Two Homes

Years ago a wise friend advised me that it is impossible to live in two places at the same time. This has proven to be true, yet for those of us who don’t live in our passport countries there is always a yearning for the other.

Last week I returned to Dar after several weeks in Colorado. The differences between the two worlds are huge. Even the distance is several very long plane trips. Yet some things are missed wherever you are.

Pets are the icing on the cake of life ~ if you’re me, that is. In Colorado, my former dog, Dalton, is now my niece Julie’s dog. He is a golden retriever, and is pretty much going to love the one he’s with. So, his gleeful wiggling whenever I was around might have had very little to do with him being happy to see me. Yet…I’m willing to be deceived. Who can resist such a cutie carrying around his Mr. Bill doll and squeezing it to hear “Oh noooooo”? I can’t.

Back in Dar was the cat left behind. Sami, after giving a twenty minute lecture on cat abandonment issues, was equally wiggly and happy to have me back in Dar. He stuck to my side for several days, making sure that I didn’t forget his presence. All this after having been thoroughly spoiled during my absence. Life is tough for this amazingly well-traveled cat. Not.

Friends are hard to leave and wonderful to see again. In Colorado it was such a joy to see so many of the people who have been a part of my life for years ~ and still are happy to see me. We shared meals, coffee, ice cream, walks, talks, phone calls… So much laughter. So many memories of times spent together, while adding a new memory. I felt richly blessed beyond merit. A treasure of people more valuable than tanzanite. But at the same time, when asked to talk about it, I found myself suddenly deeply missing the wonderful people here in Dar. How they would have loved meeting the Colorado folks and laughing with us. That will most likely have to wait for heaven…

Back in Dar, the welcome was equally warm and sincere. Everyone smiles beautifully, grabs my hand, asks about the news in Amerika, and tells me all the news about Dar. How much it rained, when it shouldn’t be raining. Who traveled where. Who had typhus. Who had malaria. Okay, it wasn’t all good news, but necessary to know. Because we’re friends.

Family, by nature of being a single person, will rarely be in both worlds. They are the ones that are always left behind and leave a void that even good friends just can’t fill. So having extended time with my family over the holidays was a real treat. I have a good family, with people that are enjoyable to be with. We don’t hold grudges or carry bad feelings. We plan trips we don’t take and relive past adventures. We offer a shoulder to cry on or a joke when it’s time to move on. These people, I miss them.

Yet here, again, my friends in Dar step in. They ask about the family, want to see pictures, send presents, and listen to my stories. Best of all, they ask for updates on my brother and sister-in-law and pray fervently for their health. They aren’t family, but they care like family.

It’s good to be home. In both homes.

Karibu

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Home for the Holidays!

That’s right, I’ll be back in Colorado for parts of December and January. If you want to see me, here’s a list of the scheduled events. I’ll update it as more is known.

December 10, Sunday Morning Service, 10:00 AM
Cathedral Rock Church
Monument, Colorado
Website

December 16, Saturday, Meet & Greet, 2:00-4:00
Grace Evangelical Free Church, Sandstone Campus
Longmont, Colorado
Website please note the Meet & Greet is at the Sandstone Campus and not the Lakepark church; map is available on website

December 17, Sunday Morning Services (8:30 and 11:15) and Potluck (12:30)
Grace Evangelical Free Church, Lakepark Campus
Longmont, Colorado
Website

December 31, Sunday Morning Services (9:00 and 10:45)
Arvada Covenant Church
Arvada, Colorado
Website

January 7, Sunday Morning Service, 11:00
Westview Presbyterian Church
Longmont, Colorado
Website

I hope to see you at one or more of these events!

 

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My Students

First, let me qualify the rest of this by saying that I’m not really a teacher. Not trained as one. Not gifted by God as one. Not even praised by my students as one. But still, I like to teach. It might be because it’s the rare opportunity to talk, and people feel like they have to listen…

But this post is about my students, who inspire me to do better.

