Friday, December 19

Christmas Gifts

19 December, 2014

Merry Christmas!
    Recently I was thinking about "how Christmas doesn't happen" in Tanzania until the 24th of December.  There are no decorations, no different, "special" foods, no Christmas music, and likewise, the weather is the same as every other day.  I realize how much I miss the Western "glitz & glitter."  I know that isn't Christmas either, but it seems that "nothing happening" isn't Christmas as well.
   As I was reflecting on this, I started thinking about the student who came over the night before to share some good news. . . and an American missionary who stopped in to talk about some problems she was having raising her 3 young boys.  Then I thought about the real needs behind the frequent requests we receive for money--the student with his family  who struggle to live on $1 USD/day  (for all 5 of them). . . and  about the Tz faculty member who appreciated and validated our teaching here. . .and the student who came asking for prayers for his younger brother who had just been in a serious car accident .  My thoughts wandered back and forth---and then it hit me---THESE are the gifts, and exchanges, and "get-togethers" of Christmas.
   THESE are the shepherds and wise men coming--because in each one of these we see the face of Jesus.  These students and missionaries make up a different looking nativity scene---but it is just as valid--for they come needy--but each one with deep love in their hearts for the Christ child.
   THESE are the people in our "live nativity" here in Tz.
  I'm so glad we didn't "miss it"---because many missed what was taking place 2000 years ago in Bethlehem.
 
   On a different note, we wanted to share an experience that shows why we still shake our heads and are amazed at how God works in Tanzania.
   There are many large, and radically charismatic churches in this part of Tz.  They are often led by self-taught, self-proclaimed prophets or pastors.  The churches go by names like Miracle Gospel Church, Winner's Chapel, Glory Land Church, and The Christian Miracle Center.   Their services, usually, 4-6 hours long, include faith healing, demon exorcisms, miracle promising and some even promising to raise people from the dead.  There may be as many as 5 or 6 offerings during the service--each promising God's material or medical blessings.  And while the Lutheran Church in Tz. is experiencing tremendous growth there is the strong temptation for Lutheran members to leave the Lutheran Church and go to one of these miracle and success-promising churches.
   So one of the assignments Tim gives in Worship Class is for each student to attend a worship service of a church that is not Lutheran. Then each student writes a paper and gives an oral report to the class regarding specific questions/observations/reflections. (This assignment was given after the students had studied the history and biblical basis for Lutheran worship.)
   The following is a portion of one students visitation experiences:
  " When the great Prophet arrived to the church; every one stand up and almost all of the members run forward throwing money on the altar.  The great prophet entered to the church through the corner of an altar.  There were bodyguards with the black glasses.  I also saw the different countries flags on the side of an altar.  One flag was for the kingdom of God which the great prophet is representative. It stands back near his seat.
  There was no sign of cross on the altar.  But there were prophet's healing pictures with many crowds of people.  The glass pulpit was there at the altar.  There were many loud speakers all over the tent.  They all wore their suit.  No one have any kind of a robe.
   The great prophet Dr. GeorDavie did not preached but he stood and give us the word of prophecy that was from Isa. 43:26 says, "Put me in remembrance, let us argue together;set forth your case, that you may proved right." Then he invited Pastor Elizabeth for testimony.  Pastor Elizabeth went to the prophet first and kneeled under his feet saying now I am kneeling under my father feet so that I might come with his full spirit.
   She stood at the pulpit and glorifying the prophet in a lot of words she said, "...this is the University of the Prophets.  A university is for adults. Other denominations are like kid's schools. 
Whoever comes here must stay here learning from the great prophet. Do not go back to pastors.
Pastors are Sunday School teachers.  They have nothing.  But here we have a man of God.  He is God's representative.  He has power and he is able than pastors and apostles that you can found anywhere.  He is only great prophet. Like Elijah he is miracle prophet."
   These reports gave great opportunity to discuss Lutheran liturgy---why we do what we do.  The Lutheran service in Tz. is very similar to a traditional service in America.  One Bible verse that kept coming back to us was the story of the Last Super when Jesus washed his disciples feet
 (John 13:12-16).  That model for ministry is radically different than the way many churches and pastors operate in Tz.
 A very interesting outcome materialized from this church visitation assignment.  One of our class students is a newly elected Bishop from another area of Tz.  For his visitation he chose a congregation that had separated itself from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania (ELCT) because of a conflict.  The following is a portion of his report:
   "The congregants are local and from the neighborhood so  for them is very easy to recognize if there is new face.  Such thing happened to me since from the introduction of the Service they knew that I'm a guest. Even though I didn't want to get a special chance to greet them, still they asked that I could say even few words.  I did so by introducing who am I.  They were very happy that in the life of that church they have never been visited by leader of the Church. They prepared tea for me.
   After having heard this Church, I understand that conflict within the Church pushed this group of Christians to establish their own Church, but in the image of Mother Church.  I advise those two sides to find a solution by the grace of Almighty Father so that in the near future reconciliation would be found. This led myself to realize the situation of the unity of the Church is in a hard moment and we should remain praying that God protect the unity of the Church."
  After the service he met with the church leaders for tea and he talked to them about the importance for unity in the Church.  They indicated an openness to enter into conversation again with the ELCT. He then had a conversation with the local Bishop who also expressed an openness.  They have now scheduled a meeting for possible reconciliation.  It is amazing how God can use a simple classroom assignment to accomplish God's purpose.
   There is a richness for doing Christian teaching in the context of Tanzania culture.  We're never quite sure what the outcome will be.  But with the Holy Spirit's movement and the students' undoubting sense of call, amazing things happen.  We are truly blessed to be in this setting--sharing...as well as receiving..
   This has been a very long post, but we wanted to share the gifts we're receiving with you as well.
        Praying God's peace and blessings for each of you at Christmas and throughout 2015.
           Merry Christmas,
             Tim & Diane




