I’ve got way more links in my morning blend pile than I know what to do with. So here’s a whole slew of ‘em (a good Alabama way to say it…). Continue reading
Tag Archives: missionaries
Many of you probably already read the wildly popular blog, Jamie the Very Worst Missionary. Others of you should surely check it out — but not ALL of you. TVWM‘s popularity is due, in my opinion, to unabashed honesty and in-your-face transparency, which is refreshing to many of us. But candid writing of this sort surely is polarizing. So some of you will not like Jamie’s blog.
All of that said, Jamie, a long-term missionary in Costa Rica, has been writing a fair amount lately about short-term missions (a topic which can also be somewhat polarizing). For a taste, read Hugs for Jesus, which is a snapshot of what I consider to be short-term missions at its worst.
As you might suspect, I often find myself thinking about mission strategies, both long- and short-term. And I sometimes — should you catch me in a mood – complain that I’m in favor of doing away with short-term missions. Continue reading
You guys know that every month or so I write a work report of sorts to those who’ve subscribed to our email list. And I usually post a watered down version here on aliens and strangers. At the end of March, we will have been in Tanzania for two years and — seeing that February and March are going to be extremely busy months for us — I’ve written our “two-year work report” ahead of time. The next several posts here will be concerning where we are in our work up to this point. We’d appreciate it a great deal if you’d pray as you read through these posts.
This post will give a summary of what what we’ve done thus far in our time in country.
March – December 2009
- arrived in Tanzania at the end of March 2009
- spent several weeks with the long-established Mwanza mission team (who also work with the Sukuma people — and whom we love dearly)
- discovered Christie was pregnant in April
- visited a few other mission projects in East Africa to better understand existing works
- bought a used truck to get us by until purchasing a new truck was possible
- began Swahili language school in May
- gained Tanzanian residency in May
- ended Swahili language school in August
- attended a Church Planting Movements seminar in Rwanda in August
- moved to Geita in September
- lived with the McNeals and Groens in a (small) rented house until November
- spent November in Dar es Salaam, (anxiously) anticipating Baylor’s arrival
- Baylor was born on December 4, 2009
- remained in Dar all of December because of
- Christie’s post-birth complications
- and the obtaining of Baylor’s birth certificate and passport
January – March 2010
Family and Life
- We returned to Geita with Baylor in January, and lived in the Kroppach and McNeal houses for 5-6 weeks. We moved into our (unfinished) house on Feb. 14, Valentine’s Day. Brett left for the East Africa Men’s Missionary Retreat in Kenya the very next day (which was also the first day we had running water in our house).
- Christie’s parents, along with her sister, arrived in late February to meet their granddaughter. Brett’s mother and aunt did the same in early March. It was great to have our families here with us, so they could both meet Baylor and see where and how we live in Tanzania (admittedly, though, we were only figuring out how to live in Geita at this point).
- Christie and Baylor went to the East Africa Women’s Missionary Retreat in Kenya and, shortly after, Baylor became a legal resident of Tanzania (after two attempts and a short wait).
Evangelism and Discipleship
- Brett attempted to preach his first Swahili sermon (ie he was put on the spot and asked to preach) in a village outside of Mwanza. His lesson was less than 10 minutes long, and he struggled through it, but you have to start somewhere.
- The Geita team was asked by the Mwanza team to consider “adopting” three of their church plants which are in closer proximity to us than them. Brett visited one of those churches (Mwakiwasha) for the first time in March. He shared a couple of meals and worshiped together with them. He also preached his second “sermon,” keeping his comments shorter than in his first attempt (and therefore his Swahili slightly better).
- In January, we finally completed the task of raising moneys to match our proposed budget for living in Tanzania. This was quite a relief.
April – June 2010
Family and Life
- Much work was put into making our house more livable. Among other things:
- washing machine
- deep freezer
- began using our milk pasteurizer
- bought and installed a gas-powered generator
- built a dog kennel
- We first began having Tanzanians into our home (hospitality is extremely important in Tanzanian culture), and even hosted a couple of parties for large groups.
