Sunday, 8 February 2015

Where is home?

I’m sitting in my ‘home’ in Mbeya – a colleague’s house that I am using for several months while she is back in her ‘home’ country. In many ways it already feels like home, with some of my pictures on the walls, my piano by the window and the lovely view of the mountains. But I know it’s only temporary.

I’ve been twice to the house in Mshewe, where I hope to live when focusing more on working with people in the Safwa language area. I’ve taken photos and tried to think through what I might need to take, but right now I have no idea how long I will spend there and how it will work out and whether it will ever feel like ‘home’. I hope to have my first stay there from mid-March, perhaps for an initial period of two to three weeks, but we’ll see – things have a habit of changing here from week to week! Mshewe is in a beautiful area, though it could feel rather lonely living alone in a big house. If you’d like to come for a virtual visit, click here to see a few pictures and hear some traditional Safwa music.

Mbeya does feel like ‘home’ again in many ways, but at the same time I feel like I am in a permanent state of transition, between one house and another and between England (which is also very much ‘home’ to me, both Lapworth and Gloucester) and Tanzania. I find I don’t buy books or too many ‘things’ because I never know when I will pack up and move again, and the more stuff you have the harder that becomes. It’s always a challenge making a place feel like home in such a way that it is also easy to up and go!
All these changes keep life interesting but also make it a bit unsettling. Maybe this is one of the reasons I look forward to the future. I recently read again these verses from John 14, where Jesus said:

“In my Father’s house are many rooms…I am going there to prepare a place for you. And…I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

What’s new?

I’m back in Mbeya, the town where I lived for nearly five years but thought I might never see again. It’s a strange feeling, as if I’m in a dream that I might wake up from only to find myself back in my bed at Redcliffe. But the longer I am here, the more reality sinks in. It’s been over a week now. As soon as I stepped off the plane in Dar es Salaam my nostrils were assaulted with the warm, humid atmosphere of the coastal city, and I felt strangely like I had come home. So much was the same, but not everything!

In the short time I had in Dar I was struck by how technology has moved on, everyone I saw in the airport seemed to be using a smart phone! After a couple of days in Dar I flew to Mbeya – no longer does one have to sit on a bus for 13 hours, as a plane ticket to the new ‘international’ airport can be almost as cheap as the bus. I was lucky to arrive on a dry morning, seeing Mbeya at its best – lush and green from the recent rains, with the mountains rising up all around. One thing that hasn’t changed is the beauty of this place, in fact it’s even more beautiful than I remembered it!

Loleza Peak, rising above Mbeya town
I have enjoyed pacing round the streets of Mbeya and reorienting myself – surprisingly little has changed but a few things stand out. Even more shops are painted with mobile phone network logos and advertising the fact that you can use M-Pesa or equivalent there – M-Pesa almost acts as a little bank account on your phone, from which you can send money to people or pay for things; it’s very useful, particularly in a place where shops don’t take Visa and internet banking isn’t used. A number of new shops have cropped up, but they all seem to be selling the same old things – I’ve just spotted one or two changes, like a new brand of margarine (so now there are two options instead of just one!) or that Ribena is now in glass bottles and has gone up in price. I was excited to discover I could buy rice flour, and by mixing this with maize flour have made my first wheat-free cake here. 

The change that most surprised me was the roads. The first day that I walked to the office I thought I was lost when I reached a tarmac road that I expected to be dirt, only to discover that I was exactly where I thought I was and this road, along with one or two others, has been surfaced with impressive ditches and footpaths to go with it.

Arriving at the office, it was lovely to see many familiar faces, but there were also many new faces, particularly among the missionaries. I am enjoying being reunited with old friends, though very much missing close friends from England and that ease of companionship that comes from knowing one another well. Psalm 18 is a comfort at this time, for God is that rock that never changes, the One who is always there.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Just do it

Going back to Tanzania is not as exciting for me as you might think. Although the people and place are close to my heart, I know that returning won’t be easy. When I stop to really contemplate what it will be like, I find myself wondering how I will do what I feel burdened to do, how the living situation will work out, whether I will be able to cope. I feel so inadequate, so weak, so unsure. At the same time, I know that I can’t know everything before I go, and maybe I need to just get on with it and see what happens.

A couple of weeks ago I popped home to spend the weekend with family, my head full of such thoughts. At church that Sunday morning the pastor preached from Ecclesiastes 11:1-6, a passage that includes these words:

“Whoever watches the wind will not plant… As you do not know the path of the wind…So you cannot understand the work of God the Maker of all things.”

The pastor pointed out that in God’s work we cannot be certain of the outcome and so we shouldn’t wait for certainty but rather just get out there and do something and trust the Lord of the harvest to work. This seemed to be a direct challenge, and encouragement, to me.

And as God so often does, He reinforced the point the following week. As I continued through Romans in my quiet times, I reached Romans 15, where Paul tells the Romans of his intent to go to Spain and visit them on the way. However, Tom Wright comments:

“Did Paul ever get to Spain? There is no evidence whatever that he did. But his desire to do so, and the fact that he wrote Romans as part of the preparation for such a trip, point out an extremely important lesson for us all. Perhaps God sometimes allows us to dream dreams of what he wants us to do, not necessarily so that we can fulfil all of them…but so that we will take the first steps towards fulfilling them. And perhaps those first steps (as they appear to us) are in fact the key things that God actually wants us to do.”

It struck me that the passion I have to see my brothers and sisters in Tanzania growing in knowledge of God through His Word and maturing in the faith should drive me forward. Whether my dreams about this work will be realised may not matter, for who knows what God may do along the way?

Drawing all of this together, I need to stop looking at the ‘wind’ (the challenges out there and my weaknesses), and head to ‘Spain’ and trust God to do what He will along the way. I need to just do it! This doesn’t mean that I am now full of confidence and raring to go, but I believe God is gently encouraging me to give it a go. Please pray for courage!

(Quotation taken from Tom Wright’s commentary, Paul for Everyone - Romans Part 2, p.125)