Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Africa Journal: 2/8/2010

February 8, 2010

What a big day. A LONG day.

We left Dar Es Salaam on the very back of a bus around 10:15 am, and drove all the way to the middle of Tanzania - 7 hours. I had so many thoughts going through my head. I hoped to write them down, but I know that probably wouldn't happen. I had the feeling I used to have all the time when I was younger - so hopeful, so sure of the bigness of life.. and just in love with it.

I loved riding on that bus.

Tanzania is the greenest (most green?) place I've ever seen. Everywhere you look, something is growing. Towards Dar it's very tropical. I saw monkeys on the side of the road! There are huge mountains that rise up from nowhere, then land that stretches for as far as you can see. In the cities and towns, everyone has something they're trying to sell. This is called "piece work:" work that you can do to try to earn enough to get through the day. Buses are swarmed with people waving ears of corn, tomatoes, bananas, cashews, peanuts, sodas, mangoes, bread, carrots.. this is their livelihood. An American would call it pushy, obtrusive, but this is the way they must be. And it doesn't look easy, by any means.

In rural areas and villages, there are huge plots of land, and there might be one woman - she looks so tiny in the vastness of the field - swinging a hoe with a baby on her back.
An old woman or man will set a few bags of charcoal at the edge of the road and wait to see if someone will stop to buy them.
You see huge herds of animals - goats and cows - being herded, but by who...? Then you see a tiny child walking behind them with a stick.

Everything is picturesque - Groups of uniformed schoolchildren walking together or sitting under a tree being taught by a lone adult; villages with women carrying buckets on their heads and babies on their backs. I though so many things.. that I now don't remember.

Now I'm in Dodoma!
Mama Askofu picked us up. She is a remarkable woman, I could tell from the moment I met her. Welcoming and laughing. We came to their house - the Muhagachi house - in what is a kind of middle/upper class "neighborhood."  It consists of two larger rooms, with a few smaller rooms on the side. The only thing that I am even the slightest bit apprehensive of are bathrooms.. but it's not unfamiliar. I've done it before. :)
The rest of the family living in the Muhagachi household are Baba Askofu's mother, "Bibi," Mama and Baba's two daughters, Grace and Peace, and three other relatives, who I assume are nieces and nephews: Shangwe and Kibero who are around my age, and Justin, who is about 10.
I played cards with Peace, Grace, and Justin tonight, and they are really fun. The whole family speaks English, so it has been easy to get to know them. Plus, having kids in the house definitely makes me feel at home ;).

Tomorrow I go to the office/church and start seeing how things work! I'm excited that they have internet there, so I can let my family know that I am alive. I can't believe I've only been in Tanzania for 4 days.

-Kait (My new name, as of lately..)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Africa Journal: 2/7/2010

February 7, 2010

Good Morning!
I came up with a strategy for going to sleep. I played Mahjong on my laptop until I couldn't keep my eyes open.

You know, yesterday I accomplished something. I made is all the way to Africa. All by myself.

I was waiting for something to go wrong, but it all went so well! It was a fantastic trip.

My room is infested with ants.

This morning we are going to a church here in Dar. It will be my first time attending an African church. It is SO humid here in Dar Es Salaam. It was raining earlier even though it was still sunny... and there was a rainbow :)

Five days until I turn 20. I'm still a teenager!

They say I'm getting a bad first impression of Tanzania, because so far everything we have done has been very nice. This is like a mini-vacation for them, so we have eaten at restaurants, visited a very wealthy friend in his nice house, and rode in his NICE car. Nicer than anything I'll drive in my whole life.  I've been getting to know them though, so that's good.

This morning, we went to the church of Baba Askofu's best friend. First, we went into a small room and met all the church leaders, then sat as they spoke to one another in Swahili for a while. Leisha and Leah says that this happens a lot: sitting in on conversations where you have no idea what is being discussed.
The service was in an outside pavilion-like structure. There was probably more music than there was preaching, and there were probably more people at first in the "choir" than in the congregation.
They danced as they sang. Like that is how God moves in their spirit. And it made me so excited to be here.

