Missions, baby

Nothing like hitting the ground running after a few weeks of ambling along slowly.

This week Tori’s brother, Eirik, came to visit with his friend Bethany and to teach a seminar on missions for the believers here in Kansasa and the neighboring villages. I’m not going to lie, I was really excited for guests. Eirik is hilarious and I fell in love with Bethany right away. Poor girl got thrown right into the thick of our crazy seminar schedule and all my kid activities, but it’s like she’s been part of the team from the beginning. Additionally, Pastor Andrew from Singapore, the head of missions, came to visit for the week as well, so our house has been even busier than normal.

The idea behind the seminar had its roots in same place that our discipleship focus has. For years the mindset in Africa, Tanzania being no exception, is that missionaries are meant to come here and minister. Inadvertently, well-meaning missionaries have come here with this subtle undertone of “We can and you can’t. We do, because you don’t.” Our goal, along with Eirik, is to teach the people here that they carry the Kingdom of God wherever they go, just as much as we do and that they’re meant to be living out Jesus’ heart for the nations as well. The seminar went Thursday through Saturday, and Cara and Ana were hustling ugali and beans for about 60 people twice a day.

Meanwhile, I ventured down to the Primary school with Bethany for the first time on Thursday. Wednesday morning we were informed we’d be substitute teaching Standard 7 (mostly kids 14 – 16) the next day. Nothing like being thrown into something you feel completely unqualified for.

Missions, baby.

 We learned five minutes before class that we’d be teaching English and History, so I stumbled my way through English, ending with “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” with Bethany for fun. Since we know about nothing of Tanzanian history, Bethany told the kids the story of the Mayflower and the Pilgrims. All the teachers and some of the students had lots of questions about American government and presidents and such, and so we had a mini Q&A session to fill up the time.

Friday we went and distributed over 300 bibles to Standards 3 – 7 (as well as all 17 teachers at the school) with Pastor Andrew and most of the team. I got to see many of my kids, spread out mostly among the lower standards, and it was so cute to see them in their uniforms in the classes. Pastor spoke encouraging words in each class and everyone was so excited to get their own New Testaments. Pray with me that the children will be hungry to learn more about God and who He is.

Alberti has been afraid to return to school because apparently the students are beaten if their hair is too long or if they don’t have shoes, both of which are the case for my little friend. I cut his hair on Saturday and I’m figuring out the politics of getting him shoes, but not in time to save him from a beating on his feet that I had to bandage.

If there’s anything that makes my blood boil, it’s injustice against the weak and oh, does my temper rise over this. If a child is disrespectful or something, that’s one thing and it needs to be dealt with.

Punishing a child whose parents can’t buy him shoes because they haven’t harvested their crops to sell yet (like every other family in the village) in front of the entire school, isn’t okay and I don’t like it. It took all my self-control not to march down to the school and give everyone a very livid piece of my mind. 

I’ve been invited back to the school on a weekly basis to help/teach in some capacity and I’m so incredibly excited to see what happens as I walk through this door that God has opened up. My dream is to see the public punishments for things that aren’t the fault of my kids ended at the Kansasa Primary school by the time I leave in November. Pray with me for a miraculous transformation in the traditions in the education system for years. Traditions may have gone on for years, but Jesus is bigger than all that and His word says that He will not leave the helpless to fend for themselves, so pray with me, fervently, for change in the heart of the teachers and headmaster as they learn about who Jesus is and His gentle heart towards the children. It’s the only hope for change in the school.

Saturday Bethany and I tag teamed again to spend the morning/early afternoon doing mommy things like haircuts, bathing and washing clothes. It was absolutely ridiculous (too many kids), so I had the kids help wash each other and scrub clothes with me, while Bethany cut hair. I never got everyone to sit still long enough to get a head count, but there were easily 30 if not 40 children running around our yard in varying stages of cleanliness and nakedness. Bethany finished putting lotion on all the children and we began story time for the third day in a row, teaching about all the people that Jesus healed and how He loves to hear from all of his people, even and especially His children. My kids are very shy about praying individually (community mindset and all that), but Imeli and Mesu (MaySue) managed to pray for the health of Musa and Bethany’s mothers and I was so proud. The kids have grown to love story time so much and ask me every day when we’re doing another one, and sing our little worship songs all day as they play around the house. It’s all I can do not to weep when I hear it. Praise the living God, He’s working.

Finally, on Sunday, we had a special service to conclude the three days of Eirik’s mission seminar. Pastor Andrew spoke about how all the Tanzanians are God’s ambassadors to the world and also emphasized the importance of investing in the children as the next generation of this valley. It means so much to know that I’m not just making up things—our sending church shares the vision I have for the children, or rather, I share theirs. My fears about disappointment at my slight deviation from our training focus in Singapore couldn’t have been further from reality. Isn’t that always how it is?

We concluded the service walking down to the river to baptized 31 brand new to few month old believers, including Bruno, our friend who didn’t have his arm amputated (he’s recovering nicely now) and Anastasia, who was positively radiant. During the entire event, our church families from Ziwasungu, Mpeta and Kasaroho celebrated with singing, dancing and the giving of wildflowers to each person as they came up out of the water and joined the celebration. It was absolutely precious and I was so, so excited to be there. It was a beautiful time and such an encouragement to see everyone joined together in love.

Some moments make everything worth all the stress and this was one of them.

 Some of my boys came down to watch the baptism, and I don’t need to tell you how excited I was to see Gasipa leading his pack down to the river. They were very reverent during the baptism but the second it was over and the area was clear of all our people, I heard choruses of “Stefania! Stefania!” I turned around just in time to see 15 of my boys charge past me, completely naked (except for underwear on some of them), into the river where they all proceeded to show off doing flips and splashing for the camera.

Boys will be boys.

We finished off the evening eating community style around beans, ugali and chicken. I was nearly bursting with joy when we invited Alberti in to join us at the table with the pastors. He happily and hungrily ate all the chicken, beans and rice he could handle, as well as my slice of papaya I was only too happy to give him. I finally got a picture with this little boy that’s honestly stolen my heart and been so prevalent in all my blogs. He’s become more of a loner lately, so Cara and I have been working extra hard to include him and ask for his help around the house. I watched him teach one of the newer kids out of my kids bible the story of the Fall, which we did over a month ago. I nearly cried, I was so thankful to see him remembering. He’s grown leaps and bounds and has come to love learning about Jesus so much.

It’s all seeds. And God has and will continue to be faithful in giving the increase. I cling to that, and that’s all I’ve got.

There’s this song I sing with the kids that I really love, that says “There’s no God like you. I’ve walked everywhere, turned around and searched everywhere and there’s still no one like you”. It’s truth, and I get to sing it with my babies all the time. 

Hakuna Mungu kama wewe
Hakuna Mungu kama wewe
Hakuna Mungu kama wewe
Hakuna na hatakuwepo

Nimetembea kote kote
Nimezunguka kote kote
Nimetafuta kote kote 
Hakuna na hatakuwepo

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