Has it already really been a month?!
I cannot believe that I have been in country for over a month already! The time has flown. I am going to be honest the first couple of weeks were hard with the jet lag, the exhaustion from traveling, adjusting to living in a new place, trying to learn a new language, and teaching new pupils. I know there will more adjusting in the coming months as I still navigate living here and learn Swahili.
There has been so much that has happened, and I feel like I am constantly processing. I wish I could sit here and give you a moment to moment account of my experience because there have been so many wonderful moments and I don’t want to leave any of them out. I will do my best to stick to the highlights.
Checking my bags with United to fly from Denver to Dar es Salaam. God sent an angel; her name is Sylvia Daniel. I was running on little sleep because of nerves, late-night packing, and early morning to arrive at the airport. She was helping passengers check bags. I was with my parents trying to get my bags checked. She came over to help. She asked where I was going, and I told that I was moving to Tanzania to do God’s work. She knew the significance of this year and the leap of faith that my parents and I were taking. She told us that it was against company policy, she asked if she could pray for me and my parents. While I now don’t remember the exact words of her prayer, I remember the peace that it brought me. It was like God was telling me that He was with me and my parents. This is what I was called to do, and I was following the path that He has for me. Sometimes God calls us to be ordinary angels for someone who is in need. God is good all the time, all the time God is good.
Teaching at St. John’s has been wonderful! I am still learning more about the kids and their individual personalities and learning styles. This should come as no surprise to any teacher, the hardest part is keeping them on task and not talking to their friends. Their favorite subjects are math and sport (gym). The kids love to take my phone from me and take pictures of me and themselves. Their laughs and giggles are infectious. One of my favorite moments of the day is when I walk onto the school yard in the morning and hear a chorus of Good Morning Madame. To which I answer Good Morning, how are you. I hear a chorus response of we are fine. It warms me from the inside out just thinking about it. The only other moment that could possibly top it, is when I am finishing my prayers for the day praying for my pupils, the learning and my teaching when I hear their footsteps roaring down the concrete ready to start the day. I love their excitement in the morning!
A couple of Fridays ago the primary school has 2 sets of swings delivered! Each set has 2 swings on them. It was so exciting! Every pupil stood in the school yard watching as the truck pulled up and unloaded them. To be honest though I am not sure who was more excited the kids or me. It was one of my favorite playground activities and to be able to share that with the pupils of St. John's is amazing. This past Friday was extra special because the students had extra playtime to run out their energy and just be kids. They were able to play with some of the toys that are reserved for extended outdoor play. There was a jump rope, a multicolored parachute that we got to wave up and down and run under. It was the break that the kids needed plus the teachers got a break too. I loved being able to watch the kids play and be silly.
I was able to talk to my mom and dad on the phone on President's Day and it was amazing! It was so good to hear their voices and connect with them. I hadn’t been able to talk to them since I had arrived, so after 3 weeks it was wonderful to be able to talk to them. It was especially nice because I didn’t think that I was going to get to talk to them since it was a Monday. I had forgotten that it was President’s Day, so they didn’t have to work. It filled my cup, as they say, to be able to hear their voices and connect and short of fill them in one what was happening here. It was also wonderful to get to hear what is going on in Colorado. While the temperature and the humidity can make me sweat a lot, I have to say I am grateful to not have to put up with the cold and snow. I also got to talk to the beautiful Hall girls . I want them to know that I love them very much. I think of them often and look forward to seeing them when I return.
I have to say that the spiritual highlight of the month so far was being able to attend church at St. John’s Place. They hold Family Sunday service twice a month. The first Sunday is in Swahili and the last Sunday is in English. This was the first Sunday that I spent worshiping with them. It brought me to tears. Tears of joy, I promise. The Holy Spirit was in the chapel for sure. It was so wonderful to be able to worship with the St. John’s community. The music was inspiring. There is no organ here, so it is considered low church with praise music. There were so many offerings of praise and worship done with so much joy! There was so much dancing too! I felt the Holy Spirit move in and through the singers and into the congregation. It is an experience I cannot quite put into words, but it was so moving and filling. Some of the music that was sung is music that I listen to and sing on my own and some was from the Celebration Songbook that my church uses at home. The service of Holy Communion was almost the exact same as my church in the US, there were some different wordings in prayers and responses, but it felt like home too. That is one of the reasons I love the Anglican Communion. We can be different, but we are still bound together in faith. I was asked to give the sermon this morning. It was my first forego at preaching extemporaneously but I made it through. I preached on the readings this morning which I thought were so fitting, that we are called to love because God loved us first. We are to love our neighbors because God loved us. I spoke about how I have felt so much love since arriving here and joining their community. I spoke about how I know that this experience will empower me to come back to the US to continue to share God’s love because of the love I have received here. I spoke about because of God’s love I am meant to be here and that He is with me and everyone in the congregation. I ended the sermon with words from the Mandissa song “We All Bleed the Same.” Despite our differences we all bleed the same blood. That our blood is the same color of Jesus’s blood that he shed but it is only His blood that can save us. “For God so loved the world He gave his only begotten son so that we may have Eternal Life.” John 3:16
I truly believe that God sent me to Tanzania because He loves me. It truly is a calling by God. To be honest if you told me 5 to 10 years ago that I would be doing this work and ministry I would have laughed at you. I did not see myself doing anything like this, this was for other people that wanted to do this work. He has prepared and equipped me to do the work He has given me to do because He loves me. It doesn’t mean that my life is without pain or struggle. It means that He is with me always even when I can’t or don’t feel Him.
I pray that Lent is a blessed season for you. I know that Lent is a season for penitence and resisting temptation. It can also be a season of transformation. It is a season meant to draw closer to God. I pray that this season of Lent brings blessings. I believe that Lent, even with penitence and solemnity, is not void of blessings. Sometimes because of darkness we are blessed.
In Peace from Tanzania,