Monday, October 13

Things Are Changing

Dear Family & Friends,
   It's 3 a.m.  I was awakened by the barking of the guard dogs.  Nothing to worry about.  They were just "talking" to each other, but we sleep with our windows open so we hear all the night sounds of Africa---now there's a dark silence interrupted only by the cooing chirp of some unidentified birds.  They seem to be "talking" to each other too.  So after lying awake for a while, I decided I'd get up and "talk" to you was well.

   I attended a Women's Bible Study in Arusha last week--the one I've been a part of every year.  It's an interesting mix of women from various countries in Africa as well as Europe and the U.S.  There were about 15 of us and they were wrapping up their study of Ephesians.  This particular lesson ended with each woman telling what she has been struggling with lately and then the session ended with a time in which we all prayed for each other.  Similar to all the previous Bible Studies----except this time the tone was different.  In the past two years, the format has been the same but the struggles were random---someone was sick from Malaria or Typhoid, or someone was unsure of how God was leading them, or we prayed for the family of someone who had died, etc.  But not fact, ever since we arrived in Tanzania, Tim and I have felt a palpable tension in the air---not at Makumira where we teach and live, but in Arusha, the main city 14 miles away where we attend church and do errands....where the Bible Study was.

   There seems to be 3 causes:  the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, an increase in terrorism and personal violence in Arusha, and the consequential effect of both of these on the Tanzanian economy.  Because of the Ebola fear and increased safety risks, tourism is drastically reduced.  Basically Arusha is the Safari Hub for Tanzania and much of East Africa, so when tourists stop coming, everyone feels the trickle down impact----and such is the case right now.

   The husband of one woman in the Bible Study is a tour guide who has his own small tour company.  She said there are not enough tourists for the big, established tour operators, much less for the small ones.

  Another woman said her 2 adult sons are university graduates but they sit at home day after day because there is no work to be found.  She and her husband sacrificed for their sons' education and now she questions if it was worth the sacrifice. (Others are also starting to abandon their hope that education is the way out of poverty.)

   At the market place we reconnected with a street hawker who wanted us to buy another copy of the same batik picture he sold us last year---he said that because of the fear of Ebola, and the current attack on women by piki piki (motorcycle) drivers with guns, people are staying away.  Some businesses have been randomly bombed.  And yesterday the news headlines were about the kidnapping of a 6 year old  girl named Glory who was found butchered in a field near the coast.  (This last incident was 8 hours from our place, but the fear it evokes seems contagious here.)

   Another Bible Study participant said that she just wakes with a feeling of anxiety everyday that she didn't use to have.  She's started having boils all over her body and she said that only happens when her immune system is low.  She feels that the anxiety and boils are related.

   The women all agreed that they feel an uneasiness that's different from the past.

   The book of Ephesians encouraged us to equip ourselves with the whole armor of God.  We recommitted to doing that, and in addition we are planning to have a Women's Retreat on Saturday, October 25th.  I will be leading some sessions on how to use self-talk to decrease anxiety, and a session on relaxation skills.

   These are dedicated, Christian women who live in a very challenging environment.  Their personal safety and that of their loved ones is threatened by things they can't control. The same situation occurs in the U.S. too, except that here there is no reliable infrastructure or systems in place to depend on.  The things that help and give us hope back in the States  don't exist here---there is no welfare system, or organized preventative health outreach, or effective, responsive police protection.  The people truly are vulnerable and last week, 15 women spilled out those fears.

   So as we wait for the students to return and classes to begin at Makumira, we ask for your prayers for the people of Tanzania, and for the upcoming Women's Retreat.

   I hear the rooster "talking" now.  It's not dawn yet, but this is the same rooster from last year that is a bit confused and stirs things up beginning at 4 a.m.  (Tim thinks it needs some Melatonin!)

   I am trying to post some pictures along with this---it's giving me directions in Swahili so no guarantee they will post!
   God's peace be with you,
       Tim & Diane

Thursday, September 25

Packing Our Bags!

