The Company You Keep

I had the pleasure of watching my teammates in action in their respective villages last week.

I first followed Hillary to Kasaroho, a small village just a fifteen-minute bike ride away from our house. When we arrived, I was immediately blown away by how many people she knew. Everywhere we went, people not only greeted her, but she responded knowing each by name. The children followed her in scores, chirping the song in Chichewa that she taught them at her feet.

For weeks she’s been mentoring and visiting the people in the village. As of two weeks ago, she’s begun discipling Christina, from Mpeta, and she now joins her in Kasaroho, visiting and now leading the small group Hillary started. She has also been biking to Kilida. She’s particularly invested in Mzee Antoine and his family. After seeing him come to Jesus, she’s been going extra to take bring medicine for him, as his health isn’t doing too well, and to visit with his wife. Starting last week, she’s begun discipling Christina, from Mpeta, and she now joins her in Kasaroho. 

The best thing about Hillary is her commitment to being there for people. No matter how she feels, she will go to them and pour all of her energy, all of her love, all of her focus, into whoever is in front of her that needs the love of Christ. Every single chance she gets, she pours over Scriptures and actually listens to them. She clings to Christ. She works harder than anyone I’ve seen, even when she doesn’t have to. She has great sense of humor and always a go-to if you need advice on how to handle situations with dignity and grace. Her tact and wisdom has saved us numerous cultural conflicts, and because of it, we all automatically look to her as a leader.

Later that same day, I went with Joseph via piki piki to Kilida. Joseph has taken every challenge head on, from driving the piki piki to learning Swahili to taking charge of Kilida. I admire his tenacity and gentle graces, because Kilida is not an easy place to evangelize and teach. The children are loud, people wander in and out and the smell of alcohol is unmistakably present on most of the people who pass by. As of now, he teaches outside the Duka la Dawa once a week and although it is a small crowd, I watch him constantly retreat up our mountain to study and pray over the lessons. In typical Jospeh form, he takes every task given to him and stewards it well. He’s also been going to Ziwasungu with two young men, Eric and Juma, who he’s been discipling to evangelize and take turns teaching. Ziwasungu is quite large so each of them takes a half and Joseph oversees.

The best thing about Joseph is his quiet nature. His gentle and thoughtful ways are endearing and comforting, and you can feel at rest because you can see that he’s listening and paying attention to everything that you’re saying. He’s kind to everyone and is always the first to jump in to help with things, the first to run errands and is loving called ‘The Mountain Man’ in our home due to his constant visits there. Everyone becomes friends with Joseph with ease, and he’s broken down walls with simply being who his is.

I followed Pam to her Tuesday night women’s group at Mama Wini’s house. Pam has been special friends with Mama Wini since we arrived here, and has begun discipling her to teach the local women. Additionally, she’s also been teaching Wini, Mama Wini’s oldest, a fourteen year old girl who was also the first Christian in Kansasa. 

In typical African fashion, no one was quite on time, but it didn’t phase Pam. She shucked corn with Mama Wini as the other mamas slowly arrived, most with babies in tow. Pam positioned herself to the side helping the one mama who isn’t able to read follow along, as Mama Wini taught (from what I gather in Swahili) about closeness with God and His desire for us, like Pam taught her on the previous Sunday. She only jumped in at question time, English-Swahili dictionary in one hand and stick in the other, drawing in the dirt to help illustrate the disconnect between us and God without Christ.

The best thing Pam is the fact that she’s a go-getter. She is the first of our little family to say, “Can I try?”, no matter what is before us, whether it’s carrying ugali in a sufuria on her head, machete-ing a snake or a new, questionable looking food. Anytime I poke my head past her curtain-door to ask her something, she can be found studying her lesson plans with her headphones in, neatly curled up on her mat. Her heart is for the mamas, especially. Beyond her prayers, Pam is a friend to the mamas in a special way that none of us are able to be. She loves the mamas and the mamas love her; she sits with them while they cook, tries everything she can with them, holds their babies (who she also adores), teaches the scripture and biblical principles, makes food for them when they have their babies and even teases them. Pam is a friend to the often forgotten, and it radiates the heart of Christ.

