Sunday, September 14, 2014

That's Different

     This picture shows a scene that takes place every afternoon.  Children that are fortunate enough to go to school are making their way home for the evening.  There are no car lines full of parents waiting to pick there precious ones up and take them home or to a variety of extra-curricular activities.  There are no big, yellow school buses delivering loads of children safely to their doorsteps.

     These children are simply turned loose and sent home.  Some will walk.  But many will hitch rides with passing vehicles, or take a dala dala (vans that serve as public transportation here).

     I've heard stories in the past few months of parents in the US facing criticism and legal problems because they forced their children to walk to destinations less than a mile away.  I don't know the details of those situations, and my purpose is not to comment specifically about them one way or another.  It is just interesting to observe how starkly different life is for people living in different parts of the world.  Even though we live in the same time, and the world is smaller than it's ever been, people's lives can be so varied that they can't even fathom what it means to live another way.

    When it comes to most aspects of life, it is just fine that we live differently.  Cultures need not be the same.  The differences add spice and variety.  It is really a shame the way that mass media is facilitating the disappearance of local cultures as they meld into a homogeneous global one - but that's a topic for another time and place.  

     Really, I have two points.  First, it is healthy for us to open our eyes to the fact that the way we are living life is not the only (or even necessarily best) way to live life.  "Everybody" doesn't in fact have the latest gadget, nor does everybody even know it exists.  (You should see the Tanzanians marvel at the GPS in my car!)  Everybody doesn't share the same interest.  (The poor folks here think that footballs are round with black spots.)  And that's okay.

     Secondly, there is one aspect of life that is not open to variety and personal preference.  That is Jesus.  Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.  He is not one of many paths, but rather he is THE way.  He is not one of many possible truths, but rather he is THE truth.  He is not one of many acceptable lifestyles, but rather he is THE life.  These points are absolute and non-negotiable.  This conviction is at the heart of missions, and the heart of the Christian life in general.  Spreading Christ must be a high priority for us all, both home and abroad.  Let's not allow ourselves to be so distracted by the differences that don't matter that forget the only one that really does.

Would you like for me to visit your congregation during our next furlough? 
 Dates are still available so contact me if you are interested.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Adjustments and Providence

Adjustments and Providence

     One of the greatest challenges that we have faced as a missionary family is trying to do what's best for our oldest child.  Our youngest two kids are ages 3 and 2.  They have each other to play with, and have a pretty great life aside from being separated from extended family.

     But our 12-year old, Abby, is very isolated.  Really she was the one who got the worst deal out of our decision to move to Africa.  When we first got here, there was another missionary family here that had some sweet kids near her age.  They hit it off and became fast friends.  Several months ago, that family returned to the States to begin a new phase of their lives.  Since that time Abby has had a very difficult time.  She is a social being, but she found herself alone without readily available English-speaking peers.

     We have tried to get her involved in various area activities hoping that she would find a friend, but it just wasn't happening.  What could we do?  There are several international schools in the area.  These are expensive private schools where classes are taught in English and many of the students are expats.  We are happy with the education that Abby is getting from home school, but felt strongly that she needed some peer interaction.

     Enrolling Abby in international school full-time was financially out of the question.  Even if we could afford it, I don't think that's what we would have wanted to do.  But we worked out to send Abby for some elective-type classes like art, music, and drama on a part-time basis.  It was still expensive, but we felt that the sacrifice would be well worth it if Abby would be happier.

     It's only been a week now, but so far it seems that the plan has been a success!  Abby came home from her first day ecstatic that she had found an American friend - another girl who new about basketball, R5 (one of Abby's favorite bands), and SEC football (the other girl is a bulldogs fan, but we're willing to overlook it).  It also helps that the school has lots of British touches that my Harry Potter-loving daughter loves (ex: houses, a house cup, a head boy and head girl, prefects, uniforms, etc.).  All in all, we've had a much happier girl on our hands.

     Now, enter the providence of God.  A couple of days ago some friends who are among our most generous supporters sent us a message saying that they wanted to contribute to Abby's tuition.  Through conversation they found out that the expense was "X" number of dollars.  They answered back that it was a strange coincidence, because they had precisely "X" number of dollars available to give to a good work!  I should be accustomed to it by now, but no matter how many times I see it, I still marvel at the ways God works.  His providence is amazing!  Mungu ni mwema!

Preachers' Wives Training

     Yesterday, Tiffany was in charge of the monthly preachers' wives class.  She taught lessons on "Faith and Works" and "Using a Prayer Journal."  Twenty area wives were gathered for fellowship and Bible study.  These gatherings have been a valuable source of togetherness and growth for the preacher's wives in the Arusha area.

Back to Ilkiurei

     After enjoying our special series at the Arusha congregation, we were happy to be back "home" at Ilkiurei today.   But sadly, while we were back "home" we learned about a little boy who isn't.  One of our members has a 7 year old son who ran away from home 3 weeks ago and hasn't been heard from since.  Please say a prayer for this little boy and his mother.