really want people to know Jesus….and I want to be a part of that process.  You know, the praying part, the telling part, the teaching part, the encouraging part.

Yeah.  All that.

But man, I am not really that good at it.  I try.  I fail.  I try again.  I do a little better.  But who’s keeping track? 😉

I believe that God is at work in the earth as He has always been but I sense this eagerness in my heart….something is happening.

Can you sense it too?

The Holy Spirit is at work.

All those prayers that have been and are being prayed.  Sometimes for years, for decades without any tangible evidence that they are not simply hitting the ceiling.  And yet the faithful continue to pray…  and every single prayer is heard in the heavenly places.

Every. Single. One.

Think about that.

Not only that but our Savior, Jesus Christ, who is now seated at the right hand of God is there praying for us!!

Continually, constantly, interceding on our behalf.  He’s cheering us on.  He is FOR us so WHO CAN BE AGAINST US?

Praying that we will complete the task for which He has called us.  For such a time as this.  For NOW.  For this time He calls each of us….to be the ‘worker’ (just in case you didn’t realize…prayer is good work.  Relationships is good work)

To a dying world.  To be the ones who ‘bring good news’.  Good News.

In today’s news…our world needs THE GOOD NEWS.

That News which sets people free.

So, I will press on.  Stumbling along as I do.  A little awkward at times to be honest but genuine nonetheless.  I want you to know this Jesus who loves us.

There are people who need that which you have freely received.

The harvest is ready.  People are hungry for this Good News.  And people ARE coming and accepting it and being transformed.

At HOPAC last week Carson’s grade 4 class told their stories on who Jesus is to them in their class assembly.  One of the young girls shared how she gave her life to Christ last year in a grade 3 retreat day.  Another girl in his class accepted Christ last week.

The other morning our friend and HOPAC Bible teacher, Marc Driesenga, was able to give a ‘altar call’ (do we still call them that?)  in the chapel and one secondary student gave his life to Christ and couple others recommitted their lives to Christ.  Recently, Marc had a conversation with another missionary who mentors some of these students and she said when she asked why, after all this time, they still had not accepted Christ as their Savior they simply responded, “No one has ever asked us or showed us how to do that.  We’ve heard all about Christianity but we have never been told how to become a Believer and what that means.”

Can you imagine.  Guys.  Come on.  We need to step up.  (I’m totally talking to myself here by the way.  No judgement from me.)

“…the harvest is plentiful…”

Do we believe it?

Or do I hide because deep down I worry that maybe its too ‘old school’ and not so cool for ‘new school.

But then that cheesy statement right there should reveal I have never been too cool!  So may as well “let your freak flag fly”…as they say.

If its gonna fly why not let it fly for Jesus? Just saying.

My friend and prayer partner Catherine who has been visiting the women’s prison here in Dar was able to witness and be a part of 20 inmates dedicating their lives to Christ at her recent visit.

Twenty.  Somebody asked if they wanted to accept Christ as their Savior…I guess they did.

Maybe its time I just assume people really want this message and don’t just tolerate it.

Oh, and by the way church.  We are all on the SAME team, right?!  So don’t worry too much about who did what when where how.  Some plant, some water but God makes it grow by His grace and mercy.

“What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one.  I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.  So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.…”  1 Cor. 3:6

Are we getting a little braver yet?

Let’s just all decide to do our little part empowered by HIS Spirit and just stand back and see God move.

Choosing more courage myself today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

God’s Tribe – Year 1

During the last year we have been attending and serving in our church, God’s Tribe. We’ve been very blessed to call this church here our home. September 7, 2013, the church launched and has gone from about 70 that first Sunday to over 130 on a regular basis. God is definitely good! The video here is a quick snapshot of our church and it’s journey within the last year. Enjoy!

Its a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Anybody remember Mr. Rogers?  You know,

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor….would you be mine? Won’t you be mine?”

I liked him and his cool cardigan sweaters.

He was neighborly.

Sweet ol' Mr. Rogers

Sweet ol’ Mr. Rogers

After one year of living in our little neighborhood here in Dar….today I felt some of those ‘warm fuzzies’ of neighborliness (is that a word?).

Some days it felt hard to have people around my yard and home all the time, not to mention all the chickens and roosters at 4am!  Some days I was a bad missionary and wanted to hide in my room.

Today though, I was enjoying how far God has brought us and the relationships we have been developing here.

This morning I enjoyed spending some time praying together with Mama Sara who lives just outside my gate.  She is a Believer and hungry and passionate for her faith which she discovered only a few short years ago.  She asked if we could pray together once a week for our families after I gave her the book ‘The Power of a Praying Wife’.  She grew up in a Muslim home so she enjoys learning more about how to live as a Christian wife and mother. It was nice to share together and encourage each other.

Later this morning Christopher came by…in typical fashion, outside my dinning room window he calls, “Hallo…Mummi”  (Yes he is a 19 year old guy and yes I am not his mom but being called ‘Mama’ in some form seems to happen a lot!)  He had a gift to bring us this morning from our Kenyan neighbor, Elkana.  Christopher came to Dar for work which didn’t pan out and he had no where to go.  He told me some time ago that his mother died when he was a baby.  Elkana, has welcomed him into his home and is helping him finish high school.  He brought, carrots, onions and tomatoes to share with us today.   It was a pleasant surprise.

