Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Christmas Gift

Our housekeeper Veronica is a very lovely young woman.  She is married to a piki piki (motorcycle) driver and has a five year old son.  Her husband has a boda-boda business, which means he drives people on his motorcycle like a taxi.  Veronica is a wonderful cook and also does our shopping, cleaning and laundry (by hand).  They are both very hard working people.  They live higher up the mountain from us near Irente Farm.
One day last week when Veronica went home her house had been broken into.  The thieves took almost everything...the cushions from her furniture, the sheets and blankets off their beds, her son’s few toys, and their charcoal cooker, pots, dishes...even some of their clothing.  The next day when she came to work she was very upset and had the pastor next door come with her to explain what had happened.  She went to the police station that day in Lushoto to report the theft.  She and her husband also went to see if they could see any of their things for sale at the market.  
Yesterday, when we returned home for our lunch, we had a great surprise.  Veronica had decorated our home with a Christmas tree and also new linens for our furniture and coffee table.  She wanted to share the Christmas spirit with us.  She saw our pine cone Christmas tree and wanted to help make our “spirits bright”.   The tree is a branch of a ferny evergreen decorated with cut flowers.  Even in her loss and sadness, she wanted to help us to enjoy our holidays.
This brought to mind a Christmas season we had back in 1989.  Tom’s wonderful Aunt Betty, closer than any grandmother could be, died shortly before Christmas.  My father was in and our of Cooper Hospital Oncology department.  It was probably the lowest point in our lives.  One night our doorbell rang.  When we answered it no one was there but there was a wrapped present on the doormat.  Inside was a small glass tree filled with candy.  Over the next week or so, every night the same thing would happen.  I can’t remember everything, but there was a bayberry candle and a pointsetta, small things that meant the world to us.  We would wait and take turns watching out the window to see if we could find who our “Secret Santa” was.  We still do not know, but hope that their kindness, like Veronica’s has been repaid to them in some way.  
This is what Christmas should be.  Not the latest electronic gadget or expensive toy.  It should be Christ in our hearts, helping others, caring and praying for others and walking the path Jesus would want us to walk.  Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ is born to us today and everyday.
God bless you all and Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Saturday in Lushoto

As I write this, I am sitting on the porch of Tumaini Restaurant watching Lushoto go by.  The number of people who come here on a Saturday is amazing, but half the number that will be here tomorrow, market day.  Today was our first drive down the mountain on our own.  Well, we were actually accompanied by three Swedish volunteers who are staying at the Irente Hostel over the Christmas holidays.  
This past week saw the start of English classes.  The class size has varied from 8 in one class to a high of 18.  The students’ attendance is dependent on what is happening with the children.  The students include 32 health care workers and the driver, Christian.
The girls range in age from 18 to 22 years old.  They come from all over Tanzania, including one girl from Zanzibar.  They come from all educational backgrounds and have varying knowledge of English.  It is very interesting and rewarding work, but sometimes already challenging.  
Tom has been very busy helping around the Home with projects ranging from childcare, chain saw repair, dryer repair, and splitting fire wood.  Soon, he will start his own class, teaching a young girl named Nema who is about 7 years old.  Nema lives at the home.  Because of some medical problems, they have not found a placement for her.  She attends primary school, but they are on Holiday break until mid-January.  The Assistant Director of the Home asked if perhaps Tom could work with Nema and her friend Anna.
It has been challenging particularly with the holidays approaching so quickly.  We thank God for the invention of the internet, computers, Skype and iPods.  We have talked about how difficult it must have been for those early Lutheran missionaries, buried in Tanga, who probably waited weeks or months at a time to hear from their families.  The seeds of faith that they planted have produced an abundant harvest in the people here.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Irente View Point

