You know when you look back on your life and can pinpoint an ordinary moment that ended up changing everything?
It's crazy, isn't it? Because at the time, it doesn't seem like anything important.
That's how it was when we offhandedly mentioned to Mark and Alyssa that they should come back to Tanzania and start a theological training program.
But I am getting ahead of myself.
We started to get to know Mark and Alyssa around 2006. This is them (last year).
They were a part of a different mission, but their kids were at HOPAC and we attended the same church.
At the time, Gil and I were feeling very friend-starved. We were spending literally all of our free time with teenagers. As much as we loved them, we were a bit dehydrated.
I can remember my conversation with Gil when we chose Mark and Alyssa to be our friends. I know, it's kind of weird and freaky....maybe sometimes we are overly intentional about what we do. We decided that we needed to spend more time with like-minded people, and Mark and Alyssa were in Dar to do pastoral training, they loved board games, and they were committed to be in Tanzania long-term. What more did we need in friends?
Though I didn't know her very well, I can remember thinking that Alyssa was the kind of person who could one day be a really, really good friend. She was a kindred spirit.
But then, just as we started to spend more time with them, everything fell apart in their ministry. For no fault of their own, they had to suddenly pack up and go back home. We were depressed, because once again a relationship we loved had become temporary. And for them, it was devastating--a long-time dream had been shattered.
We had them over for dinner one last time. And in passing, we mentioned, "ReachGlobal [our mission] wants to start a pastoral training ministry in Dar. You should consider coming back with them."
We have those conversations all the time. We try to recruit anyone who comes through our doors (be warned!). Usually, nothing comes of it.
But, lo and behold, it was the seed.
Four years later, they came back.
To start a theological training program for church leaders.
Alyssa tells it from her perspective here.
They arrived back in Dar two years ago, and a little over a year ago, the program started for the first time. In 2013, they trained their first group of church leaders and graduated them in December. Gil took a week off from HOPAC in May and got to teach the Life of Christ class.
And that friendship that started and ended way too soon? Two years ago, we picked up where we left off.
We still share a love of board games, and pastoral training, and staying a long time in Dar. And I was right about Alyssa. She did become a really, really great friend.
They came back because God used us to plant the seed.
We're going back because they have started the training program that is a perfect fit for Gil. We will be partners. We're hoping to even be neighbors.
We both get to live in the city where we have felt called to for a long, long time. Our kids still get to attend HOPAC, and when we left last year, we didn't have to say good-bye forever.
Because of them.
Because of us.
Because of God.
Bethany and Grace already call themselves cousins.