26 September 2009

A few disconnected thoughts from a few exhausting days

Last Saturday morning at 6:00am I wedged into the back seat of Grace & Healing Ministry’s truck between Mama Esther and Pastor Musa, and we set off for the 2009 Lahash International East Africa Conference in Kampala, Uganda. The day ended at a Lutheran guest house in Bukoba in western Tanzania, just across the border from Uganda at just past 9:00pm. That’s right, 15 hours of driving. Oh, the bone weariness, and it wasn’t over yet. We left around 9:30am the next morning to cross over into Uganda. It was fascinating driving over the 10 miles or so that Uganda and Tanzania fought over during the rule of Idi Amin. I saw a Tanzanian church that had been bombed by Amin’s forces, and has been left as a landmark. It stands near the site of a girls’ secondary school (like a boarding high school) where Amin’s forces raped over 100 teenage girls. Even now that puts a knot of nausea in the pit of my stomach. We arrived safely in Kampala around 3pm on Sunday, and I cannot describe the delight of seeing so many of my dear Lahash friends from Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, and the States.

We have spent the week going over the application of the Lahash values in our partnerships in East Africa. Most of it is probably not that interesting to the majority, so I’ll spare you the details. My day for speaking was yesterday, as I presented about five hours of material on Holistic Care and the sponsorship program. Again, not that interesting for most of you, but if you are a sponsor, you should be getting really excited for the direction our programs are going. Prepare to be impressed by the child you sponsor (Inshallah, aka God willing). One thing I’ve been thinking a lot about is the value of each individual child and each individual sponsor, and our partners really responded to that principle, and we had a great time discussing how that affects our programs.

One evening this week we watched the documentary “War Child” on the life of Emmanuel Jal, a Southern Sudanese musician. He’s just two or three years older than I am, but the absolute terror of his life was really heart-wrenching. I’d heard of Jal in a fantastic book called Emma’s War, recommended to me by my friend Frank So, and I’ve heard some of his music in different Lahash videos. (You can purchase his music on ITunes, I highly recommend the songs “Emma” and “Gua”.) Please try to get a copy of the film “War Child” if you’re at all interested in the civil war in Sudan, Darfur, the Lost Boys, child soldiers, or the Sudanese children we work with. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, in just over a year Southern Sudan could be erupting into civil war again, and if that happens, it will be children just like those in our Sudanese sponsorship program who are picking up guns to fight.

On a purely selfish level, I received a great blessing this week. Since I arrived in Tanzania I’ve been sharing a room and a bed with Leah, and this week I am the only unmarried woman at the conference, so I got my own room! It’s not just a single, either, because they ran out of singles, and they charge by the person, I got a huge triple all to myself. My introverted self is eating this up, and it’s lovely to be surrounded by so many people I love, but still get time to just be alone. Mama Esther is so jealous of my room that she comes in sometimes in the evening to lay on the bed next to me and stroke my head while we watch a movie. (She really misses her kids, and I’m the next best thing. I’m not complaining!)

Finally, last night we went to Mama Susan’s home for the amazing feast she always puts on and a little worship service. Any of you who have eaten Esther Basa’s food or heard the Nsambya kids praise Jesus will know the pure magic of that night. I spent the two hours of the worship service listening to testimonies and prayers and Scripture with little Nancy sleeping in my lap. Nancy was burned in a fire when she was a baby, and my friend Jose took responsibility for getting the facial reconstruction surgeries that she needed. She looks marvelously better, and I think it is a tremendous privilege to get to snuggle a toddler who has already been through so much pain.

Thanks, friends, for caring about me, and putting me in the position to love these kids, learn from our partners, and sleep each night under the blanket of East African humidity. I love you, and all of the friends here love you, too, although they’ve never met you. They love that you love me, and yet still sent me to live with them.

Let us strive to be grateful and gracious followers of Jesus. Amen.

