Love's Champion

Mission Stuff

Over Green Hills

by on Nov.01, 2013, under Mission Stuff, Musings

I love Coldplay.  As in, if there was only one band for me to listen to for the rest of my life it would probably be Coldplay.  My obsession with their music went to new depths of fanboydom last year when we were in Africa.  I’ve always loved their stuff, Sonja and I even danced to one of their songs at our wedding over 5 years ago, but I never had their newer stuff.  So last year when we were in Tanzania I got some of their newer albums from some friends and realized that their music was incredible.

Whenever I listen to their song “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall” I picture the same scene.  I’m in a cramped bus full of Tanzanians, we’ve been all riding together, squished hip to hip for a few hours at this point and we are only 10 minutes from our destination, Kilimamoja.  On our left is Manyara National Park and it rises up like a wall of green.  Low lying shrubs, tall trees, ground foliage all come together to form what appears to be an impenetrable wall of life.  The trees reach over the road and the Nevits that have flown from Spain roost in the branches, whitening the road below with feces.  In front of us the very last of the Great Rift Valley rises up like an ancient city wall, a cliff over a thousand feet high.

Slowly and laboriously, our minibus grinds up the side of this cliff on a long windy switchback.  We rise out of the trees and even though I’ve done it before I am always crane my neck to see if there are any baboons in the road or maybe the elephants we hear occasionally use the pavement for for a footpath.  I always look for my favorite baobab trees that grow up along the hill.  While driving up I always wonder if this will be the time that some other minibus heading downhill will lose its brakes and send us all into the Great Beyond.  Fortunately, that never happened.  Higher and higher the road winds and Coldplay pounds in my ears so loudly I could swear that everyone in the bus would hear it if not for thumping Swahili hip hop already blaring from the blown out bus speakers.

Up and up until we can see across the whole of Lake Manyara the plains below.  Specks of wildebeest mark the flat below.  As we make the turn and the lake falls in behind us the green hills rise up like stalwart sentinals, guarding all beneath them.  For a second it feels like I leave my body and I am out of the dala-dala and flying along the sad, broken fields that once again failed to provide any real crop to it’s tenders.  Faster and faster until I go up and over the mountains and there are more fields and more villages and more mud huts with hungry bellies in them.  Further and further, faster and faster till we’re not in Tanzania anymore, here comes Mozambique and then South Africa and you wouldn’t know the difference because the land is still broken and weary.  More villages with different faces but the same problems.  We go higher until the land sprawls before us and we can see the edges that meet the infinitesimal blue of the ocean.  An entire continent under the vice grip of poverty, hunger, and sickness.  The sheer volume of it falls like a weight on your chest.  Millions of people, thousands of miles.

And in all that Coldplay sings the perfect tune, the tune that brings all this back to mind as I sit in my comfy home office.  In the single teardrop of a hungry child, the tear from a helpless mother or a hopeless father you find the waterfall of emotion, brokenness, and despair from an entire continent forgotten.  In my mind I create a world where the tears of the people fund a massive reservoir held back by a large and imposing dam.  Decades have amassed millions of gallons of life giving water that just waits for the single crack to signify its release.  And soon the tears from the rest of world begin flowing in, North America Asia, Europe.  Slowly people begin to wake up and realize the plight of their fellow man.  I imagine they stop what they’re doing and begin to weep over the injustice of it all.  With this new volume the dam begins to crack and crumble.  Finally…it breaks!  Over the green hills it rushes and crashes, sweeping over it in large swaths of roiling white water.  Refreshing and washing the land, fertilizing the crops and quenching the thirsty.  As it all settles beneath the earth the green sprouts of growth begin to push through the dark soil and a nation, a continent begins to come alive.

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July/August/September Update

by on Sep.05, 2012, under Mission Stuff, Uncategorized

The last update!  The last half of July was busy as we were full with interns and guests from all different places.  We took the interns out to Masaailand for a conference with another local missionary.  Although Sonja and I didn’t spend the night out there we did go out for one day.  We took chai with one of the leaders over the area, a Masaai pastor who has killed 5 leopards and 3 lions, pretty cool guy.  After that we went with a couple of the young Masaai warriors as they lead us on a “short” hike to a nearby cave.  I laughed to myself because there is a running joke among Tanzanians that “short” to a Masaai is anything less than 13 miles.  So we hiked for about an hour through the Masaai bush, a seemingly inhospitable place.  Dry, dusty, stiff cracking grass, rocks, and prickly plants of all shapes and sizes.  The cave rested in a dried out river bed and we were thrilled to find cave drawings from Masaai long, long ago.  One of the interns in our group had taken a course her last semester in college concerning cave drawings of Africa.  She was able to tell us all about what the drawings could have meant.  We crawled through the caves which were mainly just holes into the side of the hill.  We got flapped and attacked by bats inside but it was a cool experience.  One of our interns, Anya, from Ukraine loved the caves and couldn’t get enough of them.  She crawled so deep into one of the shafts that I had to go looking for her only to find her covered in dirt, grinning ear to ear, and holding an ancient looking stone bowl and a small animal skull.

The team saw all sorts of cool healings and miracles out in the bush and they came back with a glowing report.  On the way back from Masaailand one of our interns was baptized in the Holy Spirit, something he had been asking God for for quite some time.

I was home for only a day before Sonja and I left with the interns to Kilima Moja for the weekend.  We hiked our favorite river trail and were lucky to see baboons along most of the length of it.  It’s cool to see baboons in the zoo, it’s even cooler to see them from a safari vehicle, but it’s best to see them looking at you from 10 feet away.  We also did a meeting with the pastors of the area where I was able to share with them for a couple hours.  I spoke about the need to catch a vision and to formulate a plan that includes everyone and their strengths.  Also about the necessity of communication in every lasting relationship.  It was fun to share about something the Lord has been recently teaching me.  After that Sonja and I didn’t stay for the whole weekend but returned to Moshi a few days later.

The rest of July was busy taking the interns to and fro and various ministry things.  July 29th, my little brothers birthday, found me with a dislocated, compound fracture on my thumb.  The wonderful experience I’ve already detailed in this entry.  At the end of that week I was feeling well enough to go to the village with what we fondly referred to as “The Dream Team”, basically our closest friends who have been here together since at least the beginning of the year.  No interns to worry about and take care of, most of us knew Swahili and could take care of ourselves and were comfortable in the village.  It was a blessed time and super fun to boot!

Next came the time of goodbyes.  Lots of last minute dinners and going away parties for various missionaries and interns.  The first half of August found us saying goodbye to many people that we had grown close to.  Our time to leave seemed so far away and it was hard to say goodbye to everyone while we still had time here.

Over the whole summer we were working on Hope International School, a huge project by Global Effect.  We threw all of our help into the job.  Interns, traveling teams, other local missionaries, and especially ourselves.  Sonja did some really creative paintings/murals on the walls to brighten up the classrooms.  I drove teams to and fro, thought through different projects and set a plan to accomplish them, pitched in with more things than I can count, and hauled my fair share of cow manure for the lawn we were trying to plant.  At the end of it all we are leaving a mere 4 days before the school starts.  Nothing makes me sadder about leaving Tanzania other than the fact that I am unable to see all the cute little ones coming for their first day of school at the property we, and many others, have poured so much sweat and effort into.  But it’s a good lesson to keep in mind that many of the things we pour ourselves into we will never get to see the fruit of until eternity.  Still I am bummed.

