Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Easter Sunday in a Massai Village

Time has passed as I have continued to work on this update. It is now Monday, the first day after Jesus' resurrection. Amefufuka! (He has risen!). Amefufuka kweli kweli! (He has risen indeed!) I was privileged to be the Easter guest of Lemsanya Ole Tisho. We went to his home, a Massai village about an hour from Morogoro, and enjoyed the Easter service which had an incredible choir, an easter sermon with many interjections of Bwana Yesu Asifiwe (Praise the Lord Jesus) and the above "amefufuka's", and a small skit in the Massai language about two families, one Christian, and the other traditional whose problems only became worse as they continued to go to the witch doctor for help. "Cast your burdens upon the Lord Jesus, do not multiply them by witchcraft," they said.

When they had a time of prayer, many people of the church came forward. We all raised our hands as a congregation and the pastor prayed for them in general terms asking God to heal them of diseases like typhoid, malaria, or even cancer. That God would deliver them from sadness and despair. That God would protect them by the power of the Holy Spirit and in the name of Jesus from the evil forces at work in this world. As he prayed, he touched each one of them lightly on the head, praying in general terms, but making sure he specifically encountered each person in need of prayer. I was already in front, but I wanted to join them. I wanted him to pray for me to protect me from spiritual attack which weighs down my soul with anxiety, or sadness, or loneliness, or a spiritual flatness. I didn't take that one step forward, because when you don't know anything about a culture, the safest thing to do is usually nothing at all. Then I wondered if my problems could be compared to theirs? I'm an American, and my opportunities are endless. I have support and a salary through generous givers and wonderful employment. I have food that does not make me sick nor hungry. I am healthy. As I look back, it could have been a good gesture to show them that I too am in desperate need of God's help at all times. I am lost and helpless apart from the Spirit of God. I stand condemned apart from the blood of Jesus. I too must abide in Jesus Christ, for without Him and His life from the vine infusing my life as a branch, I can do nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

Tisho and his mjomba (maternal uncle)

BTCP Graduation in Ukunda, Kenya

Why was the trip to Kenya so good?
1) Fresh Eyes: I got to see the work we are doing in Ukunda, and even the place and people there with new eyes. Some eyes were fresh, some were wise, and my own were opened. Luke, a friend from language school who accompanied me on the trip brought the fresh eyes. John and Alan, the wise eyes. And through them seeing where I live and work, and the purpose and vision of Serve, mine were opened a bit more than before. I cannot tell you how valuable this was and is to me.
2) Home is People: Home is not a place nor things. Over Christmas I received a package full of wonderful things that reminded me of home: gum, granola bars (I have two left still), and other things like that. They reminded me of home, which is great, but they are not home. I visited some friends in the Middle East over Christmas. It was home there in the Middle East. John was home and we were in East Africa. Home is people. It was wonderful to spend time with John Brown and Alan Chamberlain to be guided, encouraged, and spiritually directed by them. As I reflect on this, I realize also that if home is people, then in time (not a short time, but in time) Kenya might just be home as well. That's an encouraging thought while in such a long transition.

Malaria, Initiation to African Mission Work

Some would say that during this month, I have been initiated into African missionary work. Malaria. Praise the Lord, that he preserved me from this sickness until after my trip to Kenya for the BTCP graduation and a wonderfully encouraging time with John Brown, one of the missions staff with Denton Bible, and Alan Chamberlain, a Denton Bible elder. God knew that I needed that time in so many ways. Two days after returning to Morogoro, malaria kicked in. I'm glad for the experience in many ways, although I do not want to repeat it. The unknown is usually more scary than something you've already experienced. Now I know what it's like (the vomiting, the aching, the fever, the extreme weakness), and I no longer need to fear it :). I thought it was funny that on the fifth day after I had completed my medicine and was feeling better that I tried to sweep my room and had to take a break in the middle of it because I was too tired! My room is seriously very small. After about a week I was fully recovered and getting back into Swahili. Praise the Lord for my new friends here who took very good care of me.

Two Moons Ago: Swahili time

Two moons ago I arrived in Tanzania. I remember just before I left Mombasa (Ukunda), I went swimming in my favorite spot on the beach, the one where there are almost no beach boys, where there is soft sand in the water and no rocks and sea urchins to step on, where there are the best waves at high tide. Full moon and high tide, waves that violently slam into your body and twirl you around like a squirrel in the mouth of a dog, except less biting.

It is a full moon right now (as I write this around the end of March), and although I have calendars everywhere that tell me I have been here two months, I'm reminded of the passing of time through the Swahili word for moon and month. "Mwezi". It is the same word.

I'm really enjoying the Swahili way of telling time.

7am is 'saa moja', 1:00, the first hour of the day. Think Biblically and you got the Swahili way of telling time. Hour one, saa mbili (2), hour three, saa nne (4) hour five, saa sita (6), time for lunch ... and so on. I have set my watch this way to help me think in Swahili more. By the time 4 or 5pm arrives, I feel like I have accomplished much because I've been up and actively doing things for 10 or 11 hours! By 7pm, it is the first hour of the night and the sun is shedding its last bit of light for the day.

If you get into more remote tribal peoples, they might tell years by counting rainy seasons. 10 seasons ago, 5 seasons ago, etc. I was reading a book by a Massai, the most well-known African traditional tribes located in Tanzania and Kenya. The author was relating his story about when he went off to boarding school. When he returned home for break, his father took a rope and tied thirty knots in the rope. He ordered his son to untie one knot every morning and when three were left, they would travel back to the school. This was back in the 70's, and life has changed rapidly even for traditional tribes like the Massai.

Right now I'm in my first rainy season. I've experienced 5 moons in Kenya and 2 here in Tanzania. As I write this, it is the 9th hour of the day, on the Thursday before Easter, the day that commemorates Jesus' institution of the Lord's Supper, our symbol of hope, forgiveness, and union / communion in Christ. In Christ. In Christ and He in us. Jesus spoke these words that very night:

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. ~ John 17:20-23