Evangelism and Discipleship
- Our first “Discovery Bible Study” began in Nyamarembo, and went very well (in the beginning). Edward was our facilitator, and we quickly began averaging 12 adults and a lot of kids. Brett mentored Edward weekly in how to facilitate the Discovery Bible Study, and the group continued to grow and mesh for a few months. However, Edward’s work schedule began to interfere with his ability to facilitate. So we added a second facilitator, who was called away for work not more than 3 weeks later. The group, though, was beneficial and encouraging to all involved. We even considered dividing into two smaller Bible studies when numbers remained consistently above 15 for several weeks.
Development and Service
- Brett began doing initial research (having conversations with local farmers) concerning the state of farming in/around Geita. He was also invited to meet with a couple of local NGOs in Kahama and was able to visit a grassroots chicken project in Kakola. These relationships will likely be of great benefit a little later, and may even serve as models for similar works and projects.
- We slaughtered and processed our first pig, which made us wonder about the feasibility of raising hogs on the demonstration farm. Brett began asking around about the possibility of renting or purchasing lands for that farm. He also began introducing himself to some of the local government officials (probably a little late, but no one seemed to be offended).
- Christie began her first English class with 8 students.
- We began raising funds to purchase and have a new vehicle delivered.
July – September 2010
Family and Life
- We continued work on the house about one day of every week.
- added kitchen shelves
- repaired a few machines and appliances
- made and installed curtain rods
- leveled the backyard
- July was the last month (to date) that we received water from the city. Still, no one can determine what the problem is and why water is unavailable to our house. [This has been a huge headache and frustration even until now. At least 4-6 hours of my work time every week is spent fetching (or arranging to have delivered) water.]
- Christie and I celebrated our 6th anniversary with our first dinner without Baylor.
- We were invited to join the “golf club” at Geita Gold Mine, which allows our family to eat at a western-style restaurant, play golf, and go swimming on weekends. This is really a treat for us, and makes living in Geita much more enjoyable.
- During this time, we first began to consider ourselves to be proficient at living in Geita.
Evangelism and Discipleship
- Attendance at the Nyamarembo Bible study began to decline, mostly because of work schedules and travel. Facilitators were inconsistent for the same reasons, and we began meeting (what seemed like) bi-weekly for lack of leadership and/or commitment. Brett continued mentoring Edward, but no longer weekly.
- Three of Mwanza’s Harding University interns spent a week with us in July, which was a great opportunity for us to invest in possible future missionaries and to think about our team’s future plans for hosting internships and apprenticeships in Geita.
Development and Service
- Christie’s English class continued to be successful.
- Brett continued the search for land for a demonstration farm — without success. We discovered, in talks with government officials, that the lands we had considered prime area for this farm are not zoned for development work and/or projects. The properties that are available to us are either in poor locations or way out of our price range.
- In July we ordered a new truck (currently still in port on 25 Jan) with funds raised primarily in June.
October – December 2010
Family and Life
- Still doing work on the house:
- shelves in our bedroom closet
- finally unpacked all of our boxes
- installed two ceiling fans
- added more kitchen shelves
- started having furniture built and moved into rooms
- In October, we met with Fielden and Janet Allison in Dar es Salaam for our yearly marriage/family counseling and missionary mentorship. We also enjoyed a week of vacation while there in Dar. We ended up remaining in Dar for an additional five days to have Christie’s staph infection treated.
- Baylor turned one-year old in December.
- We consider ourselves to be functionally or highly proficient in Swahili, but not fluent. We attempted during these months to put greater emphasis on Swahili language learning.
Evangelism and Discipleship
- The Nyamarembo Bible Study stopped meeting. Work schedules and inconsistent leadership were a constant struggle during our time together and, in the end, did the group in. I realized at one point that, if it were to continue functioning, it would be me holding it all together — and so I made sure the leadership knew I would be present and involved at any study they arranged, but that they were responsible for the group meeting or not. Not was the result.
- Brett went to Bulyahilu village for his first extended stay and Bible “seminar” in a village church. He accompanied Jason Miller (of the Mwanza team) and did no teaching himself, but participated in the activities and studies with those present. [I learned a great deal about village culture and life, and am looking forward to doing much more of this in 2011.]