In the beginning of August we also had some new visitors, relatives of Ryan & Stacy.  They and their church have been ministering at village here for several years now.  I helped by taking the pastor out to the village and picking up him up everyday.  It was the same route I took when I shuttled the YWAM team everyday, a beautiful 35 minute drive with views of Kili most of the way.  Through that time I built a good relationship with the village pastor and the community in that particular village.  They have an amazing vision for a huge church that can host conferences and leaders seminars.  It’s very strange to see a poor, mud hut village with a big, two-story church in the middle.

The third week of August I went for the last time to Kilima Moja with our friends Alex, Peter, and Doug.  It was Alex’s last week with the pastors he has poured the last 6 months, 5 days a week into.  I had been the most frequent visitor and so I wanted to say goodbye to all the friends I had made as well.  True to Tanzanian style we received so many gifts as going away presents.  Gift giving is the over-arching love language of Africans and they showed it so well.  We went home with wood carvings, Masaai shukas, clothes, and all manner of cool gifts.  We felt blessed beyond blessed and saying goodbye was no fun.  Especially for me as we do not know when we will be returning next.  Alex will return in 4 months but for me I had to say goodbye to one of my favorite places in the world, the African bush, for the foreseeable future.

We returned home and bid even more friends farewell.  The last couple weeks have found us running around helping with last minute things for the school, driving, errands, this and that.  Last week I went in to have the metal rod taken out of my thumb.  It was healed for the most part and all closed up and the metal needed to be removed.  In true African fashion I called the Dr. on his personal cell phone and waited in the same room as several other patients while he discussed their problems with them.  Apparently here in Tanzanian there aren’t any HIPPA laws.  When it was my turn we sat down and the Dr. went straight to it.  There weren’t any nurses around so I had to help with the procedure with things like preparing the anesthetic, opening different things, closing others, and being generally helpful.  Through an extremely painful process the rod was removed and I was given my thumb back, free from foreign objects.  I was distressed to find that I couldn’t move it however.  I learned that I will need some pretty intensive physical therapy to return the proper motion to the joint.  So I’ve been doing some rather painful exercises prescribed by people who know more than me and praying that I will have a working thumb instead of a stiff board-like finger.  We are hoping and praying for the resources and connections to see a professional who can give a proper diagnosis on my thumb.

And now…we are leaving.  Tomorrow we board a shuttle for Nairobi, Kenya where we will take a late night flight to London, then London to Rome.  We will spend a few weeks tromping around Italy & France and then return home towards the end of September.

It’s hard to believe 8 months has passed.  In so many ways it has felt like a full 8 months and in others it feels like we just arrived.  I suppose it’s similar to how we all feel about the passing of time.  “We just celebrated the New Year!” is what we say when August rolls around or “Christmas decorations already?” the second Halloween is over.  However, when you go somewhere and do something big one tends to be a little more reflective.  So we’ve been reflecting on our time here.  I can hardly tell you all the lessons we’ve learned and the struggles overcome.  I’ve aimed to be mainly positive in my writings but that doesn’t mean it’s been easy.  It’s been very hard at a lot of points but those are for us to work through.  Going home has it’s own set of obstacles that we are looking at as well.  I intend to continue to write about Tanzania and the lessons I’ve learned here.  If only for my own processing.

Many people have asked us what’s next.  It’s a fair question and one that deserves a good answer.  Without going too in depth I can say that I feel we need to commit a year to staying in the States.  We will be staying where we live in Texas.  We want to get involved in a good community of like-minded people who will encourage us and who we can encourage.  We want to get involved in the life that is already going on there.  We intend to build Acacia Apparel and grow it so that the girls can have a steady and solid income.  We also have some other projects we will be working on that we are very excited about but can’t quite unveil yet.

There are many things on the horizon.  Blurry and undefined.  But as we move toward them we will see clearer and be able to move with better conviction and wisdom into the next season.  We have much processing to do concerning all we saw and experienced in this beautiful country.  Lots of journaling and thinking.  For now we are grateful to be leaving in one piece, better than when we came.  I hope and pray we did something of value during our time here.  I feel like we did but only time can tell.

If you have supported us in any way, from buying art from us or praying for us when you thought of us, or any other of the ways you helped, we thank you.  We are so grateful for the community of people who have loved us and encouraged us from the United States.  We couldn’t have done this journey without you.  We look forward to seeing you all very soon.

Andrew (& Sonja)

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Crash Landing

by on Aug.31, 2012, under Mission Stuff, Musings, Uncategorized

Last week I went out to Kili Ma Moja for the last time before we leave Tanzania.  I was excited because it was just going to be us guys.  No teams to take care of, no wives to look after (I love you Sonja!), just…dudes.  Not only that but I was looking forward to saying goodbye to somewhere that has been a home away from home for the last 8 months.  One of the evenings we found ourselves at a friends curio shop.  He has always given us a good deal on different souvenirs so we are more than willing to give him our business if he is fair to us in return.  His shop is nothing more than some wood posts with a tin roof and tin walls but it is situated in possibly one of the best spots in the entire area for wazungu business.  It is located barely 60 feet from the dirt airstrip used by the more wealthy tourists who prefer to fly into their safari rather than drive.

I’ve been fascinated with this airstrip ever since I first saw it.  Firstly, the fact the planes land right there in the dirt inspires visions of missionary pilots from an age before this one flying into abandoned grass strips, something I’ve always wanted to do.  Secondly, this particular airstrip is located at the top of a 1,000 foot cliff that overlooks Lake Manyara National Park.  So when the pilots take off they only need to get off the deck 15 or 20 feet before the ground drops away beneath them.

We have been to this Tanzanian friends shop before and I have always wanted to see a plane take off or land.  I’ve never seen a plane take off or land on a rural strip like this and to a geek like me it would be awesome.  However, this time we were there there was a safari truck with it’s driver who looked like he was waiting.  I went up and asked him if a plane was coming in and he said yes.  So I stood with him and we talked while waiting for the plane to come in.  I was so stoked that I was finally going to see a plane land on the dirt strip!  Sure enough about 30 minutes later the plane landed and taxied to a stop.  I was curious to see what kind of person would exit.  Safari in Tanzania is expensive, it’s expensive to get here, it’s expensive to stay and to see animals you would only ever see in a zoo.  But to fly around is even more expensive.

So they lowered the stairs and an pretty, overweight, middle aged mom exited first followed by a couple of cute kids, maybe 7 & 9, and lastly the dad who was rather rotund as well with a bushy, Amish-type beard.  The kids climbed into the safari truck straightaway and our Tanzanian friend convinced the couple to look in his store.  We quietly exited, as we knew the prices were about to skyrocket.  They inquired about a beautiful, carved, wall-hanging that I had asked about earlier and was told that for me it would be $45, to them he quoted $250.  They balked slightly and said $200 to which my friend quickly agreed.  The husband then looked at some Masaai clubs and walking sticks and asked how much.  The wife started squawking about how many sticks he already had and he didn’t need anymore.  I piped up and said, “A man can never have too many sticks.”  They both turned to look at me, the husband with a wry but distracted smile and the wife with frustration at first and then interest as she took us all in.  3 of us wazungu and a short Tanzanian.  My buddy Alex with his Moses beard, our easy-going friend Doug, short mischievous Peter, and whatever I am, dirty from walking all day in the dust and probably mismatched clothing chosen for comfortability and reliability rather than style.

