Prodigals & Puppy Love

This week I did a bit of “investigative journalism” and followed my teammates around to their different villages to document their work. I meant to have finished to be ready for this week’s blog, but I’m not quite finished, so it’ll have to wait until next weeks.

Pole sana, everyone.

Meanwhile, we’ve all been recovering from all the seminars and guests (okay, mostly seminars) this week, but still doing our normal routine to the best of our abilities. Tori is in Dar Es Salam after bringing Pastor Andrew there to catch his flight and has spent the week gathering supplies and preparing for the Simbaulanga (an evanglelist/debator who specifically reaches out to Muslims) conferences that are supposed to start beginning of May.

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It will be seemingly small to you all, no doubt, but I had my own little miracle this week that I want to share.

There is a little boy named Mfalme who used to play here with Alberti when we first moved here in January. I sewed his shirt and played with the two of them all the time. I realized the other day I hadn’t seen him in nearly two months, if not longer, after running into him in the village a week or two ago. He wouldn’t look at me. His eyes were completely filled with terror as he looked at me and darted away. My heart sank and I didn’t understand what I’d done or how things had changed. Last Sunday when we did the baptisms, I saw him again and was given the same reaction. I went to visit his home to feel out what was happening and his mother told me she’d come visit me later that day. I was elated, but I might have saved my energy. She never came. I forgot that people just say they’re coming to be friendly, but have no real intention of coming.

That evening and the next morning I spent nearly my entire devotion time begging God for clarity or understanding. We’ve heard that some people in the village are calling us Freemasons (Tanzanians are obsessed with Freemasons, but have no real concept of what authentic Freemasons are, other than the fact that they are very, very bad) and so I prayed against those who were lying about us, and to remove the fear that people have of us. I begged for God to bring him back somehow.

Later that day, his older brother Issaci (who never stopped coming to play here) and I were talking and I was trying to get to the bottom of it all. I asked him why Mfalme hadn’t been coming around and if he was afraid of me, when he interrupted me to say, “He’s not afraid, he’s right there.” He pointed up the driveway to Mfalme, who was smiling like he used to at me without fear, present at our house for the first time in two months. I literally screamed with joy and ran down the driveway saying that I missed him, which turned into a game of chase while all the other kids laughed at us.

God cares about what we care about, guys. Even if no one else does or understands. And I spent the rest of the day bursting with joy and thankfulness that He delighted to answer me and bring me the one that was lost, even though I have well over 99 that weren’t.

Praise God, for He has shown me the wonders of His unfailing love.

——– 

Beyond my trailing my teammates to different villages, I’ve also been taking care of the wound of a friend of ours, Mzee Paulo, a Sukuma man who lives in Mpeta, which is a village about a 35 minute trip away via piki piki. Gabe and I went three times this week. His foot has been amassing fluid for several months now and after a trip to Sumbawanga, where the doctors there simply poked a hole in his foot to drain the fluid, it hasn’t gotten better. Mzee Paulo’s foot remains swollen and now the hole has turn into a massive wound that I’ve been cleaning puss out of and wrapping with thin gauze so it’s can dry out. He is unable to walk without the aid of a cane and as he walks, his foot swells more, so I’ve been trying to keep him from walking around.

He and his wife, Mama Mwajuma, have been so kind and hospitable towards us. Mama sent us home with a chicken (which I carried back on the piki piki, like a boss), a kilo of peanuts and insisted she cook lunch for us one of the days we were there visiting. Sukuma food is really delicious (chicken and rice, with some sort of ginger sauce) and they even offered us milk! Their five children are absolutely adorable, but it’s hard for me to talk to the younger ones because they haven’t learned Swahili yet and only speak their tribal tongue.

Pray with me that our relationship with them grows as his wound heals—and that it would soon. It’s harvest time for many in the Valley and I know he wants to help his family, but his wound prevents him. They’ve been so kind and I honestly just wish I knew more to do for them medically. I have been thrown into being nurses of sorts, but beyond what I read in our ‘When There’s No Doctor” book, I have no idea what I’m doing.

Another wound I’ve been caring for this week is for Alberti’s little sister Janet. Janet is a doll-baby, super lovey and always wants to be held. She spends most of her time clinging to my knees if I’m not carrying her. From what I can see, she seems to have some sort of disability or handicap; because of that, she doesn’t understand a lot of what the kids say and she doesn’t know to move out of the way, so she gets knocked around a lot. She’s about seven years old, and I just adore her. At some point this week, she fell at home while watching Pascali (the 11 month old little brother, and the last of the seven children) and hit her elbow. Her entire arm is swollen and we’re not really sure, but based on amateur guessing, she probably fractured or broken it. Kids here have an iron will and are taught not to cry, so it’s hard to know what her pain level is. We put an ace bandage around it and a makeshift sling, and I’ve been crushing Ibuprofen for her to drink in honey water the past few days. She really hates it, and looks at me with her big brown eyes like, “Do I really have to do this?” halfway through each time—thank goodness for candies to help motivate.

