Friday, 22 April 2011

A new place

This week I visited a new place - Isoko. This small town (which is really no more than a village, but has a hospital and electricity) is in the Ndali language area - Ndali is one of the nine languages with which we work. I went there together with three Tanzanian colleagues representing the Literacy, Partnership and Scripture Use Departments of our project. It was a long drive to get there, most of it over dirt roads that were a bit slippery and rough after all the rains, though thankfully we only got stuck once. The highlights of the trip for me were the beautiful surroundings, standing on Malawian soil (as we were just across the border and found a rickety bridge to cross over the boundary river) and meeting with church leaders and representatives from at least ten denominations all together in one room (this is an unusual and therefore special display of unity). The lowlights were the food, dirt, tiredness and rain.
To see some pictures of the trip click here.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

One body, many parts

I’ve been thinking a bit recently about my strengths and weaknesses and how they fit the kind of work that I am doing. Do you ever feel like you are in over your head because you are having to take responsibility for something that doesn’t come to you naturally? Or do you ever find yourself getting bored, not because there isn’t enough to do, but because the things you are doing just don’t stimulate you? I know we all have to do things we don’t like, but we also all need things that energise us and keep us going.

This was brought home to me the other week when I spent several days in a row checking books, which involves sitting in front of a computer carefully reading through lots of text. I enjoy this for a limited period, but after three days of it I was welcoming every possible distraction and finding it very hard to focus. When a friend popped into the office, whose sole job it is to analyse text for Biblical accuracy and help her colleagues do a faithful translation, I told her, “I could never do your job!” She laughed, and as we talked I was very aware of how God gives us all different personalities and gifts. I couldn’t do her job and she couldn’t do mine. That’s why God describes us a body, and He has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wants them to be (1 Corinthians 12:18). Sometimes it’s hard to appreciate that when we are doing things we don’t feel qualified to do, or when we compare ourselves to others and think they would do a much better job or when we are just tired and feel somewhat disconnected from the body!

This weekend I experienced what truly makes me buzz – spending time with colleagues, training them and discussing the Bible together, and teaching in workshops. Despite being in a very hot place, and having had to take an uncomfortable four hour bus journey to get there, I really enjoyed my trip to the Nyakyusa language area to visit our Literacy / Scripture Use Coordinator there and to teach a workshop with him for Sunday School teachers. The turnout at the workshop was disappointing, but those who were there interacted well. I have many doubts and questions about my job, whether I am the right person for it or whether we are doing things in the most effective way, but I thank God for the gifts He has given me and the opportunities and strength He gives me to use them, even when I’m tired and feeling challenged about the role I am playing.

“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.” Romans 12:4-6a

A few funny things…

- Sitting next to a rather large man on the bus so that I nearly fell off my seat every time we went round a bend.

- Children greeting me “Good morning” at 7pm (this is a common mistake)

- People talking about me in Swahili, thinking I can’t understand

- Showing a colleague photos of snow, who responded with something like “I would die if I lived in a place that cold! People want to go to England because they think it’s a better place, but look at it, it’s not!!”

- The look on a colleague’s face when he realised I don’t have a clue how to farm and wouldn’t know how to hold a hoe!