Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Homeward Bound

After breakfast we made our way up to Kotela Lutheran Parish in the home area of my good friend, Pastor Stephen Massawe. We walked down through the lush village with small homes tucked away in the banana trees.

After awhile, we came to Bishop Moshi Lutheran Secondary School where we received a warm welcome from a group of enthusiastic students. Even though the school is on break they put on their school uniforms and came from their homes to the school just to welcome us! They had even written a welcome song with my name in it!

We toured the campus with the head mistress, Momma Moshi and other teachers. We visited the friendship tree my group had planted a couple years ago as a tiny sapling and I was amazed at how much it has grown.

We moved deeper into the village until we came to Kikoro Lutheran Primary School. This school holds a special place in my heart as raising funds for some renovations there was the first project I have supported in Tanzania many years ago.

A big group of these elementary age students had also put on their uniforms to welcome us at their school. They heard us coming down the trail from a distance and could not wait so they ran up the narrow path between the trees to surround us with big smiles, hugs and handshakes.

Even though these were brief visits made on the very day of our departure for home, they were moving and meaningful and a final reminder of what our Tanzania Vision Trips are all about. We are here to celebrate God’s gift of Christian community. A community of faith in Christ that blesses us with a larger vision of the church in the world.

The welcome song the children sang for us included the repeated refrain, “we love you, we love you.” I know those children, many of them orphans, from that poor rural village, really meant it.

And now we mean it too. And that changes everything.

Sister Fight Over Riding Shotgun. Time To Come Home!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Children Of God

Whatever happened on this day was going to be a surprise to me. We were visiting two poor schools located in the midst of huge sugar cane farms. We picked up Daniel and Jamaal as our guides for these visits. They both work with my good friend Martin Russell for the Opportunity Education Foundation (OEF), which is involved with both of these schools.

We passed right through the working farms on roads intended for farm trucks and tractors. Children could be seen along the fields happily chewing on pieces of sugar cane.

Our first stop was at Mtakuja Secondary School, which is connected to the Lutheran church. Secondary school is roughly equivalent to high school in the U.S. The 220 students are on break for the month so it was a quiet campus.

The head teacher gave us the history of the school and we learned about the OEF Next Generation Learning (NGL) program. OEF has chosen this poorly resourced remote school as a pilot to run this new NGL methodology. The early indications are positive. The goal is to show the government what can be achieved when teachers and schools utilize this approach to education. If it can work at Mtakuja Secondary School, it can surely work anywhere else in the country.

Next, we visited the Rose Education Center, which is both an orphanage and a primary school. We were greeted by Rose, the founder and by dozens of singing children. Rose is in a wheelchair after loosing the use of her legs as a child but she is running laps around most people in terms of her compassion, drive and accomplishments.

We toured the campus and learned about the challenges faced by this amazing place. The government has threatened to close the orphanage and school down since they lack the proper bathroom facilities. 

We were pleased to share with Rose and all the staff present that the Africa Fund at Prince of Peace will be providing some funds to help get those facilities built. We were all very moved that God brought us together in the middle of those farms.

Our group presented a couple soccer balls to the children and a frenzied playtime ensued on their big dirt field with all of us running around laughing together. 

Looking up, we could see that the great mountain was smiling down on all of us with the clearest view of the entire trip!

Imagine, on our last full day in Tanzania, we were blessed to be playing with a group of almost 80 children, most of them orphans, laughing and hugging and thanking God to be together, and Mt. Kilimanjaro chooses that very moment to show her full glory to our group for the first time.

This is Tanzania. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Warrior Worship

Today we set out for worship with people from the KIA Parish. KIA is made up of 15 separate sub-parishes (individual churches) scattered throughout a remote region of maze and sunflower fields.

After turning off the main road we bounced our way through narrow trails leading through hundreds of acres of bright sunflowers. Peter became less and less confident of which way to turn next when suddenly a piki piki (motorcycle) met us at a fork in the road. Two Maasai guys on the dirt bike waved for us to follow them. It turned out they were sent by Pastor.

It took awhile longer before we reached the simple brick church hidden back in the sunflower fields. We were greeted by the pastor but there were very few others around. The pastor assured us they would all show up as soon as their cows were milked, goats accounted for and families fed.

Before long, brightly clad Maasai people began to emerge from the fields. Each person made sure to shake our hands and welcome us to their church. The church started to fill and just before the beginning of the service the pastor asked me if I would preach. I found the scripture text on my phone, John 6:22-27 and in we went to begin the service.
The Maasai choir was wonderful. It was fun to preach with my old friend and mountain climbing partner, Saltieli Munisi doing the translating for me. The congregation was very engaged and responsive. By the end of the service you could feel that the initial tension of being with strangers had been completely transformed. We were now brothers and sisters in Christ, and friends.

John bought yet another chicken at the offering auction outside. Everyone was interacting and enjoying each other when Munisi began to yell at us like a crazy man to follow him.

We went around to the other side of the church on the edge of the fields and there it was. In the distance rising above the clouds was the glacier capped peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest free standing mountain in the world!

The entire lower half of the mountain was hidden by clouds but for one extended moment. my group witnessed the mountain that defines this entire region. In this area, Mt. Kilimanjaro sets the context. We are either on its slopes or in its shadow.

And now we had seen it. Which is a well know invitation, “karibu tena” welcome again. To see the mountain is to be invited to return to Tanzania.

