Tuesday, June 13, 2006

New way of thinking

I feel like I am starting from scratch here. In the sense that everything I have learned some how becomes obsolete. Not everything everything, but life skills, life knowledge, my relationship with God and the struggles and joys I have gone through with Him, how I view life and the world, is very different. I don’t know if this makes sense, but I will try and expand. What I have learned and obtained in my life seems to not apply so much to life, and the people here, because they don’t know what it is like to have a good education, food and shelter consistently, having brain stimulation from the first years of life, to be able to rationally think. It starts from the very beginning, if you don’t have brain stimulation at early age, your brain is not used to critical thinking at ALL levels not just when it comes to education but to life. It is a whole other way of thinking, I knew this before, but now I have a better understanding of why and how thinking is different. It makes it hard for me to know what I have to offer God’s children here, and how to best serve them? I don’t want serve them the way I know how, because it might not make sense to them, or work, or have as much meaning, I need to learn their way of serventhood and childlike faith. They know different aspects of Christ that I want to learn, to see God in new ways, experience Him in a different light.
Sawa (ok), Pastor Deo mentioned the first night that I was here that he wanted me to preach in his church. At first I was a bit intimidated, but than I got excited because deep down I think I have wanted to enter that challenge before, and see myself in that position, and knew God would give a word to share. Than I thought everything I could preach about seems obsolete, the Jesus I know is the same but in a different way. What am I to preach to them to care for the poor, when they are the poor? Or to trust in God, and have faith, because we have a God that makes things impossible possible, when they probably all have seen that in some way shape or form in their lives? I just felt like anything that God has put on my heart in the past to tell people about, it wouldn’t apply here, not to say that the message wouldn’t be important, or that I couldn’t do it, it would just seem that the message would be out of context, if you know what I mean? I pray that I may know God like African’s know God, if that is possible or not, I don’t know we will find out.....