They are an incredible mix of young men and women who have multiple ideas for their future. Every one of them is so intelligent. Each of them are enthusiastic about trying to make their business work. All of them have so much energy!

They come to my Business Training Course from different sources, but so far all have been at the end of their University studies or recent graduates. This means they range in age from 25-30 years old. The requirement for the training is that they either have a small business that they have started (I’ve no interest in helping IBM become bigger) or they are seriously considering opening a business in the near future. There is a small fee, which doesn’t cover our costs, but does encourage them to think sincerely about coming. (I also have no interest in students who are only there for the free lunch.) We keep the class size to no more than ten so they can get to know each other well ~ while allowing me to know them. One goal of mine is that they make friends who will be with them for years, encouraging them to be business people of integrity.

Many have already started one or more businesses even though they are still in their twenties. Some have had a few failures, but show up to learn how to avoid that in the future. By the second and third session they are willing to openly share what works and what mistakes they have made, which adds so much to the lessons. Nothing like first-hand experience to reinforce what the Bibi (grandmother ~ that would be me) is saying.

The one concept they hold on to and want to implement is how to bring their faith into the marketplace. They genuinely want to impact their communities in a positive way through their businesses, and see that their Christian faith as vital to that. We discuss how difficult it can be to have a business run with integrity in a society that is corrupt. Yet they still accept the challenge!

Often when we (of Western cultural propensities) think of Africa and/or young people, we do so with an undercurrent of pity. It isn’t intentional, but it is ingrained. It’s similar to what I used to hear; “you’re pretty smart for a girl” (which left me trying to figure out what chromosomal alignment had to do with brains). There isn’t any need for us to feel that these young people are in any way disadvantaged or incapable. They are Tanzania’s future, and they are up to the task of changing their world for the better.

Lucky me. I get to cheer them on.

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When I Gave Up The Broncos

Facebook is full of posts about the NFL, with lots of folks vowing to give up their favorite team. I’m here to encourage you in letting go, by sharing my journey to a life without the NFL.

First, you need to understand that as a Denver native my eyes are blue and my blood is orange. It’s a fact. I loved the Broncos through the decades of failed seasons, through bad coaches, inept quarterbacks, rain, snow, blizzard…you name it. My favorite thing was getting to actually attend a game at the real Mile High Stadium and screaming myself hoarse.

Super Bowl XII and the incredible excitement leading up to it were exhilarating. The entire city was celebrating and certain that we would win against the Cowboys. Well, not the entire city. My sister in law from Dallas thought we were delusional, and ultimately she was proven to be right. But boy was it fun!

When John Elway joined in 1983 I thought he was cocky and not worth the money. But over the years he grew on me, proving to be priceless as well as hypnotic to watch. No one could scramble out of a hopeless situation and throw an impossible pass like he. The Broncos were finally going someplace serious.

There was some disappointment losing back-to-back Super Bowls (XXI and XXII). Still, the parade in downtown Denver after XXI was estimated to have a crowd of over 100,000. I worked downtown then and went to the parade, cheering them on (as if they had won!) and proud of our team.

Then came January 28, 1990. Super Bowl XXIV. San Francisco 49ers – 55. Denver Broncos – 10. TEN! As in TEN! As in even I could have scored ten points!!

That’s when it hit me. I had invested way too much time, money and energy in something that was foolish. Why had I read every article, recorded every interview, watched every game, every pre-game show, every post-game show, every commercial? Why did I know their wives names?? This was not normal behavior.

The next fall when pre-season started I consciously did not read the articles or watch the sports news. It was hard. Painful, even. I held out through the regular season and then discovered something unbelievable. Life exists without football. I’m here to testify to that! Autumn is fantastic. You can go to the zoo on a Sunday afternoon and no one is there ~ because they have not yet realized there is life without football. And shopping! Especially if it’s a playoff game. And the great outdoors! Leaves are falling. The air is crisp. A run in the park is magnificent. Books can be read. Projects finished. Trips planned. People (who are now a part of your football-free cult) spend time with you. It is incredible!