Amani Means Peace

This day began with a visit to the Amani Home For Street Children in Moshi.  Amani is an amazing outreach we have supported for years. Every child rescued from the streets and cared for at the center has a compelling, moving and often sad story to tell about their young life. Amani is a place where a new and hopeful chapter begins in those life stories.

If we had more time, I am sure we could have spent the whole afternoon at Amani interacting with the kids but we had to climb back in the van to head back up the lower slopes of Kilimanjaro toward Machame.

Amanda Kid 
We were on our way to visit several of the seven families who are receiving a safe and dry new home through Dave Dale’s Mt. Kilimanjaro climb fundraiser. The homes will be built as part of the Houses For Health program instituted and administered by our friend Bob Kasworm, the only Swahili speaking Nebraskan in the world and partner in my own Kilimanjaro summit in 2005.

Before reaching the Machame road, we turned off at Weruweru (say it three times fast!) and began sliding up the muddy road. This is a gorgeous area of vast coffee and maze fields. Dozens of people lined the muddy road carrying colorful five gallon buckets they use for picking coffee beans.

As the road grew steeper it became clear that our safari “Landcrusher” would have been a more appropriate vehicle as we nearly slid into the fields several times. 

We finally decided we were more than pressing our luck in the van and sent Dave up into the hills in Bob’s four wheel drive pick up while the rest of us stayed stranded near a catholic church up in the village.

As Bob and Dave went on to visit a few of the families in their new homes, our van was quickly surrounded by dozens of curious and friendly children coming from first communion instruction at the church. Before long, I had Peter directing the children in renditions of the Tanzania national anthem and other songs for our group!

Old Home

After awhile, Bob and Dave returned to fetch the rest of our group so we could all visit a couple of the families.  Those who could fit inside climbed into Bob’s truck and the rest of us jumped in the back and up the muddy road we went.

 You can read Dave’s blog for some good detail on each of the families receiving these small, dry and safe homes made possible by all of the generous donations made in support of Dave’s fundraising climb which begins in just a few days. Here are just a few pictures of the families we visited.

Peter’s son Elton noticed that Dave had some tears in his eyes during these visits. I’m guessing some of you would too. You should come along on a POP Tanzania Vision Trip and see for yourself!
New Home
Next we made our way to Machame Lutheran Hospital where Bob works. At first glance to our American eyes, the hospital looks run down and dirty. Bob assured us that it is clean where it needs to be and is probably in the top 15% of Tanzanian hospitals in terms of quality of service and facilities.

Being a nurse, Sue was particularly interested and moved by this location. Once again, some tears were shed as we were welcomed into the maternity ward to see and hold a couple new born babies. What kind of lives will these little ones live?

 Another full and moving day on the mountain, a mountain that thus far, refuses to reveal itself to my group!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Gods Must Be Crazy!

I am operating a day behind due to the spotty internet access so let me pick up where I left off…

 After departing our tented camp in the Serengeti, we traveled a great distance over mostly rough roads to get back through the parks and around the crater. Just before we reached Karatu, we turned right onto a hard and rocky road resembling the surface of the moon. This was when we were stopped by the police as described in the last post.

After about 12 bumpy, dusty hours in the jeep we arrived at the lovely new Lake Eyasi Lodge just in time to view a beautiful sunset over the lake with a mountain range in the background.

The next morning we picked up our guide for this adventure. His name is Azizi and he grew up in this region and can speak the primitive language of the Hadzabe bushmen. If you have ever seen the movie, The Gods Must Be Crazy, the little bushman featured in that film was a real Hadza from this Lake Eyasi region in Tanzania.

We drove and drove on arid trails winding through giant baobab trees until none of us could have guessed which way we had come from. We stopped near a rocky outcropping and got out and started hiking into the hills. After about twenty minutes, we came to an empty campsite with a smoldering fire. The Hadzabe we were there to visit were somewhere deeper in the bush except for a few Hadza children peeking out from behind the rocks.

Azizi led us in another direction for some distance until we happened upon a family group of Hadzabe people. Unlike the big welcome from the Maasai, the Hadzabe appeared indifferent to our presence. The women were sitting on the dirt ground making necklaces and bracelets and the men were crouched around a small fire sheltered by large rocks.

The Hadzabe are a fascinating people living much as their ancestors have for thousands of years. They speak an ancient language that involves various clicking sounds and wear animal skins. 

The longer we stayed with them, the more they seemed to warm to us and by the time we departed, there was dancing and singing and even an archery competition.

The Hadzabe bushmen won that contest.

Next, we visited a small Datoga tribe village. The Datoga people have a distinct appearance. They are very friendly and welcoming. The children are grubby and joyful with big smiles.

The Datoga have passed down the art of working with metals to make tools and jewelry. They use animal skins as bellows for a small in-ground furnace to melt small amounts of scrap metals. Everyone in our group left that village wearing a cool Datoga bracelet.

On our way out of that area, we walked through a busy local market, which is always a stimulus overload. We even witnessed a goat killed and butchered right on the ground in front of us.

We continued all the way through Karatu and back to our lodge in Moshi. 

Next you will hear about our visit to Amani Home for street children, Machame Lutheran Hospital and a moving visit with village families blessed by the Houses For Health projects sponsored by Dave Dale’s Kili climb.

Datoga woman grinding corn