Tuesday, April 30, 2013


We don't call people fat.  It's not polite. 
I recently said those words to my children during a dinner discussion.  They came out of my mouth as instinct. 
And then I stopped. 
Because in Africa, it is polite to call someone fat.  A compliment, actually.  Having curves is attractive.  Being too skinny is not.
These type of advertisements are all over Dar.  Dr. Mkombozi (and others like him) specialize in the fine art of preventing theft, getting you a girlfriend, and "male power" (not sure I know or want to know what that means). 
Apparently he can also make your...er....bottom...look like this:

I know, I know.  Just what you've always wanted.

But it's true.  Africans like big.  If your wife is skinny, she will probably die of malaria.

It's just oh so lovely when an African friend tells me exuberantly, Look!  You've gained weight!  And I give a strangled Thank You and smile the Fakest Smile Ever.

But I have African daughters with American parents, growing up in between two cultures.  How do I navigate this?

For years, it has broken my heart to see our Tanzanian students fret over their body shape, trying to meet a western ideal, when their own culture (and genetics) already thinks they are perfect.

So this is the deal.  I'm going to try really hard to not make fat a bad word in this house.  Thus, I apologize in advance if my children call you fat someday.  Just smile, take it as a compliment, and remember that we are African.  I think Africa's got the better perspective anyway. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

There's a verse in the Bible that I don't believe.

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future.

Okay, so I realize I am stepping on some people's sacred ground here.  And if not your sacred ground, then at least the Christian greeting card company's. 

But I don't believe that verse. 

Before you start throwing tomatoes at me, let me explain. 

I don't believe this verse in the interpretation that most Americans give it.  I don't believe that God has granted that promise to individual Christians for every age in history. 

I do believe that it was a promise made to a group of people who were exiled from their country at a specific time in history. 

I'm going to be frank. 

God has not promised us prosperity.  Sometimes God's will is that we don't prosper. 

God has not promised us safety.  Sometimes God allows us to be harmed. 

A month ago, a gang of thieves armed with machetes broke into the home of good friends of ours in the middle of the night.  They wounded the father and stole everything they could carry. 

Last night, it happened to another family who is dear to us.  Except that this time, the thieves had guns.  They shot at the father and missed.  They stole what they could carry.  They even tried to get the wedding ring off of the mom's finger.  Thankfully, it wouldn't come off.

Both families live just a couple of miles away from us.

Shivers of terror have gone through our community.  But for those of us who have lived here a long time, this is nothing new.  I could probably list about 20 families over the years who I know personally and who have experienced the same thing.

It has not happened to us.  Yet.  I have no assurance that it won't.

Of course, we are very careful.  I think I mentioned before that my husband has the mind of a criminal.  So he has good plans in place to keep the bad guys out.  We talk about our plan.  We review our plan.  Tonight at dinner, he was re-reading the manual of our alarm system. 

We have not left Tanzania.  God has called us here.  We have no intention of throwing in the towel.  Neither have our friends who have experienced this trauma. 

But God does not promise our safety.  He does not promise that no harm will come our way, even when we are obeying Him.

I'm sure people thought that Columbine, and Newtown, and the Twin Towers were safe places.  But the truth is, there are no safe places.  No matter how much insurance we have, no matter how much we fire-proof our homes, no matter if we carry a gun or how many air bags we have in our cars, there are no safe places.  Our world is broken, and the American Dream is never going to fix it.

So instead of Jeremiah 29:11, I look to other promises.  Promises that I know apply to me, today. 

I will never leave you nor forsake you.

The Lord is with me, I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?

In all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You.

I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future...nor any powers, will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

No Place Like Home

Someone recently posted this picture of Dar es Salaam to Facebook, so I shared it.  I don't know who took it so can't give credit where credit is due.

But I love the picture. 

This is my city; with the sprawling masses and the Indian ocean in the background.  Downtown sits right in front of the ocean....where you can see the high rises that are springing up as fast as spring daffodils these days. 

This picture shows only a small fraction of our city.  HOPAC and our house are not in it.  But we travel this area all the time.

Let me point out just one other interesting fact:  You see that road that bisects the picture?  That's the only road going into downtown.  The only main road going downtown in a city of 5 or 6 million people. 

In this picture, the road is 4 lanes, two in each direction. 

