You Know You’re in Africa When (Vol. II)

You’ll see these hills, built by termites, all over the country when you’re traveling.

When the rains come and all the termites begin hatching and flying around you’re excited, because, hey, free dinner! (I jest. Tanzanians do eat these as snacks. I, however, do not.)

My favorite possession.

You count your headlamp and battery-powered fan as your most prized possessions.

Masai - photo from

You breathe a sigh of relief when a man dressed in red and purple appears in the parking lot, knowing your car is safe with him.

"Other plans" 🙂

 You have this standard Swahili line memorized for all impromptu marriage proposals, “I am very sorry, but my father has already made other plans.” (Thanks for the tip, Kate C!)

Makeshift clothesline

During rainy season, you get used to your clothes smelling slightly moldy  most of the time.

Some of my favorite things.

You shun most grocery store produce in favor of fresher, cheaper produce sold at roadside stands.

Hard Work

You’re reminded on a daily basis that most infrastructure is a direct result of someone’s sweat.

 Every decorative item you buy is inexpensive and hand-crafted.


Every day there’s a smile that just gets ya.

The people

When asked what the best thing about Africa is, you don’t even have to hesitate in answering: the people.

It always has been and always will be about the people, won’t it?


I’m sick today and don’t have energy to write anything, least of all something positive, so I’m appointing Jen Moser, my roomate, friend, and HOPAC’s first grade teacher, as my guest poster.  I do have the video and I’ll attach it later when I have more energy.

Okay, okay, it wasn't this big...but it WAS big!

 “Attack of the Killer Cockroach”

by Jen Moser

So on Tuesday night I believe I was minding my own business and went into the bathroom to wash my face.  Suddenly something startled me that fell down.  I looked up and I saw on the wall a GIANT cockroach.  About as long as my index finger!  I still at the point didn’t know what fell and thought maybe it had been another roach so I was looking around freaking out!  SO I ran and got my roommate Heather and we decided that the best way to try to kill it was to DOON it!  Now for those of you who do not know what it means to DOON something it is a very potent bug spray.  Since I can’t stand the thought of trying to squish that thing I thought spraying it would work nicely.  Now I knew that these things fly to my plan was to stand as close to the door as I could and spray for a distance and if it decided to fly I would slam the door shut with him inside and me outside.  Oh and Heather decided the film the process!  So I got up my nerve and started spraying with all my might!  After a few seconds of spraying things went downhill!  Suddenly the GIANT roach not only started to fly but decided to fly straight at me….I SCREAMED at the top of my lungs, ducked and slammed the door as fast as I could!  I WAS TOO LATE!  The thing flew out the door probably right over my head. I think if I hadn’t of ducked it would of hit me in the face!!! It was so traumatic.  And it still wasn’t dead.  Before we could find it it ran under the washing machine.  Drats….still alive!  Well we decided the next best thing would be to spray all around the machine and hope it kills it.  I am glad to say I have seen no sign of it since but I have been extra cautious every time I go near my bathroom now!  OH and one more thing, we did find out what fell.  Apparently it was a lizard!  GOODNESS GRACIOUS!


With the first drop of the rainy season the earth sizzled violently, like water dripping into an iron-hot skillet.  Then came the steam.  The whole world was enveloped in it. One great cloud of muggy humidity. But it didn’t matter.  Nothing mattered.  We had power for a whole week.

With the beginning of April the hot season has slowly started to fade and pass from memory, the way you forget how awful running those 26 miles were, or the way a mother only vaguely remembers the intense pain of childbirth.  What does it matter? It’s over, and that’s what counts now. The power is on most days.  Ironically, we don’t really need the power all that much. It’s not like those desperate days when you just want to stand in front of the air conditioning and do nothing else. At that point, the cruelest joke is played on you.  The power goes off. Not for an hour, or four, or six, but 8 or ten hours or more at a time. No AC, no fan, just stifling heat. And, just for fun, it goes off in the middle of the night, too, at random.  Not just any night, but the sticky, slimy, sauna nights when you feel like you really might suffocate if you don’t get some sort of air movement.  The nights where you give up sleeping immediately because you know it’s no good.  The nightmare nights. The labor doesn’t last for 36 hours.  It doesn’t last for a month, or two months, it lasts for about multiple months. You start out strong as resolute, as a champion going to war, hoping and praying for the best, a month in you’re less noble, you cling to little creature comforts here and there, something that makes the day pass quicker, past that you go to anger…at the weather, the world, the ineffectual Tanzanian government, at God.  Ultimately you give up all emotion and you just live.  Except you don’t really live…you’re sort of a shadow of who you once were…you survive.  To care is the enemy. By not thinking, not caring, you expending the least amount of energy possible.  You are reduced to your lowest common denominator. Mine was uglier than I thought.