Today is Friday, December 9, 2011, a day of celebration for the people of Tanzania.  Fifty years ago they gained their independence from Great Britain.
This week was very busy for us.  We worked at the home everyday with the children.  On Wednesday morning, we traveled to Lushoto for morning devotions at the Diocese office and met Bishop Munga and his staff.  We shared greetings from our synod to theirs.
Our next-door neighbors returned from a trip to Indonesia on Wednesday evening.  Pastor Joyce is the minister of Irente Lutheran Parish (companion to Lutheran Church of the Resurrection).  She and her husband have three children, two boys and a girl.  
Today Susan and I took a walk to Irente View, about 4 kilometers from our home.  This was a place we visited when we were here on our last trip.  Irente View is one of the highest points in this region, which gives one of the most beautiful sights in the entire world.  On a clear day, you can see for almost one hundred miles.  While Susan and I were enjoying the view, we talked about the last time we were here.  How wonderful it was to have our fellow members of St John’s share that experience with us then.  As we sat looking over the Masai Plains, we shared our thoughts about our journey to date.
How blessed we have been from the beginning of this journey.  Yes, we had many challenges to face, but we have had ten times the number of people needed to help us get through them.  Everywhere we go, people have taken us under their wing and walked with us every day.  When people hear that we will be here longer than just a few months, they are excited.  They like having long relationships.
I can only hope that we reflect the true meaning of why we are serving here.  We are here to walk “shoulder to shoulder” bringing God’s message to each other, also to show that we care for each other and that we can learn from each other.  This could only happen because God is leading the way.
Susan and I would like to thank you for allowing us to represent the churches of SEPA and its’ members with this mission of serving at Irente Childrens Home.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Travel to Tanga 11/30-12/2/11

On Wednesday, November 30th Godfrey, the driver who brought us here from Arusha, arrived to take us to Tanga to get our driver’s licenses and do some shopping.  When we arrived at our new home, we found that the kitchen did not have a refrigerator, stove, dishes, pots, pans or utensils.  One of the women from the home named Mayinda
has been helping us our first week here.  She has cooked our meals on a charcoal cooker located in a small building off the kitchen.  Also, since there is no water heater in the house, she has been bringing us water from the Children’s Home for our showers at night and also in the morning for us to wash up.  We are living the Tanzanian lifestyle.  Pastor Joyce said they will need to look into the shower situation.
So, we traveled to Tanga and began a three day process for driver’s licenses.  It involved a lot of waiting, delays due to power outages, the license bureau’s computer being down, and many other steps.  This morning we received our provisional licenses, but there was an eight hour wait before the process for the real license would begin.  Pastor Shemkala kindly offered to pick up our licenses next week.  He also put a good word in for us with a member of his parish who works in the Revenue office.  This probably helped to speed things up quite a bit.
In between steps for the license, we did some shopping.  Godfrey took us to a shop where appliances were sold.  We bought a small dorm sized refrigerator and a “gas cooker” which is a two burner stove that uses a propane tank.  It is similar to what we had in our trailer.  We also went to another shop and bought the things we needed for the kitchen..pots, a pan, some plastic dishes and utensils.  At a stationary store we got supplies for the classroom and some English workbooks.  All in all, we did pretty good.  
Our first night in Tanga, Pastor Shemkala came to the hostel where we were staying to greet us.  We had dinner with him and got caught up on events at Kana and St John’s.  It was a wonderful reunion.  Thursday, we went to his home for dinner and got to see his  whole family.  They have all grown over the last three years.  
When we returned home, our new housekeeper had already started.  She not only cleaned the whole house while we were away, she did laundry and even weeded the garden.  Her name is Veronica.  She could be about 20 years old and does a lot of giggling.  When I was trying to say something in Kiswahili, she took my arm and laughed saying, “You are so funny!”  I think we will do a lot of laughing together.
She made us a very good dinner of beans and rice and a vegetable stew.  We are somewhat vegetarian since we arrived here.  At the language school I had some bacon a few mornings, but since then we have only had a little chicken at one meal.  I believe with all the fruit and vegetables, we are eating healthier that before.  Also no Entemann’s is helpful for the waistline.
This afternoon, we had our first company!  Mr Mrisho Hussein stopped in to introduce himself and to invite us to his son’s graduation party tomorrow.  His son is graduating from Sekuko University.  Shortly after he arrived, the Evangelist from Irente Lutheran Church, Mr. Stephan Kipingu, also stopped by and we had tea with them.  Mr Hussein is a teacher at the Irente School for the Blind.  He was in the first graduating class from Sekuko University last year.  He is also visually challenged, but is able to read with the help of some very thick glasses.  His English is wonderful as is Evangelisti Kipingu’s.  They were here for more than an hour and a half.  Mr. Hussein also enjoyed two cups of the Starbuck’s Coffee Bishop Burkat gave us.  
We are sorry for the delay in getting any emails out over the last few days.  We took the computer with us, but forgot the power converter.  Little by little we are getting settled in and happy to be here.
We thank God for all of the help we have received from the people here, especially Godfrey who spent three days away from his wife and children to take us to Tanga.
We also that God for everyone at home for your love, support and  prayers.  We will be in touch soon.
Amani, (peace)
Susan and Tom
ps.  when we plugged the fridge in, the outlet in the kitchen does not the fridge is in the living room.  
pss.. Have you ever bought a dozen eggs and discovered that one still has a feather attached?
ppss...  There is a small lizzard/chameleon type thing in the potted plant on our mantle!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Our new home in Irente

