Saturday, March 23, 2013

SEWing Love

Most people outside of Africa think that most people inside of Africa live in mud huts. 
Well, in the cities, they don't.  We don't. 
But the majority of Tanzanians do. 

Sometimes modern thinking wants to idealize village life, and that it's only western influence that has damaged the noble savage.
There is some truth in that.  There is a lot of beauty to be found in the simplicity of village life.  And western countries certainly have screwed up Africa. 
But it's not entirely true.  Tanzanians themselves have deforested their land for charcoal, destroying the ecosystem and reducing the rainfall.  Lack of education has contributed to devastating poverty, chronic malnutrition, and stagnant economic growth.  And sin, in the midst of it all, is also responsible for rampant promiscuity and all the heartache and disease that comes with it.
HOPAC has an outstanding service learning program.  It's one of the brightest, best parts of a HOPAC education.  All secondary students take classes, year-round, on these very issues.  Then they engage in projects to make a difference:  teaching English at local schools, making water filters, reducing erosion....during every school week.
This is culminated in Service Emphasis Week (SEW) each March, when every HOPAC secondary student is put on a team to go out and serve throughout Tanzania:  orphanages, disability hospitals, deaf schools....and villages.
This year, Gil and I got to lead a team of eight 11th grade students to the village of Mitengwe, about 3 hours outside of Dar es Salaam.  We were privileged to work alongside some of our best friends:
Tim and Emily have been our friends for over 10 years.  Our both sets of adopted kids have grown up together.  We don't get to see them often, but we are kindred spirits.  So it was a pleasure for us to enter their world for a week, and experience all the things they have told us about for all these years.
Tim and Emily are awesome.  Period.  They want the people of the village to know Jesus, but they also want to help improve their lives.  And they want to do it in sustainable, reproducing ways that will help people to change using the village resources....not American resources. 
They live extremely sacrificial lives. 
So.  They have taught the people how to dig their own wells that they can maintain themselves (since all the machine-dug, foreign-funded wells in the village are broken and unusable).  They are introducing drought-resistant, highly nutritious plants and teaching people what a difference they can make.  They have started a pre-school.  They are training people how to care for their own medical needs.  Like I said.  They are awesome.
So we had a blast bringing our 8 students into this village for a week.  Our students worked hard.  But they also learned so much.  Our students, these ones who have the education, the resources, the connections....these students can make a difference in this country!  And I pray that now they have a better picture of how that can happen.
Our primary tasks for the week were to help with the construction of a community center, and to bless the local elementary school by painting some walls and chalkboards. 
These kind of schools have nothing.  Literally.  They have no books, no paper, no pictures, no colorful rugs.  They have a few desks (not enough), chalkboards, and walls.  Some classrooms don't even have four walls. 
The school has a relatively new classroom which was built about a year ago.  Since then, they haven't had the money to paint it.  So that's what we did.

But our students, our kids, and us....we were the ones who were far more blessed by this experience.  To God be the Glory.

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