Monday, July 23, 2018

A Whole Lot of Wonderful

Reach Tanzania Bible School Graduation, June 2018
22 students finished the first year program
7 students finished the second year program

I will make the Word of God the be the standard of my life/ministry. Meaning I will always use the Biblical worldview wisely. I will also focus on discipling the nation instead of just converting people to Christianity.

I can use my testimony to reach out to many youth in Tanzania.

The class that touched me the most was Marriage and Family. I had just got married. I learned many things like how to value your wife, how to spend time with her. I got lots of insight that changed the way I view my wife. I wanted it to be about it me, but I changed.

I have always wanted to pastor a church, but I didn't know how to start. But coming here has helped me identify what I can really do with my calling.

Leadership starts with me. I must work on my relationship with God and keep myself humble…I am asking myself, “Am I worthy to be imitated?”

Thank you for changing my life and the way I can preach!

I learned about stewardship. Basically I learned that nothing that I have is mine, it’s just been given to me by God and he can take it away any time he pleases.

I want to start looking at every aspect of my life with Biblical lenses. Before I start to do/say anything, I want to ask whether it is biblical or cultural? And then only do what is biblical.

I have learned that I should not just preach for the sake of preaching. I should know that people are learning for the sake of life change. Also I have learned about "one-point preaching." Many times I have preached long sermons with no meaning or impact, but from now on I will put this into practice. It has really touched my heart.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Missionaries are Great at Recycling. Even Dogs.

If you go to a friend's house in your missionary community, and you admire a piece of her furniture, no need to ask, "Where did you get that?" so that you can find one too. Just be patient. Eventually your friend will leave and voila, you can buy it off her. 

We got my girls' bunk beds that way (thanks, Kathy). There's a great shelf I really liked at a friend's house, and thought, "That would be great for storing toys." Except when they left the country, they sold all their furniture to one family, darn it, so I couldn't nab it then. Instead I had to wait another few years until that family left, then I could make my move. It's now happily storing my kids' toys.

Kinda cool. Except, kinda weird and creepy. Makes me wonder who is eyeing the contents of my house, waiting for the day I will sell everything.

But hey, my point is that missionaries are great at recycling. Take this booster chair, for instance. The McFarlane family had a carpenter make it, and it was used by their boys. Then the Shenks bought it and used it for their kids. We bought it at their leaving sale about 10 years ago and it went through all four of our kids. Last month, we passed it onto another HOPAC family. It might be, like, 20 years old now. We should have all engraved our names on the bottom.

But I never anticipated we would one day recycle a dog. 

Eight years ago, our Minnie gave birth to her first litter of puppies. One of those puppies went home to our friends Jim and Lisa, whose small son Gabriel named her 'Snoopy.' When Jim and Lisa left, another HOPAC family loved Snoopy for several years. 

In December, Minnie died. We thought about getting another small dog, but weren't sure we wanted a puppy. Then we found out that Snoopy's owners would soon be leaving Tanzania and were looking for a good home for her. 

Voila. Recycled dog. Snoopy is now back in her birthplace.

See? This was 2010.

Josiah refused to re-enact the kissing picture, because "you will post it on Facebook." Unfortunately, he also no longer owns overalls. So this was the best I could get. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Johnny and Danny

I recently did my annual "phone number purge," deleting all the contacts of the people who have just left Tanzania. I counted--only 12 this time. Not too bad. Some years it's a lot more than that.

Every June, friends leave forever. The number of our friends around the world has become too numerous to count, all of them people who have shared home with us in Tanzania for a while. But we've out-stayed most of them, so we are pretty used to saying goodbye.

For example, we said goodbye to both of these girls and their families this month. For years, I would come to HOPAC after school to pick up Grace, and inevitably, my pre-schoolers would end up playing with these kiddos while I chatted to their moms. That was five years ago.

As it goes every year, we said goodbye to some wonderful people this month. But there's one in particular who shares a really special part in Johnny's story.

Danny and Johnny lived at Forever Angels together for most of their toddler years. Since they are very close in age, they were part of the same peer group. Danny's adoptive parents are our friends, and they were working hard to bring him home during the same time we were working to bring home Johnny.

Danny came home about three months before Johnny did, and Danny's mom and I wondered if they would remember each other.

About a week after Johnny came home, we ran into Danny and his parents at HOPAC. His mom and I gently pushed our 3-year-old boys near each other. Look, Johnny, it's Danny, from the Baby Home! Look, Danny, it's Johnny!

They just stared at each other solemnly.

As we walked away, Johnny looked up at me quizzically. "Danny went on the airplane," he said.

And I marveled at my boy. He did remember Danny! Kids at Forever Angels are very aware of when their peers leave, often on an airplane. As far as Johnny was concerned, Danny had gone away on an airplane and disappeared forever. So his confused little brain couldn't figure out why Danny was now in front of him.

Danny's mom later told me that as soon as they walked away, Danny couldn't stop talking about Johnny either. The next time they saw each other, it was as if they had never been apart. They've been best buds ever since, and loved being in kindergarten together this year.