Monday, June 05, 2006

Thursday, June 01, 2006

God of Wonders

As I have been here the past week, I thought I would re-cape on my experiences in the first week, in Africa! It hasn’t been what I expected it to be. After the first week, I am already starting to fill pretty comfortable here, language is a problem, but I am working on that, and I manage as well as the local people. I think I was expecting it to be completely comfortable right from the get-go, and the whole time while I am here. But even though I had a strong desire to come here I, pathetically, realize now that it’s not always the case. I can say that the people help you to feel at home and welcome you, whether I know them or not. In many ways it is hard for me to explain the adjustment process. Maybe part of it is because I am by myself, doing my own thing in a new place, and I am the only person in the neighborhood, and around the area that is wazungu (white). But I am so glad I am doing this on my own, I really feel this was something I needed to do by myself. This was something that I dreamt about, and now that I have traveled here by myself, and am on my own to do whatever I want, I knew in order to get the experience God wanted me to have I needed to come with just Him. Honestly, traveling by yourself really isn’t that bad, it was better than I thought. I feel like when God puts something on our hearts, we need to do it whether or not others are going to come with you or not. It is some what liberating. I notice when you are alone, puts one in a state of vulnerability that cause you to trust strangers, and friends you have met before. It feels good, to not always hold on to our “strangers are bad” mentality. It can be so much fun meeting new people, even in another language! I am able to do and go places whenever I like, meet up with people, go to their houses, and I have no guideline I have to follow, or person or group to consider, it really is nice. I think it will give me the chance to bond more with the local people, because I have no one else! Of course Dessie is here, but he is busy, and introduces me to other people so that I can get to know them while I am here. I am so glad that I am here for a longer period of time, I think most people who visit from the west only come for a couple of weeks and than leave, unless they are missionaries here.
It doesn’t matter if people know you or not, I can’t leave the house without being welcomed by someone, or stopped to say hi, how are you? It makes you feel like people want you to be here, and enjoy the fact that I have come to visit. Especially within my family, they are giving me the high class treatment from what Dessie has told me. I get great food, kinds that they don’t normally eat but because I am there, they are serving tilapia (fish), many different kinds of fruits, meats, milk, giving me napkins, buying spaghetti, and none of this is normally used in their household I am sure. I don’t do anything around the house either, clean, cook, wash dishes, take care of the kids, nothing. They have a house girl, which apparently most families have them if they can afford one. Data our house girl, or should I say women, does pretty much all of the cooking, cleaning, washing, etc. Let me give you a picture of what she does, because for us, cooking, cleaning, and washing are completely different things than it is here. Data cooks all of the food, which I am sure she or the kids have to get from the market daily, or at least during the week. The kitchen is a small room with two charcoal pots that are about a foot tall, a sink, a small table to put different items on, and a small stool to sit on, very close to the ground. (I know all of this because I cooked the other night, on the charcoal pot! Spaghetti!). She uses charcoal of course, which requires her to buy often, and keep the fire going in the kitchen (it is hot in there!). It takes forever for things to boil, twice as long as a regular stove, and she is feeding a family of 6, plus me now, and other visitors that might come in. All foods, meat, rice, beans, you name it, is not prepared. One has to sift the rice for rocks, clean it with water, than boil it. One has to gut the fish, clean the fish, than cook it on oil, with the heads still on it. Spices (you mash), beans (you clean), drinking water you have to boil on top of your cooking pots, all in this hot tiny kitchen. And when this is all over, she cleans all the dishes. I can’t believe I don’t do anything, but I guess that is just the way it is, I am served as a guest, and don’t really partake in any of the chores. Data also does all the cleaning, but there is no such thing as a washer or dryer, they clean everything by hand in tubs outside, and hang dry clothes. We are lucky here because sometimes people have to go fetch water, we have running water in our home. And any cleaning in the house that needs to be done, she does, she gets the kids ready for school. It is a full time job let me just tell you that. Mama Glorie (my host mother’s name), she helps, but has a little one to take care of that takes up most of her time. But Data the house girl, is not there just because mama just had a baby, but has been with the family for the past 5 years. The reason they took her in was because at 17 she was kicked out of her house by her family because she became a Christian, and has lived with Pastor Deo ever since. For the first years she was paid a small amount for doing the house work, but now she doesn’t want to be paid but to just live and be apart of their family, while still doing all of the house work. Meanwhile, men here are not supposed to do anything of this. But Deo told me that he actually used to help with household chores when he was younger. I like that.