Not every day was like this for me, but many, many, many days were.  I am ashamed of myself. Ever since things started to get a tiny bit cooler here and the electricity started to work more and more consistently and I finally got back the use of my mind, I’ve been feeling guilty.  Wondering about how much and how often I failed to do what I should’ve done, when I did, said, or thought want I shouldn’t have, or fought the good fight like I was called to.  I’ve looked over my shoulder and thought I heard others whispering behind my back about the massive pile of failures I carried on it. It must be as obvious to everyone else as it is to me.  Let me be vague so it’s not as painful: I was brought to the test and I failed. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt guilt this palpable in my heart. It’s paralyzing.

Oddly enough, God has been speaking to my heart more clearly than he has since I first came here.  There was this little phrase that I had tucked somewhere in the back of my mind, from some bygone day when I needed it.  I couldn’t remember exactly what it meant, but I knew that I needed to.  It kept echoing over and over again, when I would feel the weight the guilt of my failures press into my back. The phrase was “gutsy guilt.” 

Then I remembered the story behind the phrase. The man’s name was Micah.  He was a man of God.  He spoke for God. He was a prophet.  He told everyone the bad news, so nobody liked him.  I guess he probably didn’t like that much.  I can’t hardly blame him.  But Israel was a mess.  Somebody had to tell them. They had done the exact opposite of their role.  Following the perverse idolatry of other nations instead of standing as the beacon of truth about the one true God.  Getting all mixed up about who their real leader was.  Trusting in the visible instead of the invisible. Maybe worst of all, being self-reliant. Ultimately, they were the antithesis of everything that they were supposed to be.

 I can relate.

But Micah’s words at the pinnacle of all these failures were these:

“Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Though I fall, I will rise again.”

The next lines are even more powerful than the first: “Though I dwell in darkness, the Lord is a light for me.” (Micah 7:8)

What a beautiful truth that a not only a nation, but a person can rise from a face plant not because of their own redeeming qualities, or even their own wherewithal, but because of that Beautiful Light which reaches down and lifts up. And the enemy camp which so gleefully watched the fall, falls silent.

My heartfelt prayer for the next two months is that I will finish strong. Yes, things are easier now.  Life is more comfortable and the end is in sight.  But I pray that the Lord will use my feeble, gutsy guilt. That these last two months would honor Him, not to make up for all my failures, but to reflect that Light that pulled me up. That always pulls me up. And to bring honor to His dear name.

“Oh, let us learn the secret of gutsy guilt from the steadfastness of sinful saints who were not paralyzed by their imperfections.  God has a great work for everyone to do.  Do it with all your might – yes, even with all your flaws and sins.” –John Piper

R and R in Nairobi, Kenya


Riding on a bus for about 14 hours. Aimee and I technically live “close,” but here you measure distance by time, not by actual distance. It wasn’t so bad with my book on tape.

Together again at last!


Aimee at her desk at Africa Inland Mission (AIM) headquarters. Fun to meet all her people.


Hanging out with Justin and Aimee.Another beautiful view of Kili...this time lit up with the glow of the setting sun.


Aimee's new teaching job next year: Rosslyn Academy


Traveling buddies at the Danish mission hostel in Moshi.

I got the chance to take the bus up to Nairobi, Kenya with three friends during our Spring Break. They continued on to Rift Valley Academy (RVA) to hike in the mountains. I got to hang out with Aimee and Justin. Aimee is like a sister to me and it was so nice to be able to spend some time relaxing and having good, encouraging talks with her and Justin.  I got a chance to spend the day at Africa Inland Mission headquarters, where she works, and do a bit of shopping and pampering routine.  It was perfect. I’m so blessed.

Some More S.E.W.

Getting ready for Human Clue campus-wide game.


Nelly and friend teaching leading some Kiswahili Bible songs.

Speaks for itself, I think.

Bus ride on unpaved roads!

Having a blast with the parachute.

Lidia, our MK from Spain, did a fantastic job during our Bible lessons.

Group shot at Davies Nursery.

A Time to S.E.W. – Service Emphasis Week

Teaching the kids to sing and dance.

Some of the 7th grade girls passing out nametags for VBS.

The ever-so-enthusiastic sixth graders...who were THRILLED to run and dance in the rain.

Sala Sala kids ready for another day of VBS.

The Nuru Center ladies teach Sala Sala girls to make paper bead bracelets.