Christopher and Eden.

Christopher and Eden.

After lunch, I began to prepare the cake I’m making for Miriam and Bhati’s (our other neighbors) sister who is having a wedding shower.  Miriam has had a busy week preparing for this wedding and needed a cake, so I said, “let me do it”.  There must have been a reason I worked in a bakery as a cake decorator at Penner Foods back in the day.  Nothing is ever a waste in God, right?!

A little rough after so many years of hanging up the icing bags.

A little rough after so many years of hanging up the icing bags.

We look forward to being part of this upcoming event for them.  It is custom to give the bride- to-be a ‘send off’ party which takes place this Saturday and we will be in attendance.  I admit, I am curious about this new cultural experience.  I’ll let you know how it goes down.

Anyway, all that to say that God has got you somewhere for a reason….a ‘neighborhood’ for a high purpose.  Some day’s it may seem like those reasons are so small and insignificant and yet we may just not always fully realize how much it blesses someone near us and we ourselves are blessed in return when we share our lives.

Who does God have you blessing today?

AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” -Mark 12:30-31

 

 

 

12 Months. 12 Obeservations.

Our Year in Dar in Review

#1: Don’t forget to greet people. Never. EVER.

Tanzanians, like in many other African countries, place a high value on properly greeting one another. Any time we even go into a grocery store I feel bad unless I’ve properly greeted everyone including the security guard! “Habari za asabuhi?” (How are you this morning?) “Nzuri” (Fine). “Habari za Nyumbani?” (How is your home?) “Nzuri” (Fine). “Habari za Familia?” “Nzuri”. “Mambo” (Slang for ‘how are things?’) “Poa” (its cool). Just to name a few!

#2) Extended hand holding during a handshake.

Maybe this was a little more awkward for Jeremy at first and our very ‘personal space’ culture but here along with the greetings it is not odd at all for a man to hold another man’s hand for a while and just carry on talking this way. Same goes for the ladies but lets be honest it’s really no biggie for us. I thought it interesting though seeing grown ladies walking hand in hand together to work. It is a sign of friendship.

#3) Bad roads. Bad…BAD….BAAAAADDDD ROADS!!

Wow. Don’t bother trying to drink your hot coffee beverage on your way to work unless you have an amazing travel mug. I cannot tell you how many times Jeremy and I have been in the car just trying to get out our road and just totally grumbled. I will say the passenger seat is worse. Now I know why cars have those handles inside above the windows.

#4) What’s yours is mine, what’s mine is yours.

Our family lives in a small compound with two other families. Our neighbors are Tanzanian and Kenyan. Many times we will be looking for our broom or hose to water the garden and after a few times of getting a little annoyed that our neighbors were ‘taking’ our things without asking we have come to understand that this worldview really goes deep. Our neighbors would also never mind if we walk into their yard and help ourselves to what we need. This is where Tanzanians understand living in community so much better than us. If you don’t want to share it….put it in the house!

#5) ‘Fuleni’ is Swahili for ‘traffic’. We say ‘fooey’ to Dar traffic!

I (Angie) have never lived in a big Canadian city, like TO or Vancouver and now we live in Dar es Salaam…a city of 4-5 million and with infrastructure stuck in the past. The biggest highway here in Dar (that we know of) is 2 lanes each way! Can you imagine? No wonder everyone’s road-raging all up in here! A 20 minute trip some days could take 1.5 hours. Tanzanians are pretty patient.

#6) “Man I miss McDonald’s” “Man I miss Starbucks”

Recently we did a 10 hour road trip up to Arusha and we realized how much we missed our convenient fast food/fast coffee pit stops.  Very quickly we come to remember that ‘we aren’t in Kansas anymore”.  Fast convenient food is rare to non existent.  Although Dar does have some lovely restaurants where you can even enjoy a half decent burger from time to time.

#7). Rice and Beans is cheaper than Peanut Butter.

Not to harp on food…but let’s harp on food.  While there are more and more western grocery stores popping up in Dar you do typically ‘pay’ for these items.  A small jar of peanut butter may range anywhere from $6-$10.  250g of butter $3dollars.  I have seen 500g of butter sell for up to $10.  Our kids enjoy typical sugar cereals for breakfast but out here those usual brands we know can easily be 3 times the price of back in Canada.  So, best to stick to rice and beans if the budget gets tight.  Although the occasional splurge on some good cheese is much welcomed.  Mmmmm. Cheese!

#8).  Student understand the value of their Education.

In general we find that Tanzanian students work very hard in school and understand that a good education is not a given.  Parents make many sacrifices and also work hard to get better education opportunities for their children.  Something we often have taken for granted back home in a country where good education is offered to every child for free! (Well, except for taxes).  They push themselves and many are going on to great Universities and opportunities post-graduation.

