Tanzania – Where My Heart Thrived

I can’t help but ask myself, how do I describe nearly three weeks of living in another world, amid another people, with another language, and another way of life? How do I introduce you all, dear readers, to the people I met? How can I even give you a glimpse the joy that my heart felt at it all? How do I put into words the great and mighty works that God accomplished in my life while I was there? This is just one blog post… But still, if I may, I am going to try to take you all there with me for at least a moment. Let me tell you about the things that I saw, felt, smelled, heard, learned, and experienced.

IMG_2570First, the country. Dar es Salaam. A city bustling with millions of people. The roads are packed with dala dalas (public buses), cars, bajajes, motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians. Lining the highways and roadways are hundreds of small private shops, stands, and restaurants, most of them constructed by their owners, marketing every product that you could imagine – fruits and vegetables, tools, lumber, car parts, shoes, clothes, baskets, etc, etc. Every so often a Lutheran church or Islamic mosque might loom on a corner. The air is often thick with dust and a haze hangs over the city, until cleansed by a swift downpour. People shouting and laughing, vehicles constantly beeping and honking, music playing, and the Islamic call to prayer are a few of the noises that greet your ears. Such is the place where we stayed for the first part of our trip… Mikumi. A national park characterized by intense beauty. Bright yellow, orange, green, and blue colors from where you stand (or sit, if you’re in the back of a safari truck as we were) to the ends of the horizon. Animals that I’ve only dreamed of seeing lay around every bend  – elephants, giraffes, water buffaloes, impala, hippopotami, crocodiles, etc. – and I marveled at their majesty. This gorgeous African landscape spread before my eyes a feast in honor of the One who created it all. The Highlands Camp in Morogoro. A center where the missionaries held their language convention and we our VBS. A place that would eventually come to represent and be the location for many memories of fellowship, fun, friendships, and worship in my mind. It lay at the foot of a mountain that I would greet every morning and be reminded of the goodness of our God.

IMG_2320The people. Such beautiful people. Although I left America with almost no expectations, I did wonder whether or not I would be shocked at the poverty that the Tanzanian’s were sure to live in, at least compared to America. Truthfully, I saw them living their daily lives, I saw the conditions that they lived in, but I also saw the smiles on their faces (I couldn’t help but notice how bright their teeth seemed to flash in contrast to their dark skin). Yes, it is true that the Tanzanian’s live in less desirable circumstances, especially when compared to Americans, but at the same time they seem to have more joy than most Americans do. Ultimately, I was convinced that what these people need more than all of the charity programs that people have created to “solve world poverty” is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We would ride in the bajajes down the main highways of Dar es Salaam, and I would see so many faces, so many souls that will never die! With every day, this fervent desire to speak Swahili kept growing within me; how I wanted to be able to speak with and engage with these people, learn with them and from them, and share with them the hope that only Jesus Christ can offer.

 IMG_2718The team. I can’t even begin to describe how I was astounded at the Lord’s sovereignty to bring three from Tennessee, five from Idaho, and one from Missouri on a journey across the world to a country where we would ultimately meet friends and fellow believers in Tanzania, Kenya, Mozambique, etc. I have no doubt in my mind that it pleased the Lord that we should all not only meet, but also live, laugh, labor, and learn together over a period of nearly three weeks. I have no comprehension of what His plan was and is in bringing us all together for that time, but I could not be more assured that He has accomplished it for His ultimately glory. I cannot put into words the blessing that it was to fellowship with international believers, missionary families in the midst of language learning and church ministry, and workers like me who were just as eager to serve, encourage, and minister to the people that we would meet. I loved learning about the work that missionaries are accomplishing there and gaining insight into their daily lives as foreigners seeking to bring the Gospel to another people. I loved teaching, serving, laughing, and playing with their kids, learning about each of their personalities, and seeking to plant the truth of God’s Word in their little hearts throughout the VBS week. I especially cherished the hours that I was able to spend talking with the members of the VBS team, gaining insight into their struggles and challenges, but also their personal growth and goals. Being able to listen to them, learn about them and from them, encourage, challenge, and build friendships with them was an immense gift from the Lord. I would do it all over again in a heart beat. Who knows what the Lord has in store…

IMG_3037As for me, the Lord has performed works in my heart that I will have to describe to you in a subsequent blog post. But if I have been able to give you any sort of insight into what this adventure was like, then I suppose I have succeeded for now. Thank you all so much for your prayers, which have been answered over and abundantly by our faithful God and loving Father! I can solemnly testify that He is good, at all times and in all circumstances. Since I’ve been home from Tanzania (I can’t believe it’s been two weeks already!), I have been constantly reminded of the Lord’s grace and gifts to His children. Why He determined that I would be one that He wanted to take to Tanzania, even for so short a time, I have no idea. But I could not be more thankful or joyful at that opportunity! He truly is a gracious, loving, and awesome God, and my soul knows it very well.

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