I need to set a few things straight.
I am not a superhero or a martyr. Nor is it likely that I will ever be a superhero or a martyr while here in Tanzania.
In my recent surfing of ministry blogs, I found there are some missionaries who would lead people to believe they are serving while every day in the midst of great peril. Now, let me be clear: there do exist some missionaries who are serving while every day in the midst of great peril.* But the majority of us are not (nor will we ever be) in that category. It wasn’t so very long ago, during a three-year stint in China, that I would read all kinds of scare stories from other servants about the dangers involved in being “undercover” missionaries in a communist country. It is true that Chinese believers attempting to share the gospel with others can be in serious danger of relocation or even prison. But the missionaries themselves are in little danger beyond the possibility of being sent back to the United States. [On my first night in China, I cried myself to sleep while praying that I myself would be "found out" and sent home. However, God did not grant my wish, and I'm so very glad.]
One thing Christie and I strive toward is transparency in our work. While it makes a good story that missionaries in Tanzania are suffering greatly for the cause of Christ, it is generally not true. I’m no Stanley, and Christie’s no Livingstone, I presume. Sure, there are things we give up and difficulties we face — but these are often and largely overstated. I want to be honest about our situation here, and so, I’d like to clear up some exaggerations concerning the lives of missionaries in Africa. I hope those of you who financially contribute to us will not pull your monetary support after reading the following list. Even more so, I hope those of you who regularly pray for our family and ministry will not pull your intercessory support upon discovering just how easy we have it. All the same, I feel it is my duty to straighten out these common missionary misconceptions:**
- The government is not angry with us, or even distrusting of us. In fact, I’m friends with a policeman, and have had several pleasant conversations with government officials.
- There are no cannibals near where we live.
- There are no lions near where we live.
- There are no government dissidents with guns near where we live.
- There ARE monkeys near where we live… but they don’t seem to be dangerous (though I am still VERY afraid of them).***
- We do not live in a grass hut. We live in a nice, concrete home with a tin roof, wooden doors and working windows (with mosquito screens).
- We have electricity at least 5 days a week — and even more during the World Cup.
- We have indoor plumbing and water available to us at least 6 days a week.
- Malaria is like a really bad flu. It is generally, for healthy people, not life-threatening. And none of the Harrison clan has had it yet.
- I don’t wear a loin cloth, and Christie doesn’t go topless. Neither do the Tanzanians with whom we work.
- No one in our family is in any danger of being sacrificed to pagan gods.
- While I often do use my bike as a means of transportation (diesel is $5/gallon), we have a 4WD truck.
- We don’t eat rats and generally don’t eat bugs. [Right now I'm enjoying coffee and cinnamon toast.]
- We have medical facilities, trained doctors, and a pharmacy in Geita.
- Very rarely does the local Tyrannosaurus Rex attack our village and eat our young. For the record, his name is Ted, and he’s largely misunderstood.
What else have you heard about missionaries in Africa? Do you have any questions about our lives here?
* There certainly are missionaries who serve in dangerous places. And there are also missionaries who have been forced to give up much more than Christie and I, in order to serve in their locations. This post is characteristic of my thoughts and opinions, based on my own experiences in China and Tanzania, and is not meant to be representative of the lives of all missionaries in all places.
** Perhaps at another time I will share with you a list of those things we indeed have given up in order to be in Tanzania. Bacon is not on that list, or I would not have come to this place.
*** Monkeys and baby dolls… monkeys and baby dolls.