the best of both worlds

It’s been a long while since I’ve been able to post something here.

Not because I haven’t written any updates, because WordPress has proved to be the most difficult page to open since I’ve been overseas and especially this last month. Sometimes it just won’t open, even if all my other normal sites will (Facebook, Gmail, Twitter) which is frustrating, but still only at First World Problem level so I digress.

This past month has been exciting for mainly three reasons, the most wonderful of which has been having Michelle here. She’s currently working at a nurse tech at a hospital back in Naples where all our memories and families live and she is unbelievably dedicated to helping people in need. We’ve been friends since we were thirteen and incredibly glamorous in our homeschool speech and debate club, eventually working at the same retirement community all through high school, starting community college classes two years early and spending all our time with our eclectic group of friends we still refer to as “The Fam”.

One of the saddest parts about leaving home last year was leaving her there ‘alone’. We’d spent so much time together that summer, working out, watching documentaries together, and just chilling. The summer felt very in-between and weird for us both moving back to the town we spent all of high school together in (and on my end, my entire life) and feeling like we wanted to be further ahead than we were. We got through it together and the idea of not being together for this next adventure was terribly scary and sad to me. I never imagined that nearly a year later, she’d be joining me for the adventure for a whole month.

I’ve been squealing with excitement for months leading up to her arrival, as my teammates can attest to, and to finally have her here has been so surreal—two very different world colliding and meshing more perfectly than I could have imagined. One of the greatest things about Michelle is her ability to adapt to absolutely anything. She’s always striking up conversations with ease with anyone and willing to try anything and does it with a grace that makes you think she’s been doing it for years. Not to mention she and I are honestly hilarious, even though over the past eight or so years of our friendship, no one else has ever been able to appreciate it fully. After the struggle the was our summer last year, it’s so amazing to see how happy and lighthearted we are out here, and I think that’s part of the reason we can’t stop laughing at everything; we’re just happy.

I haven’t laughed this much in months.

We’ve been thrown into all kinds of things this month: warding off thousands of ants in our home, figuring out roasting peanuts over a charcoal fire, a church plant in Kilida, half-climbing our mountain, teaching English at the Primary school, almost delivering a baby, almost going to a funeral, going to a public beating as guests of honor and then bandaging the victims wounds together afterwards.

She flew out of Sumbawanga yesterday back to Dar and flies from Dar to the US on Sunday.

I’m in total denial. I don’t want her to go. At all. Having someone who knows you, knew you before, your best and your worst all the way here in Africa and being able to talk with them and know they understand you… after this year, it feels like a luxury that I never want to go without again. The happy ending to our tale is that I will get to see her soon, in just over three months when I’m back in the States again.

Meanwhile, this has been the most wonderful month I’ve had in a while: getting the best of both worlds.


Secondly, which only those of you who know me personally will fully appreciate, I finished editing the mini documentary for the ORU team. It took me about forever longer than I meant for it to, but considering the crippling insecurity and anxiety that overwhelmed me for the first half of it, I’m just happy to have finished it. I haven’t had much editing experience (mostly because in our little production group with Cameron and Johnny, I filmed and then Johnny edited) and so tackling all the footage and finally ending up with a 30-minute film, was more than a little bit intimidating.

It’s also a pride thing: I don’t want to do something and have people see it unless it’s perfect. Not exactly a unique or unusual complex—I’ve just inappropriately responded to it for years by not trying new things so I can’t be embarrassed when (it was never a question of “if” for me) I “failed.” I’ve become the master of weaseling my way out of opportunities that make me feel vulnerable: having Johnny edit, giving up on nearly every single class I took growing up (ballet, gymnastics, horse back riding, art classes, etc.), remaining single so I don’t have to work through anything, and refusing to step up to any leadership roles at really any point in my life.

I was finally faced with a situation I couldn’t talk my way out of. I had to finish it, alone, and that was that. When I started all my previous failure-to-completes hung over my head and nearly convinced me that I could not finish—I could not do something this nerve wracking and actually finish strong. My general attitude on life (thus far, without my intentional efforts to act otherwise) can be summed up by how I behaved at the beginning of each semester of college. I always, always buy a day planner and organize it with different colored highlighters. The start of classes I always kept it with me, constantly referring to it and generally feeling very in control and proud of how “on top” of things I was. Life would happen (as it tends to) and next thing I know it’s October and I wouldn’t even remember I had a day planner.

I’ve been a starter and not a finisher.