11 September 2009

Letter dated 10 Sept 2009

(So each day of the Peer Education Seminar we are to write our secret friend a letter, then on the last day, which is next Tuesday, we give a gift and reveal who we are. I've been trying very hard to write letters that no one will be able to tell are from a mzungu, but the first day I had no idea of what other people would write, so I just wrote what the pastor I asked for help told me to. It was a very nice, very formal letter with Scripture in it. I had a little better reference for the letter yesterday, and made it more funny and complimentary. My friend's name is Remmy, and he's probably about 19 years old, dresses very nicely, and is very shy.)

Rafiki Mpendwa Remmy,
My dear friend Remmy,

Napenda kukusalima katika jina la Bwana Yesu.
I would like to greet you in the name of Lord Jesus.

Kila mtu anajua hilo unapendeza na una akili.
Everyone knows that you look smart and are smart.

Nafikiria una jambo la kusema kwenye semina.
I think you have fine things to say at the seminar.

Nataka kusikia unapoongea!
I want to hear you speak!

Usikate tumaa.
Never give up.


So at the beginning of each day, they read the letters out loud to everyone before it is delivered to you. When this letter was read out, everyone laughed and thought it was funny and Remmy smiled and kissed the letter when he took it. A kind of laughing gesture of appreciation. Success! Too bad it took me like four hours to write five lines!

09 September 2009

"White People Are Weird!"

* I've been attending the Peer Education Seminar at the church this week, learning about HIV/AIDS education. It's all in Swahili, but our friend Philipo is translating in whispers in the back of the room. We'll be doing a community-wide event for education about HIV in November, including songs, poems, skits, and, get this...traditional drums and dancing. And guess who's group got assigned "ngoma" (the drums and dancing)...that's right, it's mine. Sure to be lots of funny stories and great pictures over the next two months as I learn this traditional art form. Leah's group got singing. Piece of cake. : )

* As of today, I have a house! It's a fantastic, slightly beat-up, four bedroom house only 5-6 minutes walking from the church, and the rent is about $150! I'll move in in a few weeks, but the owner, a widow, is moving to Dar es Salaam to live with her children, and is letting me keep all the furniture I want! I'm super, super excited, although the house will need some TLC, for only $150 a month, I'll have some extra money to spend on those repairs and repainting.

* The title comes from Baba na Mama Muhagachi's 7-year-old daughter Peace. She and Grace, who is about 11, have become my good friends over the years, and she frequently grabs my face to whisper "I love you" in my ear. Thanks to Annie, we've working our way through the first season of Psych, and thanks to the Espinozas, we've also been watching some episodes of season one of Lost with their older brother Victor. Makes me happy.

Love you all!

06 September 2009

We made it, all in one piece!

So this is my version of a mass email. Leah and I arrived in Dar es Salaam at 9:45pm on Thursday, met with Mama Esther Butendeli, and traveled to Dodoma by bus on Friday afternoon. That was an adventure in itself, as the bus broke down multiple times, and it seems that the driver may not have even had a driving license.

Yesterday (Saturday) we intended to write, but were at a primary school graduation for my little dada (sister) Neema Khatiba later than expected. I've seen many of my friends, and have had many warm hugs and greetings. We just finished church, and this afternoon we may take a tour of Dodoma and view some houses that Mama and Baba have located as possible homes for me to rent.

I am missing you all very much, at the same time that I am very happy to be here with my other family and friends. Thank you for the warm send-off parties and to the group who came to the airport. I had a very emotional plane ride from Portland to Amsterdam as the reality of leaving you behind set in, but I am so happy to have arrived here, and my spirits are lifting. I can feel your prayers, and crave that they will continue.

I hope to update with some photos or video later on. Best to all.

01 September 2009

All kinds of final...

Today is my last day in the States.

The problem with my situation is that no matter where I live, I'm not entirely home. No matter where I live, I am missing people. I can't be fully comfortable in either place because part of my heart is not at home.

Tonight I say goodbye to my Home Community, a group of people who have been such an important part of my life. This is as hard as saying goodbye to 30 brothers and sisters, because that is how important they are to me.

I feel very prayed for and pretty strong overall, but the next 24 hours will be absolutely brutal emotionally, so please continue to pray for me!