There were lots of tears when they said goodbye. There should be a word for kids who grow up in an orphanage together. Not quite a brother, but something stronger than a friend. 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Mambo Sawa Sawa

Mambo sawa sawa
Mambo sawa sawa
Yesu akiwa enzini
Mambo sawa sawa

Everything is okay
Everything is okay
When Jesus is on the throne,
Everything is okay.

My parents are here visiting, and one evening, my friend Alyssa asked my mom about the years my family lived in Liberia and Ethiopia, particularly the stories of how we left--because it was all pretty dramatic.

When I was 13, war descended on Liberia, destroying the place that was home. We were in the States when it happened, and for months we kept thinking, This will all blow over and we will go back. But it didn't blow over for 15 years, and we lost our home and our stuff and our plans, which really was peanuts compared to the Liberians who lost limbs or children or sanity. We were then re-assigned to Ethiopia, only to have my brother and mom evacuated on the last plane out of Addis while my dad stayed behind and dodged bullets while the government was overthrown. (I was at boarding school a country away.)

I experienced these stories from a young teen's perspective, and I heard them re-told many times as I grew older. But what struck me about them this time was my mom's emphasis that both times in both countries, the missionaries didn't believe the worst would really happen. Of course, the Liberians and the Ethiopians saw it coming. But the missionaries were overly optimistic. Surely God won't bring war here! We're doing his work; it's all going great, surely he wouldn't want it to end!

Trusting God? Or just naive? Either way, the bombs fell.

It seems to me like there's something within my generation's American Christian culture that assumes, God would never let that happen to me. Is it because of our optimism? Or entitlement? The sense that we really are in control of our lives?

There is a whole lot of uncertainty in my life right now. What I assumed was a neat and straightforward path for our family for the next couple of years is no longer so clear. We've been faced with this uncertainty for the past couple of months, but for a while I had a fair degree of confidence that it would all work out. Now, I'm not so sure.

There are no rumors of war in Tanzania, so that's not what I am insinuating. But there are a number of circumstances we are facing that make our future feel....uncertain. Yet I find myself thinking: We're doing God's work; it's all going great, surely he wouldn't want it to end!

And I wonder if I'm trusting God...or just being naive.

Why is my world always shaken when uncertainty surfaces? After all, isn't life always uncertain? When I think it's not, aren't I just deceiving myself? Why do I think, God would never let that happen to me! Because God does not owe me anything.

The worries settle themselves in my stomach and remind me, daily, that my life is uncertain. I beg God for a happy ending, for neat little bows wrapped up on the ends of those problems, but that is never promised to me. Maybe God will do the miraculous and that would be awesome. But what if he doesn't? What if everything is not okay?

There has to be a type of trusting God that is not naive. Not an entitled trusting, because I can't assume he will do things my way. But a settled trusting that comes from his character--that he is there, and he is good, and he has it under control.

Mambo sawa sawa
Yesu akiwa enzini

Because Jesus is on the throne, everything is okay.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018


Sometimes this year, it really was all rainbows and butterflies.

In April, the sky would grow dark and the heavens would open, always, it seemed, right at recess time. The children would shriek and scramble and pretend like they were finding shelter, but really, they took their sweet time getting out of the rain. Then the sun would push its way through the clouds, and a rainbow would embrace the campus.

In May, the butterflies hatched. And I would watch two kindergartners march to the office with the attendance folder (each holding one corner, of course, because it was a very serious job, of course). They would be enveloped by the early morning sun, with hundreds of white butterflies flitting around them.

Many, many times I thought, How is it that I am so privileged to get to do this job? 

Haven of Peace Academy's graduation was held on the last day of school. I don't know most of these students, but I was there when some of them started kindergarten in 2005. 

This was the first day of school in 2005; we had just returned to Tanzania after seminary and it was Gil's first official day as chaplain. Thirteen years ago.....and I got to see them graduate.

I don't mean to minimize the hard stuff, because it is there and real and dark. Many times this year, I broke up fist fights and bent down to eye-level for heart-to-hearts about stealing and lying and cussing. Sin is sinister in how it muddles perspectives and puts up defenses and shadows the truth. This broken world is evident in kids who are hurting, brains that don't learn like they were meant to, and the crushed spirits that come as a result.

But that's just what's so amazing about all these years sharing space and life with these children, and why serving as principal this year was such a privilege. True Christian education, when it's done right, is an act of redemption--it's bringing the world back to the way God intended it to be. Calling out the beauty, lifting up spirits, strengthening minds and bodies, teaching the consequences of sin and pointing to the Cross.

My cup overflows. I get to walk alongside these children as they learn and struggle and grow, lose their teeth, sit on time-out, and read and dream. And prance through the butterflies and dance in the rain.

These are the wonderful people I share a building with. Director, principals, finance, IT, counselor, operations, HR, procurement., nurse..all the people who keep HOPAC running.

The day the Maasai visited first grade