(There's distant singing outside right now as the sun is setting. Like there was in Addis.)

During the sermon, their friend Kongoye translated for me. I like him a lot. He spent the rest of the day with us. The sermon was about God's "special grace" being for all people, and being a gift that cannot be earned. Babies walked around in frilly little dresses, their mothers dressed in bright colors.
After church, we were greeted by so many people. Every person here greets so graciously. I need to learn more Swahili.

I already feel like I've been here a long time. It's also only 7:00, and I really want to go to sleep, but I know that would prevent me from sleeping through the night.

After church, we rode in the fancy car to a friend's very nice house. He is a pastor, very wealthy, and will not financially support the ministries in Dodoma, yet he shows great hospitality. We watched American E! tv on his large plasma satellite tv. How crazy.. We were served some very good African food, then after this, we drove for a while to a plush outdoor restaurant, where we were expected to eat again. I played games with Leisha and Leah, and had fun laughing with them.

So far in my journaling, I think I've been very matter-of-fact. Just writing down what has happened, without having much time to reflect on it. Usually I'm a lot more insightful..

I guess, a lot of Americans who come to places like this experience culture shock, and to them the way of life here exists outside of reality. A lot of things stand out to them because it's just not something they've witnessed before. I guess maybe I'm more culturally aware.. Perhaps. Not to sound big headed, I just don't think like the average American. At least I try not to. I love the way life is done here. It should be more like this for me.

For some reason, I am still in this mode where I am anticipating  getting on an airplane very soon. My mind keeps behaving like I'm on the very end of my time here, which is very opposite of reality. But I just rode 8 planes in 5 days, so I'm still a little brain-washed.
I keep wondering how I will be feeling in a week or two. Will I want time to pass faster or slower? What about my birthday.. should I just pretend to skip it?
Time for sleep.

Africa Journal: 2/6/10

February 6, 2010

I'm on my plane to Dar Es Salaam now. I feel intimidated.
It has a lot to do with the fact that I speak no Amharic or Swahili.
I also know that if I got lost and never had a way to contact home, I would be lost forever.
This world is so big. And I'm many thousands and thousands of miles away from anybody I know.
I'm a little worried about getting through the airport here in a few hours. I hope I do everything right..

These next couple of days might be very hard.
We're taking off now.

I don't know what my days in Dodoma will be filled with, but I hope to learn things there that I won't find anywhere else. I hope to learn what life is like there by experiencing it and become close to the people that I come to be around.
I want to be cautious but not fearful.

I'm coming to Africa with a completely different mindset than I had 2 years ago. THEN, I had romanticized Africa. Even obsessed over it. It was strong in my heart and I felt so empowered. I was coming to a world that had yet to exist to me outside of books.
NOW, I'm coming carrying a bit of apathy. Life has worn on me and chased away some of my passion and wonder. I've become distant to the suffering and the spirit of this land. And a bit helpless to it.
I want this trip to transform me, for I know the purpose that is in my life, and renew my spirit. I hope to have my heart broken, for often I find that is where it needs to be.

Right now I'm dirty. I haven't showered in 2 days, and I'm sweaty.
Jesus fill my heart with Your heart.
I'm closer to heaven than normal right now.


I'm now in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, sitting on a balcony in the sun! It's so HOT! (In February! That's a good thing!) That plane ride seemed like the highest flight I've ever been on. Too high. I didn't like it.

We landed by a jungle of palm trees. I could see the Indian Ocean through the window. So blue.

The airport wasn't too bad. I was met there by Leisha, Leah, and Pastor Amos, who is also called Bishop Askofu. I like them. I feel a bit better. We came straight to this hotel, and I got to shower! Now they're visiting someone and I'm here by myself. Interesting.

This seems to be a pretty nice city, as far as African cities go. VERY busy. The country is just very GREEN! Addis (Ethiopia) is brown. Here, LOTS of trees, especially palm trees. It's very noisy.
I can't decide whether I'm tired or now. I have no idea how long they will be gone.
We aren't going to Dodoma until Monday. Tomorrow we are staying here and going to Church. I am assuming that they can't travel on the Sabbath -- ?
Then on Monday, we'll leave on a bus around 10 AM and get there around 6 PM. So my first normal day won't be until Tuesday. I'm really excited for the bus ride. I'll get to see half of the country.

