Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Day in Dodoma

Yesterday we spent the day in Dodoma. Dodoma is a pretty big city about 25 miles from Chamwino. After getting ready for the day and eating some ugi (porridge) for breakfast, we headed out to catch the dala dala to Dodoma. The dala dala is basically an old, crappy van which seats about 10-12 people. The only catch is that they usually shove about 20 people in. Each seat is cramped, in and of itself, but gets way worse once you throw in twice as many people as your should.

Our first stop in Dodoma was an ice cream shop called Alladin's. It was really fun to get an American treat after days of eating rice and beans. We then spent time walking through their open-air markets. After running a few errands that Brian and Nicole had, we went to a restaurant called Wimpies to have lunch. I ordered a "beef burger," but what came was far different than a hamburger. It had a hamburger patty and some of the fixings of an American burger, but was smothered in a strange, bright pink sauce. It wasn't exactly my cup of tea, so I ate about half of it, finished my chipsi, and called it a meal.

When we got back to Chamwino we got to be a part of a cool experience. Nicole's dad is a 4th grade teacher in Colorado, so once a week his class will Skype with a class here in Chamwino, and that happened last night. The kids loved asking each other questions and singing songs for each other. The American kids have been learning a few Swahili words and the Tanzanian kids love getting to practice their English. What a great cross-cultural experience!

Last night's dinner and conversation was interesting because it happened in the dark. We lose power here pretty often, and last night was one of those times. We cooked spaghetti over a propane stove and ate by the dim light of a kerosene lantern. It was actually fun, though,  and reminded me of all the luxuries we have in America that we probably don't really need.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Experiencing the Village Life

The last 2 days were great! Sunday was amazing. We woke up early and went to church where they placed us up front to sit in the seats of honor. I preached my sermon, with Pastor Numbella as my translator, which seemed to be well-received by everyone.

After church we had lunch at Nasson's house. Nasson is one of Brian and Nicole's best friends and biggest helpers here, and is an amazing man. He does incredible things for Chamwino and the church. His wife, Mama Jenny, made some incredible food for us, the best we've had thus far. Mama Jenny's actual name is Julia, but all the woman here are named according to their first born. Julia's firstborn is Jenny, so everyone knows her as Mama Jenny.

That night we came back to the church to have Sunday school with the kids. It was so fun to sing and dance with the kids, the watoto. I would guess that about 30-40 kids came out to Sunday school, and they are all so excited to learn the Bible, learn English, and sing together.

Yesterday we had breakfast with Rahema (Mama Pendo) and her husband. They made us a feast of lots of different breads and tea. They made us chipote, which is a flat pancake that you put sugar on. Their house and yard were awesome. The house was really well built and clean, their yard was taken care of well, and their crops were health, which is pretty rare. They have built irrigation to most of their crops, including their pomegranate tree.

After breakfast we walked around the market to see where Brian and Nicole do their shopping. We bought a bunch of fruits and veggies. Next we went and met with the chairman of the village, Joseph Segange. He functions like a mayor does in America, but is much more connected to his people on a personal level. He speaks no English, so Nasson, Brian, and Nicole had to interpret, but he was very nice. He told us all about the history of Chamwino and showed us the memorial and museum for the first president of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere.

After our time with the chairman it was time for lunch. We went to this place to get chipsi (fries) and meat shish-kabobs. It was such a treat to have that meal. After an afternoon resting at Brian and Nicole's house we ended the night with dinner at Mama Baraka's house. Her house does not have electricity so we basically ate in the dark, with only the light from one, small kerosene lantern. It was a pretty fun experience.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

An Amazing Start to the Trip

I can't believe I'm in Africa. This is crazy. I never though I would be on a trip like this. And yet, here I am, sitting on the porch of our house watching the beautiful, much-needed, life-inducing rain fall on the Tanzanian village of Chamwino.

Yesterday was a long day. I woke up in Dar es Salaam after only 5 hours of sleep. We hung out at a house at the University of Dar es Salaam for a few hours, ate a small breakfast, and then left for the bus station. Talk about a crazy area. There are tons of bus companies and hundreds and hundreds of people. Since we were the only white people, we were the center of attention and everyone was trying to sell us bus seats and other things. We already had our tickets so we made our way to our bus and got our bags loaded. Then the waiting game began. Buses typically don't leave until they are almost full, so we waited an extra hour past the time we were supposed to leave. The worst part about that was that it was ungodly hot yesterday in Dar (like every day) and incredibly humid, so we were pretty uncomfortable, sweating like crazy.

The actual bus ride wasn't too bad though. It lasted 7 hours, which was pretty long after our previous 2 days of flights, but it was really awesome to see the Tanzanian countryside. So beautiful. We stopped for food once during the trip, in Morogoro. Unfortunately, a torrential downpour started about a minute before we got there. So in just running from the bus to the food, we got drenched. About 3 hours later we arrived at the Chamwino Junction and were ushered into the village on the back of motorcycles (piki pikis). That was the best, most fun transportation we had so far. We were greeted by Nasson and Pastor Daniel, hung out with them for about half an hour, ate some food, and hit the sack. What a day.