My house, is a small place, with three rooms, a living room, a very small kitchen, a hall way, and an entrance way. It is off of the main road, paved, going into downtown Mwanza. Downtown is like a 10 minute walk, which is really nice for me if I need anything, like money, internet, food, phone card, etc. Once off the main road, it is dirt, bad dirt roads. I walk up a block and turn down another street, walk halfway down it and enter a courtyard with other homes, and mine is in the middle. It is not what you are thinking though, when I say courtyard, because it is dirt. Deo’s house is the only one that isn’t made from dirt and bricks, and there are animals (chickens, dogs), and children running around, clothes hanging everywhere, and it is not that big. If someone didn’t show you where it is, it would be really hard to find. It is a pretty busy area, with many houses, it is not a village at all. Ilemela where I will be working is more in the village, which is a 15 minutes on the daladala from my house. The main road is right next to the lake, which is pretty, but nothing like the view from Ilemela,
The daladala is an experience, they aren’t as scary as I thought they would be, but they don’t look like buses. First off they are more like vans, one of those 15 seater ones, but old, and run down. There is the driver who sits in front, and a conductor that sits right next to the sliding door, to let people on and off. This is the man who does gets everyone on and off the bus, and the man you pay. The bus stops are non-existent, there is no indication that it is a bus stop, it really is just the side of the road. (And mom I am glad I brought my chacos, because they are the ones I wear all the time because the buses aren’t like the ones in America, my feet aren’t stepped on.) Oh, and my family has a TV, which I didn’t expect, but they really only get 2 channels. There are these really bad, bad soap operas on, and swahili news, once and a while I catch BBC World News, which is kinda nice.
One thing that I noticed, which is easy to pick up on, is the way Africans treat wzungu. They have this trust in you like when we are around nothing bad will happen, or we are these special people who get special privileges, which really makes me mad. For example, Dessie and I visited a man in the hospital the other day, and it was past visitation hours, but of course we got in, and you know why?! That is pretty easy to answer. Everyone thinks we are made out of money, and that we are these really nice people. Even though we have treated them like crap, and are ruining their country, and taking advantage of them. For example, 3% of all the gold and diamond mines in Tanzania are actually owned my Tanzania, the rest from the west. And they just imposed a tax on the gold and diamonds to make sure they are of quality, so Tanzania only sees 1% of their gold and diamonds. But that one percent is probably all in the hands of the government, or other corrupt officials. The people don’t see anything. The most heart breaking thing is when Pastor Deo ask the rhetorical question, why are we so poor? He wants to learn from me because my country is so rich, to understand how we did it! But you know why America is so rich, because we are abusing and exploiting people from countries like Tanzania, as well as several other countries. No, I can’t tell him that. I don’t know, it doesn’t mean that I am going to be dishonest with him. Pastor Deo has such a big heart, I am so lucky to be living with him. Local people do more for each other than missionaries do for the local people, Pastor Deo notices that because he does ministry. All of them drive around in these cars, and have these nice houses, Dessie is an exception to the case. To really make a change and a difference, it takes a lot more than a compassionate heart, and some money from the west, that is for sure. All of this to say that women here aren’t treated well, and I have come to the conclusion that it isn’t a American thing for me to want women’s right, or me trying to push my culture and traditions on another, it is a Biblical thing!!! This is one area that I think I have come to the conclusion I am no sorry I offended people, even though I haven’t done anything a women is not supposed to do....yet. But than again it wouldn’t really matter for me anyways because I am white and American, so I am treated better than an African woman, I am like one of the men. Disgusting. It makes me mad, and rightfully so.
As I finish, this really long entry, who has God called us to be? How are we supposed to use our time here, and what has God given us to offer to other people? Is God calling me back to Tanzania, or Africa? How is God going to order my steps while I am here? As I contemplate these things, life seems to get a little more gray, and complicated, but what better time than to ask these questions. It is always comforting that we have a God of hope.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

