Yesterday I got to the chance to visit a village of William, one of HOPAC’s Tanzanian employees, to help out with the kids’ program he runs every Saturday morning. After traveling half hour or so over often very rutted, bumpy roads and unmarked forks, we arrived at a small church building in a farming community on the outskirts of Dar. William had a group of over thirty students that he (he tells me he often has 50 and sometimes up to 80 kids without any help) was working with. My friends Marie and Erin, and I were immediately called upon to lead a mini VBS, complete with games, a story, songs, and a craft. We were only halfway prepared, and had to heavily rely on William for translation to fill out our gaps in Swahili (I have been working on my Kiswhaili, but it’s difficult to find time or opportunity to practice when you work at an English school all day). I had a great time teaching the kids Red Light, Green Light, and Octopus, and watching as both games immediately morphed into the Tanzanian version. (hilarious) During Bible time, Marie read the story of Noah’s ark. On being asked if anyone had heard of Noah, not a single child in the room raised their hand. When Erin asked where a person could learn about God’s promises, you could’ve heard a pin drop. William later told us that the congregation that he leads on Sundays has about 20 members, and most families in the community are not Christians, therefore, most of the kids he works with on Saturdays have heard very little, or nothing, about Christ. Many are Muslim, animistic, or syncretistic. Most people here still believe in witch doctors and believe in charms and other Satanic talismans.
During the story time I couldn’t help but look around at each beautiful face and wonder why God chose each one specifically to come to this church building in the middle of this tiny little village on the edge of Dar. And I also wondered why I was there. At the end of the craft time, I pulled out a coin that my Grandpa had given to me right before I left. It has the words of John 3:16 in Kiswahili. I started to haltingly read it, and we all repeated the words together. I may not be able to understand most Kiswahili, but it is easy to pronounce and read even to a nonspeaker. These are the words of TRUTH, spoken into the darkness, and God says His Word will not return void. Pray for the seeds.
Afterwards, William invited us to go to his home and meet his wife, Stella. We walked down a dirt path, past overgrown garden patches and into his yard, which is composed of a stretch of sand. The kids swarmed around us and made themselves as home on his porch as if they’d been there a million times. He showed us around his one bedroom house made of bricks, with the square footage of half of a car garage. I won’t soon forget William, who takes the hot, crowded buses over this jutted, jarring road every single day and works full time at HOPAC managing the cleaning crew and always has a big smile on his face and greeting on his lips whenever I see him, as well as using his weekends to serve as a children’s ministry director of all the village kids, and a pastor to this tiny congregation in his village on Sundays. My brother in Christ. I am privileged to know him. I want to be like him someday.
After that, we drove quite a ways into town to the Nuru Center, a ministry of one of our Irish missionary families at HOPAC. The center includes a church building, pastor’s home, and building where many disabled Africans are ministered to and employed through making paper beads out of recycled paper, carvings, and other hand crafted goods. We in the HOPAC community are absolutely crazy about the paper bead jewelry produced by the Nuru (Light) Center, and most days you’ll find at least one staff member wearing earrings, a necklace, or bracelet made from these beautiful paper beads. Caroline Simpson is a doctor, part-time science teacher at the school, and helping to run this ministry through the local church. She has a sweet disposition, charming accent, and fabulous family. Her son, Caleb, is in my seventh grade English class (he’s a great writer) and my Service Learning group. I also want to be like her someday.
Later that night, we went here to celebrate two birthdays……officially my favorite restaurant on the face of the earth:
Today I went to church, braved Dar crowds, heat, and traffic to go grocery shopping, and flung myself on my bed perfectly exhausted and not at all ready for Monday. I still need to make tortillas and hummus from scratch, and anything else I’ll need to eat for the upcoming week’s worth of school lunches. Sometimes I feel like every time I turn around I run right into my limited supply of time, strength, and energy. There is so much need here. There are so many ministries that I want to be involved with. There is so much to learn and explore. However, my primary job is the kids at HOPAC, and just living here is a job in and of itself, so I have to tread carefully with the little bit that I have left to give. I pray a lot about this. It was a good weekend and God blessed me in a thousand ways by witnessing those around me who give so tirelessly of their resources. I am so thankful for them.
Kwa hera (see you later).