This morning I was awakened by a series of rooster calls. So fun. One of them has a messed up voice box, so he sort of sounds like he is coughing or choking each time he crows. Funny. We are going to have some breakfast and then head to church. I am preaching this morning, so I'm a little nervous. It will be strange to use a translator. Should be a good experience though. I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Christians & Fanny Packs

These two nouns can best summarize our time in airports over the last few days. I'll say more in a minute. We started out flying from Seattle to Amsterdam on Thursday afternoon Seattle time. The flight was 10 hours long and incredibly tiring. The entertainment technology on planes today has gotten to be pretty awesome, though, as each seat has their own little tv and you have the choice of watching tons of new movies and tv shows as you fly. So I watched a few movies and did a bunch of reading. A few people's first question for me when they found out I was going to Africa was "Have you read The Poisonwood Bible?" I had heard good things about that book, but had never read it. So I used about half of that first plane ride to start making a dent in the 500-page text. It was morning when we arrived in Amsterdam, which was strange because it felt like midnight to us. Let the jet-lag begin.

The title for this blog post became apparent once we arrived in Amsterdam and made our way to the gate for our flight to Nairobi, Kenya. It seemed that nearly every person in line at our gate was either a Christian on a mission trip to Kenya or wearing a fanny pack en route to going on safari or climbing Kilimanjaro. While initially the site of so many Christians was endearing and brought me back to my time in youth ministry leading similar trips, I also felt a bit embarrassed that there were so many teams. I guess I'm just a bit torn.

On the one hand I can see the beauty of Christ followers wanting to go be a blessing to the world. That is a great desire. At the same time, a lot of abuse has been perpetrated on Africa at the hands of Christians with 'good intentions.' While we may not be colonizing African lands any longer, it seems that we can still try to colonize African culture and religious practices. Plenty of American missionaries to Africa are coming in with 'all the answers,' pedaling a health-and-wealth prosperity gospel that ends up hurting Africans more than helping. I simply found myself hoping that the missionaries I was seeing were actually interested in building long-term relationships with the people they would meet, offering them respect and dignity, trying to converse instead of convert.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

My Sermon for Sunday

Mandy & I are heading for the airport in about an hour for our trip to Africa, so I thought I'd blog one more time before I left. We are really excited about the trip and know that it will be an amazing experience that we will never forget. We will have internet access during our first week there, so I will try to blog some while we are in Chamwino.

I am preaching on Sunday in Brian and Nicole's church, so I thought I would share my sermon with you. I was pretty nervous about what to preach, so this was a really tough sermon to write. I wanted to make sure that there were no hints of colonialism in my words. I don't want to seem like the educated superior from the West coming in to share my wealth of knowledge. So I basically spent my words thanking the church for being who they are. I realize that this is like 6 pages of reading, but here is the sermon. Enjoy.

My Sermon

In It Together
Text:  Multiple Texts

Good morning everyone. It is so great to be here with you this morning. My name is Jason and my wife, Mandy, and I will be with you all for the next week here in Chamwino. We are very excited to be able to meet you and experience your life and culture during our time in Africa. I am currently in school preparing to be a pastor, so I greatly appreciate you allowing me to preach here this morning. It really is an honor.
After being asked to preach by Pastor Daniel, I really struggled knowing what to share with you. It is hard to preach to a group that you barely know, especially since I will only be with you for one Sunday. I think the best direction for me to go is to simply thank you. I am sure you hear plenty of great sermons that help you understand the Bible in some new and exciting way, so this morning I simply want to celebrate who you are and thank you for the gifts that you offer the world.

Reasons to be Thankful
Thank you for all you have taught, and are teaching, us in the West about how to live like Jesus. We Americans often think we are the ones who should be teaching everyone else how to do everything, but we have so much to learn from other cultures and people, especially all of you. As I began to think about the ways in which you can help us in the West learn to live more like Jesus, a number of things began to surface.
            The first thing that I want to thank you for is the importance you place on community. Living closely with one another in intimate community is at the heart of being Christian, but my culture has begun to lose our sense of community and connection. We have become a culture where everyone takes care of themselves and no one needs any help from other people. This is obviously not a good way to live. Thank you for reminding me of how important it is to be connected to others.
            The Bible is very clear about how important community is. The writer of the book of Hebrews encourages us saying, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day [of the Lord] approaching.” Jesus’ disciples also understood this need to be in community and take care of one another. Acts 2 says, “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.” Americans can easily forget how important it is to be with each other, so I thank you for reminding me of the goodness and blessing of community.
            I also want to thank you for being people of incredible love for others. I have experienced that love through the people from Chamwino who have visited America, like Kedmon, Pendo, Nasson, and Pastor Daniel. I have also seen how you have all loved Brian and Nicole while they have been here with you. You have taken care of them and helped them as they learned about your culture, language, food, and so much more. Thank you for loving my friends while they have been away from us.
            Love is such an important part of being a Christian. Jesus sums up all of the law of God by saying that you should ‘love God with all of your heart, soul, and mind’ and that you should ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ First John 3 says, “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. Thank you for being people who love well.
            While I am speaking on the theme of love, I want to thank you for loving strangers and guests. The Bible is constantly encouraging us to love everyone, including strangers, guests, and our enemies. Deuteronomy 10 says, “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Thank you for caring for everyone who enters into your community. Thank you for welcoming everyone you meet with open arms and open hearts. Thank you for caring for those whom no one else is caring for. We have already felt your incredible love, and we have only been here one day.