#9).  “You say tomatoes, I say tomatoes”

One of the lovely things of living in such an international community is constantly being surrounded by various phrases, words and accents….and all in the English language!  We love seeing God’s diversity in this way and can even poke a little fun at one another about these things.  We are so grateful for the many new friends we have made and value them all even if they say things like “its all gone pear-shaped”!

#10).  Spiritual Warfare is very real.

In a country that is considered #1 in eastern Africa for practicing witchcraft and also with a large Muslim and Hindu population Dar es Salaam is a very ‘spiritual’ place.  We also know that often traditional witchcraft is still practiced after conversion.  I guess they hang onto their idols at times just as we Christians in the West do.  We realize more and more the high value and great importance of prayer in all things.

#11). Be flexible and roll with the punches. 

A little easier said than done but living in Dar just teaches us, sometimes daily, how very little control we really have over things. Life can be tough at times and daily inconveniences can aggravate but in the end we know God alone is Sovereign and He is in control.  There is comfort in knowing that.

#12).  Stepping out on the water….

in our last couple of years really, leading up to us moving over here and now being here we realize that stepping out in faith is usually a little scarey, feels hard, you wonder if you’ve done something totally dumb but God always comes through in ways we cannot quite imagine.  We see how he leads us if we are willing to take the first step of faith and that this is a continual journey.  Growing in grace is a good thing!

 

 

 

Musings on Motherhood and Missions

This past Sunday was the official day of celebrating mothers where many a mom was honored and celebrated for all she does for her family.  I too enjoyed being served by my two eldest kids and enjoyed seeing their eager faces as they presented me with their handmade cards.  I cherish those special thoughtful cards and all that they stand for.

Aside of carrying the title of ‘mom’ I realize that to many I also carry the title of ‘missionary’.   Somewhat of a new thing for me and I know that it carries with it certain ideas and maybe even expectations which vary from person to person.  As I connect and talk with other missionary moms out here I realize that often these women feel the tension of ‘official’ ministry roles as they also try to carry out their call of ministry in their homes.  It is easy to come under pressure, whether real or perceived, to produce something tangible for ministry that people will value.  This is dangerous ground for any Believer who is under grace but I have heard it in the way I speak and feel at times and also in other missionary moms who wonder if they are ‘doing enough’.

Of course, any mom, missionary or not can feel these things so you can identify in some way with my thoughts but I can only share from my own experience which is not meant to discount any other mom’s struggles.

For me, I feel the tension of my own desire and expectations of ministry here in Dar es Salaam.  One of them being wanting to learn language a lot faster than I am currently able to do.  I have an energetic toddler with me ALL the time (boy do we miss free childcare from Oma and Grandma!).  Which means I begin my Swahili class (with my fellow language learner & mom Gretchen who has two of her three children along with her) at 8 am and before I can begin to properly form one Swahili sentence I will have gotten up a couple times to deal with something little miss Eden has gotten into!  We have Swahili for 3 hours 3 times a week.  I’m thankful that we have a gracious language teacher who applauds our efforts despite slow progress.

“Good fruit” I am learning takes more time than we realize to grow.

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin…”                -Zechariah 4:10

I heard my friend, fellow missionary and mom, who recently came from the village to have her second child here in the city say that she struggles with her role here lately and wonders if it is fair that she needs more of her husbands help when they are here to serve others in their community and she wondered if perhaps they should return home and raise their young children first before being in the mission field.  Valid questions to consider I suppose.

It just got me thinking and wondering about what is ‘enough’ to validate someone moving overseas to serve Jesus where they believe they are called to be?  And is it enough if a mama, for a season, will need to minister more to those little sheep entrusted to her by God than she will be able to ‘out there’?  How do we measure results for the Kingdom of God?

I’m no expert but I believe we will be surprised in heaven at how God measures our results for His Kingdom.  If obedience is enough for Jesus then it should be enough for us.  Obedience to His call.

The call to GO.  The call to STAY.  The call to WAIT.  The call to ACT.  The call to SPEAK.  The call to BE QUIET.  The call to PUBLIC MINISTRY.  The call to HIDDEN MINISTRY.

I’m thankful for the challenges and blessings of motherhood.  It has been my first mission field for about 8 years now.  It has been in this mission field where Jesus has been refining and sanctifying me over and over because mothering well didn’t come naturally to me.  I’m sure you are all as shocked as I was at this news!  Apparently your sin stays with you into motherhood.  Who knew? 😉

At times I wonder if who I am and what I have to offer is enough to validate me being here in Tanzania with the title ‘missionary’.  Just as I often wondered if I deserve the gift and title of  ‘mom’.

I’m happy to say that slowly I’m realizing that “NO”  I do not deserve or have the goods to do or be any of these things.   But I know the ONE who does.  And He is able to take the feeble sacrifices we offer and make them into a beautiful work for HIS GLORY…which in the end is really the whole point.

FOR HIS GLORY.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  -Galatians 6:9

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”  -Mother Teresa

A little photo op of language mamas.

A little photo op of language mamas.

Lucy our patient teacher.

Lucy our patient teacher.

Gretchen and her youngest during one of our lessons.

Gretchen and her youngest during one of our lessons.