Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Monday, September 10, 2012
Friday, September 07, 2012
Lake Malawi was perfectly calm this morning. The waves were not even breaking on the shore line. The young Peace Corps volunteers who partied until the wee hours of the night had already, like Elvis, "left the building." It was refreshing and beautiful, but the German speaker and I both agreed, it was a long way to travel for a short bit of refreshment.
We spoke on the cultural differences and practices that may have landed us here. As the cool breeze blew across my very white skin, I remarked how Americans communicate changes in the schedule. When the days of the conference were discussed, Matema was added as a place of spiritual renewal when the teachers conference concluded. The German speaker, Pastor Lumwe and I would travel to the Lutheran Center while Sabina conducted a regional meeting for disability facility leaders. It translated well through email, however, something was definitely "lost in translation."
It was my understanding, this place was "not very far." After the TWO 12 hour days of driving, "not very far," was a hopeful foregone conclusion. Like all good Americans, I wanted, no, I needed, information before I put any suitcases in the car and committed to the "safari." My first clue "not very far," was an inaccurate assessment came on Wednesday afternoon. At tea time (4:00), we (the white ladies) said, "We'll be at the lake by this time tomorrow." Pastor Lumwe hesitated and said, "Well, maybe."
I've never been that great at math, but when you are told a journey will take three hours, and you leave at 8:00 am, I AM "As Smart as a 6th-grader" and know that adds up to 11:00 am. What was this uncertainty about our arrival BY 4:00 in the afternoon?!
Oh, foreigners can be such a problem. What is mission lesson one? BE FLEXIBLE
I thought when the original duration of the second meeting changed, WE (meaning the white ladies) should have been given additional information (like the REAL time it would take to arrive) and WE (white ladies) could discuss perhaps a different option. Enjoying the scenery really only goes so far.
I would have suggested we stay closer, enjoy the refreshment of not traveling, and then, when the second meeting concluded Saturday afternoon (a day early), we would be on our way driving the 24 hours back to Arusha. Instead of adding an additional EIGHT HOURS on some really bad roads!
I'm just saying.
But that would be me (and perhaps the other white lady).
"I don't think the way you think. The way you think isn't the way I work. God's Decree. "For as the sky soars high above the earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think." Isaiah 55:8-11 The Message
Slowly, the villages surrounding the Lutheran Center began to come to life. The children encountered earlier in the morning (chasing a mother hippo) began to approach the ladies under the shade of the thatch hut. The German spoke to them in fluent Kisswahili about the sighting. One asked for a cookie, another for a Bic (ink pen). She politely refused, they shared a laugh and went on their way back to their village.
A few moments later, a solitary boy, looking to be around ten, came near. He engaged us with the familiar "Where are you from?" Most likely assuming he would be answered in English. When my companion offered a Kisswahili answer the conversation took a whole new dimension.
Soon he was kneeling down, drawing maps in the sand. He drew Germany first, and with his fingertip made a deep well for each of the cities he knew and their location. Then he drew the surrounding countries, while spouting off foreign cities that at the time seemed so random. How could this young boy know all this? He looked up at me with questioning eyes and said, "American?" I nodded, and added, "Texas."
Moving over to complete his "world" map, he quickly etched out the United States, and pointed to Texas in the outline. "OO-stone?" "No, Dallas," I replied. Then as he drew, he said, "Dal-las, Oo-stone, Sin-Antoni" while correctly placing them in the state. Wow - that's not your standard classroom education anywhere.
My friend engaged him again while speaking of various places in the world and questioning his knowledge. She asked if he went to Sunday School and he said yes. Then she asked if he had seen the maps of Paul's journeys. He shook his head no, and continued sharing his sandy geography. She asked if he had a Bible, but this time when he said no, she got up and went to her room to retrieve her Kisswahili copy.
When she returned, she opened it up to the maps. She pointed out the northern portion of Africa on the map of Paul's "safari." That word in their conversation, I have come to know and understand in a whole new light.
Without hesitation, I can easily commit to travel to another continent to be about the Father's business, and yet I was agitated by a car ride? In the short time we had been outside discussing the merits (and mistake) of coming all the way to Matema, I felt the sweet subtle whisper of my Savior. "I BROUGHT YOU to Matema, look at this bright young boy who is walking back to his home with his first Bible."
Chance encounter? I think not.