One's Faith

What constitidues being a good Christian? Reading your Bible? Going to church? Attending a Bible Study? Spending a lot of time with Jesus? Or even doing some sort of service, charity, or ministry? Do we know, or will we ever know what or who a "good Christian" is? I believe not, Christ has taught me to belive otherwise since everyone has a different relationship with Him than others. How are we to know whether they are "good Christians" or not without seeing their hearts, only looking at their actions? Anyways who are we to judge in the first place that we should ever try and find this out like it is our job or responsibility. No doubt, depending on someone's actions you have a sense of where they might be at, but if you think about it you really have no idea until you meet the person. Look at the Pharisees they did all the right things, but were not close to Jesus whatsoever. At times I feel ashamed of who I was in the past not realizing, but know I long for something different than what I seem to be getting because it reminds me to much of my old self. Will I ever be able to attend another chapel with ease and not a sense of weirdness of the past? What is to become of me, God? One thing I can say for sure is my pride and dignity was shaken by LA Term, but o so necessary for who I want to be today. God has worked in amazing ways without us, sometimes, even knowing it is going on, because in one form or another we refuse to believe or see, whether it is conscience or not, this is who we are. Will I ever find a balance I so desperately want in my life or my theology? I think this is a great opportunity for God to teach me how to assert myself. There is a difference to be proud and arogent to others and a genuine love of Christ without coming accross as proud. I need to not worry about what others think and have Christ help me forge my own way thorugh this new teritory I am in, for His promises are never failing and endure forever. I have the privilege and honour to walk and be with a great God of magnificent power and gory. What a better life to live? I would not know. As for now, Lord lead me so I can follow, take me so I won't have to be weary, and love me so I won't have to be lonely, for you can do all these and than some. I submit myself to Christ and who you are and what I am not. Thank you for everything, there is nothing I could ever do to repay you. I am emensly blessed by you for others, thank you for putting me into this position, I long to be by your side. Give me the strength to carry on in oppostion, trials and tribulations, and resentment, for you an get past all those things. Be my Savior all the time for I knwo not what I get myself into at times. Let your Love be Loud!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Well, We are all approuching the Christmas season, and I hope it is a time full of joy, laughter, and full of God's brightness. I just recently worte a poem for my last class that I had, but I never got to share it with anyone except for my roommate. So I thought it would be cool to post it because I don't really write poetry and it isn't something I am used to, so I am trying to strecth myself by sharing it and reading it to people. Maybe you will get what you need from it, just like I wrote it for something too. And please please if you read it read it out loud it makes such a difference. :) trust me. Other than that, this Christmas season has been really good, but weird at the same time because I am seeing the world in a different light now, the materialistic, commercial, shopping, gifting giving, is so different to me now than it has in the past years. So it has been strange going shopping and looking to "get something for someone" , I feel like such a jerk when I do that. It might sound weird but it is true, it is like let me just get something for her or him because it is Christmas. And I don't want to get any gifts that are probably made from a starving child that won't have Christmas because we want to buy cheap Christmas gifts for people knowing that they are probably going to give us something too, from a sweatshop, thanking each other that we stole something from a child working in a sweatshop. I am rambling on and on but I think you get my point I am trying to make. My prayer is that everyone finds something new this Christmas that helps to free them. As I have been reading the Christmas stories over again, I am finding new and interesting things about Jesus and the weird way He chose to come down to Earth. And how undignified it was for such a dignified person, the humility is amazing, something I feel is beyond me. Well, Merry Christmas, enjoy!

This is the best title I have found for it so far:

Mira al Mundo (Look at the World):

You see me only form the outside,
not realizing you see the lie,
turning your back to what is real,
abanding how to feel,
standing around waiting for life to happen,
let go to those that are clapping,
chose, life, light, and love,
what are we waiting for, take action?!
stop laughing,
like you are just passing,
read your conscience,
not the other substance,
be what you are,
stop looking from afar.

What are we looking for?
searching until we are sore,
hearts bleeding,
not knowing where He is leading,
we know that it is possible,
it is plauisble,
by you through you.

Break, away and rebel,
even if you fell,
stand up and make a difference,
in the world since,
people are dying, lying,
while we are stuck in our neighborhood of compliance,
sitting around like nothing is happening,
wanting to do something,
not realizing we need to to sing,
bring, and learn love.

You look through the glass,
and all you see is the black and pass,
what are you living for?
Dying for? Paving the way for?
What has made us blind,
the blind that are leading the swine,
what makes us different,
one can not perceive,
if they look through the glass,
and just see the ass,
missing the point,
just looking for another joint,
not realizing this leads you to the one,
who has fought the battle and won.

Turn around and be made alive,
instead of walking in the hive,
we are who we are,
and no one makes the change,
unless we get in His reange,
look and be set free,
and than you will truly see me.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Loaded

I am coming to the end of my time here in Los Angeles, which is sad in a lot of ways but also at the same time coming to a good close and preparing me to go home and start my life back on campus. The main question I seem to be getting, is how has your experience been? What have you learned through out your whole semester? Where and how has God challenged you? These questions are really loaded but at the same time so necessary to fully grasp my life here and putting a close to this experience. There are so many things that rush through my mind that it is hard to get it all out and have anything make sense to someone else. So, I often just sit and think and try and understand all the things that are rushing through my head. I can say this thing for sure. God has done a lot of work in me, during this semester, maybe more than I thought, or definitely not in the ways that I thought He would. I love how God does that. I am going to stretch you and challenge you in the areas that you least expected and did not prepare for. Poof!, lets see what happens when you are thrown into situations you didn't' expect or didn't think of. But that is when you really discover more about yourself and change who you are. I have learned so much, and discovered so much by living here in the city, and I know that for sure as well. I like to describe it like this, I have put on a new set of glasses to look at the world. And they are being adjusted and being perfected continuously. I feel in a lot of ways I look at the world differently than I did before.