Later on, it tapers off into three lanes.
Three lanes, you ask?
What on earth do you do with three lanes?
Well, one lane going one direction; one lane going the other direction and
The Chicken Lane, right down the middle. 
Oh yes.  You know you wish you had one in your city.

Out by us, the road goes down to two lanes.

For 5 or 6 million people. 

Can you see why people say, "I love Dar...except the traffic?"

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


This family are some really great friends.  And they know how to throw a really great party.  Specifically, a 60's, 70's, 80's party.
(They're with Young Life; that probably explains a lot about them.)

Since these pictures could, at some point, possibly be used against us, I am posting them for the following reasons.
1.  I want to break your stereotypes of:
  • the type of fun we have here
  • missionaries in general
  • us
and because
2.  You'll never really get to see my hunk of a husband in all his full-leg, sideburns glory, ever again.  Ever.   

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


We're supposed to be excited KFC is coming to town. I guess because it's American. But considering the fact that fried chicken is already a staple here, and I never really liked KFC to begin with, all I can say is....meh. 

However, this billboard intrigues me. 

Problem #1:  Though Tanzanians eat almost everything with their hands, they do not lick their fingers.  At all.  This is why many dining rooms include a small sink in the corner. 

Problem #2:  I should specify that Tanzanians do not eat with their hands, but their hand.  Their right hand.  Food is never touched with the left hand while eating.  The left hand is reserved for unmentionable bathroom activites. 

Someone on the KFC marketing committee did not do their cultural homework. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

In Between

Josiah, my perler bead maniac, brought this to me recently.  He told me that the green piece is America, and the blue piece is Africa, and the red piece is us flying on the plane in between.
Okay, so it's not an artistic masterpiece.  But I love that it showed me what's going on in his little head. 

I have a map too.  It's a bit more sophisticated, I guess.  I've been sitting there this week, pouring over my map, making little black dots on it.  See those black dots?  They represent the Anders, the McBrides, the Limas, the McLerans, the Bunnells, the Pelczars, the Millers.....and many more.  We're playing connect-the-dots these days. 
I can't wait.

I would like to know, though, how it is possible to simultaneously ache for the beauty of two very different places, at the same time? 

Saadani National Park

My Dad's garden last week, wisteria in bloom
Ah, my divided heart.

Passing the Baton

They're here.  

This is the Russell family.   David will be HOPAC's new chaplain.  They arrived on March 22.

This is Marc.  He will be HOPAC's new Bible teacher starting in August.  He was here for a week last week, getting to know the city, the school, and our house (since his family will be living in it while we are gone). 
Gil has been both chaplain and Bible teacher during his years at HOPAC.  But it became clear pretty early on that this was a two person job.  I helped him a lot, but there was so much we wanted to do that we didn't have time for. 
So we were thankful when HOPAC agreed to hire two men to take Gil's place.  And we are even more thankful that both of them are talented and committed and men of God and Scripture.  What a huge relief for us as we leave this place that we love so much.
Last week, our spring break, was very, very full as we showed these two men (and the rest of the Russell family) around Dar.  But oh, so incredibly fulfilling and exciting as we passed on to them our vision for HOPAC.
We took them to Mbudya Island, one of our very favorite places. 

Mbudya has the most incredible coral reef.  Snorkeling with our kids (even Lily can do it!) is one of our favorite parts of living so close to the Indian Ocean.  So, so wish I could show you what we saw under that glistening water. 
And Gil took Marc on a mini, one-day safari. 
But just to make sure that Marc wouldn't be too enamoured by the beauty of Tanzania and this apparently care-free life we live here, Gil made sure that they all got stuck in the mud for six hours. 

The countdown begins.  Eleven weeks to go.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Wonderful Life of Grace Medina

When you're seven years old, growing up in Tanzania....
....not only do you get to spend a few weeks learning about the Masai tribe, but then they visit your class and teach you how to kill lions and jump really high.

(and yes, Lauren Clarke, that is Flat Stanley!)
....you organize the neighborhood kids into races, using everything in our yard that has wheels. (Maybe we need more bikes?!?)

....you swim in HOPAC House competitions.  Go Green House!

....you get to cheer on the Tanzanian national soccer team (definitely the underdogs) when they BEAT Morocco 3-1!!! 

...and you even get to sit on your teacher's lap, 'cuz she came too.  And she even let you paint her face.