- Harding University’s study-abroad in Zambia program came through Tanzania in November with the goal of spending time with mission teams who are functioning in the local language. Dividing their group between Mwanza and Geita, our team ended up with 11 students and one teacher. We were greatly encouraged by this group (it’s nice to worship in English with more than our three families), and we hope their time with us was beneficial as well.
Development and Service
- Christie’s English class is continuing to go well, and she has plans to begin a second class at some point in the next few months.
- It looks as if the demonstration farm will be on Neema House property (the orphanage the Groen family is working to begin), though that land is not actually in hand. This means it will be next December before we “unveil” that area as an educational farm.
- Because we’d been settled in our house for over a half-year at this point, Christie and I made a full revision of our budget in order to more accurately reflect our needs and expenses. We also prepared our 2011 budget which our sponsoring churches have now received.
* Next post: Current Mission Timeline — Harrisons in Geita
I got an email this morning. It was from someone I’ve never met in person — but we read one another’s blogs. I hadn’t posted in a while, and he was just sending a quick email to check and see that all was okay with our family. This email was the seventh of that type in the last week. Which means two things:
- I have neglected my blog for far too long.
- My readers are incredibly thoughtful and encouraging people.
I’ll address the second idea first. I just want to say thank you to all of you who are actively praying for my wife and I in our work here in Tanzania. And I am flattered to death that some of you actually miss my blog posts when they’re not around. You guys are great.
And now on to an explanation of my recent internet absence. I didn’t intend to go radio silent when we first left our home in Geita; it was merely bad luck and busy scheduling that kept me from having part of my mornings to write. Then it was a teething baby waking at 4:00 am. And then it was a hotel without working internet. And then it was — well, let’s make this a game. I’ll post a list of things which I’ve experienced in the last few weeks, and you try and pick out the four happenings that are false. Ready, go:
- Christie, Baylor, and I drove to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and back to meet for a few days with our missionary mentors for marriage, family, and missionary counseling. We respect and appreciate Fielden and Janet Allison a great deal, and are thankful for their willingness to spend time with us.
- Because we were already in Dar, we spent three nights at the beach in Zanzibar, a short boat trip away. A boat ticket that costs Tanzanian residents (that’s us) $16 will cost visiting tourists $70 — just one of the many perks of living in Tanzania. Other perks include having a great deal of patience and paying $4.50+ for every gallon of diesel pumped.
- I ordered some calamari one day while at the beach. The guys went out and speared a squid while I was waiting, and then showed it to me for my approval. But, while cooking it, a big crow swooped down and flew away with the whole thing. I ate fish for lunch that day.
- I dropped our computer on the floor and the glass display screen broke, but the computer still seems to work fine. We spent one morning trying to find out where and how we could get the computer fixed. It, however, has not yet been repaired.
- We went to Spur, an over-rated South African restaurant chain, and Baylor was given her first restaurant balloon ever. Then we realized it was actually the first time she’d ever seen a balloon. We need to get this girl out of the house more often. Baylor also was able to play on a couple of different playgrounds; she prefers slides, but enjoys climbing up them more than sliding down.
- Our brakes went out while we were driving in a parking lot, yet we drove another 30-40 miles that day to accomplish that which was on our list. [A clutch works fine to stop a truck, by the way, provided you know far enough ahead of time that you'll need to stop.]
- We spent three different mornings getting our truck worked on. And Dar is still Africa. While I was able to have my alignment done with a 3D computer system at one shop, another guy repaired our rear axle with a gasket made out of a piece of paper and some silicone. He used to live and work in Geita.
- We did a lot of shopping while in Dar, picking up some items we can’t get in Geita, Mwanza, or even Kigali — or that are much cheaper on the coast. Examples: garden sprayers, a drill, spices, and oatmeal.
- We watched a few movies in a theater, finding that once Baylor goes to sleep at 8 pm, she does just fine in a noisy and crowded public area.
- We went bowling, and I beat Christie by double her score. Poor Baylor never even had a chance. The girl’s a miserable bowler. Too weak an arm.