The reality is we’re probably caring for her better/more than even the doctors in Sumbawanga at this point. I handle most of the prescriptions that come through our little clinic at the back of our houses, and let me tell you, I’m completely dumbfounded at what I see doctors recommending. The other day the man we’ve been helping with formula came to say his infant daughter was sick with a cough. The doctor prescribed 20 ml of Acetaminophen, which is 4 tablespoons and the adult dose, three times a day for a week. I’m maturing as a person now, because I didn’t totally flip when I saw it, but I’m not even sorry, I crossed it out and rewrote it for the minimal amount twice a day for a week, instead. Another really popular thing this week has been prescribing injections when the patient has a cough and one woman kept insisted she needed x-rays and a lab diagnosis because she’d had a fever for two days. For stomachaches, they prescribe antibiotics or malaria meds. I hear of cases where, to stop a baby’s cough, they slit the chin so they can’t cough anymore. 

Please, please, please, read my link on the side of my blog about the clinic and see how you can help. There are no words for how badly legitimate medical care is needed here; as it stands now, I, 22 year old film graduate with no medical background, am at least on par or slightly more informed than a majority of the local village clinics.

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Moving forward from some of my medical adventures this week, God has been putting the desire to teach my boys on my heart more and more. They’ve started bringing my bouquets of wildflowers each day, and even the naughtiest boys are softer towards me now, jumping up to help me with any task and taking great pride when I entrust them to help with Pilot or bringing water or whatever the case may be. Although I’m not naïve to the fact that a lot of it is puppy love, I believe there is a window of influence there—one that I’ve been afraid to access.

My new retreat is on top of the water tower, where I pace and pray each morning. I’ve felt God urging me to extend my teaching to more than simple Biblical truths in story times a few days a week. The older boys need more instruction, more time, if you will, than some of the younger ones and they need practical lessons on how to treat people, how to respect their families and grow up to be good men, based on Scripture. In short, God has asked me to teach “How to be a Good Man by Loving Jesus and Your Family” lessons for a group of 10 to 15 year old African boys.

I’ve been avoiding it for weeks now because I honestly just feel like I must have misheard or that I’m just being stupid.

And yet, as I was reading Titus this week, I realized I’m running out of excuses:

This is a letter from Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. I have been sent to proclaim faith to those God has chosen and to teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives. (1:1)

Teach the truth so that your teaching can’t be criticized. Then those who oppose us will be ashamed and have nothing bad to say about us. … He gave us life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds. You must teach these things and encourage the believers to do them. You have the authority to correct them when necessary; so don’t let anyone disregard what you say. (2:8,14-15)

I told God if He gave me the time and if Daudi (our young translator who works with me during story time) was available, I’d tackle it and He did, so I did. There are a lot of mindsets that are so ingrained here, things that are so normal that I honestly have no idea if anything I say will make any difference or if they’re listening and understanding. Few of the children ever ask questions on their own here, they’re conditioned to always say they understand, whether they do or not; they have to be drawn out. It’s part of the way they teach here at school, which is a whole separate issue.

Anyway.

I so fervently believe these children, the boys especially, are the key to seeing a tangible change in the Valley. It’s a man’s world here. If these boys grow up and allow God to transform their hearts towards him—we have a brand new generation of fathers, husbands, workers, who will, in turn, affect all the women and children here. If they know and love God, and have biblical teaching, they have the option to choose to be faithful to their wives, to do more than provide food for their families, but to be present with them and lead them with a gentle hand. As it stands, I have no interest, nor calling to reach out to the men here. But my boys will be men someday. They’re already little men. And they believe everything that they’ve even known thus far in life to be the norm, which completely makes sense.

“What do you think it means to be a good father?”
“You send your children to get water.”

“Have you ever seen your Mama or other Mamas in the village get hit before?”
“Oh, of course.”

“What does it mean to love your wife?”
“You make sure she has food.”

You sure you want me to try this, Jesus?

And now that I’ve blogged about it, what happens if I fail? What if I fail to see or make any difference in these boys that I believe are the key to seeing change in the Valley? What in the world do I know about even attempting this, as a 20 something year old white American woman-thing?

Hold on to the pattern of wholesome teaching you learned from me—a pattern shaped by the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus. Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you.  – 2 Timothy 1:13-14

Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.
  – 1 Corinthians 3:5-8

Well, okay then.

But what if I’m forcing my cultural expectations or concepts on them?

Sometimes there are things that supersede culture and are just wrong no matter where you are or what standard of morality people enforce in the particular geographical location.

Like taking advantage of little girls.
Like beating your wife, instead of loving and protecting her.
Like using the money you earn for drink while your family goes hungry.

And I can’t stop it all.
I can’t deal justice or judgment out on anyone, as much as my blood boils and I want too. That’s God’s seat, and I’m done putting myself there; as good as my intentions are, I’m still not God.

But I can teach these little boys what God says about love, life and relationships. I can give them Truth and try to actually make disciples, even if it looks totally different that what I thought it would or what I feel equipped for.

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One thought on “Prodigals & Puppy Love

  1. Love your story about your miracle, Mfalme!! You certainly have grown this year! Cutting heads off chickens, using your medical skills, and undertaking such a amazing task with the young boys. If anyone can teach them, it’s you. Have faith! Love you Stephanie,praying for you and your mission. I am so proud of you. You not only talk the talk, but you walk the walk.You truly are a special girl!

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