They said this will be a really busy week there in Dodoma, but normally there is a lot of down time. I'm glad I brought a lot of books.


Time for the first night.

Instead of windows they just have screens, so city life, cars, and pop music are in full swing while I try to sleep. I like Leisha, Leah, and Baba Askofu. At least now I'm not alone.

I ended last year, and began this one on a bus.

I ended last year, and began this one on a bus.

I had the beautiful opportunity to go to Passion in Atlanta, GA with my very good friend, Sierra:

I've always had my thoughts and doubts about the authenticity of pop Christianity's big productions. I wonder if the lights and stadiums really mean that much to God, if at all. After all, He speaks through the prophet Amos in one of my favorite verses, saying:  

I hate all your show and pretense—
      the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies.
 22 I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings.
      I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings.
 23 Away with your noisy hymns of praise!
      I will not listen to the music of your harps.
 24 Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice,
      an endless river of righteous living. (Amos 5:21-24)

Needless to say, I was simply curious as I rode on that bus through the new year.
Here I am now, on the other side of things, recollecting the impact that Passion 2011 had on me.

Simply stated, I think it was beautiful to see 22,000 people my age come together from all over the world, hoping to experience God in a new way, and then to try to express the surrender of their lives to Him. People my age need to be empowered. To be implored to use what we have been given for the Kingdom of God. This Kingdom isn't distant; it's here. And this conference, minus the big production, may have been a small glimpse of that.

In his article "Re-imagining Heaven" in Relevant Magazine, Jeff Cook says:
"When we choose mercy over indifference, when we choose action over apathy, when we choose self-restraint and chastity over a life given over to our many reckless desires, we choose to live now in the kingdom of heaven. When we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, house the homeless, and die to ourselves for the sake of another, we enjoy the life of the age to come. When we hear the voice of God telling us we are lived, that our many sins are forgiven, we experience now what we will experience forever. When we eat together, laugh together, sing together, serve together, take communion, love our enemies and cancel debts, we choose to live the best kind of life - the life of God's future connected to Hom and to one another."

One of the most incredible things I observed at Passion, was the way in which they married worship and justice. As demonstrated in the verse from Amos, this is the heart of God, and it's something that I've been looking for in the heart of those who follow Him for a long time.
They had set up a village, of sorts, in which people could come and learn about things that the majority of our world are up against; things that break the heart of God. Things like lack of clean water, hunger, human trafficking, HIV... It was amazingly informative and artistic, and provided people with a way to respond to what God was doing in their lives by investing money in organizations that are on the ground, working against these things. As I entered, my heart was in my throat. I'd been waiting to see something like this for a long time.

(Sorry some images are sideways - - ??)
Within 4 days, a stadium of broke college kids was able double the goal they were given, and raise over 1.1 MILLION dollars. 

The conflict within me lies here: I was talking to a girl from another group, and she said that they had encountered a homeless man on their way back to their hotel. He said that for 4 days, he had watched thousands upon thousands of college students pass him by, not even stopping to talk with him.
I thought.. Oh no. We have missed the point.
For God never told us to give our money to World Vision and let them care for the oppressed, sick, and poor. He told us to do that. And if donating money is an easy way out of our responsibilities that God has given us in His kingdom, an easy way to feel good about ourselves, and to justify going out and buying that $100 pair of jeans, then God forbid..
Still, I have to quiet the cynic in me, and believe the slogan that they displayed: That together we are a force for good. That when people are informed of the things that exist in this world, and given a tangible opportunity to be a force for good in that, in God's name, they will. And they will do twice as much as was expected of them.

I have a lot of thoughts for the year that has just arrived, and a lot of them have to do with this blog that I suspect nobody reads. I hope to get those up in the next day or so... if for nothing but my own personal satisfaction. 

More Africa journals are on the way too.