- At one restaurant on the beach, I ate a 64-ounce steak, 12 jumbo shrimp, and two sides to receive my entire dinner free of charge and get my picture on the wall. And you know what? By far the most difficult thing to finish was the baked potato. I hate baked potatoes.
- I was pulled over by a female police officer. She was supposed to accompany me to the police station in order to actually give me a ticket, and so, she kept mentioning how far away the station was and how long it would take to process a ticket. She simply wanted to forgive me, she said. Then she asked for half the amount of the ticket. I told her I really appreciated her forgiveness, but that I couldn’t pay any money out without an official receipt — that my organization frowns on that, as it might be seen as offering a bribe to a police officer. She let me go without any ticket or money paid.
- Christie got a staph infection that actually probably started more than a month before. So we ended up staying an extra six days and seeing two doctors in four visits before that was resolved enough to return home.
- Christie had to take a pretty strong antibiotic which required that Baylor stop nursing. So Baylor is now officially and completely weaned — and did so cold turkey. The girl now eats like a daughter of Groen.*
- I slew four giant, fire-breathing dragons with only one ninja star and my bare hands.
- We ordered the construction of some canvas folding chairs, but they weren’t ready on the day upon which we’d agreed — or the next day, which was the day we actually needed them. When they finally did come, they weren’t built nearly as well as the display model, and three of them broke while in the selling area. I refused to take them and it took me six hours and a wealthy Tanzanian family buying an entire living room suite to get my deposit back.
- I stepped on three sea urchins the day I was learning to windsurf. I rubbed an unripe papaya on them. It didn’t seem to help at all.
- I ran my second barefoot / minimalist shoe race. It was a half-marathon (again called a marathon), and I finished in 1:53, a time with which I was quite disappointed. But the sun in Dar es Salaam is just sooo hot; I was completely zapped by mile 10. And my foot was still a little sore from the whole sea urchin experience….
- I saw former Tanzanian president, Ali Hassan Mwinyi, in person. At 85 years old he walked the 9k race and finished ahead of a whole lot of middle and high school students.
- A friend of ours ran the 9k race and was the first female finisher and third overall. She got a 100,000 shilling gift certificate to a nice restaurant. She didn’t take us out to dinner, though.
- Another friend of ours (who grew up with Christie in Richmond) broke six Tanzanian national swimming records while we were staying with he and his wife — and he is now quite officially and appropriately dubbed “The Fastest Swimmer in Tanzania.”
- During the 15 1/2 hour return drive to Geita, Baylor sat quietly in her car seat, never letting out even a single, short whimper.
* Our teammates in Geita, the Groens, have three daughters with whom I am very, very proud to share a table. They can’t out-eat me, but they eat Carson under the table at every meal. Of course Carson does lots of things like a little girl.
I’ve not been on the internet much this week — so I’ve really got no (new) links to share. But I’ve not ever missed a Tuesday’s “morning blend,” and don’t want to start now. So I present to you a few of my favorite links in the history of “morning blend.”
This is a great article that basically sums up our team’s strategy for evangelism in Tanzania. The author gives some pretty good arguments for small groups, and also supplies us with a list of core values that should be established early on in any group. A must read for evangelists, missionaries, and church planters — or for those who don’t understand yet exactly what we’re doing in Geita, and want to.
David Hosaflook suggests every Christian should be involved in the Great Commission — and then offers how to do so through prayer.
Have you ever wanted to see Jesus riding a tyrannosaurus rex? Or rocking a baby allosaurus to sleep? These questions are rhetorical, of course. Who would turn their back on such joy?! And Jason Boyett, author of the Pocket Guides, is just the man to bring you these pictures.
“Dance Praise puts a whole new spin… on today’s high-energy dancing games by combining two of today’s most popular entertainment trends – contemporary Christian music and dance arcades. ” I’m not falling for it. No way — this is a trick. You know, a spoof done by some youth minister. Fake. It’s not real. There’s no way it could be. I’m no fool. Can you imagine being bamboozled by this hoax? Nope — not me; no internet expert web designer’s gonna’ take me for that ride. You’ve gotta’ get up pretty early in the morning. Definitely this is not true. I can say that without any hesitation… I think.