So, here we go......!!
Part of those new glasses involve seeing people differently as well. I feel God has given me an awareness and insight to see people's hearts, and not their sin, to see what lies within, deep within, instead what is out here, what we see and hear what they have done. It is a sense and feeling of freedom for both me and other people, and a I feel a sense of release. You see people as who they are and not what they have done. I feel purified from my old horrible ways of judgment (not to say I will never again, but I am looking at them from a different angle now).

A lot of what God does with us is pealing back all the layers of our insides to understand everything that is going on in the inside of us to mold us, change us, and love us more deeply. And a lot of these layers we don't want to be pulled back, we want to hide things in our lives we don't want God to work on or see so that He can help us grow. Willingly pulling back the layers takes much courage and love, but the more we do it the closer and more just joyous we will be to God. He helps us see the world differently through His eyes.

I want to leave you with so many thoughts, but my head is feeling overwhelmed with emotions and experiences, I can't close right. But I do know that we are heading towards one of my favorite times of year. The migrant Jesus that never was settled in any area and was a wonderer for His whole life. Who walked and hung out with the poor the outsiders. What has God called us to carry into the world? What has He been waiting to perform in our lives?

James 4:17:

"Anyone, then who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it sins." !!
It is like knowing destruction is going to happen, and not doing anything about it.

Pitures!!
1. The kids, my roommate and me!! YAY!
2. My neck of the street!


Thursday, December 01, 2005

Peace, Joy...and LOVE

God you have given me that happiness that only comes from you. They are like spurts of joy, of outstanding joy that I have to recognize that it came from you because they come out of nowhere. Also I should remember the fact that the joy started when I Got home to the city here in Los Angeles. It was good during the ride down and then all of a sudden once I was back in my house off of Loma Drive and I was talking with Jiesla, I came up to my room and could not stop thinking of how I am so joyful. It is like one of those ones that you know comes from the Lord, not to say other things do not give me joy, but these bursts of joy are specifically needed and really known by God. That has to be a huge sign to me that once I got settled back here in Jiesla's place I just got this wave of joy. I am home, I am comfortable, I recognize places, things are familiar. Then I realized after this, I have only three more weeks left here, and I became saddened. I thought about how I didn't want to leave. I don't not want to go back to campus, but I do like it here and the experience I am having I want it to be longer, then it would probably b even harder to leave it if it was for a year. God's timing is perfect, and trusting in Him about this is essential for surviving in life. So, the Lord reminded me that He takes me through stages and journeys of life, and all things come to a close. This is the way it was meant to be, these things build my trust in God, all these things do. Knowing He has control and to know as we are known is truly an amazing feeling.

Being a feeler in is not easy sometimes. Since all you want to do when you see hurt and pain is to fix it or help to turn that in to happiness. Being surrounded by pain and suffering does not help the situation, since I can easily get burnt out by meeting the needs of others and not focusing on my own. I get so overwhelmed with all I see and do, that it is hard to take it all in sometimes, and understand how to processes it and respond afterwards. I must come to God's redemption and peace to be able to help me respond and look at the city. To fully see everything as we are known. I have a hard time wanting to follow through with what God wants me to do because knowing it will be hard and wonderful at the same time. It will be the best and challenging thing I must face. But I know I can never do anything different but what God has called me to do. I know I will never fall back on what I am supposed to do, and God will keep on encouraging me and reminding me. God will help carry us through whatever He has us set out to do.