Yankho, Nelly, and Joy hanging out with the kids at the Davies nursery school.

Sophia teaching the kids Pictionary.

Little baby a little piece of my heart.

Telling the Greatest Story Ever told.

This past week all of our secondary students got split into different groups working with ministries in Dar and beyond as part of our Service Emphasis Week. I co-led a large team composed of 6th-12th grade HOPAC students that worked in a nearby village with a group of preschool-aged children at a ministry run by a British couple.  We ran a very basic VBS all morning, then returned to the school in time to have lunch and help prepare for another VBS that was held on the school campus. This VBS served children from Sala Sala, the very impoverished area located directly behind the school. 

I found this to be a very challenging week, as our group had very little time to prepare and many students in my group did not want to participate or serve the community around them.  However, my dear, enthusiastic sixth graders and many other students worked themselves to the bone and loved on those kids with a joyful tenderness that must have put a smile on the Father’s face.

A few observations/anecdotes from the week:

  1. There was a little boy who came to the Sala Sala VBS who said his favorite part of the day was playing basketball. He had never held a basketball before.
  2. As I was busily pouring cups of water for about 50 demanding children, a little boy thrust his cup of water into my face to drink.  He wanted to make sure that I got some water, too.
  3. I could listen to the gospel story told from the lips of the genuine Christ-followers at HOPAC all day long.
  4. Excellence is excellence in any culture, but it requires a great deal of creativity to be excellent in a third-world culture.
  5. You can’t fake love.
  6. You can’t force someone to serve.  It’s an unhuman idea straight from the heart of God. That’s what makes it beautiful.
  7. A person is about as aware of needs of other human beings as they make up their minds to be.
  8. God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. 
  9. A lot of the Sala Sala kids brought baby brothers and sisters with them.  I got to babysit baby Joycie for a couple hours while I played Octopus with a group of girls.  At first, Joyce was completely  unresponsive to me, as if she was in a trance.  After an hour or so of bouncing her and teasing her, she giggled.  Then, she really started laughing.  After that, I found a little hand in mine everywhere I went. Sometimes, it’s just the little things.
  10. I’m so inspired and thankful for missionaries who are serving these kids day in and day out with very little recognition, and I am honored to teach their children. I hope I get the job of polishing their crowns someday.

When God Uses Bob Marley

There’s something you need to know about Tanzanians. To them, Bob Marley is the sun and reggae music is the stars. You’ll see Marley likenessess on posters, bajajis, T-shirts and a million other places throughout Dar, and you’ll hear “One Love” or “No Woman, No Cry” blasted over many a loudspeaker if you live here long enough.

There is a man named Danny who works in Bible translation. He attends my church and his sons go to HOPAC.  He is a tall Canadian who wears the latest Western styles and looks rather out of place among the rest of the missionary community.  He’s the most gifted speaker I’ve heard in this hemisphere, and he is able to captivate every single disinterested, too-cool-for-school HOPAC student, even the ones who don’t pretend to be Christians.  He is half Jamaican.  One day in chapel he came in to talk to the students about the basics of Bible translation.  He called up HOPAC students from all over Africa to read portions of the bible translated into their local languages.  The last thing he did was pull up a portion of the gospel of John that had been translated into Jamaican.  He talked about how this translation was controversial since Jamaican isn’t technically a language. As he began to read, the glazed eyes of the student body sharpened, and a murmur could be heard that soon rose to a roaring cheer.  The students went nuts.

This same man goes down the street from his house every once in awhile to get his hair cut at a local barber shop.  Somehow, the barber and his cronies ascertained that Danny can speak in the Jamaican dialect, so they begged Danny to teach them how to speak “Jamaican,” saying he would cut his hair for free if he did.  Danny’s only written material in Jamaican is the New Testament Bible, so he goes in regularly and he reads these Tanzanian men the gospel of John….in Jamaican.

This story astounds me.


Sixth Grade Class (Taken at our Internation Day in October)

Several good things have happened this week:

1. The power was on all weekend.  We haven’t had a weekend like this in at least two months.  I can’t describe what a delicious feeling it is to use the lights and fans whenever I want and to be able to function within range of normalcy!

2. I had a fundi party at my house on Saturday (fundis, pronounced foon-dees, are the fix-it guys that you hire). One came to fix the washing machine, which has been broken for over two months and you can imagine the laundry trials we’ve had here. The other two came to fix my AC, which has been broken for over a month.  The AC got fixed THE FIRST TIME!  The washing machine fundi was not quite as successful. This was his second time around, and still “no worki.” Well, I guess third time IS the charm. I usually expect whenever I am going to get something fixed that it will take AT LEAST two attempts and weeks on end to fix it. It helps a lot to set low expectations from the get go.