So, hard as it is. Agonizing as the weekends will become. Lonely as you might feel at times. Let me encourage you. It can be done! There is life without the NFL. And a pretty interesting one, at that.

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Tuesday

It was one of those days. On the calendar it was supposed to be a quiet day when lots would get caught up on. Calendar’s lie.

The plan was to first get some housework done. Dishes, laundry, straighten up. Then work on the backlog of emails and projects. For some reason, known only to me, it is always best to work on projects with a clean house. Anyone else like that? Maybe it is the sign of someone who is relatively new to not having an office to go to. Because in an office you walk in first thing in the morning and some wonderful person has cleaned up your mess of the day before while you were home resting. I miss those wonderful people who were not appreciated nearly enough at the time. But I digress…

First up, I opened my door to see two Action Packers ready to pass off to another ministry. Action Packers that don’t really fit in my little cottage, but here they are.

Then, before my shower, was the arrival of a freezer box (expected tomorrow) brought from the main house by Guido and our gardening lady. Everything was moved to make a place for it, meaning there was no place now for everything. After multiple discussions about electricity and how I’m not sure it is wired for the freezer box, we decided this was a job for the top guy. Also known as Hans. The freezer box remains in the living area awaiting a decision. Along with the Action Packers.

That moved to the take-care-of-later list, the 15 liter hot water tank was turned on. When the water was ready my towel was put in a basin with vinegar to get the musty smell out before laundry. While the water was heating again, laundry was started. Then, when the water was hot, the dishes were ready for washing.

As I was washing dishes, and thinking of ways to ensure world peace, I felt water under my feet. Thinking it was the sink, I checked for a leak and couldn’t find one. This is where I wonder about my brain because I didn’t notice the lake that was forming in the house. From the washing machine. Hoping that I wouldn’t (a) slip and fall in an embarrassing way and/or (b) get electrocuted from the questionable house wiring, I turned off the washing machine. Time for Guido to rescue the situation!

Wonderful, patient, long-suffering Guido came with a mop and bucket and we soon had everything moved yet again, most of the water up, fans going, the washing in the machine at the main house, and some order restored. Although none of that fixed the washing machine. Again, a job for the top guy.

All of this was happening between 7:30 and 11:00 in the morning. I had committed with a Tanzanian partner that I would be praying for him during his trip to the U.S. Embassy at 10:00 for a visa. He has been asked to speak at a conference and we’ve been working for several weeks to be ready for this visit. I was looking at the clock, mopping up dirty water, and making vague prayers that were, quite frankly, an embarrassment.

What did I learn today. By lunchtime most everything was back to normal ~ kind of. And even with several hours less than planned, much of the other work also got done by the end of the afternoon. The mopping up of dirty water was nothing compared to the folks cleaning up in Houston. And, for once, I was aware of that at the time ~ thanking God that it was so little. Even though I was not nearly as faithful as I planned to be in praying for our partner, he got the visa! One thing that I specifically asked for was that he would speak to a Christian or someone favorable to our ministry. He spoke with a person who “could speak the Bible language – it was all about Biblical theme and little about the form itself.” At our embassy? A miracle! We are both amazed at how God arranges every small detail when we ask.

So, that was my Tuesday. What was yours like?

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Sisters

I had one wish as a child. A sister. Mom said she was willing if guaranteed a girl, but she wasn’t ready for more boys. Somehow that didn’t feel like it was my problem…

Although a baby sister never did appear, there have been some wonderful women in my life that have come close.

From fifth grade on I’ve had one best friend. We’ve  stuck with each other through puberty, crushes, broken hearts, bad hair, silly clothes, choir rehearsals, learning to drive, marriages, kids, international travel, selling our wares at craft shows, and growing old. We can be apart for years and come together like it was yesterday. It’s embarrassing how much she knows about me, but bless her heart she can keep her mouth shut!