Now that I had her attention I asked where they were from and she responded that they were from the States but live in the Bahamas.  That got my attention and asked her which island as I was in the Bahamas for the first time last year.  She told me which island and told me they’ve lived there for the last 14 years.  Her husband wrote code for an extremely wealthy gentleman’s personal hedge fund.  More than a hedge fund it was his entertainment, using his massive wealth to accrue more wealth.  The mom home-schooled the kids on the island which was another point of connection between her and I as I have been home-schooled as well.  She was witty, smart, and easy to talk to and for about 10 minutes I had a brilliant conversation about everything from CERN to education and the social skills of home-schooled children.  They left in the same whirlwind they blew in with after laying down nearly $400 for a few wooden trinkets.

My head was kind of buzzing first from seeing the plane land, I was literally like a little kid.  And then from imagining what life must be like for someone who lives in the Bahamas, vacations in places like Tanzania and Switzerland, and whose main job is to make a rich man more rich.

Maybe it doesn’t seem like much to you but here things are simpler.  I am used to simple conversation more or less.  My Swahili is childish so I am reduced very simple conversation with Nationals.  My conversations with our missionary friends here are usually on light subjects as well.  Most of the my deep thinking is confined to my own head.  So to interact with someone like this woman was a little outside my normal day-to-day routine.

Something I picked up by being home-schooled was the ability  to remember conversations nearly word for word.  I would do this because most of my social interactions were limited church events, Sunday & Wednesday.  So throughout the week as I stared out the window instead of doing school I would think back to these conversations and relive them.  I would wonder what made so and so say such and such.  I would remember facial expressions and the cadence of their speech.  On and on like a weirdo I would review conversations and see what I could have said differently or try to decipher what was really being said.

I did this as I walked away from this family that would probably never have to worry about money again.  As we passed the gates of the airport I looked sharply to my left and saw a garbage pit that one could find anywhere across Africa.  A pit anywhere from 10 feet to 3 feet deep into which goes anything you don’t need anymore.  After a few days you light everything on fire and are left with ashes and whatever the fire didn’t catch.  In this particular garbage pit sat 3 children.  I didn’t really see what they were wearing because I was mainly looking at their faces.  Dirty, melancholy, and with big dark eyes.  They looked up only for a moment as we walked past and then they returned to their work.  Sorting through the trash and ashes looking for something that might be of use.  Maybe something that was accidentally thrown out or something they could use as a toy or something small to eat.

We see similar things like this most everyday but what really struck me was the contrast between what I was looking at and what was still in my head.  Fantasies of Bahamian beaches, palm trees, icy cocktails, and a bottomless bank account.  Not that I was yearning for that but something from that family jumped on me and I was just trying to picture what that life would look like.  And here, as the sun was setting over the distant mountains were 3 children who had no where else to go other than trash heap to look for something useful.  I stumbled a long trying to make sense of everything I was just slapped with.

Not more than 30 feet down the road was a young girl, maybe 14 who was hacking at a live tree with a machete for firewood.  Next to her stood what may have been a younger sister who was collecting it and tying it into a bundle they would carry on their head to their home.  Cutting firewood is now illegal in Tanzania as they say it is damaging the environment to burn the wood and cut trees down.  There is some truth to this but it would take too long to explain.  Nevertheless, her cutting a tree down in such a public area is a very desperate act.  The thing about rice, ugali, and the other staples of the African diet is you can’t eat them without cooking them.  Can’t cook without wood.  Gotta steal wood to eat.

Our Tanzanian friends were whispering to each other as we passed the girls and I couldn’t hear what they were saying so I asked them to speak up.  They were embarrassed and Peter explained the situation in Swahinglish.  One of the men hanging out at the curio shop with us, a clean, well-dressed, very muscular man was actually a soldier with a good job.  Just the day before he had taken the girl cutting the tree and paid her to have sex with him.  Nevermind that he was 40 years old with a wife and children.  I asked how much he might have paid, not that anyone would know exactly, the answer was; Sijui, sio sana, labda elfu moja au elfu mbili.  “Not much, maybe 1,000tsh or 2,000tsh”  About $1.30 at the most.  Another punch to the gut.

I was officially crash landed out of my Bahamian dream.  My thoughts swirled through the well defined path they normally do at these moments.  Thoughts like, “What the hell are we doing here if we aren’t stopping stuff like this from happening?!”  The truth is this is why we are here.  To think that we are going to stop every evil from ever being committed is not a thought based in reality at this moment.

And here is where I find myself.  Shaking hands with the upper class of my home country to seeing dirt streaked faces of children digging through trash and the used and abused young girls who span across not only Africa but also the world.  As we have run our Acacia Apparel fundraiser I was discouraged at different parts struggling with the voice that said, “People really don’t care”.  And it’s true for the most part, people could care less about the state of the rest of the world.  It’s crushing to me because I feel the poor, marginalized, and mistreated of the world are my portion, my inheritance from my Father.  People are more concerned with the next iPhone, their new TV show, party, weekend plans, and fancy toy that they think will bring them happiness.

This has been my struggle (one of many) in preparing to return home.  I can work within myself the struggle and tension created by shifting cultures in such a big way, from leaving the third-world, the place I consider home, to the U.S.  But to be surrounded by people who don’t give a flying fig.  Whose lives are aimless, without purpose, and without conscience to the rest of humanity seems a burden that I can hardly bear.    I’ve brought this before the Lord and asked Him to numb whatever part of me will feel indignation towards others who may have not been as blessed as I to see the things I have.  No numbness came and I don’t think it will come.  All that came was the soothing voice that simply said, “Find the ones who care and inspire the ones who don’t.”

Then I realize the beauty is found in the tension.  As with all delicate truths the power rests in the ability to balance reality with delivery.  Sure, I can beat people over the head that they are selfish, uncaring, and ignorant but that will probably be the end of any influence I have with them.   They very well may be all those things and more but so was I once upon a time.  The only difference is I have had an Awakening that has changed my entire being.  A revelation that my life is not my own.  It belongs to a forgotten and oppressed people whether they are found in Tanzania, India, or America.

 So if you are one who cares I say get involved.  Start living for someone and something bigger.  Give money to legitimate, effective, and honest organizations that are empowering local leaders and the poor of where they work.  Find the poor and disempowered in your hometown.  I challenge you for 1 month to give more money to third-world development than you spend on yourself, even if it’s only a dollar more.  

 If you are one who doesn’t care I would encourage you to go to Mexico, Africa, South America, India, anywhere and see how the rest of the world lives.  Life in America is not the norm.  We live at a level that surpasses that of even the kings of old.  Inject yourself with a dose of reality.  Put yourself in a position for your heart to be moved and then do something about it. 

At the end of the day we must pour ourselves out on something bigger than ourselves.  There must be more.  Find it.

 

P.S.  Below are a few organizations that I can personally vouch for.  They are empowering the local leaders and community, they are honest and accountable with funds, and they have a vision to forever change the nations they work in for the better.  If you are looking for somewhere to put your money for a month please look at these.

