March 27, 2009

pray for rain

the clouds are beautiful at night, glorious these days- gold and pink on the edges when the sun is setting, then parting for some of the most spectacular views of the milky way and the stars once it's dark. but it doesn't rain. and we've heard from friends/relatives in villages that the corn has dried up and the goats are hungry and there's not much food. so please, pray for rain.

March 22, 2009

makes me sad

i've said it before, but it makes me sad, how Tanzanians don't believe in themselves. how the life of "Kule kwako" -- "Way over there where you're from" is the good life. and and theirs is the difficult life. i mean, maybe it's true. i hate the inequality, for sure, and if i didn't i wouldn't be here. but most of the people who are telling me this have enough to eat, and what's more they've got a lot of the joy of singing, and laughing late at night with their relatives and friends, and faith in a God who cares about them. i've certainly got way more opportunities and development. more variety and mobility. and i can eat fruit any time i want. but i've felt the joy of living without electicity and water, without lots of things and things and things. and it can be beautiful- not only short term, but i believe long term as well. so i continue to be convinced that it is the curse of being human to want what we don't have. and as long as we are always desiring development, an easier life, etc- we will never find joy. the people who can't find it here maybe couldn't find it in the U.S. with lots of money, either. i don't know. maybe my opinion will change when i spend 3 weeks in one of the worst slums in Nairobi (starting April 11). or maybe everyone in the world thinks their life is lacking, physically, emotionally, whatever. and the only source of worth and joy is in the kingdom of God and knowing Christ. that's what i believe. call me an evangelical, a fundamentalist, whatever. but it rings true. and i feel like crying when we are all 6 of us eating dinner together off the same plate and esther says: "this is bad behavior" and i say "Why!?" loving the community of all eating together, sharing. and she says: "white people don't do this, do they?"

March 18, 2009

the way we look at money

I don't know if American culture is known for being thrifty. i mean these days, I sort of think it's probably not because of all the credit crises and whatnot. But I know that most Americans at least understand the concept of saving-when you get a job, you put money in the bank and maybe work towards a car or something. Here, although people don't have much money and don't spend much comparatively, it's been easy to get frustrated with the way they sometimes seem to be irresponsible with their money. I mean, a constant phrase is, "If I get money I will..." Not, if I save it, or after a few years once it's built up a little. "If I get money." And when people have money, they seem to spend all they have. For example, you go to the shop and there's 200 shillings left in change, so you buy some biscuits and candy to bring home to the kids. Or if you have 5000 shillings you go eat roasted meat with your friends even if it's your last money until next month's pay. In a way, it's the same pressure to consme conspicuously that we have- you want to be able to play pool, to wear nice clothes, to be modern. But I think there's also more to it. I was talking to my host mom about saving habits, and she talked about how she used to have a bank account but relatives were always asking her for money. And I realized that giving to relatives and friends is in a way the way of saving here- Tanzania's certainly transitioning to capitalist economy but it's still got a bit of gift economy. You invest by helping out relatives today, maybe they'll help you tomorrow. Or, if you want to save, you don't save cash, you buy some livestock or build your house a little nicer. You start little business. Maybe these are wiser and more productive ways of saving than we have in the U.S.- I don't understand money sitting in a bank, in other people's macro loans and businesses. But I understand buying a couple goats or bailing out your sister on school fees for her kids. I still think Tanzanians spend unnecessarily and sometimes I want to scream at my host family, "WHY DID YOU BUY THAT!?" And I defintiely don't want to feed their habits. But for the most part it's on a much smaller scale that they consume, and I buy a lot more things I don't really need. And they help each other out a lot. So that's cool.

March 12, 2009

a place i hope to one day call home

Well, who knows what God has in store, all I know is that the raw joy I felt for the past week is unequaled in recent months. I just spent 6 days with a bunch of Lutheran pastors and musicians traveling throughout Maasai land, northwest of Arusha. We went to about 10 different congregations who were dedicating the cornerstones of their churches, and celebrated the opening of those churches. So, as usual for Tanzania, there was a lot of sitting around, and I saw a lot of I guess what you might say institutional inefficiency in the Lutheran church structure, but on the whole, I believe those people are doing really good things, and the openings of these churches is definitely a cause for celebration. There is no sound more beautiful than the sound of Maasai men and women singing their songs under an acacia tree. There is no sight more beautiful than the varied and wild landscape, from dry plains to a volcano (Ol Donyo Lengai, the Maasai mountain of God) to the salty Lake Natron to the view you get looking out over the plain after you climb the Rift Valley Wall. And to think this is the land of the Maasai. This week I was given a lot of joy besides the beauty- for one, I was encouraged by the faith and joy of the Maasai and the Sonjo tribes despite their hard lives and the persecution they sometimes face. The joy these women find in Jesus as their redeemer is one of the things that 2 years ago drew me back into faith after plagues of doubt, and still today encourages me in the truth and relevance of the gospel. The work of the church here is also encouraging-bringing people together not only for worship but also to help build schools and help in times of drought/hunger. Personally, I also felt so welcomed by the group of pastors and musicians. We traveled together for a week, and they became like my family. I was refreshed by my relationships with them--I've loved a lot of Tanzanians this time around but the relationships, while rewarding, are often stressful, I'm not sure what they want from me, financially and emotionally they can be demanding--but these folks accepted me like a relative, and joked around with me, and loved me, and asked nothing in return. And all the more they welcomed me into their choir, and I got to sing with them at a bunch of churches, in a cappella 4-part harmony, and the love of singing which has been dormant for a while was reawakened in me. And I was sad to leave them when the journey was done. Underneath all the beauty, of course, there are concerns- everywhere we went we were treated to great hospitality, SO many goats roasted, SO many sodas and cups of tea drunk. Sometimes we went to 4 churches in a day, which meant 4 different meals of goat and rice...and as I tried to eat to accept their hospitality gratefully, no matter how stuffed I was...I would look back outside and see the kids with barely any clothes and Maasai mamas who were so skinny, and I would wonder how we could eat so well everywhere and wish I could give my food to those kids. Indeed it has been a year of drought. The short rains in November/December were minimal and didn't come everywhere-and so far the long rains have been absent, especially in the middle of Maasailand. We drove home Tuesday through a dry plain-the people at the church in that area begged for help from the Lutheran diocese because it's been a year of such hunger-and as we drove through, we'd see kids herding goats and cows, but there was no grass. It's all dry. And there is no water. Cows were huddled under acacias for respite from the sun, but cows are dying. We handed out bottles of drinking water to kids and if they saw us holding a bottle of water out the car window, they'd come racing from 300 yards away to get that bottle...Lord, bring them rain.