   

Tuesday, November 25

What Thanksgiving Means in Tanzania

                                                                                                              25 November 2014
Dear Family and Friends,
   I'm not sure if it's the weather (constantly low 80's) or the culture (nothing like America), but it is very hard to believe it is Thanksgiving this week back home. We have classes on Thursday since it is a normal day here, but in the evening we will be enjoying the company of many ELCA missionaries from the Arusha area along with "as-close-as-we-can-get" traditional Thanksgiving meal!
   We have had some fascinating and thought provoking experiences since the last blog--Tim and I spent one day with Bob Lange, a physicist who has developed a stove and a solar system that can be used by Maasai women in their mud huts with the thatched roofs.  Currently, the women burn wood inside their small, unventilated and unlit home. Between the heavy dark smoke and the lack of light (no windows or openings), the family often suffers from pulmonary illnesses as well as general discomfort from red, sore eyes.  After working alongside the women for 1 1/2 years to develop an efficient and affordable stove, Bob needed to convince the polygamous Maasai husband to purchase one for each of his wives.  The women loved them but the man was never interested, until Bob developed a way that the boma could be set up with a small solar system, providing light inside each hut, plus a light on each animal kraal, thus keeping the hyena away during the night.  The man was extremely eager to obtain the solar system, so Bob said the man could buy the solar system only after he purchased a stove for each wife.  Instantly, the man agreed!! So we were there the day the women were setting up their new brick stoves (and remodeling their roofs to accommodate their unique chimney--we watched as the women climbed up on their roofs and disassembled their thatch, cut the supporting wood frame of the roof and then later reconstructed it!).  We also watched as the women dug the trench to lay the line for the solar system to connect the houses and kraals.
   Probably more fascinating than even this experience, however, continues to be the discussions we have with our predominantly male class.  Recently when we were discussing psycho-social development in our Psychology class, I responded to a student's statement by commenting that polygamy is not allowed in the U.S.  They were shocked!  And they quickly asked, "Who will protect the women?"  (This seems to me to be an odd question since the women here do so much of the work and the money is controlled by the men yet somehow the women still survive--but the question of protection came up).  Then another student stated, "Don't they (people in US) realize that there are more women in the world than men so the only way for them all to be married is to allow polygamy?"
   The concept of a woman not needing to be married to have worth and value was just as shocking as the idea of outlawing polygamy!  So this conversation was almost heretical and more than they could digest.
   It is true, however, that women in this culture do need a husband to protect them--which means that they have validity thru him.  He represents her and gives her value as she produces children and works to help all subsist.  A woman's legal rights  come thru being married. This is technically changing but, in reality, a woman's rights are not recognized whether she's married or not. But to be unmarried is the greatest disgrace for a woman here --just above being married without having children---the is definitely the bottom of he barrel.
  Yesterday I had a small incident in which I arrived at our classroom only to find that it was already occupied by a Masters Degree class that didn't want to vacate.  The head student from that class came to where my class was standing and approached the men not me the teacher!  My male students, since they were underclassmen, were shaking their heads yes--we would relocate.  I had previously gone to significant lengths to secure this room for the semester so I wanted to explain to the man that I had followed the procedure and wanted to continue having my class there.  As soon as I started to talk, our male students began apologizing to this male student!  (I couldn't believe it--the fact that I was truly the elder of all of them, in a culture where age is most respected, meant NOTHING ----because I am a woman.)  This is such a minor incident but, for me, it was sooooo telling of the underlying dynamic regarding the role/value/rights of a woman.
  They get that we are all children of God, but for many of them that does not equate with being equal.  Unfortunately, many women here have only known the lot of having little status--little worth so they pass that cultural belief onto their children--males and females.
   Yet, these very students truly want to learn.  They are very attentive and inquiring, but in so many ways we are speaking a foreign language to them--not just because it is English and not Kiswahili, but because the concepts and practices seem so absurd---it is a lot for them to take in.
   But there is hope. The men and the women truly do love God and they are genuinely caring about those they live in community with---and that even includes us.
   Every morning at Chapel, we hear their words of thanksgiving--that God has brought them safely through the night and has provided for them salvation.
   So, in fact, it is Thanksgiving here in Tanzania too--everyday---
 as I close with the words we and the students say each morning in worship:
   " Bwana, (Lord) open my lips and my mouth, so I will speak your praise.  Remind me that you have come for  me with your salvation. We praise you, Baba (Father) na Mwana (and Son) na Roho Mtakatifu (and Holy Spirit) like it was in beginning and is now and all day until forever and forever."
  Amen.
   May you have a blessed and beautiful Thanksgiving,
     Tim & Diane