Global Effect (Tanzania)

Iris Ministries Africa  (Mozambique, East Africa, and around the world)

Iris Ministries India  (India)

Agape International Mission  (Cambodia, Thailand)

Why Not Now  (Vietnam)

 

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African Prayers

by on Aug.27, 2012, under Mission Stuff, Tanzanian Lessons

There is something about being in an African village that seems to make your prayers more meaningful…

“Thank you Jesus for today, for a lot of people didn’t wake up to see it.  Please bless this food to the nourishment of my body, because I know if it’s not blessed it is sure to give me diarrhea, worms, and food poisoning.  Give us traveling mercies for we know that it is fairly normal to experience legitimate, near-death, trauma upon nearly every journey.  Thank you for your protection without which we would be prey to all manner of muggings, diseases, injury, wild animal attack, demonic oppression, witchdoctor spells and hexes, and intestinal distress.  We trust Your strong arm, steady hand, faithful eye, comforting assurance, loving caress, gentle guidance, and deep compassion.  Today we do as you do and love like you love.  Amen.”

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Acacia Apparel Launch!

by on Aug.02, 2012, under Life, Mission Stuff

So incredibly excited for the unveiling of something we have been working on for months.  In a lot of ways we feel like this is the next step for us as we move forward with this next season.  Since my hand is still wrapped up and typing isn’t the most comfortable thing to do at the moment I’ll leave you with a link and my personal urging to check out our project…Acacia Apparel.

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The Slackline Strikes Back

by on Jul.31, 2012, under Life, Mission Stuff, Uncategorized

 

The past couple days have been full of new experiences for Sonja and me.  Most, if not all, were unpleasant.

Sunday we had a great day at church where a bishop from Rwanda spoke and his message was awesome.  We routinely get either traveling African ministers or traveling missionaries that preach at the international church we go to and they are routinely pretty awful.  So I was bracing myself for another defeatist, old school, religion soaked sermon but was pleasantly surprised to find myself encouraged, provoked, and feeling generally pretty good about myself.

After church we went to a different place for lunch and had a good time with friends.  The plan was for a friend to drop Sonja and I off at our house and drive the rest of the crew to their respective houses.  But I asked if they could hang out for a few minutes as I wanted to use the truck to tighten my slackline.  I had envisioned setting it up between 2 trees at a distance I hadn’t ever before attempted.  I knew I would need a vehicle to tighten it.  Working with that much tension and power always makes me a little nervous but I had done it quite a few times before and felt confident in my abilities.  After tightening it a considerable amount I realized I needed to undo it and reposition the karabiners.  Doing this also sketches me out because of the power in the line but this time I was moving quickly because I knew people were waiting for me and wasn’t taking enough care.  Maybe you can see where this is going.  I grabbed a length of rope, maybe 3 feet long, to yank the tension knot loose.  This was something I had done dozens and dozens of times before but never under this much pressure.  Something I didn’t think of because of my haste.

So I yanked the rope and everything happened so fast.  I can’t really say what happened, I’ve spent the past 2 days trying to figure it out.  But the result was me looking down at my hand and seeing about 2 inches of my thumb bone sticking out of my skin with the tip of my thumb facing the other direction.  Immediately the blood started gushing out.  One of the interns who is here for a month was totally on it and before I knew it had his shirt off and offering it to me for the blood, another gentleman had his camera and was snapping pictures, which I appreciated since that was one of my first thoughts as well.  I turned my back to Sonja and called over, “don’t look”.  All the guys wanted a good look and I needed to look again to be sure that I really did see my thumb bone outside of my skin instead of inside.

It was less than a minute and a half from when it happened until we were in the car heading to the hospital.  Upon arriving at the emergency room we were relieved to see almost no one around.  Such a blessing because on any given day you can face a 3-5 hour wait just to get into triage.  The nurses cleaned, dressed, and put a tourniquet around the wound.  At this point the pain was so intense that I couldn’t help my body from shaking uncontrollably.  Ryan put his hand on my back while Mark began to read out of the Psalms, despite the indescribable pain I felt peace.  Gratefully, the nurses gave me a shot for a general anesthetic that kicked in eventually.  However, we couldn’t move forward with treatment until we opened a file and paid our $40.  But we couldn’t do that until we could prove we were residents.  So back to the house Sonja and Alex went to get our passports and immigration paperwork.  Meanwhile I had to just sit around and wait.  I did manage to get them to take my blood so that when the time came for surgery (which I was told would be what was needed) we could go straight to it.

There were so many hilarious points in the whole process that confirmed over and over that we really were in Africa.  To take my blood they jabbed the top of my hand with a IV type port and dripped my blood into the test tubes.  The nurse then had trouble closing the valve to cut off the blood supply so I continued to bleed all over the place until she could close it.  Then she shot distilled water into the port to keep the hole from closing and I had to tell her to stop because of air in the syringe.  Good times.

Next came the wait for an x-ray.  Apparently the x-ray technician wasn’t on call and had to get to the hospital.  The tech turned out to be a 19-year-old kid in jeans and flip-flops.  I wasn’t about to complain since the sooner we got an x ray the sooner my bone could reenter my body.  I was more than a little anxious about the surgery.  From the very first moment where I saw that flash of white bone I was afraid of what it would take to put it back in.  I didn’t know if I had what it took to retain composure if they had to wrestle my thumb back in.

Finally, after several hours of waiting I was finally able to meet the surgeon who would be doing the work and we headed upstairs to the “theatre”.  By this point the blood had soaked through the thick layers of gauze and was leaking out all over my arm and hand.  The surgeon took me through a maze of hallways and up more flights of stairs than I cared to count.  We wound up in an office type room with a bed in it as well as a handful of surgical instruments.  There was another gentleman in the office that appeared to be studying something.  As far as I knew we were going to do the surgery in the office thing.  The doctor rustled around in a cabinet and got out a pair of scrubs for me and himself and he directed me to undress.  Again, I chuckled to myself, despite the blood, pain, and anxiety, here I was undressing to my underwear with my surgeon who was doing the same.  I soon discovered that wasn’t the “theatre” for surgery only the changing room and study room for another doctor apparently.  I was significantly relieved to be brought into a fairly legitimate looking operating room.

Now since the medicine kicked in and I could focus on something other than just the pain I had been wondering if I could be manly enough to watch my own surgery.  I had always wondered if I were in such a situation would I be able to watch such a grotesque procedure be done on myself?  I knew I wanted to be tough enough but I just wasn’t sure how good the pain meds would be.  Turns out they were pretty good.  After getting another shot in the arm and getting 6 shots in my hand, (unbelievably painful by the way) I was feeling pretty happy.  Chatting it up with the nurses, surgeons, & anybody that was around.  I was in my happy place.  The assistant surgeon had an ipod earbud in his ear, even in my drugged state it bugged me so much I had to ask him what he was listening to.  “It’s for my phone,” he said.  Oh ok, if that’s all.

So I am happy to say that I did watch my own surgery, it was probably the gnarliest thing I have ever seen.  Two doctors wrestling my thumb bone back and forth trying to figure out the best way to place it.  Blood everywhere, tendons and tissue…like I said, gnarly.  The bone had literally ripped through the skin, I’d never known the difference between ripped skin and cut skin but I do now.  It’s significant.  After extensive cleaning they brought out a drill gun of sorts, hand powered of course.  To the end they attached a wire with thickness that made me think it could be considered more of a rod instead of wire.  This they proceeded to insert into the tip of my thumb and screw into my bone.  The idea was to align my bones so they can grow back together straight.  They stuck the wire thing in me twice and failed both times so they decided to go the other direction from my palm and screwing it in towards the tip of my thumb.  It was crazy how much wire they put inside that finger.  I could hardly believe they kept going.  Finally they wrapped up, stitched me up, and wrapped up my hand.