We arrived in Irente yesterday afternoon at about 3pm.  Our little house is very nice.  We have two bedrooms, a sitting room, bathroom, and kitchen.  The garden out front is very beautiful, with cala lillies and other flowers and plants I do not know.  Out back there is a vegetable garden with cabbages, corn, beans, bananas and my favorite vegetable name, pilipili hoho which is green peppers.  We are on a mountain and had forgotten how far up we drove last time.  It is so beautiful here.  We will be traveling to Tanga one day this week to buy some things for the house that we need and hope to stop at Kana Lutheran Parish when there.  People here couldn't be more kind or gracious to us.  They brought us our dinner last night and breakfast this morning.
Yesterday afternoon we visited the Childrens' Home before we unpacked and met some of the young women we will be teaching along with some really beautiful children.  There is one girl who is 5 or 6 years old, but all of the rest are under 3.  There are also three infants, but we did not see them.  When Tom introduced himself to the girls they all giggled.  “Jina langu ni Tom”.  In Kiswahili, the word tamu means sweet. 
We were especially glad to see Hawa again.  Many of you have heard of Hawa, who has lived at the home since she was a baby.  She is now 38 years old.  In spite of her limitations she meets and greets everyone.  She loves to hold hands and is happy to hold and feed babies.
This morning we were picked up by Godfrey the driver and taken to Cathedral Church for the late service.  The first Sunday of Advent is a time when they celebrate the women of the church.  The women’s choir processed in carrying a palm frond and branch of bouganvilla.  They were all wearing white blouses and beautiful blue kangas patterned with the Luther Seal with the words “Wanawake ELCT” and “Women of ELCT” on them.  While we did not understand the words of the hymn, we did recognize “Hosanna”.  The music between the verses was Lift High the Cross.  There were two other choirs and each choir sang two or three anthems.  The movements that they do throughout each one would certainly be an aerobic workout for most of us.  
We recognized the cadence of the Apostle’s Creed and also Bwana Yetu...The Lord’s Prayer.  The gospel may have been Jesus blessing the children, because we heard the words “watoto and mtoto”,  children and child.  While the sermon, prayers, and announcements went right over our heads, the sound of the hymns and choir anthems filled our hearts with the love for Mungu, God.
This week we will go to the diocese office for orientation.  We will also meet with the director the home to find out what she has planned for us.  We look forward to the challenges ahead.
Susan and Tom