Yes, pets are to blame for most of the problems in our world. But this guy’s got the answer. Alas, so many cats and so few recipes. But I tell you, I knew when I lived there that the Chinese were onto something…
You know how Google automatically tries to complete your search query with frequently requested search terms? Yeah, this site is dedicated to that. And there are some really funny “autocompletes” out there. In addition to fatties being kidnapped, here are just a few of my favorites. [Keep in mind, a lot of people had to search for these things...]:
- Why is daddy in a dress?
- My brother was eaten by wolves on the Connecticut Turnpike.
- This looks like a job for emergency pants.
- Bacon is a little hug from God.
- I did the macarena with a homeless guy in an elevator because Big Bird said to, and he’s my leader.
- Amish Online Dating
Really? Amish Online Dating? ”My name is Obadiah, and I enjoy long walks on the beach, making furniture, and reading by candlelight. I’m looking for a wife who can cook over an open fire, wants to have a lot of children, and… DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO USE THE INTERNET?”
image courtesy of synthtopia.com
The letter was addressed to “the Father and Mother of this house” (that’s Christie and I). It was delivered to our gate while I was in town. Christie received the letter and assured the messenger she’d pass it on to me. [Despite being addressed to "Father AND Mother," letters are meant to be read, and decisions made, by "Father" -- and independent of "Mother."] When I got home I put the letter on the desk, saying I’d have a look another day; it was no doubt another request for moneys or funding.
[This post is one installment of a somewhat (okay, extremely) irregular feature of my blog called Missionary Predicaments. Occasionally I attempt to explain some recent (or ongoing) dilemma having to do with being a missionary and development worker in Tanzania. And then I ask what you think the proper Christian missionary response would be. Then I do whatever you said. Well… maybe not. But I do welcome all advice — especially if you’re over 50 years old and have grey hair. In the case of this particular "predicament," I realize I've probably not given you enough background and culture to make a firm decision; rather I've simply asked some questions of the situation -- which I intend to answer as best as I can in coming days.]
A couple of days passed, and I’d not yet reviewed the letter (we were busy trying to get work done before heading to Mwanza for Baylor to receive another vaccination). The pastor of a local church “hodied” at our gate,* and I went out to receive him. He asked if “mama” had given me his letter, and I answered in the affirmative, though I told him I’d not yet been able to read it. I could tell he wanted to discuss the matter there at that time (which kind of defeats the purpose of writing a letter), but we had visitors. So after he told me the letter was a request for funding to allow his church to buy several musical instruments, I told him I’d read the letter soon and get back to him. He was not satisfied with that answer, but it is the answer I gave. [Little did he know that the less time I was given to consider his request, the less likely I would be to grant it.] The pastor walked away, expressing that he was looking forward to my answer (he was very optimistic, I might add).
Two or three days passed again, and we (and several others) ran out of water at our house. The pastor visited our home again on that day (while Carson and I were in the middle of our 7-hour water-procuring party) and spoke with Christie. He very indirectly and politely (as much as is possible) called my wife a liar when she told him she had indeed given me the letter. He continued suggesting to her that it would be better if she would give me the request, so that I could consider it (and answer in the positive). She continued telling him that I had already received the request and that it was sitting in a stack of papers to be reviewed on my desk. Eventually, tired of trying to persuade Christie to ‘fess up to her wicked dealings, the pastor left, again to await my answer.
I have now answered the pastor in written form, but have not yet received his response to my response. But I thought I’d share with you a bit of his letter, which was handwritten in English. I have not altered it in any way:
“…we are requesting a great assistance from your family so as you can enable us to purchase Church’s music instrumental which will be used to preach the Gospel of the Lord. By doing that from your heart God will bless you indeed. For more vivid evidence, read MALACHI 3:10. From this book of the Bible God promised to bless all people who will up raise his work from their money and properties. We give thanks before and we are looking forward to be helped from your family. Amen.”
This letter raises a lot of questions for me:
- What does it mean to “preach the Gospel of the Lord,” and will musical instruments help in that process?