By this time it was nearly 8:30pm and the accident happened at 2:30pm.  We got a prescription for painkillers and antibiotics but the pharmacy closed at 9:00 and we were at least 15 minutes away.  For whatever reason the hospital doesn’t have it’s pharmacy open on the weekends or in the evenings.  Sucks for you if you need something.  So off we raced to get drugs before they closed, I didn’t even want to think about what would happen if I didn’t have something to help with the pain when the anesthesia wore off.  But sure enough the pharmacy was closed.  Maybe it was because of Ramadan, maybe it was the weekend, in any case they were closed.  We drove past a few more that we knew of and all were closed.  I remembered one more near the market here and we drove as quickly as we safely could.  We were relieved to see the lights on and see someone walking in.  We made it.

They filled my prescription and we headed home.  Several hours later in the middle of the night I discovered the medicine prescribed for pain relief actually had zero narcotic properties and the excruciating pain in my hand was helped a total of 0% by the medicine given.  I popped my first ever Vicodin (borrowed from a fellow missionary, they don’t sell Vicodin here) and before too long felt tingly and heavy.  It wore off in a few hours and it was back to pain.  Luckily in the morning we went to another pharmacy and were able to acquire asprin with codein.  That stuff has been my friend as of late.

Today I had to go for a checkup and wound up going to an independent clinic instead of the hospital.  The nurses were not too interested in moving slowly or carefully around my heavily bandaged and wounded hand and I had to do most of the undressing myself to save my hand from being mangled.  Looking at the wound after 2 days was both relieving and discouraging.  There was no infection (thank you Jesus!) but the wound looked like it was stitched by a drunk 5 year old.  This too can be viewed in a positive light as now I will have a beastly scar that I can show off when the need arises.

My immense thanks to Ryan, Mark, Alex, Stacy, and Vickie for their help and life giving spirits.  You guys rock.

Sonja and I would both appreciate prayer as I am still recovering.  My stomach has been hurting a ton today because of all the medicine I have been throwing in it.  Everything is a strain on Sonja as well and she could use strength.

We could use prayer for…

1. No infection!

2.  That my bones and skin would heal abnormally fast and that the steel cable could be removed asap.

3.  A calm stomach.  No more cramps or severe pain.

4.  No more pain.  Dislocated, open fracture = lots of pain.

5.  Peace for Sonja and I.  I am trying to not worry about future doctor visits but (short of divine healing) there will be many in my future and they are extremely unpleasant.

6.  Strength for Sonja.  She has to deal with my lazy butt and one-handedness.  She’s done amazing taking care of me but can use grace and strength as much as me.

 

We appreciate your prayers.  Below are some pictures taken by our friend Mark.  A few are pretty gruesome so be warned if you have a weak stomach.

 

Yeah we used a car.  Yeah it was really tight.

 

I’m bummed about this picture because it was taken literally 6 seconds after it happened.  After an hour or so the bone squeezed out a considerable distance more making it look significantly cooler.

 

At the emergency room.

 

Yup, pretty bad.

My absolutely amazing, awesome, brave, gorgeous wife.

 

Please keep us in your prayers as you think about us.  And be grateful for your thumbs!!!

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Welcome To Faith

by on Jul.24, 2012, under Mission Stuff, Uncategorized

This past week has been full of busyness and adventures.  Early in the week we went out to what I can only refer to as Masaai Land.  So far around Mt. Kilimanjaro that we could see more of Kenya than of Tanzania.  Thursday Sonja and I traveled with the interns and our friend Alex to Kibioni where Alex lives and I have been several times with him before.  We were excited to get out of Moshi and get back to the village.  Moshi is great and it’s our home for now but there is something in me that comes alive when we trade the hustle and bustle of the city for the pace and texture of village life.

To get to Kibioni or Kilima Moja (same place, 2 names) we have to get on a bus to Arusha that takes anywhere from an hour and a half to two and half hours.  From there we get in a small mini van type vehicle called a Noah and drive anywhere from 2-4 more hours.  Basically, it’s a long way out.  The only paved road in Kilima Moja is the main highway that passes through the village.  Everything else is dusty dirt.  We stay in a pretty nice guesthouse.  It’s not a mud hut or anything.  Decent beds with mosquito nets with not too many holes in them.  Decent squatty potties and warm water heated over a fire in the morning you can use to splash over yourself for a shower.  I rather like staying there.

We usually get food from the local eating establishments.  It’s usually pretty cheap.  Rice and beans works out to be about 2,000tzs, about $1.35.  Other meals involving meat are a little more but not too bad.

Most of the times I have been out there we will spend the days devoting our time to different pastors and doing whatever they want to do.  Usually we go around to people’s houses in their congregation to pray for them.  It’s great walking through the villages of mud huts and sitting with people in their humble abodes, praying for them and bringing the Kingdom of Heaven.

This time we had a meeting with the all the pastors of the area.  I was honored to speak to them about communication and coming together as a community to accomplish the work of God in their area.  One of the pastors wasn’t able to make it as we discovered he had had a bicycle accident and broken his leg.  We wanted to go pray for him but didn’t know where he lived but we knew it was far.

Too far and too difficult of a journey to take in a car.  So we looked into hiring a couple of motorcycles for me, a local pastor, Alex, and our Tanzanian friend Peter.  Six of us including the 2 drivers on 2 motorcycles.  Not bad.  So some ministry was set up for the rest of the team and we mounted our 21st century steeds and set off on our journey.

For whatever reason the 2 motorcycle drivers didn’t want to ride side-by-side so one of us had to be eating the other persons dust and let me tell you there was a lot of dust.  We traveled to the foot of the mountains that I had only seen in the very far distance and then wound our way up them and then before long, well beyond them.  We crossed several dry riverbeds and almost had an ugly crash when we hit the loose, sandy bottom of one crossing too fast.  I thought we were going down but the driver was able to keep us up and we continued on.  Here and there were the enormous and majestic baobab trees with the deep gouges in their trunks made by elephants looking for moisture.  And still we traveled on.

Now I don’t want to make it seem like this was a mellow little ride through the African bush.  I was pretty freaked out.  We were going at a significant clip and if something were to happen I knew it would be ugly.  Due to my position of being behind the driver but in front of the pastor in the back I knew there would be no way I could break my fall if we ate it.  I would just have to let happen whatever would happen.  When the other motorcycle passed us we were suddenly lost in a cloud of choking, red dust.  I could literally feel the grime sticking to my eyes.  So with no other option I closed my eyes.  There was nothing to hold onto, nothing with which to secure myself, and no way to see what was coming.  And I knew our driver was having the same dust blowing into his eyes as well.

Let me take this moment to tell you that it was more than a little freaky to be closing my eyes on a motorcycle driven by a guy I had met only an hour before while we were flying down hills and weaving around washouts.  It was then I heard the words, “Welcome to Faith.”

It was so true.  I could freak out and brace myself for the wipeout that was sure to come or I could just close my eyes, trust everything would be ok and move on.  Those were my options.  There is something about being here where so often our choices get reduced to faith or fear.  You have to choose and choose quickly.  Faith is the obviously correct choice but that doesn’t make the choice any easier most of the time.

So I closed my eyes and did my best to relax and soaked in the feeling of faith.  Trusting in something bigger than you.