"Let me tell you what God said next. He said, your my daughter, and today is your birthday. What do you want? Name it: Nations as a present? Continents as a prize? You can command them all to dance for you..." Psalm 2:7-9 The Message
And dance they did
And smiling I am
Happy Birthday to me
For the Word of God to be planted firmly in this young boy's heart
For safety on the road for the next THREE days
For the Sunday services across the region where new ideas learned during the seminar will be put into action!
On a personal note: for my daughter Gianna who is struggling with the decision to put her beloved cat of 8 years to sleep
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
Monday, September 03, 2012
By now, you probably realize I am the victim of the Internet crime known as HACKED. I am eight hours ahead of Central Standard time, so when I complete my day's entry I climb under four wool blankets, close my eyes and try to fall asleep faster than I can realize I'm freezing.
This morning when I unplugged my charging Blackberry, I saw I had 128 emails. "Wow, that "Lesson One" really got to people! Look at all these responses."
It was not responses from touched recipients, it was the dreaded MAILER-DAEMON. Demon is more like it. I opened a few thinking a lot of people have changed their email without letting me know. But then I read Netlix, Michael's and Bank of America were thanking me for contacting their customer service department but informing me I should not expect any response as I had contacted the wrong department.
SPAM, how computer malevolent worms have hurt your image! All these ridiculous offers; enticements, traps and tricks to make a person believe their friend wants them to "check this out."
Long before computers and emails entered the landscape of our daily living, I was actually eating Spam and listening to the wisdom of my grandmother who warned "if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is!"
Why do we fall for the "FORWARD this email to prove you're patriotic, or a Christian, or my friend" when we never fell for the old-fashioned "Chain Letter?"
What a way to start the day when "communication" was my topic.
There is Good News out there. It isn't that Microsoft is giving away computers, or a sick man in Nigeria died and needs me to dispense ten million dollars. God, loved me enough to sacrifice His Son so I could have a relationship with Him forever. I want the teachers to leave here with confidence in sharing that life-changing message with children.
I'm honored to be communicating a message that really IS "too good to be true."
"You'll summon nations you've never heard of, and nations who've never heard of you will come running to you because of Me..." Isaiah 55: 5 The Message
Hacked but smiling
In His service
For the "worm" to be stopped in my email account
For the continued translation to be effective
For discernment on confronting misinterpreted Scripture
For patience (YES, it is safe to pray that for me)
For grace and peace!
For the last day of the conference to breakdown strongholds for the future of the nation is at stake!
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
Sunday, September 02, 2012
High on a mountain top in the distant land known as Tanzania, the Sunday School Leadership conference has officially begun, appropriately on Sunday. Two hundred men and women from various districts in the southern region have traveled to spend the next three days, listening, learning and sharing to hone their skills in teaching children.
The Bishop of the diocese thanked us for choosing his region for this year's seminar sponsored in part by Sunshine After Rain Ministries. It is a long way from just about everywhere else in the country, not to mention Texas. Although they are eager to host and to learn, they are aware of the distance and the difficulty it presents.
This is the fifth sponsored seminar for lay leadership and women's training in six years. We have covered a good deal of Tanzanian territory, but with this trip I can resoundly say we have covered a great deal more! In past years, there have been varied numbers traveling and teaching with me. This year, at the Lord's leading, I came alone. I thought it was because the organizer needed to see there are resources with the ELCT (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania) that she could draw upon for teachers and trainers. She really doesn't need our ministry to provide personnel. But today, (Lesson One), I also realized sometimes I need to learn the lessons I am responsible for teaching.
"I am slow of speech, and a slow tongue." Exodus 4:10
I have struggled with the differences I've encountered over the last few days (and that doesn't include the 24 hours of driving). Because I came alone, I stayed at the home of my host. I felt honored to be considered a friend and not just a foreigner; but even staying in another American friend's house has its challenges. We had more time to talk personally in a more intimate and unrestricted environment. Challenging questions and circumstances presented themselves.
A foreigner who lives here, was also asked to be a presenter. When we picked her up on the way the first day, I was intimidated by her Kisswahili language skills (she and her physician husband have been missionaries here off and on for over 20 years). Then, as she shared what she would be teaching on, it seemed almost the same thing I was teaching on. I felt "redundant." AND I would have to be translated, while she could freely and eloquently communicate all her thoughts and ideas.
"I've become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life." 1 Corinthians 9:23 The Message
I kept my cool (until the radiator blew) knowing without a doubt God had me here for His plan and purpose. Redundant or not, foreigner or not, irritated or not, I just needed to put my Big Girl panties on and get over it.