Wednesday, November 5

Tanzanian Stress

                                                                                                                                           5 Nov 2014

Dear Family and Friends,
   We are in our third week of classes since we last wrote, and all is going well.  We have a smaller class at the seminary--14 students, 1 female and 12 males.  At first we thought this may be more of a challenge to engage the students in class discussion---but this group is very alert, interactive, and full of questions when they don't understand or disagree! Last week I gave an assignment in which the students were to compare an individualistic culture with a collectivistic one (such as theirs).  One student wrote regarding an individualistic culture that it is like the Tz culture, a man can force a woman to do things. I wrote back on his paper that is not true in America because of equal rights.  At break time the student came up to me and said, "How can this be? I don't understand!" As I tried to gently explain this major difference in our cultures, his face became more shocked with disbelief.  Finally, I think out of despair, he looked at Tim and desperately said, "Pastor, is this true?  What about what the Bible says?"  I have a feeling that this is a topic that will be revisited many times this semester!

As always there's some confusion and some amusement  especially during the first class.  Some of the students' names catch our attention, either because they are soooooooooooo long or because of their meaning.  This year we have a record breaker with one student's first name being 14 letters long---and of course that's the name he wants to be called by--not by his last name which only has 5 letters!

Another student has a name that seemed curious, so I asked him what it meant.  He said it means "Pharisee," and the class all looked downward and said nothing.  He meekly added that he didn't know why he was named that-- obviously I didn't pursue it any further---nor did I ask anyone else the meaning of their name!

We also have a Bishop in our class.  He is an ordained pastor and just became a Bishop in January for a new diocese.  His plate is extremely full combining studies for a Bachelor's Degree in Divinity with his numerous duties as Bishop.  He's a humble, insightful man, and we are fortunate to have him in our class.

   Tim has had his first flat tire in Tz!  Fortunately for us, it happened on campus! So the campus fundi (repairman) was able to take care of it, and Tim learned what to do if/when it happens again! It is a 3/4 ton, 4 wheel drive "bush vehicle" and the jack was broke, so he was grateful to have some help.  The roads are unbelieveably pot-holed here and the tires (as well as people's spinal cords ) take the brunt of it!

   Since the last posting, I was asked to lead a women's retreat on dealing with stress. The kind of stress and/or the sources of stress are somewhat different here than in the States.

   I had to stop writing this post so that I could go to the Dispensary.  I have had an extremely itchy and draining eye for the past week and it's getting worse.  So I entered our new Dispensary and was greeted with a nod by the nurse who had a really ugly knife in her hand, and she pointed with the knife for me to take a seat while she proceeded to hand the grotesque instrument to the doctor who was waiting at the end of the hall.  I quickly obeyed and thought, oh my gosh---what am I doing here?  I'm feeling better--maybe I should just leave.  I sat a bit trembly, waiting to hear a piercing scream---only to see the doctor return to the hallway, using the knife to cut open a box!
   I was eventually motioned to go into the doctor's office and I explained my situation, emphasizing how I was feeling better already!  After hearing my account (no looking at my eye), he left then returned with some eye drops.  He stated that I have a bacterial eye infection and I must shake the bottle each time I use it--then proceeded to show me how to shake the very small bottle.  Then he removed the bottle cap and squirted some of the contents right onto the floor next to his desk.  "Fine," he said.  "It works!"  Then he looked at me to see if I understood.  I think I do.
   So on my walk back from the Dispensary, I read the label on the package.  It simply says, "Eye/Ear Drops."  I need to close now so I can use my multipurpose drops.  I will shake it, then poor some on the floor, then put 3 drops in each eye---I don't think I'm suppose to put it into my ears since he didn't demonstrate that!
   Hoping this finds you healthy, stress-free, and with a good sense of humor,
Much love from both of us,
    Tim & Diane



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 yesterday....in 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