I followed Gabe to Kasakela with his new disciple Benja. While Gabe was only meant to observe, as the crowd gathered around Benja (who was charged up and enthusiastic, as per usual) I could see his heart burning to speak. He’s an evangelist at heart, and he hasn’t been letting the language barrier stop him. Gabe studies Swahili than anyone—literally dedicating hours a day to it. He is driven and passionate about seeing the people here reached and he stewards his time accordingly. And good thing too, because last week when he was in Ziwasungu, one of his disciples (who was supposed to preach that evening) failed to show up and because of his hard work and passion, God was able to use him to present a short message to the people… without a translator.

The best thing about Gabe is his commitment to seeing God receive the honor he’s due. He is absolutely determined that all of his time should be spent on Christ and His business. He’s bold in his speech when something is wrong, but also gentle and understanding with his delivery. He is able to perceive situations and preaches boldly. His prayers are big, when so many people only have faith for the small. He is fully focused on the mission here, and beyond just reaching the people for Christ, he’s actually friends with them. He is constantly being what He sees in Christ and everyone loves and respects him for it.

I didn’t have to change my schedule to follow Cara. Besides occasionally seeing Tori during the day, Cara is the only team member I see all day, every day. But the familiarity doesn’t dull the amazement I feel watching her in action.

Cara is our house mommy. She keeps our house neat and orderly, with fresh flowers on the table and makes us meals that would be enjoyable even out of the bush. She works each day, all day, with a cheerful, but brisk demeanor. Her ministry is like mine: those who come to the house sick, the children and of course, Ana. Ana is a young mother in our church who works with Cara each day. Beyond giving her a job, Cara has poured her life into Ana, taking care of her wounds and illnesses, praying constantly for her and is even teaching her to read. Cara prays over every person we give our amateur medical treatment too, not as a showy habit; she’s always praying, so it’s just a stop along the way.

The best thing about Cara is her dedication to relying on Christ. I’ve never seen someone so determinedly put aside distraction to ask God to be her everything and live like her life depends on it. She has the spirit of gentle, but firm, orderly but free, direct, but gracious that most good mothers have, and she uses to it to keep us sane. She understands when to give and when to refrain. She offers everything she does as a sacrifice to God, whether it seems grand or small. She is more than a homemaker, she is our home.

Finally, the man we all refer to as ‘Chief’ or ‘Big Boss’. Tori is a jack of all trades, with an unending supply of bad puns (that we’ve learned to live with) and passion for the people of Tanzania. Beyond being a leader for our team, he is also working on a Road Project for the Tongwe and organizing several short-term trips simultaneously. Tori never stops and never gives up, no matter how tired he is. He’s so young, yet because of his integrity and his hard work, men twice his age respect him and follow his lead. He preaches, teaches and leads us all, while corresponding with everyone back in Singapore. He’s the go-to man for problem solving… spends more time working out details that anything else. He gives and gives without a thought for himself, and he does it because he really believes the value of a life is one spent on the dreams of others. 

The best thing about Tori is his passion for seeing God’s name made great in all the earth, like his favorite verse in Malachi says. He is wiling to go the distance, make the sacrifices, to do, to be, to suffer all things in order to see it happen. He is the real deal, made of the same stuff that William Carey and David Livingstone were. I can’t wait to see where he is a few years and I’m so glad I know him now.

There’s an old saying that says you’re only as good as the company you keep, and if that’s the case then I’d say I’m set up to be as full of love, passion and determination as my little family here. They’re the heros, the real deals and I’m honored to be here with them. I’m blessed and blown away by each of them every day, and so thankful that I could be a part of their company, and the work God is doing here.

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2 thoughts on “The Company You Keep

  1. This is inspiring. As I am preparing for missions myself, it is awesome to see how God is working in and through each of you. At the moment, I can’t see myself yet, tackling each village / town by myself, and doing all that stuff with such boldness, ability, and confidence. Not to mention effectiveness. I wonder if GTP 2 indeed transforms ordinary people to be suitable vessels. If so, come this September, I’ll know! ;-p

    Thanks for writing and sharing your experiences and journey in Tanzania, doing the Lord’s work.

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