It was at this point last year that we were counting the weeks down until we would attend Connect Week. This week long experience with AIM, our sending organization, gave us the opportunity to learn who they were and they could learn a bit more about us. That week was a defining moment on our missionary journey because it was at the end of that week that we were commissioned to be missionaries. We could have chosen to hide within the safety of what we already knew, but instead God drew us out of our shell. December going into January of this year has also been an opportunity for us to learn more about who we are individually and as a family. A few highlights follow.
We are rediscovering how to connect as a family and how to build relationships with people that are similar to us, but more importantly we are beginning to approach those that are not. Randall loves to visit the dukas (small roadside stands) and haphazardly deliver a few words of broken Swahili, not just to purchase eggs, but to show the local folks that we are not just visiting, but in fact are living here. Over the past week or so, I am beginning to see a change in how greetings take place between myself and others in our neighborhood when I walk to and from school. They seem more genuine, less reserved, and welcoming. I imagine that I do too. Our car paperwork is in finally in order and we are beginning to drive. Now that we can drive, we just have to figure out how to get into the car. I often start to walk to the door on the left, realize that I have gone the wrong way, but keep on going anyway, often dropping down to look under the car so that I look like I meant to travel in that direction all along. Once I found out how to get inside, I traveled to the grocery store on my own, gripping the wheel tightly, praying franticly that our defective tires would not burst on the rocky dirt roads and that the motorcycles that always seem to come out of nowhere would grant me additional room to maneuver instead of the few inches that they usually allow. This is the abstract art of driving and is definitely not for the faint of heart. On the other hand, over the holiday break, our family and a few other missionary families drove to Morogoro (look that up) and stayed a few days. We relaxed, played games, drank coffee, went hiking, and returned to Dar caravan style. It was a real treat to see a different part of Tanzania and be in the presence of beautiful green mountains and new friends (people and monkeys included).
We get visits from wildlife inside and outside of our home. Geckos trek across our living room walls each evening in an attempt to rid our home of the mosquitos that have cozied up in each corner. We had a pet frog for two days. He was the cute silent type that walks on all fours to make his way around town. His name was Choo Chura (toilet frog in Swahili) because that is where he was residing when Randall found him. Randall made a little habitat for countertop viewing, but the first night he took to exploring our kitchen instead. I found him in our dish drainer wedged in between a pot and a plate. We put him outside on a palm tree the next night, but he found his way back to the outside choo (toilet). Our only option was to put him outside our wall. In addition, we have these fantastic fruit bats as well. Our first night here, there were many unfamiliar sounds, including their ultrahigh squeaks. They are cute from a distance, almost huggable. We spotted one hanging upside down in a fruit tree where I am sure he was studying the dimensions of my hair. He opted out and moved onto the insects that were out and about instead. Just one more moment brought to you by critters: Getting into the shower should be easy enough, but ever since that cockroach jumped out of my make-up bag and the gecko darted up the wall when I turned the shower faucet on, I am more cautious every time I enter the bathroom. Even tonight, when I entered I was positive self talking myself through the threshold. “Who will it be tonight, the cockroach or the gecko? Who do I even prefer?” Thrilled to report that neither greeted me and I made it through my shower, incident and kid free!
The kitchen and I are still getting to know each other and I keep sharing with a few friends that I really feel like I am on my own little prairie here. These new routines create the outline for how I conduct some of my days. Today, I made enchiladas. I made chicken stock from last night’s carcass, crock-potted some beans that were weevil free (after composting the first batch that was riddled with those little friends). Once the broth was finished, I made some red enchilada sauce, sautéed onions, peppers, and some homemade fire roasted tomatoes, added those and some cheese to my weevil free beans, and stuffed some tortillas will all the goodness. Then topped off with the sauce and a bit more cheese (nowhere near the amount that we used to use) and cooked. While they cooked, I strained some plain yogurt that became the sour cream for topping it off. (The whey that was strained out will go into pancakes for a little added tanginess, kinda like buttermilk.) Randall has put the finishing touches on one of his culinary dreams: pasteurizing raw milk that came from the cow earlier today. He was giddy and I am even looking forward to skimming the cream off the top for my coffee in the morning. Everyone ate well tonight, no complaints, just a whole lot of, “Mama, you need to make this again.”
It was a big day in the kitchen, but it wasn’t all day in the kitchen. I helped Gray put the finishing touches on his own autobiography while we drank hot cocoa with marshmallow mice. It was only 95 degrees today, so it seemed like the right thing to do. I also had an excellent language lesson this morning. My teacher and I are clicking right a long. It is not so hazy in my mind. The words are not as muddled together and I feel like the Lord is blessing me with lightbulb moments throughout each lesson. Just like being knitted together in my mother’s womb, the Swahili words are being knitted together in my mind and generating understanding on the other end. When people speak, I am plucking away meaning here and there, which means I am getting there. I spent time reading to all the kids tonight. We are finishing up Farmer Boy (which has been extremely inspirational, I have got nothing on those 1800’s folks).
We are moving ahead into 2017 with a plan to continue to move from surviving in Tanzania to thriving. It will take time, but we continue to take steps toward the lost by depending on Christ to hold us up until we can walk again on our own.