As I’ve said before, living in Dar es Salaam gives me the incredible opportunity to experience a plethora of different cultures all in one city. I get to hang out with people from Columbia, Australia, France, Russia, Finland, etc., hear their languages, and learn small bits about how they view the world. Somewhat surprisingly, Fort Wayne, Indiana isn’t that much different—even if I do have to try a bit harder to find those cultures and experiences. I suppose its all in making opportunities count and being willing to meet new people. During my latest stay in the U.S., I found myself meeting all sorts of new people—many of whom, to my surprise, knew other people that I already knew. What a small world!
One of the first “new people” I met was a guy, Joe, who was also back visiting the Fort Wayne area for the holidays. We met at a New Year’s Eve party, and immediately delved into an hour-long conversation on missions, ecclesiology, and church planting, only to discover that we had grown up with a number of mutual friends due to being homeschooled in the Fort Wayne area at approximately the same time. Small world!
Less than a week later, I was helping a friend start on some renovations to his home, when some friends of his, a couple, stopped by to see the house. I introduced myself, and in the pursuant small talk, realized that this couple had homeschooled their children and were well-acquainted with many of the families that were a part of my family’s social group. Maybe its only a small world in the Fort Wayne former-homeschooling-family circles. At any rate, it was fun to meet them and explain to them a bit of what I get to do working with Young Life in Tanzania and teaching at HOPAC.
After work at the house one day, several of my friends and I decided to check out the new “Wallen” church—Hope Church. When we arrived, a woman who I’d met with over five years ago, called me over and started asking questions about Tanzania. What I didn’t realize at the time was that she was now a part of the missions board at Wallen. She encouraged me to get in contact with the missions board, giving me the contact information of the gentleman in charge, and then introducing us several days later. I spent the rest of the week pondering the providence of God in arranging meetings such as that one.
Weeks later, on the opposite side of the U.S., I was a bridesmaid at a friend’s wedding in Oregon. As soon as the photos of the bridal party were finished, I snuck out to the lobby where I had stashed my Vans under a bench. As I was removing my heels and putting on my much-more-comfortable Vans, a gentleman inquired if I was “the Abi who is from Tanzania.” I said yes, and was immediately introduced to Tom. Tom and his wife are involved with Young Life in Bend, Oregon, and their son is a Young Life leader in another nearby town. They then introduced me to a friend of theirs, a woman who was a part of Campus Life in that area, and who happened to know Ryan, the Campus Life leader that I worked with at Carroll High School before moving to Tanzania. How cool to discover Young Life family in Oregon! And maybe this small world thing isn’t all about homeschoolers after all!
When I arrived in Fort Wayne after the Oregon wedding for my last few days in Indiana, it was bitterly cold, but as previously arranged, I left the airport on foot. The plan was for me to walk from the airport to the nearest bus stop, about 2.5 miles away, then take the bus into downtown Fort Wayne, where I would meet mom after she got off of work. About a half mile into my walk, a gentleman pulled his truck to the side of the road and called to me, offering a ride. After a moment’s consideration, I accepted. As I got into the truck, Steve introduced himself by saying that he had just dropped off his pastor at the airport. This was the precursor to a conversation where he shared his testimony with me, told me that he had previously attended John Piper’s church in Minneapolis, and now that he and his wife were back in Fort Wayne, actually knew several of my friends who also attended his current church. Not only did I successfully (and accidentally) hitchhike a ride from the airport into downtown Fort Wayne, I also made a new friend! Small world, indeed!
Then finally, on the long flight from Chicago to Amsterdam as I made my way back to Tanzania, I met yet another new friend. Mark was seated in the seat next to me, and at one point during the flight, we started chatting. When he learned that I was living in Tanzania, he immediately asked if I knew Hannes, the dive instructor at SeaBreeze in Dar. Well, of course! I dive with SeeBreeze on a regular basis, and know both Hannes and his wife fairly well. What I didn’t know was that my new friend Mark and Hannes grew up diving together in South Africa. It was fun hearing his stories about running wild and diving with Hannes years before I ever knew him. Definitely a small world.
If I ever thought that the “six degrees of separation” theory was a myth, I’ve changed my mind. After this trip, I’ve made a lot of new friends, and am convinced that this crazy world we live in gets smaller all the time!