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

It is difficult to realize that tomorrow is Thanksgiving when I look out the window and see  trees flowering and feel the warm breeze.  The Thanksgiving Day that we celebrate is definitely an American holiday, although other countries have similar days at different times of the year.
Here we will have our class as usual tomorrow.  The food in the dining hall will probably be similar to what we have most nights.  We have enjoyed the meals here very much, but Thanksgiving is really not about the turkey and cranberry sauce.  
On Sunday, we enjoyed our Thanksgiving meal with the ELCA rep for Tanzania, Barbara Hinderlie, her husband Pastor Andy and their children.  They also invited Annie Bunio, a volunteer we met at our training in Toronto in July, and two families from their church.
Barbara ordered a 15 pound frozen turkey from Meat King in Arusha.  We also had stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, beans and corn on the cob.  The meal was delicious, but the fellowship around the table was what meant the most.  Many of the expats we have met here are volunteers or mission personnel from the US, Canada, and  Europe.  Most have served God in this place for many years.  It is humbling to be included in their company.
After dinner, Barbara served a pumpkin pie brought by Carolyn from their church.  There are no pie pans here, so she made the crust and fit it into a roasting pan.  The pie was wonderful and reminded us of home.  My brother-in-law Mike always teased me about my “shallow dish” pumpkin pie.  You can’t imagine what pie from a roast pan looks like.
Improvisation and flexibility seem to be the key things to remember here.
We thank God for each of you.  Tomorrow when we have our dinner, we will be thinking of all of you at home and will offer a prayer of thanks for you.  We will miss being with you, but we rejoice in being here.
God bless you all,
Susan and Tom

Friday, November 18, 2011

Kiswahili week 2

Jina langu ni Susan.  Mimi mi mwanafunzi wa Kiswahili hapa.  (How are things going?   My name is Susan.  I am a student of Swahili here.)

Well, two weeks down and one to go.  I feel like Alice in Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass, I can't remember which one, but the part where they have to run as fast as they can just to stay in one place.  Pastor Lee shared a new Beatitude with us last week....Blessed are the mzee....blessed are the old.  We pray for God's help in studying, thinking and especially remembering.  It is making sense, but slowly.

We have spent the last two weeks learning lots of vocabulary, as well as grammar both in Kiswahili and English.  It has been a while since we gave a lot of thought to verb tenses, adjectives, adverbs etc.  We also learned the names of fruits, vegetables, and the language for shopping.  On Wednesday, we went by bus to Tengeru Women's Market (Tengeru Sokoni Wanawake).  We were each given 2000 TZ shillings and a list of items to buy.  Our job included bargaining with the vendors.   "Hapana, ghali sana!"  (no, too expensive).  Tom and I bought tomatoes, green peppers, carrots, cabbage, onions and a coconut.  My favorite vegetable name is green pepper...pilipili hoho.  It means the pepper that is hollow.

Bargaining, also known as haggling is not one of my favorite things.  I like barcodes or a price marked on an item.  I really don't like yard sales, either as the buyer or seller.  Give me the Shop Rite any time.  By the way, the big grocery store in Arusha is Shop Rite...same spelling, but the things for sale are way different.

We had three different teachers this week.  It was nothing we did, trust me.  Mama Elda was replaced by Kisanji, who was replaced by Mama Lois.  Mama Lois worked here for many years before retiring.  They asked her to come back for the next few weeks.  She is a wonderful teacher.  She is incredibly patient and explains things so clearly.  She also speaks in a very proper and exacting way, so we can follow her without too much trouble.

When we told her that we are the Pole Pole (slow) class and that we are all Wazee (old people) she gave us some wonderful advice.  Mama Lois told us that the most important thing we can do in life is to accept ourselves as we are.  God has made us as we are and we should be glad for this.  She also is very big on positive thinking.  She told us of a student who became so discouraged that he talked of quitting and going home.  Mama Lois asked him if he felt he had been called by God to serve in Tanzania.  When he said he had, she asked if God had told him to quit.