- Should I have any say in how a local Tanzanian church spends their money? What about how they spend my money?
- If I disagree with how (and why) they spend their money, should I decline to help them? Should I offer an explanation of my disagreement, or simply decline?
- Does Malachi 3:10 really address me helping a local church by purchasing musical instruments?
- Perhaps most importantly, what does this letter and the entire process of its delivery teach me about the beliefs and worldview of this local church (and probably others in the area)?
* Hodi = Swahili word that announces the presence of a visitor at a door or gate. I’m guessing this practice developed over the knock because of the general lack of doors on which one could knock. And a single “hodi” will not, under any circumstance, suffice. The visitor is required to “hodi” constantly until the door is opened or (in some cases) someone from inside answers with “nakuja,” a familiar way of saying, “I’m coming.” However, one must continue yelling “nakuja” until one has actually opened the door, lest the “hodi”ing begin again. It seems the general rule is that there can be no time of quiet, however brief, between the arrival of a visitor and the actual opening of the door. I’ve on several occasions thought about doing the same sort of thing while waiting for my food at a restaurant or while waiting to be helped at the hardware store — constantly repeating my order until I actually have the item in my hand. It truly is sad that a word announcing a guest (something which is quite an honor in this context) can come to mean about the same thing as nails screeching on a chalkboard.
God destroys all the men, women, and children in the world — save eight. Grown adults desperately clinging to the outside of the one boat in existence while little babies drowned right from the start. In the end everyone died (except one chosen family). How do we preach a story like that? What kind of God does that? Zack Eswine offers some advice on the subject.
Jon Acuff (despite our recent disagreement) writes one of my favorite blogs on the net. In this little ditty, he shares with us his expert advice on how to spot a missionary. Among the dead giveaways: If she’s longwinded and can’t dance, you’re probably looking at a missionary (unless you’re at a Beverly Hills nightclub, in which case you might be trying to hit on Ellen Degeneres).
And if you have a growing suspicion that you yourself might be a missionary, you should probably have a look at this post: you might be a missionary in africa if…
If you’ve found you’re not a missionary, but think you might be a Christian Hipster, this website should help you out a little. Be sure to check out the interactive photos of real life Christian Hipsters. I don’t think I fit any of these categories (I’ve only got about 1/16th of hipster in me), but I’d be closest to “The Fugal Collegian,” I suppose.
This video is compliments of Radiolab and NPR — and is pretty amazing:
Yesterday was another “Sandwich Monday” on NPR’s Wait Wait. And don’t get me wrong, I think this sandwich looks absolutely delicious — but why in the world would it be called the LADY’s Brunch Burger?! I don’t know very many members of the female persuasion who would put this atop their lists for any meal of the day, much less brunch. Paula Dean’s got some ‘splainin’ to do.
- Baylor’s eight months old now and exploring the house. She especially likes trying to fit in tight spaces and cave-like places. We’re kind of nervous about some of those tight spaces: in a corner of the living room the other day she found a piece of shed reptile skin. Carson and I took apart the entire living room, armed with brooms for the kill. We found no snake, nor did we find the remainder of the skin. I later did some research on the internet and found that lizards also shed their skin. We were relieved to know that our daughter is only in danger of playing with lizards (which are abundant in our home and were often worn like earrings when I was a kid). We’ve had lots of critters around our house of late. My wife has documented just a few here and here.
- Baylor can climb like crazy. Up onto the couch and all the way up the back of it. She can climb out of her crib and out of her pack-and-play. The other day we found her on top of the water tower in the backyard. [That last part's not true, but I do intend to one day put some kind of climbing wall on the side of the water tower. We might as well encourage the girl in her talents.]
- One of the most exciting family opportunities of late is that we’ve been invited by Geita Gold Mine to join their “golf club,” which gives us access to not only their golf course, but their restaurant, “western” grocery store, and swimming pool. It’s really nice, because we’ve now got a place in town to relax while someone cooks us a hamburger or pizza. And it’s really cheap — the meals, golf, and membership. A burger is about $3, sodas a quarter, 9 holes of golf $3.50, and a year’s membership $200. We feel like the “golf club” will especially be a great weekend tradition when Baylor’s a little older.