                                                                                                                    September 26, 2014
Greetings as we "dust off our blog" and send out a trial run to see if there are any bugs while we still have access to reliable technical support!
   In 3 days we're on our own technically speaking and that's a scary thing!
   This is our 3rd time to Makumira and it's been interesting to us in what's different this time and what's still the same in terms of leaving home.
   Compared to our first year, we have some phone numbers with us in case we arrive at the airport and no one is there to pick us up.   However, like the other years, we won't have a working phone with us when we arrive so the phone numbers won't really be of any help!
   Compared to our first year, now we know what the campus and housing looks like, yet like in the past we still don't know where we will be living.   We heard that someone was living in the house we had been in. Recently we heard the person moved due to problems with the house. Hmmmmm. . .
   Last year, we found out a few days before we were to leave the States that the beginning of the school term had been moved back 2 weeks (and then they added yet another week delay.)  Last night we found out that the opening of the semester has been moved back 2 weeks --but airplane tickets are bought so we'll head out on Sunday as planned and see what unfolds when we get there!
   Compared to the other years, the saying good-by to family is still a killer---but surely God understands since His son left home on a journey farther than ours.
   So I guess overall we haven't made much progress compared to the past---but on the other hand, that means that like the past two years, this year promises to be very meaningful and a great opportunity to serve and grow in our faith.
   Thank-you for your interest, love, and prayers.  We'll touch base again once we've settled in!
       Tim & Diane


Thursday, February 20

Home Sweet Home!

February 19, 2014--Wednesday

Dear Family & Friends,
   We're back---we've shifted from summer to winter, and from an 8 hour difference time zone, and yet somehow our bodies are managing to acclimate! 
   This second time around went very well for us. It helps knowing the ropes a bit, and certainly having access to a vehicle made life significantly easier (and safer.)  Our classes went well and hopefully were more targeted as we've learned more about this culture which is so complex.  On one hand, Tanzanians are dealing with 21st century issues such as traffic, cell phones, and Christian/Muslim relations.  On the other hand, they are still dealing with getting access to clean water, death from HIV/AIDS, and rampant alcoholism that is accepted as "normal." Intertwined throughout there still exists strong traditional beliefs in curses, witchcraft, demon possession, and ancestor worship. And this is all lived out in a culture of poverty, where there is never enough money or goods for one person, but somehow by everyone borrowing and sharing from each other, there is enough for the moment---one day at a time.
  It is hard to express our feelings, given how much we miss family and friends when we are there, except to say that we really believe God continues to call us to be there and to learn and to teach.  The Psychology courses that I am teaching are such a great way to introduce other ways of understanding abnormal behavior other than as the result of a curse or being demon possessed.  The theology students are so eager to know more.  They are also grateful for the Worship course Tim teaches that not only provides them with an opportunity to learn how to lead worship but is also a place for conversation to happen about the numerous issues they struggle with i.e. not providing a Christian funeral for someone who commits suicide---to----how to attract youth to a liturgical church when the "loud speaker" churches are competing with rap and promises of the rich life!
   So we look forward to returning again at the end of September, God willing.  I will be picking up a another course (Developmental Psychology) for the University.  It will be part of their new degree program for Counseling. I am looking forward to it!
  We have appreciated your interest in what we are doing, and your prayers.  We think the best way to close out the blog for this semester is with some pictures--so you can also "enjoy" Tanzania.
  Mungu Akubariki,  (God bless you)
    Tim & Diane

Saturday, January 11

An interesting New Year's Eve!