3.  I THINK I successfully exterminated all 500 of the beetles that hatched in my room.  At least, I haven’t found any for the past hour, so I have high hopes.

4. Watched “Ghost in the Darkness,” a movie based on a true story about man-eating tigers in East AFrica, and was able to understand some of the Swahili. Cool! (Am also glad I’m not going on a safari any time soon.) 

I’ve been thinking a lot about the sin of omission lately.  I think I first learned of that concept from Francis Schaeffer.  It basically is the sin of not doing what should be done, and consequently missing out on the windfall of blessings that God inevitably has in store for His obedient children.  I’m not talking “health and wealth” blessings, but REAL blessings. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about the sin of omission in prayer.  I must sadly confess that my prayers have been feeble and inconsistent, and I’ve excused them blithely with the long list I have in my hand detailing all my trials as of late. Maybe you would’ve excused me too, if you could read that list. But God’s been working on me and reminding me that there’s work to be done on my knees.  Inexplicably, certain students lie heavily on my heart and come to my mind throughout the day.  In my own self, I only have room for me, so I know it must be from Him.

…..Shriya……John…..  “but I’m hot, Lord.  I can’t do this anymore.” ……Ryota…….David….. “couldn’t someone else do it so much better, someone who doesn’t have a fiancé at home and a wedding to plan?”……Josie….Courtenay….. “How can I care for them when I can’t even care for myself?”…..Valia…..Justin… many more.  He wants them for Himself and He has called me to pray. Not when it’s convenient or when I feel it’s cool enough for me to have the mental capacity to pray, but NOW.

The more I come to understand HOPAC as a student body and as an institution in the city of Dar and the country of Tanzania, the more absolutely convinced I become that we stand at the crux of a fierce war. How could it be anything else, when we have students here from all over the world, students who would otherwise never hear the gospel of Christ if it weren’t for the fact that HOPAC is one of only two palatable educational options for parents of any means in this area?  Many of these parents are willing to sacrifice sending their Buddhist/Muslim/Hindu child here for the sake of giving them a good education.  They would probably never hear the true gospel otherwise. Would Satan concede this ground so easily?  I think not. Not without a fight. 

Dear friends, please pray with me for the hearts and minds of these students.  Many are enticed by the materialism and image-driven humanism of the Western World.  They watch the same TV shows and movies and listen to the same music that teenagers listen to in the states. Others are ensnared by the false religions and “truths” passed down by their families, tying their religion to their heritage and culture in a way that makes it difficult to disentangle the two. These are complex heart issues that only our Savior can truly unbind. Pray with me that Jesus would meet them where they are at, that his truth would indeed set them free, and that they would find forgiveness and grace at the foot of the cross.  Please pray as I begin to weave the Old Testament themes of redemption with the New in my sixth grade Bible class.  Pray that they could see the great theme of redemption in such a way that it changes their hearts and minds and brings them to a saving knowledge of the Savior! My words are weak, my brain is scattered, pray that God would do His work anyway.

“The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying.  He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.”  -Samuel Chadwick

Kili Half

I remember the last week of June, as I packed up the last odds and ends of my life in Southern California to journey to this unknown, intriguing land of Africa, I briefly perused a Runner’s World magazine before throwing it out. I thumbed through the “Races and Places” section detailing marathons and half marathons available throughout the calendar year.  I looked in the “Africa” region, and saw a Kilimanjaro Marathon and Half Marathon offered in February.  I mused on that for about five minutes, then shrugged it off as a pipe dream.  That is, until I met Erin and Lauren in August.  Much to my surprise, they wanted to run the Kili Half too.

My first glimpse from the hostel

I ended up deciding to run mostly because I thought it would help me cope with hot  season, little knowing that training through hot season was going to be one of the hardest things I’d ever done.  It took a kind of willpower I didn’t know I had just to lace up my shoes several times a week when I was sleeping very little and chronically hot and tired, battling daily power outages, heat rashes, and everything in between. Little did I know I was building the sort of inner stuff I would need most for this race.

