Home Again: The First Week

•July 3, 2015 • Leave a Comment

At about this time last week, I arrived in the Chicago O’Hare International Airport. After passing through immigration and passport control with impressive speed, stopping at the Mishawaka Apple Store for a fix, and making a weekend trip to Mississippi to surprise my little sister, I am home in Indiana. I feel like I have to clarify that because, really, I have two homes. Now that I’ve been back at my Indiana home for about a week, here are some things I’ve noticed, perhaps more flagrantly than on any previous visits home:

  1. I am a foreigner in my own city.
    More than ever before, Fort Wayne seems somehow different. Its not that Fort Wayne has changed–its pretty much the same, but the little things just feel strange–as if I am walking into a city that is not my own. I don’t feel like a complete stranger, but I have to consciously think about how to get certain places (and I’ve made the wrong turns!), and it just doesn’t feel totally natural being here.
  2. Which side of the road is actually right?
    Maybe this is just because I’ve driven a lot more cars in Dar es Salaam over the last six months, but getting into the correct side of the vehicle as a driver or passenger, and then, more importantly, pulling into the correct lane, is a deliberate decision. That’s new. And fun to joke about (until it actually happens and I find myself on the wrong side of the road).
  3. Wait, you don’t understand Swahili? At all?
    I’ve discovered that there are a number of words that, even when talking with my expatriate, English-speaking, friends in Tanzania, I say in Swahili. The reason I’ve noticed this is that I keep wanting to say them here, and no one has any idea what I’m talking about. “Pole,” for instance, means “I’m sorry you’re experiencing that (but its not my fault)” and is quite the fantastic word for all kinds of situations where I don’t know exactly what to say in English. Or, a random one, “Saa ngapi?” meaning, “What time is it?” somehow comes out quicker than its English equivalent. But nobody here has any idea what I’m saying…
  4. A life divided.
    This is probably the thing that stands out the most. I have two lives that have very little crossover. And I love them both. I love being in Tanzania, teaching at HOPAC, working with YoungLife, going to Kurasini, and hanging out with my friends in Tanzania. But I also love working at Summit City Bicycles, breathing in the open spaces of farmland, being with family, and cycling or playing volleyball with friends in Indiana. And when I am in either place, I feel like it would be terrible to ever leave that place. In some ways, it even feels a bit like I am two different people with lifestyles to fit my environment in each of my two worlds. I am living a life divided that I see no way of reconciling…and I don’t even know what to think about that.

All that to say, being home is different, interesting, thought-provoking, and, above all, VERY GOOD. I’m not sure that I will be updating much during my short/long (it depends on which “person” you’re asking–my TZ self, or my IN self) stay here in the U.S. I will be flying back to Dar mid-August and will resume regular updates then. :)

Help! I’m Drowning!

•June 15, 2015 • 1 Comment

I don’t remember not knowing how to swim. My parents had me in the pool swimming before I could even crawl, much less walk. I’ve been lifeguarding for eleven years and teaching swimming for nearly five years.

But this month, I feel like I’m drowning.

Rainy season in Dar is over (thankfully!), but the storms have been pouring down. The moment I think I’ve managed to surface, another wave comes crashing down on my head and I’m being tossed in the surf, desperately praying for oxygen. Desperately praying for faith.

5/25/15

Its been a whirlwind few days. I moved (not settled, but moved) and now Amini is missing. I don’t know how to live life here without my dog…God, help me find my puppy.

5/26/15

God. You know I’m fighting to believe that You hear me. That You care about Amini. That I’m not alone in this. I know Your Word is true. I know You are good. I know You hear my prayers. But it just doesn’t feel like it…God, You alone know where my dog is…please bring her back to me alive. And soon. I can’t do this much longer.

5/27/15

She’s gone. Amini’s gone.

5/28/15

The pain’s intensity is already being dulled by time–and exhaustion. Lord, help me to learn to thank You even when I don’t understand, when life doesn’t make sense, when it seems like You don’t care and the worst possible thing has happened.

Eleven years ago, when my first dog, a black Labrador named Maggie, was hit by a car and killed, I had just finished memorizing Psalm 119 and I clung to verse 64 (“You are good and do good”) like a lifeline. At fifteen, my theology wasn’t great, but I knew one thing: that God was always good and always did good. And I knew He was in control. Interestingly enough, on a recent application, when asked to list three events that helped to shape me as the person I am today, this was one of the first things that came to mind. Its like a “standing stone” (A Life Overseas recently wrote about these in “Stones of Remembrance”).

Several years later, I was climbing Pike’s Peak in Colorado with a 103°F fever (one of the stupider things I’ve done). Until my recent experiences with malaria, dengue fever, and tropical bacterial infections, that was probably the sickest I had ever been–and I decided to climb a 14,000 foot mountain. Two things kept me going: (1) my brother Nathan, and (2) Psalms 121:1-2 and Isaiah 40:28-31. I don’t even remember having memorized those verses before the climb, but somehow they came to mind and I said them over and over and over again on the way up the mountain. “I lift mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help is from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth…The Lord, the everlasting God, who does not faint or grow weary…those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength, they will mount up with wings as eagles, will run and not be weary, and walk and not faint.” Over and over and over. They became the rhythm for my faltering steps. Another standing stone.

The cool thing about God is that He doesn’t change.

Now, in 2015, God is still good. He still does good. And He is still in charge.

And once again, He prepared me. For the last few months, I’ve been (very slowly) memorizing Romans 8. Towards the end of the chapter, Paul starts talking about hope, a word that’s been tattooed on my mind since January. Romans 8:24-25 explains that as Christians, we hope–not for what is seen, because that wouldn’t be hope at all, but for what is not seen. And so I prayed desperately for hope. And I remembered…”God you are good.” “I lift my eyes to the hills…my help is from the Lord.” “I’m so weary, but Lord you do not grow weary and You give strength.”