Worshiping a Global God
And finally, I want to end our time with the reminder that we all worship the same, huge, amazing God. Mandy and I were having tea with Kedmon and Pendo a few weeks ago and I asked him what I should preach about this morning. He told me I should remind you all that we worship a big God who is in charge of the entire world. In many ways, you and I are very different from one another. We live so far apart and our cultures are very different. It is amazing, however, that we all worship the same God. This morning my brothers and sisters in the United States are meeting together to sing and learn and celebrate just like we are here.  They are reading the Bible and listening to a sermon, just like we are here. And while they may be worshiping in a different language, we are all worshiping the same God.
The way of Jesus has a way of breaking down walls of separation. We are good at creating division and difference, but the way of Jesus is a journey that unifies the world, that builds bridges between those who were once separated. I am reminded of the Apostle Paul’s words in Galatians 3:28 when he says, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” In Christ we are one; we are family. As Christians we must learn to be aware of our differences and celebrate the things that make us unique, but we must not let these differences divide us from one another. May we learn to partner together in bringing the good news of Jesus into the world; a message of hope and love; a message of healing and wholeness; a message of peace and forgiveness.
I will close with a beautiful verse from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Paul says, “Whatever happens, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel.” It has been so encouraging to hear about this church from Brian and Nicole because I know that you are beautiful people who live out your faith in the world. I am so encouraged by worshiping with you this morning, because I have now seen your faith with my own eyes. When I leave Tanzania in a few weeks, I will leave knowing that even though I will not see you all often, you are still ‘standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel.’ You have been a blessing to me already and I thank you for that. May we all continue to be a blessing to the world. God bless you all. Amen.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Our Africa Itinerary

With our trip to Tanzania only a mere 3 days away at this point, I thought I would let you know what our itinerary will be during our time in Africa. We are pretty excited about the experience we are going to get during our time there. We have always wanted to go to Africa, but did not want to simply do the tourist-y things and stay in resorts. We will be going on a safari, but that is about the only tourist-y thing we will be doing during our time abroad.

We will be spending most of our trip in a small, rural village in the center of the country called Chamwino. Despite staying in one of the nicer houses in the village, we will still be living very modest, simple lives. We will wash our clothes by hand, bathe from a bucket, and often use non-Western toilets. Even on the safari we will be sleeping in tents out on the Serengeti, as opposed to staying in nice lodging. That to say, however, I am incredibly excited about the experience we will get.

 Trip Schedule

Thursday, February 10
  • Fly from Seattle to Amsterdam (leave at 12:45pm & arrive at 7:45am on Friday)
Friday, February 11
  • Fly from Amsterdam to Nairobi, Kenya (leave at 10:25am & arrive at 8:30pm)
  • Fly from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (leave at 10pm & arrive at 11:15pm)
  • Stay with some friends of Brian & Nicole that night
Saturday, February 12
  • Catch a 6 hour bus from Dar es Salaam to Dodoma
  • Get shuttled into Chamwino on the back of motorcycles
Sunday, February 13
  • Attend church, where I am preaching (with a translator)
First Week of our Trip
  • Hang out with Brian and Nicole and their friends
  • Get a chance to see how they have been spending their days
  • Experience the Chamwino culture, food, language, music, etc.
  • Various activities will include: helping teach English in the school, visiting a local farm, singing with one of the church choirs
Friday or Saturday, February 18 or 19
  • Leave Chamwino for Arusha and the Serengeti
  • 14 hour bus ride to Arusha
Second Week of our Trip
  • Stay in a hotel in Arusha for the first night of our safari trip
  • Spend three nights in tents camping on the Serengeti
  • Spend another night in a hotel in Arusha at the end of our safari
  • Travel from Arusha to Dar es Salaam
  • Hang out in Dar es Salaam on the beach and in the open-air markets
Saturday, February 26
  • Fly from Dar es Salaam to Nairobi, Kenya (leave at 7:40pm & arrive at 8:55pm)
  • Fly from Nairobi to Amsterdam (leave at 10:55pm & arrive on Sunday at 5:30am)
Sunday, February 27
  • Hang out in Amsterdam for a few hours
  • Fly from Amsterdam to Seattle (leave at 11am & arrive at 12:25pm)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Love Me Some Mat Kearney

For the past 4 or 5 years my favorite musician has undoubtedly been Mat Kearney. He is an amazing singer/songwriter with an incredible voice. With most bands (even ones I really like), I tend to like about half of each album they produce, with the other half just being average. But with Mat, I generally LOVE every song on every album. And now he has a new album coming out this year called 'Young Love.' I can't wait. I stumbled across this video on his website of his work in the studio and it got me really excited for the album to be done. Hope you enjoy.

HT:  Mat Kearney