Kili adventure friends and fellow HOPAC staffers: Ben and Lauren Snyder, Ben and Mary Cook

We had a blast driving 9 hours in cramped quarters to Moshi, the adorable, clean town nestled at the base of the famed Mount Kilimanjaro.   This town is still hot during the day, but doesn’t have the sweltering humidity of Dar, and the evenings are blessedly cool and void of most mosquitoes.  We soaked it in while we had the chance. The day before the race, we drove the course that followed a charming country road, past coffee plantations and trees.  I noted that the first two hills would be a difficult start to the race.  As we continued, I realized with growing alarm that the course was almost a constant incline, and that we would be running a fairly intense uphill grade for the first six miles of the race. Gulp.  I had trained for distance, not incline.  I also had altitude to contend with. Double gulp.  I realized that this might be the first race that I’d ever run that I really and truly might not finish. Needless to say, I tossed and turned all night.

Coffee bean plantations along the route

The day of the race dawned and I chugged my coffee, forced down two power bars, and stretched reluctant muscles.  We walked the kilometer’s distance from our hostel to the race start and watched as the Kenyan, Tanzanian, and Ethiopian world class marathoners sprinted past us at full speed.  Then I started to get excited. It struck me that I was in AFRICA, and I was going to do the one thing that I loved most in the world. I realized it didn’t matter how I did, really, it just mattered that I was doing it all.

As the half marathon began and the crowd started to pulsate forward, I started moving forward to the beat of “Waving Flag,” and felt wildly free and happy.  And I ran. Up…up….uphill…..higher…higher….harder…harder…….more…more…..  The morning was clear and crisp like the fall in Santa Clarita.  Kilimanjaro stood as a beacon above the racing route, cheering us on and beckoning us forward as we ran directly toward its snowcapped peaks. I was once again overwhelmed by the goodness of God in giving me a day of health, friends to run with, and the ability to run with joy.  How kind of Him to give good gifts like this that are only for enjoyment, challenge, and well-being. 

 African families lined the roads, some staring in perplexity, some chanting and clapping.  This was all I needed to climb the formidable hills: inspiration. And I kept climbing…higher…steeper……harder….pushing to reach that halfway point so I could turn around.

As I neared the halfway point I saw Tesfaye, the one HOPAC student to train and run for this race (his first), and an Ethiopian to boot.  He looked fantastic and happy as he ran effortlessly past me back down the hill. We pounded fists and I cheered as heartily as I could muster in my breathless state. I was inspired. I saw Ben, our natural runner of the group who hadn’t even trained but was making a strong showing in spite of it. He wore his bright green and yellow Oregon duck shoes and a 70’s style headband.  We grinned and high-fived. As I turned around and headed back down, I crossed paths with Lauren and Erin and we cheered each other on as we ran.  Those girls inspire me so much.  Running in community is the best. I let the downhill grade work for me the rest of the way and enjoyed every moment of it, choosing to ignore the fact that I would pay dearly tomorrow for letting my body pound down this pavement in such a way.

As I ran the final half kilometer into the stadium toward the finish line, I felt fantastic.  I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face. The song I’d been listening to on repeat for that past two hours (the only and most obvious power song for a race like this) articulated my heart……. “waka waka (shine, shine)…this time for Africa….”

Team Kili (minus Ben)

Did it!


Fun in the sun with the blondes!

My friends Laura and Erin and I took advantage of a couple days off for mid-term this past week to take a dala dala (public bus) and travel to a neighboring town, Bagamoyo.  It was a fun, mini-adventure complete with thrills, terror, joy, and laughter. 

This is a much nicer bus we got to take on the way back. Not as much human tetris going on here.

Riding a dala dala is always an adventure in and of itself.  The people are squished into an itty-bitty bus like sardines, and with every stop, we played human Tetris as people got on an off: every ounce of space is reorganized until it’s utilized to the height of efficiency.  The smell is lovely, but when the bus starts back up again, the breeze does away with most of it. There is no such thing as a personal bubble in a dala.  It’s great fun! And you get all this for just a dollar.

Joy Ride

I also got to ride a piki piki (motorcycle) for the very first time. I was adamantly against it and held my ground for a full 24 hours, but in the end I couldn’t run from the persuasion of the gleeful squeals of Erin and Laura (and the sneaking suspicion that blondes really DO have more fun) when they took off down the road on one of these.  I’m glad I gave in.

Lastly, we also got a chance to visit the church where David Livingstone’s body (the famous missionary/explorer) rested for a night before it was shipped back to be buried in Westminster Abbey. The church now has a fascinating museum that chronicles the history of slave trade in East Africa as well as missionary impact to promote social justice and redeem Africans from slavery. 

Slave chains

Bagamoyo does have a dark history of slave trade, as well as a reputation for being steeped in animism and witchcraft. Compassion International does have a base here, and there are a few nonprofit organizations that are growing in this area.  However, this town is in need of a lot of prayer.