It seemed we traveled up and up and then down and down.  We passed some decent sized schools, more villages and more people.  We traveled so far that I could no longer see the mountains we had previously climbed.  Finally we began to descend into a floodplain with the most beautiful trees growing in it.  Massive acacia’s with round trunks.  We made our way through footpaths on our motorcycles and stopped at a couple houses and corrected our course further up a small mountain.  Finally we came to our destination.  Two small mud huts situated near the top of a very large hill/small mountain.  The small trees and slanted nature of the terrain sent me back to the foothills of California and made me homesick for that place in an instant.  We laughed as we dismounted looking at each other’s faces and clothes covered from head to toe in the dust that swirled around us for so long.  Us mzungu looked several shades darker and the Tanzanians looked several shades lighter.

We were welcomed into the mud hut where the pastor was laying on the dirt floor on a very thin mattress.  He was surprised to see us assuming, possibly, that the extensive journey would prevent anyone from visiting and expressing comfort.  He told us 10 days before he had crashed on his bicycle and broken his right leg.  He called for a motorcycle to come and pick him up and take him to the hospital.  I couldn’t imagine any part of that journey being easy for anyone but much less a man with a broken leg.  He must have endured such agony bouncing and jostling on that motorcycle.  Then he told us that once on the motorcycle it suffered an even bigger crash.  It was in this crash that he broke his femur completely.  He said one end of it was sticking out through the top of his leg and the other end of it was sticking out through the bottom of his leg.  For whatever reason he decided to go home instead of continuing on to the hospital.  How they managed to set it I haven’t the foggiest idea but there he was, with 2 sticks as a brace and the leg wrapped in fabric.

When my friend Alex, who knows him well, told him we missed him and wanted to let him know he wasn’t forgotten by us or the other pastors in the community he broke down with very modest tears, something you will rarely see a Tanzanian man do.  We told him that we loved him and that God loves him and that God didn’t send this accident to him.  As we kneeled around him to pray for him the words, “Welcome to faith” ran through my head again.  We prayed for healing, rest, restoration, and financial provision for his family.  This pastor has 9 children, how he feeds them all can only be a miracle.  When we left him after some tea and smoked goat meat he said there was no more pain in his leg even though it was still immobile.  We are still believing for a complete healing and rejoicing over no pain!

As is normal at least once in a day I felt my heart break for this people and this nation.  After using the pit latrine located about 100ft. from the house I realized this man couldn’t even use the toilet like normal.  Again I was amazed at how strong these people are.

We said goodbye and prepared ourselves for the return trip.  Back down the hill, across the floodplain, under the huge acacias, and onto the main road again.  This time we stayed side by side most of the time, greatly reducing the dust swallowed.  As we made our way back the air was cooling, the sun was setting over the western horizon, and all the shepherds were bringing their herds of malnourished goat and cow in from grazing.  This proved to be an interesting obstacle as we nearly had several very serious collisions with cows but were saved each time.  Still every time we approached a herd walking on the road I braced myself for impact.

The whole experience was breathtakingly beautiful.  I remember thinking to myself that the last time I felt like this was when I was in the deep bush-bush of Mozambique nearly 6 years ago.  There are no words to describe the deep beauty and despair of the African bush.  To see the children with their shreds of clothing, the old people walking to and from who knows where, the round mud huts with their thatched roofs, and the utter lack of anything western or modern is such a powerful and profound experience.  I am still not used to it.

God is redefining my vision of what an Africa free from the curse of poverty looks like.  I don’t have language for it yet but it is coming.  For now, I have faith.  I have faith that the vision will come and this land will be changed.  And I’m changing too.  I’m learning to look at every situation that seems impossible, whether a broken leg, a sketchy motorcycle ride, or an entire continent besieged, and tell myself, “Welcome to faith.”

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June-July Update

by on Jul.19, 2012, under Life, Mission Stuff, Uncategorized

 

I’ve intentionally tried to weave stories of our time here with my thoughts and musings on life in general and life here.  Giving you a picture of some of the things we see and do as well as my take on them.  However, I felt like in our time here I have failed to give a straightforward update on all we have been doing.  The finish line is in site for us but I would still like to do a handful of updates before we leave.

 

May was our quietest month here.  A good deal of our missionary friends had gone home for breaks and we didn’t have any short term teams or couples like we have had since the beginning of our time here.  It was a good chance to catch our breath and prepare for the craziness that is June and July.

 

At the very end of May my mom came out to visit us.  Her and I had planned the trip as a surprise and all Sonja knew was that my mom was sending a care package.  Well it was more like she brought a care package.  My mom came bearing goodies and treats of all shapes and sizes.  We were overwhelmed by her generosity and kindness.  Our time with her was so sweet and full of joy.  She had come with the purpose of visiting us and teaching sewing skills to various sewing ministries and girls homes here in Tanzania.  One of the first stops we made when she was here was Courage Center, a Tanzanian run sewing center for girls who are at risk for sex trafficking or who have already been trafficked.  The sewing center gives them relevant skills that upon commencement can be used to support themselves instead of selling their bodies.  We took my mom there without a real clear idea of where we could help.  We had the general idea that we could help with quality control and bringing the standards of sewing up so that the girls could better sell their products to the many Western tourists that frequent Moshi.  What developed was something like we imagined but also different.  In the end I believe we were helpful and encouraging.

We also had the opportunity to go to Courage House of which I’ve written several blogs (here and here).  The girls there accepted my mom with a love and affection I had not seen them bestow upon a new visitor so quickly.  My mom did great loving on them and being an affectionate “mama”.  She taught them how to crochet a variety of different things, which the girls loved.  As always we had a great time with these girls that we love so much.

We also got to have some fun, not that the above wasn’t fun.  =)   We went to Lake Chala, a caldera lake nestled secretly on the border of the Tanzanian and Kenyan savannah.  My mom was awesome hiking down the sheer volcanic cliffs that constituted the lake.  We swam across the lake, just shy of 2 miles one way, to say that we swam to Kenya as the border lies directly in the middle of the lake.

 

We also went on a safari to Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Manyara, and Tarangiri.  We had a blast seeing everything from elephants to zebra, giraffe, lion, wildebeest, even a cheetah!  The list is too long and the pictures too many to show all but we had an incredible time communing with God’s creation.  By the end we were exhausted but felt so full and so near God’s heart being so near His creation.  On the way back we were even treated to a breathtaking revelation of Mt. Kilimanjaro which my mom had not gotten to see due to our winter clouds this time of year.

 

We took another trip out to Courage House and were able to help with praying for one of the precious girls there who was being tormented by demons.  Believe what you want about the supernatural but this was real and violent.  We prayed peace, life, and sanity back into the situation and got see a marked change in the young lady.

 

Our last adventure before we left was a trip up to the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro where we took a coffee tour.  We headed into the jungley foliage as our guide took us through the entire process from bean to cup.  We even got to pick our own beans, roast them, and have fresh coffee.  It was great.

Although it was non-stop we did feel rejuvenated by my moms visit and I think she had a wonderful time as well, doing official ministry and fun stuff as well.

 

The day she left the YWAM team from Oxford, New Zealand arrived.  We were to host them for 3 weeks and facilitate their time here.  By this time as well we had 3 more interns, in addition to the 1 who had arrived early June.  I had asked Ryan how I could help with the teams and interns and he had me running them here, there and everywhere as well as shopping for food for the house (11 people under the age of 25 eat a lot of food) and taking care of all sorts of details.  It was great to be running around, staying busy and making the connections between the national pastors we love so dearly and the teams of young people who were so excited to serve.  Say what you will about short-term missions but everyone involved on this side of the pond was blessed.