And so I did
And so I began Lesson One:
"The Author and Perfector"
I spoke to the group about knowing who you REALLY are, not who you think you are, or who the world says you are (YOU are probably catching on already). I talk about my name and never liking it when I was a child. Then I put on various name tags with descriptive words they could use to identify me: TALL - WHITE - STRANGE - AMERICAN - MOTHER - DIVORCED.
They laughed in the beginning, but when it came to the last one they were not laughing. This (the issue of divorce) was one of the challenging subjects that came up when I was staying at my host's house. For the first time in the eight years I have known and worked with her I learned this is something really unacceptable in their church culture. Pastors counsel horribly abused women to return to the home of their abuser - OVER being safe and DIVORCED! She said, "When we heard most of you women (teaching the seminars in past years) were divorced, we thought how could you teach us. But we learned differently. You did have something to say for us."
Well, that was news to me.
Today, I intentionally put myself out there for all two hundred potential judges. Then I turned the name tags over and showed the names God calls me: Beloved - treasured - adored - redeemed - and on the name tag that read "divorced" on the opposite side it read forgiven!
After the lesson, as I was walking to tea with my host, she said, "Charlynn, you are much smarter than I am. I would never have thought to use the name tags like this - with one word on the front and the other on the back. I have translated you talking about your name before, but this is new. You are so creative. I am not that clever."
I laughed and turned to her and said, "Sister, you are listening to what the enemy is saying about you. You are reading the name tag "Not that Clever," but on the other side what does it say?" She smiled, "Oh, I see now."
I shared the verse 1 John 4:17 "because as He IS, SO ARE WE." I asked, "is Jesus not that clever?" She laughed with me and said, "No, Jesus is the smart one. I AM the smart one."
And as I reflected this very cold dark African night on just what I wanted to communicate about the day - it was a "lesson one" - sometimes you learn what you teach while you teach!
"I did all this because of the Message. I didn't want to just talk about it, I wanted to be in on it!" 1 Corinthians 9:23
She learned - I AM the smart one
I learned - I AM NOT redundant!
And neither is Jesus!
Yes, I am smiling
Yes, I am in His service
For clarity in communication
For hearts to be changed
For GRACE to flow like a river!
Saturday, September 01, 2012
It's WILD here! What can I say other than praise the Lord and pass the biscuits! I was excited thinking we had a mere two hours left on the long long long road. Did I tell you - it was a long way. I sent off an updated prayer request for the first day of the conference and just as I hit the "send" button on my dying Blackberry, the Reverend pulled the car over at the round-about of a bustling town. What?
"I heard a noise," he informed us and stepped out of the car. After gunning the engine (thinking it was a branch or something) the gasket of the radiator blew off, smoke billowed out and "THAT" as the saying goes, "was that!"
"...our mouths were filled with laughter."
Internally, I said to the enemy that seemed to be hot on our heels, now stuck in the radiator, "IS THAT ALL YOU'VE GOT? REALLY?" And then in the next few minutes, I sent out the URGENT UPDATE and once again the WORLD (or at least my praying portion) responded! I was reading them out to my companions, "China's on it! Russia just checked in. The United States is just waking up but don't worry, we are covered."
And although I know prayer works anywhere - only in Africa would your radiator blow up right next to a repair shop AND the mechanic drop what he was doing and come to assist you!
Within an hour we were on our way, back through the forests, hills, valleys, and finally the mountains that would take us to Njombe. We arrived at the School for the Deaf (our seminars location) just after sunset and were greeted by the Diocese Bishop and the Director. We were late, things were a bit too formal for my patience, given what we had just been through, and this American girl was ready to get the show on the road! After a FIVE day journey I had "ants in my pants" that were now hidden by the skirt I unceremoniously put on in the car.
After twenty minutes of swapped Swahili, everyone finally stood. The Director of Women's ministry for the country said, "Now we are marching." I stepped out into the pitch black African night and tried not to fall. A group of seminar participants were waiting for us, and then they began...
"...our tongues with songs of joy..."
Their hands clapped rhythmically, as their bodies rocked and swayed to the tune they offered for our procession. There was only one word of the song I understood, "Amen."
"...Then it was said among the nations, the Lord has done great things for them..."
I was thankful for the darkness because I was overcome with tears. Amen indeed!
"...The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with joy.*"
I'm sure you don't need a reminder to PRAY! Something big is bound to be in the works, and we know what that means.
Singing myself to sleep
With "a song of the Redeemed
Rising from the African plains"**
And yes, I do have a smile,
*verses from Psalm 126 - a Pilgrim Song of Ascent
**He Reigns by Phillips, Craig and Dean