The storm is raging here in Tanzania as I write this post. Our power is dancing to its own beat once again due to the rapid rate of lightning and thunder which has had me awake since 2 am. While fully enjoying this downpour’s unrelenting sky show in the night, I am hopeful it lets up in time to make it up the hill to the children’s village I am scheduled to be at in the morning where I have arranged to visit the kindergarten (pre school) located on the grounds of the home. As this rain is greatly needed and welcomed, its delay this season has me challenged since it directly affects the time with the children at the village more often than anticipated. I pray for it to begin to work in favor of my travels and not against, as each day and sometimes hour, has been as unpredictable as the next! On the bright side, I am finding that my patience is being grown and these early mornings and day detours, make good time to collect my thoughts, have conversation with the Lord and update these posts on the weeks which have been passing by ever so quickly.
Tanzania. I find it beneficial I inform those who have never been on a bit more. There are numerous reasons one may enjoy coming to Tanzania. As for me they are many. When I have the opportunity to ask how locals see and enjoy Tanzania, (they frequently ask me the same,) specifically when asking about ones time in Mwanza, they share various reasons they take pleasure in it. Some who are native to Tanzania will more often than not compare it to places they have lived prior around this region and why it differs in the good and in the not so favorable.
Tanzania holds much beauty, from interesting animals and numbering species, exotic plants, unusual and extraordinary sights such as the rocky city of Mwanza, craters in Ngorongoro, Mt. Kilimanjaro and the vast plains of the Serengeti which sits about 4 hours from Mwanza, to Lake Victoria, which happens to be Africa’s largest lake Mwanza Town sits directly on drawing many in to its fish ports. The foods and flavors are both delicious and different and most captivating and worthy of visitation to me are the people and the children I have grown to love. This list is limited yet goes on. As I share, you can get probably grasp that there are a handful of reasons that draw people to Mwazna as well as Tanzania in general, these but a few.
As there is always two sides to every coin, and a day to the night. I found it is important to have some of an understanding of both as we recognize we live in a broken word which is revealing and exposing its cracks from person to person and country to country in a similar outworking and others differing. Perfection is not present anywhere we go as most reading will likely agree, nor found in anyone we meet or organizational structure. As I am personally choosing to spend time while answering leadings of investment with partnerships here over seas, it has been of utmost importance and too a personal desire I have for a growing awareness in these areas. I strive to be continually open to gaining knowledge about the place and the people I am staying amongst, as well as keep a desire to understand the culture, it’s systems and its impacts. While here, I come face to face with some disheartening realities and find myself up against darker places of existence next to the great joys and other pleasures, primarily unique to visitors. I find myself near and in places and areas lacking aid and various arenas where exploitation, affliction, stigmas, poverty, loss and danger is relevant and seen at a staggering level. These are a few of unavoidable truths which I can’t easily ignore but as most things in life, have choice and opportunity to seek greater comprehension of its implications and overall effects. I still have much to learn and much of the puzzle to come into fruition to see. I seek a fuller picture and measure each day here, one I may never fully receive.
Alongside those more inviting and encouraging reasons to visit the country which I listed above, the latter are few that may provoke the opposite for some and be the green light calling of others. These are the more challenging areas that will probably exercise your faith, alter your world view, and likely break your heart while simultaneously inviting opportunities to and encounter in love. I found it was just that for me, these depths were exactly what propelled my return and set the stage for me to desire to love in the midst this challenge, pain, loss, governmental corruption and in those areas of long running neglect. I am learning to do this daily, like learning anything, it takes devotion, commitment, patience and perseverance; all which I have great daily doses of.
'May we learn to be be more like human sunflowers, seeking and seeing the Light in a world of darkness.' - William C. Garnett
‘I have found that paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no hurt but only more love.’ - Mother Teresa.
This is a quote I ran across the other day by the well known Mother Teresa, one with many wise words and truths and also was one that provides room to ponder as it brought further though to mind. I don't believe the hurt ever really leaves but rather carries a new hue and weight of passion, empathy and fire to love harder, love deeper and simply yearn to learn to love without reservation.
"Your faith will help me, and my faith will help you." - Romans 1:12
I will always cherish and have a vivid memory of the day I arrived at the Children’s Village to greet the 11 children I had previously met last summer who were placed on my heart, impacting and prompting my return as well as the near 20 others who I would be meeting for the first time. It was Valentine’s Day and the sweetest one yet. My time at the village was short that day but with no losses. What life and love was found! Indeed they all remembered ‘Mama Lacey’ from last summer at their pervious orphanage and the others were just as excited in their own way to have a Mazungu 'white person' arrive on their behalf. It was incredible to see their ‘new’ adult teeth that had come in since last leaving 5 of them with missing front teeth. Now forming new smiles on their radiant little faces, I was additionally blown away and encouraged to see them assimilating into this new environment and home. They had matured and their dispositions changed in seeming positive ways; I was able to take note of rather quickly. It was apparent their new structure, environment the culture here and likely their schooling was now playing a role in their development. Although I have to admit, their demeanor and maturity was an adjustment for me to see but all so encouraging and heartening in the same.