                                                                                                                 10 January 2014
Greetings for 2014 from Tanzania!
  We were very concerned to hear about the brutal weather that overtook much of America last week.  We hope (and prayed) that each of you stayed safe and that your homes/vehicles survived the assault.
Maybe we're having "sympathy pains," because I woke up this morning to find our bathroom flooded!  Not sure what the problem is but of course it is Saturday so I don't know if we'll be able to get things fixed this weekend or not. (Ladd and 3 women from his church are arriving at 2 a.m. Monday!)
  Since our last blog, we visited the island of Zanzibar for a few days over New Years Eve.  It sounded like such a great idea and we thought it might help to distract ourselves from our homesickness of not being with family over Christmas by thinking of this exotic-sounding, spice island off the coast of Tanzania.  It helped a bit ----until we got to the airport.  There, to my enormous surprise, were hundreds of very happy, early-celebrating , "20-somethings" going to "Z-bar" (as I later found out it is called--for an obvious reason!) to bring in the New Year!!!  I had to really work on my self-talk so as to not be negative about how crowded and raucous (and hot/humid) it would be.  Somehow I instantly became very self-conscious of the age difference between us and our "plane-mates."  I felt like we were on the boat going over to Put-in-Bay for a 4th of July weekend!  Not exactly what I had in mind ....We were going to stay in Stone Town in one of the historic buildings--- at the Dhow Palace Hotel, built in 1559 A.D. (and of course, remodeled since then!)  It was in the heart of Stone Town.  When our 50 minute flight from Mt. Kilimanjaro Airport arrived at Zanzibar, the party-goers quickly retrieved their luggage and disappeared.  I mean really disappeared!  Zanzibar is 95% Muslim so there is no drinking allowed (at least in the city).  Along the beaches, however, we later heard about the beach parties of 1000 "happy" people ushering out Old Man 2013 and welcoming the Little Baby 2014!
   But, let me tell you that at the Dhow Palace Hotel, there were 2 occupants in the restaurant that night, and those same 2 had no clue when the New Year officially arrived because the Muslims use a different calendar based on the moon---so it was just another regular night for them!  It was a very charming place and we really enjoyed the historical walking tour we took the next morning.  Our guide was a well-read historian, and he made it all come alive!
   While shopping in one of the stores, I noticed that it must have been nearly time for the Muslims required prayers that they pray 5 times a day.  In a small closet-sized room, a black clad woman was conscientiously rolling out her mat and smoothing it with her hands as she began to kneel...and the Muslim call to prayer was issued from the nearby mosque for all in Stone Town to obey.
   I couldn't help but wonder, how many time has she gone thru this?  She looked as if she were probably 45 years old.  Our guide said that they (the Muslims) start training their children during their pre-school years to pray 5 times/day. So, by my calculations, this woman has intentionally stopped what she's doing and "talked with God"  1,825 times a year or 73,000 times by the age of 45 years. And that doesn't include weekly services or special holiday worships!
   I'm not trying to idealize this, but just think how much they are keeping God (and their relationship to God) in their mind even if it is a required practice.   What would the world be like if we Christians thought of and talked with Christ that frequently?  I think it'd make a difference.   Hmmmm..........sounds like a New Year's Resolution in the making....
   God's peace---and prayers for a "gentler" rest of January for each of you,
      Tim & Diane
P.S.  We ended our time in Zanzibar by going on a very interesting Spice Tour.  That was 5 days ago...and for the past 5 days I have been covered with an extremely itchy allergic reaction to something I either touched, tasted, or inhaled there!!!! The doctor at the dispensary here said I should stop itching in 5-14 days!!!!

Saturday, December 21

Views of life in Tz.

 Meet my newest friend!  This is an eland that is one of many animals on the grounds of a nearby safari lodge.

Keep scrolling to next picture!

 A beautiful glimpse of Mt. Meru behind Makumira Campus.

A typical sight on the back of a taxi bus!

Tim holding a clump of bananas from a banana tree in our backyard!

Visiting at Upendo (Love) Leprosy Home. A very touching experience.

Diane working with a discussion group for a project assignment.

We were invited to the Confimation of our housekeeper's daughter.  The celebrations are very special.  Here she is seated with her escort.   Next picture is of the village children who have little to eat and are invited at the end to come and enjoy what food is left.                                                                                                               

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Tanzanian images of Christmas