Please pray for the teachers and students here, as well as those throughout God's world.  We also pray that we can all be glad for the person God has created in each of us.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Swahili no problem

         And to think they thought they were going to teach a 62 year man Swahili. But I showed them.Nothing could penetrate this hard head. This week was very challenging. Time changes,new food, class all day and most of all trying to learn a new language..
          We have the most incredible teacher, Mama Elda.  She is teaching us proper sentence structure as we learn the language.She has the patience of a saint with me. How blessed we are to have her. We have two more weeks of classes before we go to our mission site. I hope Mama Elda can hold out that long. I know I can.
         Tanzania is a beautiful country. In this part, things are green with many flowers and trees blooming everywhere.  The colors are breathtaking. There are many large birds making their nest in the trees around the school.This makes my wife very happy. This weekend we plan to take it easy. .I think some rest is needed for both of us.
          When I've had  time to think about what we are doing and where we are, I thank God.
Without him and all of you this mission could not of happened. Please keep Mama Elda in your prayers.

                                                                                                 GOD BLESS
                                                                                            SUSAN &TOM



Monday, November 7, 2011


November 2

Pastor Lee, Heather, and Griffin came to our house to see us off.  Pastor Tricia would us to the airport.  Pastor Lee made the sign of the cross on our foreheads using ointment from father's container (which I am sure has a special name) remembering our Baptism.   This was very emotional for us all.  We thought of Pastor Lee I and Joan Miller and how they had talked of serving for a time in Zimbabwe when they retired.  This anointing made me feel they were traveling along with us.

At baggage check in we waited while Pastor Tricia parked her car.  How strange it was to see most of our possessions on a baggage cart...three duffle bags and two suitcases.

Jesus told his disciples to go and not take an extra cloak.  We fell short of his direction in this.  We needed to plan for warm and cool weather.  We also brought along some items to feel at home; our comforter, pillows, an afghan made by my Mother ( we arrive in Tanzania on what would have been her 93rd birthday).

We all stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us.  For All The Saints!

Will you come and follow Me?


A fairly new hymn that we sing begins, "Will you come and follow Me if I but call your name?"  It has become one of my favorites.  It speaks of answering God's call to "never be the same".

Three years ago when we felt that we needed to serve in Tanzania, we thought we were ready.  We were so wrong.  Pastor Lee encouraged us that Delay is not Denial.  We see now that the process needed to be long.  Over the past three years, we have grown so much.

We are told that the vine must be pruned in order to grow stronger.  All of the parts of our lives, both joyful and sorrowful, make us what we are.  A very dear friend of mine has told me that through the many challenges she faces right now in her life, she prays that while she knows the Lord will not give her more than she can handle, she needs His help through it all.  It is a great testament to her faith to be able to trust in God.

We are grateful to all who have given us their blessing, while not understanding why we would want to be here.  We thank all of you who have helped us to grow and prepare for this journey, especially our pastors, the Global Companion Team members at the Southeastern PA Synod, Global Mission staff of the ElCA, our training time at CCF in Toronto and the ELCA Summer Mission Gathering in Wisconsin.
All of these have changed us and molded us to become better servants of Christ in his world.

Everyone has a mission in life, not all of these missions include a plane trip.  We can all serve wherever we are.  One mission is not more important than another.

The Sending

We cannot begin to describe the feelings we had at both worship services on Oct 23rd and at the lunch that followed.  We have talked for hours about how blessed we are to have so many people with us on our journey to Tanzania.  In all our months of preparation for going, we were not prepared for how hard it would be to leave.

We are grateful that our family and friends could be with us to share the love that is evident at every service at St. John's.  We are thankful for the presence of the Bishop, clergy, members, and new friends we have met through our visits to congregations throughout SEPA.  We appreciate the changes that were made to regular schedules in order to be with us.

Our thanks go to everyone who helped with the planning and work involved in providing the lunch.  What a great idea to have local and Tanzanian food.  Everything was wonderful.

The day confirmed how truly blessed we are to be part of the family of God throughout the world.  We thank God for all of you.