- I’m horrible at golf. Twice now I’ve played 9 holes, and my scores were 59 and 67. Carson’s average is one stroke lower than mine, but I’m gonna’ get him this week. I think all I have to do is talk a lot about snakes, and it’ll psyche him out and get him off his game (not that he has a lot of game either — he’s one stroke better, people).
- The Discovery Bible Study group in Nyamarembo is still meeting, but there have been some problems with attendance. I call them problems, though I’m not sure that’s really what they are — it’s just a lot of the group seem to have crazy schedules in which they work different days and times each week, and are out of town a lot. The study is a really good one for those present; that just doesn’t seem to be a consistent group of people. There are probably 14-16 adults who would call themselves “members” of the Bible study, though we rarely have more than 8 present. Please pray for the Nyamarembo Bible study group. We meet on Thursday afternoons.
- I am considering hosting some type of meeting or conference for local Christians who would be interested in learning how to study the Bible themselves. I will teach a few principles of Bible study, mostly the importance of reading, understanding, and being obedient to God’s word — and then sharing what we’ve learned with others. It’s likely this conference would then be followed by another meeting on how to lead a group Bible study — that second portion would be intended to serve those who have already put the first conference’s materials into practice. I’m not deep into the planning process at this point, but that’s something for you to be praying about. It will be my next big project in the areas of evangelism and discipleship — probably still a few months away.
- Christie’s English class is going well. There are eight students, some of whom are a little more serious about learning than others, but all of whom are anxious to learn a new language that will be beneficial to them in the future. Classes are on Wednesday afternoons. Please pray for Christie and her ability to model Christ as she teaches.
- There have been some false starts on possible lands for the demonstration farm, but right now there’s nothing going. I plan to begin looking for land again in the next couple of weeks. Please pray that I will indeed find a suitable couple of acres for the demonstration farm — and that God will provide the money needed to rent or purchase that land.
- Thanks to the generosity of a whole lot of individuals and more than a few churches, we have been able to order a new vehicle. We believe it will arrive in October, and are really excited about the reliability of said vehicle and the time and money that will be saved by cutting repairs and the like. Thank you to everyone who helped us get the vehicle ordered. You should be receiving letters (and/or emails) of thanks soon. And when you come visit us in Tanzania, we’ll be happy to ride you around a bit.
- At this point we are still raising the final $4000 to cover the Tanzanian registration costs for the vehicle. If you have some cash you’d like to contribute, or are willing to serve us by offering your mad bank-robbing skills for a weekend, let us know.
- Now that we’ve been in our house for five months, we have a better idea of what it’s really going to cost to live and work here in Tanzania for the next eight years. At the request of one of our sponsoring churches, I’m hoping to this next week complete a revised budget that will begin in 2011. If you or your congregation would like a copy of this budget, please let me know — and I’ll get you one upon its completion.
- Our house is not completely livable. My clothes are all still in boxes on the floor, as are the majority of the things we own (excluding kitchen items). There are a lot of things we need to do to better mosquito-proof our house (before rainy season in November); Baylor doesn’t have a net up in her room and is still sleeping in a portable bed under our net. We don’t have furniture, beds, shelves, or anything (save boxes) in rooms where visitors would (and do) stay. There are no doors on our closets or under our kitchen counters, and so, everything is covered in (at least) a thin film of red dirt/dust. Our house is not painted, and our landlord is getting onto me for not having done it yet. We lack curtains, closet shelves, screens on the doors, and rain covers for the generator and water pump. But we do have plenty of bats in the attic and holes where snakes can come into the house.
- My Swahili is at a level of somewhere between “professional working proficiency” and “full professional proficiency,” but I should probably by now be comfortably at “full proficiency” — and knocking on “native fluency.” I’ve not studied for more than 15 minutes a week in any week for the last nine months. I am able to do everything I need to do in Swahili, but had I focused on it more, all of my work would have benefited. And because I’m needing to get to Sukuma after Swahili, this really should have been closer to the top of my priorities.
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.