                                                                                                                21 December, 2013
Merry Christmas!
   Most of the students have left the campus by now, so the holiday has officially begun.  However, Tim & I have to keep reminding ourselves of that because the tropical weather, and the lack of Christmas decorations make this time seem like any other day.  So, in order to get into the Christmas spirit, I volunteered to lead the December meeting of a women's Bible study that I'm involved with.  We appropriately chose to revisit the story of Christ's birth.
   It's interesting, living in this country that still looks and continues many behaviors found in Old Testament times, to study and reflect on the Christmas story.  Women in the villages still go to the well for the daily water.  Goats, cattle, and sheep are staked to the side of the roads grazing on whatever they can find to eat while women pass by carrying  over-sized bundles on their heads.  Children can be seen collecting twigs for the cooking fire, and men are making bricks or doing carpentry work outside their small dukas.
   Even the daily wear for village women is still to wrap themselves in fabric, printed with distinct patterns representing their tribe or marked with a wise saying.   Cloth is valued here and used for everything from wrapping one's body, to transporting uncooperative loads of vegetables to market, to creating privacy in a one-room home, to giving protection from malaria laden mosquitoes while sleeping, to draping a deceased body before burial. . . . . to swaddling a newborn baby.
   Many of the women in the group have lived in Tanzania for 20-30 years.  Some have been here all their life, and others are relatively new, like me.  So, together, we started the journey to Bethlehem---and took the long route there.
   We began our journey at the beginning---and I literally mean the beginning ---with John as our guide (Jn. 1:1-5).  So we knew from the start that we would be encountering God, the Word that became flesh and lived among us.
   Then Matthew took over and expounded on the genealogy of Jesus.  The women readily spotted the 4 women mentioned in this patriarchal lineage, and we realized the shock Matthew caused as we too live in a heavily male-privileged society.  The insigificane of these women in the genealogy led us to have no doubt that God was at work.
   Then Luke took over as our guide, and we women enjoyed the "knitty-gritty" inside story he shared.  We trekked over to peak in on Elizabeth and Zechariah and we saw Elizabeth's tears of relief and joy as her long-endured disgrace was removed.  Still today in Tanzania, childless, married women are a humiliation to their clan.  The infertility is always considered hers, and the shame leaves deep, emotional scars as she is abused and shunned, often times even by her husband.
  We'll never forget as we watched Mary deliver the Almighty Son of God.  She swaddled him in bands of cloth like she had seen other women do countless times before...then she placed him ever so gently in that unsanitary manger!  Honestly, we were so appalled!  But that's how it is here in Tanzania as well.  In the villages, it is the job of a mid-wife to help deliver the newborn---in the dirt-floored, mud-brick home. . .or. . .even in the middle of the banana tree filled plot---without sanitation, or instruments to prevent ripping, and without privacy.  All the focus is on the newborn, expectantly waiting to see if the child is a boy.
   Then no sooner had we caught our breath and the shepherds showed up!  They looked and acted so much like the Maasai here that we almost thought we recognized one by name!  Did you know they jumped high and let out their whooping, shrill noise when the first saw the baby?  They did! (According to the New Testament RSV--Revised Sonnenberg Version).  They were so excited that their Savior was one of them---born, not in a luxurious palace--but just like the shepherds---with the animals---one with creation.  But quickly they became uncharacteristically quiet.  I think the sight of their mighty Savior might have been too touching and tender---even for them, the brave and fearless shepherds.
   And we were still around when the Wise Men showed up.  Oh, the scent of those exotic fragrances and spices!  The Wise Men seemed quite moved by this little king.  We watched at how alert he was when they approached him.  He held their gaze and he didn't blink.   It was kind of a knowing kind of look he gave---one that went deep inside, past their eyes....almost as if he could see into their heart.
   And then came the surprise. . . .it was our turn!  We realized that we are in this story too. . .we are the Wise Women.  (A Wise Woman is any woman who knows Jesus and loves Him with all her heart.)  And like the Wise Men, we all came from different backgrounds, representing all parts of the earth.  So what gift would each of us bring?  What is most precious to us to offer to Him?
  Well, that's where our journey ended.  I told you we took the long route (and thus such a long blog entry!)  But don't think you get off without being included too!  You've also heard the story, and that adorable little one sees you as well.  So what will you offer Him, our long-awaited Messiah?
   Tim and I pray that all of us will be renewed with the same sense of curiosity and joy that the shepherds must have experienced on that ordinary night when the angels broke open the sky with their presence.  We pray that we will be wrapped in the swaddling cloths of each other's love.  And that our hearts will be moved like those of the Wise Men to go great lengths to learn more about Jesus---and then be empowered to go and tell others the Good News!
   Wishing each of you, a truly Blessed Christmas,                                                                                 
        Tim & Diane