Last week, Pastor Jimmy spoke about storms in the life of the Christian. The message resonated with my storm-beaten soul, but when he made the statement that everyone was either in a storm, coming out of a storm, or going into the storm, I felt confident enough that I had regained my ability to tread water to say that I was coming out of the storm.

And then the next wave hit.

6/13/15

Mom and Dad aren’t coming. Not tomorrow. Maybe not at all. I’ve been looking forward to their visit for so long. Why? Lord, give grace.

Its not that I haven’t seen them relatively recently (Christmas), or won’t be home in ten days anyway, but I was looking forward to their visit sooooo much that the disappointment was enormous. There is still a chance they can come (prayers that Mom can get an emergency travel passport today so they can fly out Tuesday morning!!!), but again, I am fighting to hope for something that isn’t seen. And I’m not very patient. I keep checking my phone for news…though hesitantly, because what if its bad news again? Yet I know that even in this, God is good and God is in control. And this time, Job came to mind: “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Its not easy to say. I want my parents to see this beautiful country where I live and work. I want to share life here with them. I want them to be able to enjoy a safari and to come to church with me and to visit the orphanage. But even if none of that can happen…God is still good.

The waves just keep crashing in and dragging me underwater. But each time, there is a lifeline. Each time, new standing stones are thrown to the bottom for me to stand on through the next wave. If this trend keeps on, I’ll have my own island pretty soon!

Brand New Prayer Cards!!!

•June 11, 2015 • Leave a Comment

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I’m sending out brand new prayer cards this evening… if you would like one, please send me an e-mail or Facebook message with your mailing address!

Lost Dog

•May 26, 2015 • Leave a Comment

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For those who aren’t in Dar es Salaam or haven’t seen the multitude of posts on Facebook, my dog Amini has been missing since Sunday morning sometime. This dog is not just a pet. She is also my “security policy” and guard dog. I and lots of other people are doing everything possible to find her, but it is likely she has been stolen. PLEASE PRAY that she is returned to me soon–even if I have to pay to get her back. I don’t know if I can do life here without her.

Aging Out of Young-Adulthood

•May 15, 2015 • Leave a Comment

At 26, I find that I have “aged out” of being a young adult. That’s a scary realization.

Its not so much age, because I know many young adults who are 25, 26, and even 27. But I am no longer a college student, gap year kid, or recent university graduate. I’m not even working on a graduate degree. At this point, I’m firmly entrenched in the workforce. I’m “established.” Whatever that means.

At the same time, I find this to be an awkward phase of life. Just as much as I don’t fit in with the young adult crowd (and that’s not to say that many of my friends are not young adults–they are), I don’t feel like an adult either. In my mind, for whatever reason, adults are married, probably have kids, and are, well, old. At least older than me. The term “adult” also carries a sense of responsibility and maturity that I hesitate to adopt. I also feel like adults are the people that I look up to–the people who have the wisdom, experience, and maturity that I still lack.

I think the reality is that, yes, I am an adult. But being an adult doesn’t mean that I have to know it all. There will always be people older than me. There will always be people wiser than me. There will always be people with more experience than me. Perhaps that verse about not letting people look down on you because of your youth (1 Timothy 4:12) isn’t just about other people–maybe its about me looking down on me too.

A month ago, I attended a vision meeting for the youth group at church. I’m excited to volunteer and be a part of the youth group, but I’m being pushed towards leadership…a responsibility I’m hesitant to take. I’m only 26! What do I know about leading a youth ministry team? Shouldn’t a Tanzanian step up and lead? Why me? When I write it out, I realize that I sound a bit like Moses trying to avoid God’s call to go and lead the people of Israel out of Egypt. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to step up and lead. Not yet. I’m not sure I can balance the responsibility of leading the church’s youth ministry team with my responsibilities with HOPAC and YoungLife. I’m not sure either whether I’m actually being called to this leadership position, or just feeling the pressure that others are putting on me to take the position.

Last week, I signed a year’s lease on a house and property all my own. In the next two weeks, I will be moving in. I will be responsible for two workers, for water and electricity bills, for maintenance, and who knows what else. In some ways, I’m excited. In other ways, it seems like a huge burden and responsibility that is a bit overwhelming to think about.

What all of this means… I don’t yet know. I’ve actually spent about three weeks attempting to write this post. Attempting to bring all of these thoughts into some kind of coherent, sensible “box”–but they just don’t seem to fit. So here it is, my jumbled mess of thoughts on growing up, of “coming-of-age,” of becoming an adult.

Turn the Music Up… We Love to Dance! (Photo)

•May 2, 2015 • Leave a Comment

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Faces

•April 24, 2015 • Leave a Comment

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I’ve been looking around at the faces in all the places
Now I’m thinking we’re not so different despite our races
All of us be masking varied insecurities
Hiding who we are, scared of our impurities
Perceived imperfections force up the walls
Hurting and broken, we build barriers tall
Push people away, faking it till we make it
better to not love at all than to get hurt. Or is it?
If you and me are both insecure, broken, and scared
Then wouldn’t it be better if together our souls we bared?

What if we all tore down our defenses?
What if we weren’t afraid to be real?

Thinking what if they don’t accept me?
If I’m too fat won’t everybody hate me?
Or maybe feet too big or crooked nose?
Afraid I’m far too boring to ever get a rose.
But those secret thoughts I’ll never share
Instead I smile, though inside I’m bare
Left empty, alone, hopeless because I let no one in
I fake it till I make it, smothering the inner din
But you and me we aren’t so different
Masks we both wear, broken and bent

What if we all tore down our defenses?
What if we weren’t afraid to be real?

 
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