 

Sometime during all that we celebrated the 4th of July.  We had a very fun BBQ at a local missionaries house and all Americans and honorary Americans were invited.  There were rice sack races, games, a slackline, good food, and even a few fireworks at the end.  It was a beautiful time that made us homesick and content all at the same time.

 

Unfortunately during this whole time, from when my mom arrived until the YWAM team left in the first week of July I had a horrible cough.  I chalked up to being tired and on the run constantly but when the coughing attacks got so violent I couldn’t see straight and my stomach muscles were strained from the heaving I finally gave in and went to see the doctor.  She checked me out and said that due to the lack of mucous and the other information I told her it was likely that I had worm that had somehow found it’s way out of my stomach and into my lungs.  How that works, I don’t even know.  She gave me a some de-worming meds, cough syrup (the worst I have ever tasted, bar none) and a prescription for anti-biotics.  Total cost?  About $20 including the doctors time.  Whether it really was a worm or just some sort of infection I am beginning to feel better, still coughing here and there but I thank God for medicine.

 

This month we have been trying to help with the international school that Global Effect is starting this fall.  There is lots of work to be done on the grounds and inside the buildings.  It’s going to be a sweet school with an awesome open door into the business class here as well as the Indian population as well.

 

Earlier this week we had the privilege of going to a Masaai village (allegedly) not too far from Moshi.  In fact we circumnavigated nearly half of Mt. Kilimanjaro and found ourselves on the north-western point of it overlook Kenya to our left and straight and the majestic Kili to our right and behind.  We had a sweet time, however short, with these wonderful people.  Here in Tanzania the Masaai are looked down upon because of their tribal status.  When I am with them I can’t help but feel Jesus.  And when they sing, oh man, you haven’t heard anything like a Masaai choir in the deep bush in a mud church.  Andrea Boccelli would be jealous.

 

I am looking at our time ending with sadness and a desire to stay.  Sonja has been missing home but has been a great trooper in the midst of not having most of the comforts we consider normal in the States.  We will miss this place very much.  But we’re not finished yet.  This weekend we head back out to the village with our interns and good friend Alex.  If there’s any place I love, it’s the village.

 

Thanks for reading and keeping us in your prayers!

Andrew & Sonja

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The Things You Can’t Change

by on Jul.01, 2012, under Mission Stuff, Tanzanian Lessons

I have resolved to writing on this blog twice a week.  I resolved this several weeks ago and I still haven’t done anything about it.  Let’s see if I can change that.  I want to write short little somethings about the lessons I’m learning here in Tanzania and some of the more random things that happen.  I don’t intend to be preachy to anyone but myself.

Two days ago I started seeing large trucks pulling into our neighbors house across the road from us.  I soon deduced from the stacks of chairs and tents they were bringing that there was going to be a wedding this weekend.  Weddings here rock.  Weddings anywhere rock but weddings are such a cultural thing that if you have a chance to go to one in a different culture it is highly recommended.  So I was excited to see what it would be like here in the richer section of town.

The music started at about 8am.  I was sitting down to coffee and a book during breakfast when they were doing a “sound check” which involved blasting a bass heavy song as loud as the speakers could handle it.  From nearly a thousand feet away I could feel the vibrations in our tiny dining table.

Come midday they were still “sound checking” and my wife was starting to get annoyed.  “These are happy sounds of people in love!” I told her trying to bring things into perspective.  I left for errands in town and came back early evening and the wedding had begun.  Our quiet little dirt road was transformed into a parking lot with dozens of cars parked haphazardly.  A man sat at the gate and motioned for us to come over and I think I heard a “Karibu” over the deafening boom of the speakers.  After we parked I went over to say hello, (Greetings are huge in this culture) and one of our team members was already speaking with the man.  It turned out he was the man of the house where the wedding was taking place and he genuinely wanted us to come over and join the party.  I walked home and told the visiting YWAM team and our interns that they were welcome to go party it up at the wedding.  I went and saw Sonja and she gave me the look.  The look that said, “I have done everything humanly possible to drown out the noise going on but to no avail.”  I laughed and she informed me that the music hadn’t stopped all day.

You have to understand that the music is so loud that we have to slightly raise our voices to hear each other in the same room.  It’s loud.

I left again for a facetime date with my broseph (Hi Steven!) and returned to find the party in full swing still.  The team told me they went over and danced and were fed and welcomed warmly like they belonged there all along.  By this point the local night club on the other side of our house was starting their nightly music.  It sounded like a battle of noise between the 2 as Glacier (the nightclub) seemed louder than normal.  By now I was done with the music and said so to Sonja, she snarkily responded, “These are happy sounds of people in love!”  Indeed.

The wedding died down at around 9:30, a reasonable time.  But then Glacier, as if to prove that it had won the battle of the cacophony turned their music up.  Now they are probably 1/8-1/4 mile away and it is LOUD in our house and I am done with loud music.  Sonja, who has been home all day has been listening to loud Tanzanian music all day is well past done.  She was done by lunchtime.  Now it’s time for bed and the nightclub seems to be increasing it’s volume.  I don’t even know how it’s possible but it sounds like it gets louder every ten minutes or so.  9:30, 10:00, 10:30, 11:00… Still deafening.  Sonja puts her earbuds in in an attempt to drown out the din as I lay there thinking about the things you can’t change.

It’s not just loud music.  It’s loud music all day.  But it’s not just loud music all day, it’s loud music all day in a language and style that is not enjoyable and even grating.  They (Tanzanians) love it but after 14 hours even the most patient missionary finds himself thinking about how he can throw a molotov into the local nightclub without hurting anyone but just to shut the music down.  Not me of course, but, you know, hypothetically speaking.

It’s the things you can’t change that have the greatest potential to grow you.  As I closed all the windows, put the fan on high, and stuffed the window vents with towels to muffle what I could of the chaos I reflected back on other times where there were situations that I couldn’t change.  The events that you have no control over often produce the best things in you.  It’s just another lesson I find in a foreign land.  I am grateful for the lessons and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.  Except maybe a good nights sleep.  =)

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Return To The Rise & Set

by on May.08, 2012, under Mission Stuff, Musings

Yesterday we went back to Magadini, the village I wrote about previously where we helped to build a house for a mama who is taking care of seven children.  If you haven’t read that post yet go do so and then come back here.
Several of our friends work in this village at a home for girls who have been trafficked from a young age.  It was just going to be an overnight trip for us which is so much less work.  Planning for more than one night means more stuff, more food, more water, more headache.  Turnaround trips make it easier.

We went out yesterday and we were happy to reconnect with the girls and the staff of the home.  They are such precious people and so valued by Jesus.  We were excited because today all the girls were going to be baptized.  What may seem like a trite step we take in the States was a big deal to these girls.  Women who have been prostitutes are not looked on favorably.  They are viewed as the lowest of the low and no matter where they go or what they do in life they will still be viewed as scum.  Especially from Christians.  I have seen this firsthand here (more than once) and heard more than a fair share of stories.  It’s not like the States where it’s cool and trendy to care for traffic victims or minister on the streets to prostitutes.  Women of the night are off limits no matter how long they are saved or come to church.

