Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tutaonana: Goodbye, Tanzania

"All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before."

C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

on the road to Maasailand
This was the quote I took away with me as I graduated from USC almost exactly a year ago. In a flurry of graduation caps, cardinal and gold, I was sent off into the world—wide-eyed, excited, and unsure. Life up until this point had been so structured for me, and for the first time my future lay before me: wild and unchartered. God gave me a nudge and so I jumped, hand held firmly in His, into a strange new adventure… and here I am in Tanzania a year later, begrudgingly counting down the days till my departure.

The past few months with Pamoja have been quite steady: Work all week and hang out with the Pamoja community, rest/homegroup on Saturday, and church on Sunday with an occasional town trip. But every once in a while, I get to go somewhere awesome and spend the rest of the month reflecting on it.

During the month of March I had the incredible experience of going to Maasailand out in Simanjiro to visit some of Pamoja’s Maasai friends. (Honestly, had I not been slacking on my entries this trip should have deserved its very own post lol.)

packing for the trip
Maasai are a tribe of herders who usually live out in the bush (aka the middle of nowhere,) and spend their days taking care of their goats, cows, and families. Getting out to Simanjiro in the first place, however, was already a doozy and made me realize how much I took the paved roads in the U.S. for granted! 
busted tire
cow crossing
Apart from hours of feeling like I was sitting on a bucking bronco for 6 hours, there were so many things I took away from the trip to Maasailand.
  1.  Having to do your business in the bushes is actually quite freeing: You know initially, having grown up with toilets to pee/take a dump in nearly my entire life, the idea of squatting and potting seemed kind of gross. However, since there are no rest areas along the roads of Tanzania, but tons of trees and bushes, I quickly realized that no toilets meant I could go whenever I want, wherever I want!

  2. Freshly roasted goat meat is awesome: The Maasai slaughtered a goat for us the nights we were there, and Kirsten and I were invited to watch. This is a huge testament to God’s work in the community, because originally Maasai men wouldn’t even eat meat that was seen by a woman. I felt a little bad for the goat, but not too bad because honestly she had a way better life than the factory bred animals we eat at home. Maybe that’s why she tasted so yummy- I don’t even know the words to describe what it tasted like! Chewy, smoky, rich in flavor, with a hint of wilderness and Maasai to it.  Just thinking about it now makes me hungry, but I’m not sure when I’ll ever have the chance to taste similar roasted meat again.

    leading goat to slaughter
    dinner :P
  3. Smiling, and trying your best to communicate goes a long way: Some of my fondest memories in Maasailand was trying to communicate with a couple Maasai women. Both of us speak very little Swahili because my mother tongue is English, and theirs is Maasai, but once I got past laughing and figured out how to say “God bless you” in Swahili, their smiles and hugs and grasping of hands said much more than words could ever express.
  4. I became particularly fond of this kid named Samson...
    it probably helped that he spoke a little more Swahili lol
    we couldn't communicate well with each other,
    but the women and kids hung around us and were so welcoming!
  5. Life isn’t better out here in the bush, but it certainly points out some flaws from my culture, such as the lack of community and happiness: The Maasai have a really simple lifestyle compared to mine—stripped to the core with only the bare basics, and yet they have such a joy and depth to their community. When asked if they would ever like to live in the west, for instance, the Maasai immediately answered “no.” Even though many of them have traveled to North America, our material wealth cannot make up for our lonely souls, nor can it make up for our constant desire to search for a higher purpose.
  6. building a house out of mud and cow dung
    maasai kids LOVED photos!! (except maybe not that particular baby)
    I usually had to sneak pictures unless I wanted to be lost in a crowd of kids
    tents we slept in
    watching a cow give birth (it miscarried T.T)
    scenery out here is beautiful, but the winds can be brutal
  7. God is moving in the Maasai and raising up local leaders: It’s incredible to hear some of the testimonies from the men and women here who discovered Christ for themselves (not foreign missionaries) through dreams and are now centering their lives around Jesus. They are now growing into a community that promotes education, encourages more respect for their women, opposes FGM (female genital mutilation,) and strives to be a light to other Maasai communities.   
    Maasai leaders meeting about their school system

Lastly, here is an audio clip (this was recorded at night) of the worship songs they sing at night. They write their own praise songs that apparently change quite a bit over time, but it’s beautiful!


With my last days in Tanzania ticking away, I find myself reflecting quite frequently about what I have learned my first year out of college, and I think it can be summed up into two points: that 1) missionaries are not exempt from the struggle bus, and 2) God can still work through us despite our struggles.

Chapter One of my post-grad story kind of became a "wilderness" experience, and much of this came with unrealistic expectations of what it meant to be a missionary. I think that sometimes, when we (myself included,) think of missionaries, we think of stellar, superhero Christians who perform above and beyond. Missionaries are the people who punch Satan in the face with powerful prayers, cast out demons, bring entire communities to Christ and stay on top of their quiet time, right? But I’ve realized that the danger of that misconception is that as a missionary to Skid Row LA and Africa, I hold myself to the same unrealistic standards. And when I fail to meet them, I begin believe in the lie that I have also failed God.

But thankfully, when one is surrounded by good community and seasoned missionaries, I’m reminded in tough moments that God never intended for us to journey alone. Ecclesiastes 4 says "Two are better than one, because they have return for their work. If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!" I have been blessed to live with people from such diversity of cultures, academic backgrounds, personalities and lifestyles—to whom I can learn from and lean on. Living in community also produces a beautiful vulnerability that demonstrates our need for God’s grace to unite and strengthen us. I may not have poured out my heart and soul here at Pamoja, but just knowing that we are a community that constantly prayers for and serves one another is often encouragement enough.

celebrating one of the kids birthdays!
going to miss these girls when I leave
goofing off :3
poor fuzzface got spayed last week lol, but she's back to being her silly self again now!
Despite months of spiritual wrestling, I look back on Africa and see God’s grace working through my skills despite my shortcomings. It amazes me to see what I have been able to accomplish, and what Pamoja has accomplished in 6 months. By the end of the month I will have completed thirteen 40-page full color comics for distribution. Pamoja is currently in a state of expanding, and we are taking on new media projects, partnering with local east African churches, building more housing for future missionaries, and recruiting new members to our team. Our God is able! Even on the days when I don’t want to talk to him, or feel totally unproductive He has surrounded me with awesome community, solitude when needed, and the cutest furry friend. In a few days I can leave the country knowing that we have helped make financial literacy more available to hundreds of thousands of people.

on set with Wewenami- our kids puppet show
screening Nipe Jibu- our film musical, to Maasai at night (photocred to Steve Wozny)

Jeremy partnering with a Kenyan pastor to distribute 300,000 copies of a discipleship curriculum 
Mwanangu, our puppet show's main character

a newly tiled tree from Kirsten that I like to call the tree of Gondor :3

This mid-term mission was humbling because it’s long enough that my project will make a difference, but short enough to know that most of the heavy lifting is still done by those who have spent decades on the field, and those people deserve medals. Nevertheless, I love the fact that regardless of how long I’ve been here, every day, every second we live for God’s kingdom adds a tile to His mosaic of a redemptive story. After I leave, Pamoja will carry on with it’s media work and community building, but it has been an honor to see God’s hand in this ministry and be a part of it. I hope to return again.

sunset over Pangani beach in Tanzania
Catch you on the flip side, fabulous friends :)

p.s. for any of you going to Urbana 2015, I’ll be there with the Pamoja team so come say hi!

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