It was a pleasure to meet the staff and greet the children at the home. My most treasured and heart felt moment would have to be the first house we went to visit. Mama Dorothy arranged a sweet surprise. I would see the 5 year old boy who has lived with Epilepsy and Cerebral Palsy his whole life after a stroke as a baby. This was the boy I grew to quickly adore last visit and was committed and called to invest in and advocate on behalf in his health journey and well being. It was clear over the months we spent last summer, he was not stable and future jeopardized daily. I would go as far to say I grew to love this little lad as if was my own. The heavily Father's heart for Him made clear and known to mine. The reuniting left us both speechless until he began to shout, 'wow, wow, wow,' while touching and examining my face. This led to the surfacing of my tears which had been restricted up until that point. This sweet, good, good boy was once again in my arms! Woven through the unspoken words of joy, the love
not able to explain, the only response remaining was 'Thank You.'
There are currently 8 mamas and aunties who live at the village. One auntie and one mum live in each home. In the homes you will find 3-5 children both boys and girls. The village has the capacity to house about 120 children in their 12 available homes. As of now since the village has only been open for 5 months, there are 33 children. Although a majority of the mums do not speak English, I have been welcomed kindly and it has been a pleasure to continue to get acquainted with them each visit. All seem to be sweet women with a dedication and commitment to care for these children and love them well. Their choice to become a parent to these children, provide a safe place of love to and to flourish; it brings me hope. My thanks are great to the Lord, these women amaze me and in that, challenge the level of obedience in my personal faith walk. Their hearts and strength are eye opening as well as their acceptance of my arrival to join in with all the work that is happening at this new facility. It is an honor and they are quite an example and picture of the verse below.
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." - James 1:27
The week progressed and a few conversations later, it was found that the people hosting my stay in the room I am renting also happened to work at a local children’s village which is currently in process of expanding their special needs and handicap area of their village and looking to do more with physical therapy care which in future days may include PT trainings and outreach. This was timely as it is one of the areas we related in and directly linked to areas of pursuit and interest a good amount of my focus here is centered around. I anticipate further conversations to see how and in what ways God is in this and where desires to lead. I will head out next this week or next to pay their village a visit and take a tour, as it was previously scheduled for this last week until and unfortunate loss of a 5mo old baby in the village earlier in the week.
An added timely encounter was meeting with the gal rooming below me who is also renting a room on the property. It turns out she is out here after returning on and off for 10 years working on projects and involved in charity with a similar focus. Her heart is also for the abandoned and orphaned as well as has a special interest and expanding investment after all these years for those with disabilities. She does work with physical therapists who part of her network who are currently out here from Canada traveling to children’s homes and hospitals to assess individuals and do PT therapy. This another seeming God send and divine connect along the way! I love how God works. It may have been a day off for me from the village to catch up on laundry and grocery shopping, but God seemed to be making a point this particular day louder then others that He was still on the move and traveling ahead. All connects were and are in current prayer and these were connections I was hoping could and would be found somehow while out here in hopes of implementing options, connections and information to the village I am currently drawing along side for their children with handicaps. This home houses a handful of children with special needs and handicaps which are not uncommon or rare here in Tanzania due to disorders, accidents, lack of aid and most commonly present at birth or caused by trauma while in the womb. Many will live their entire lives without correctional aid or proper medical care. Due to the strong stigma that those who have disabilities are ‘less then human’ and in most cases ‘left out to die’ or hidden to not be seen by others (just to name a few,) the resources are typically not as important, implemented, are limited or the provisions are simply not available. These found resources will be great to have in the days to come and brought additional hope to the week. Great is His faithfulness.
His ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts....
The first few weeks here have been primarily full of adjusting back to the city, getting further acquainted with the staff and children at SOS and aside fighting with the rains schedule. I have had various meetings with people such as those mentioned, who have been very benifital to the work and time here as well as the time gathering with a couple friends here and locals met the prior summer. God has surly paved a road and although wet and full of roaring thunder and lightening at times, ‘pun intended,’ He has made it known He has a plan and a purpose and is working it all out while allowing what He can prevent in is power. He has also reminded me more then once that He indeed controls the time, weather and His ways are much wiser, greater and higher than mine. The doors are opening, some slower than others and some to be found better to remain shut, yet none existing apart from His sovereign might and all blessings and opportunity from His design. Yes, even the challenge, the tests, deaths and depths that the process and daily design of outworking bring me to on differing levels.
"Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me that way I should go, for to you I entrust my life." - Psalm 143:8