So it was a big deal last week when one of the girls had a genuine encounter with Jesus.  She had a vision of Him coming to her and wiping the tears from her cheeks and telling her she was clean.  It was amazing.  And today all 3 of them were to be baptized.  Dead to sin, alive in Christ.

We made our way out to the same lake I wrote about before.  Now it was fuller and all the grass surrounding it was green.  The rainy season was doing it’s thing and everything was looking a little more cheery.  We went to a different area of the lake this time where we could get to deeper water for baptisms.  Once assembled on this massive half-wet, half-dry lake we sang to our Jesus.  Songs of praise and worship in Swahili.  Then the girls each came forward and shared a (very) brief testimony.  After that they began the long walk into the water.  It was a long walk because the lake doesn’t drop away very quickly so they followed the pastor off-shore a good 700 feet to where they could be dunked.  It was such a beautiful moment watching from so far away with the wind whipping around us.  We couldn’t hear anything and we could barely see their faces.
I did what I have been doing lately in moments where I feel the Lord’s presence.  I close my eyes and try to picture what would be happening if Jesus Himself stood tangibly before us.  I pictured Him singing with us as we sang to him and dancing a kind of silly jig.  Then walking with the girls hand in hand, maybe arm around waste, through the water to meet with the pastor.  Then when it came time to be baptized Jesus stood side by side with girls and was baptized with them, hand in hand.  Then, when they were underwater, I pictured Him rolling over onto and into them, thunk!  Right into their chest.  Then when they came up out of the water I saw Jesus in their eye’s, smiling from ear to chocolate brown ear.

They came back to the shore dripping and beaming.  We congratulated them.  Sonja gave the girls hugs even though they were sopping.  I shook their hands and said, “Hongera sana!”  We took pictures and savored the moment.  Dead to their old lives, alive forevermore.  Cleaned once and for all by this dirty Tanzanian lake.

The plan was then to return to the home for a party with hot dogs and soda, a special treat here.  We were waiting for our friend Lauren who was talking with a tall, powerfully built Maasai.  There was something about him that made me think he was a chief.  Maybe the way he stood or maybe the way he was dressed although I couldn’t tell you what in particular.  Whatever they were discussing I could tell it was serious.  Finally they were done and we were filled in.  A women in the Maasai village next to the one we were in was involved in an abortion gone bad and she was bleeding.  Badly.  The chief was concerned that if we weren’t able to take her to a hospital within 45 minutes she wouldn’t make it.
So we hustled, changed plans, and threw all our gear into one truck making room for the lady and whoever else in the other.  We were back to the house and out the door in less than 45 minutes.  We put a tarp in the backseat of the Land Cruiser and covered it with a conga.  We quickly drove over to the local clinic where they wheeled her out on a rickety old stretcher.  They muscled her into the car quickly and I wasn’t able to get a good look at anything.  Our friend drove the Land Cruiser with the lady (Monica, as her named turned out to be) and took off as fast as safely possible over bumpy, rutted, and washed out Tanzanian roads.  We followed with a truck with the girls from the home and me in the back.

I was so quickly taken back to my time in Mozambique where we spent days riding in the back of trucks with no protection from the wind or sun.  Driving to forgotten villages to share the gospel with signs and wonders.  Now we were leaving a forgotten village to hopefully share the gospel with signs and wonders.                                                                                                                                           Africa (as I have found so far) offers you many opportunities to practice crises management.  Even when you’re not in charge.  There is constant crises and you have to learn how to deal or fall apart.  We have been lucky to avoid most of those kind of experiences save for the dead guy we prayed for and the day I spent in the local emergency room praying for over a dozen people who had been in a massive head-on collision.  In those moments you can either freak out and spend all your time stressing and praying freaked out prayers to God or…you can chill.  So, in the back of a blazing hot truck, over bumpy, inconvenient roads, I popped my headphones in and began to worship.  I did my best to put Monica out of my mind for the moment and did my best to focus only on the Lords presence.  As we cruised through more Maasai villages and dust swirled around me I just loved on the Lord and let His peace come.  Then, I began to take authority over a spirit of death.  From a place of peace and rest I exercised MY authority over sin, death, and the grave, and commanded it to leave.  No shouting, no foot-stomping or demon cursing.  My heart broke for the woman in the slowly disappearing car in front of me.  A baby is such a precious thing, she must have been under such pressure from her husband or tribe or something to do such a thing.  But it didn’t matter, Jesus was here now and He would fix it.

We hauled booty to a enormous sugar plantation about halfway between Moshi and Magadini.  It is run by Germans so it is super nice and it’s a model manufacturing plant for third-world nations the earth over.  They have their own schools, soccer fields, housing tracts, and yes, even a hospital.  We were blessed to have clear roads where as the day before when we drove out we literally drove through a river.  A rushing, frothing, can’t-see-the-road-because-of-the-river-covering-it river.  Today, it was nearly dry.

We pulled up to the hospital and they were just taking the lady out of the car.  She was completely out of it and in the hustle and bustle of moving her from the car to a gurney her shirt came up and her breast fell out.  It was plump and looked like a pregnant women’s breast.  All I could think about was that that was a breast that wouldn’t have a mouth suckle on it.  The milk would dry up sooner than it should and it wouldn’t be needed.
They took her in to get hooked up to an IV and see if either of the local hospitals had blood to give her.  We found out then that she had performed the abortion on herself and that part of the baby was still inside of her.  That and she needed blood badly.  Again, this is a horrible situation in any part of the world but here, when you realize all is hopeless without Jesus, things carry a heavier weight.  The doctors come back and tell us they have blood they can give her.  How they know her blood type in less than 10 minutes is beyond me, I say a quick prayer that whatever blood they give her will miraculously be correct.

So we leave Monica with the sugar plantation hospital and continue to pray against death, infection, and disease.  I even pray that the baby will be restored in her womb and that she will give birth to a perfectly healthy child.

As we drive back to Moshi I grab little Joshua, the one year old little baby of one of the girls from the home.  I sit him on my lap and let him pull on my finger and look out the window contentedly.  I think back to the lake and how, mere minutes after surfacing as new creations, we find out there is a women who has destroyed a new creation with her own hands.  In the joy there is pain, in the victory there is setback.  I think back to the last post I wrote when we were at that same lake and I pondered being stuck between the rise and set.  Life and death.  Still dripping from the waters of redemption we find that someone else is dripping away as well.  How do you balance the two?

The fact is you don’t.  There is no balance between life and death.  There is only life.  Death isn’t an option in the Kingdom.  It is physically impossible for death to inhabit where life dwells.  And so, we bring life.  We believe that life is always the answer.  Death is always wrong.

I think all this and realize I am so grateful for the little chubby boy on my lap.  So grateful that his mom wanted him.  Even though she’ll never know his daddy and never know how much he paid for an hour with her, she kept him.

I am so grateful that we were in the right place at the right time.  That the baptism was moved to Tuesday instead of on Sunday.  That the flooded river that covered the road not 24 hours before had subsided.  That the Maasai chief had the humility and wisdom to approach an American woman to ask for help.  That we made good time on ridiculous roads.  That a sugar plantation would have a hospital with blood for transfusions on hand.  I am so grateful that we were able to help someone who made a devastating mistake. And I am so grateful that Jesus bridges the gap between the rise and set and between life and death.  Without Him, we are truly hopeless.

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