As silly as it may seem, this whole project showed me that even if I don’t start strong, I can finish strong. I beat my “past”, just by persevering through something I didn’t want to finish (due to my insecurity) and doing it anyway.

I beat “Stephanie, who never follows through”, and am on my way to “Stephanie, who is capable of completing things and forgiving herself for not being perfect”. And of course, when I watch it I see all the flaws and think of how if I knew more it would be better, but over all… I’m pretty proud of it. But mostly because it’s God’s reminder, a gift to me, telling me: I am capable of commitment, despite my fickle emotions.

Can I get an amen?


Thirdly, my new schedule each week is so packed, but I’m absolutely in love with it. Tuesdays and Thursday, I walk to Igalukilo (the far end of the village) to teach English for Standard 7, 6 and 2 at the primary school. I then have lunch at Jaki’s and then do story time in Igalukilo. Between forty and seventy kids come out and they’re rowdier than my bunch in Intebiri, but I’m growing to love them lots, especially little Doto.

Doto is seven and was born with some sort of disability where he can’t control his muscles well. He cannot walk and it’s all he can to do “niepe tano” (give me five), but he’s an absolute charmer. He calls me Nee-ya, the longest form of Stefania he can manage, the little champ. Pastor Albert (my translator) has been helping him with stretches to strengthen his muscles every time we visit for story time and sings a song about walking with Jesus as he guides little spastic Doto along. I just want to weep when I see it; hearing Doto slur along as best he can “I love to walk with Jesus” is just too much for this heart to handle. I pray it will be so. His twin brother, Kurwa, also helps him out, but is usually out herding the cows. They live with their grandma, whom Pam is teaching the bible to, since their father has died and their mother refuses to take care of them (though she is living in Mfinga, a mere 20 minutes by bike away). There’s so much to be prayed for with this family, and I hope that you all will join with us in believing that God has much to do in their hearts and lives.

Wednesday mornings, I teach Ana the bible. We’re going very slow, but she’s eating up all the stories that I’m giving her. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, we have short little reading lessons, as well. Her dream is to read the bible someday for herself and I can tell she is sad on Wednesdays when we read it for her, but she’s practicing her sounds and her flash cards with me so she knows the alphabet backwards and forwards. Thankfully, since Africans don’t use Q or X, there’s only 24 letters. Prayers appreciated there as well because I have no idea what I’m doing, other than trying very basic things that seem like they’d work. I love Ana, and I really want to invest in her in every way I can. She’s a gem. She wanted to know what her name Anastazia meant and I looked it up and it’s Greek, so I showed her Greece on my world map and she was adorable—so excited and proud to know where her name comes from and that it means “one with a resurrected nature”.

Wednesdays and Fridays, I do story time in Intebiri with all my kids at Mama Wini’s house. We get about thirty to forty kids there and I know them all, so it’s really wonderful and fun for me to spend time with them, teaching the bible stories and playing games. Certain ones are very bright and can answer the question I ask at the end of every single story time: “What do we learn about God with this story? What is He like?”

Also exciting, now I have a disciple! Missionary Yokton’s younger brother Tumaini (or Tuma as we call him) who seems to be in his early to mid twenties, has started coming with us for story times to learn and shadow a bit and I’m excited to have him totally take over by maybe mid September. He’s devoted to Jesus, enthusiastic, gentle, kind and truly wants to minister to the littles, so pray with me that I’m able to help equip him in any way I can. I’m so thankful for him.

Finally, Saturday is game day. I spend the afternoon doing games like duck, duck goose, hot potato, rely races, Simon says, blindfold tag, etc. with all the kids. It is one of my favorite days of the week and I’m completely coated with dirt by the end of it. All the mamas ‘tsk’ at me while I walk home and laugh at me for playing “like a child”. I really am just a big kid here sometimes.

I’ve return to the water tank again, starting each day at 6 am and watching the sun rise during my devotion times and let me tell you: I look forward to waking up to pray and spend time with Jesus in a new way that I haven’t in a while. I even get up on my off day at 6 to be alone in the quiet of the morning with Jesus—it’s the only time where I can reasonably step back from the community culture and just gather myself. With the help of Pastor Albert, I’ve been learning Swahili worship choruses and I like them so much. They’re simple, humble and never about us.

Unastahili kuabudiwa
Unastahili Yesu
Unastahili kuabudiwa
Unastahili Yesu

You deserve the worship
You deserve it, Jesus
You deserve the worship
You deserve it, Jesus

And he truly does.


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