There is also my friend who I’ve known since we were teenagers. We met in a church youth group, started laughing immediately, and never stopped. Many of my weird stories come from our times together as she is the one person in my life who never said “Boy is that a stupid idea!” Instead it was always, “Wow! Let’s try that!” Just FYI, that can be a bad thing too. But for us it was adventures in night hikes to see shooting stars, driving across Colorado (also in the middle of the night) for Dairy Queen, sending questionable items by post, crying at the stupidest things, doctoring farm animals, shooting off fireworks and the occasional cannon, obsessing over Louis L’amour, and exploring the mountains. Life is joyful because she is a part of it.

Here in Tanzania, women call each other Dada. Sister. It’s nice, and so now I have a lot of sisters. They smile beautifully, laugh at my mistakes in such a way that I’m encouraged (that’s a gift!), walk with their arm in mine, share secrets, and make me feel welcome into their world.

But there is one person who has come the closest to being my actual sister. That’s my brothers’ wife, Kathy. Neither of us have an actual sister so it seemed logical that we should adopt each other. We are often mistaken for sisters as we have always somewhat resembled each other. She’s cuter, though.

My life is a collage of times with Kathy: Singing the “Sisters” song from White Christmas, only to be upstaged by my brother and dad doing the guys rendition; canoeing the Boundary Waters and not killing each other; hiking, cross-country skiing, rafting, and camping at every opportunity; traveling without the hubby; having her at my bedside in Vienna after surgery, hearing bad news; decorating Christmas cookies; canning salsa; painting houses; sewing for the new baby; walking dogs; living life.

Kathy has recently been diagnosed with cancer, and my heart is shredding. Please pray for her and for her recovery.

I can’t imagine life without my sisters.

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Wien

There is a discussion that missionaries often have centering around whether we should talk about our vacations. Everyone else talks about their holidays, going through each day’s itinerary in great detail and showing pictures until eyes glaze over. But for some reason, missionaries are supposed to suffer greatly and never take a break. Or at least not have fun taking a break. So when we go on vacation we sneak away and quietly return.

Going against the prevailing wisdom of just keeping your mouth shut, I’m going to tell you about my vacation. Feel free to yawn as your eyes glaze over.

Last month I went to Vienna for two weeks. It wasn’t really planned, and more of a spur-of-the-moment urge to shop for new t-shirts and unmentionables. Right, you don’t shop in Vienna. But I do. There are some great discount stores where the needed items are even less than at Walmart.

So why Vienna? It’s a wonderful, old city that I know well after my bout with cancer. Yes, most people wouldn’t return to the place of one of their hardest struggles, but even then I found Vienna to be welcoming and easy to be in. So by now it is an old friend with familiar faces, streets, shops, food, and language. I stay in a wonderful apartment in a hotel close to the Vienna Woods that is less per night than a Motel 6.

Easter Sunday I went to mass at Stephansdom, the main cathedral in the central part of the city; old, musty, incense-filled, dark, and wonderful. The Cardinal speaks slow, simple German with a good message; and the choir is fantastic, finishing off with the Hallelujah Chorus. My good friends were with me, which made it even better. Walking out of the dark church into the Easter morning light emphasized the resurrection we were celebrating. A wonderful day!

It wasn’t until midway through the first week that I realized I had finally relaxed, and it was eye-opening to recognize that even though life in Dar seems easy there is a lot of unnoticed stress. How fantastic it was to be able to walk for hours, stop in clean cafes and stores, wander at night without fear, drink the water, use fast internet, see snow, not sweat, stop looking for creepy-crawlies, fit in with the locals, and understand what was being said. It was as if a weight had been lifted off for a few days.

Now I’m back. Sami is happy and a bit too clingy. Rainy season is here so the heat has broken. The electricity is off, but all is still good.

Vacations. We all need them.

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Dar Walkabout

This weekend a teammate organized a walking tour of Dar led by a nice young Tanzanian whose name was January. And you’re thinking female, right? Not right. A nice young man. I’ve learned to not assume with names.

But I digress. We started rather early (okay, brutally early for a Saturday) at 8:30 in the fish market. I really hate fish. Especially the smell. So my enthusiasm was pretty much non-existent. Still, it proved to be really interesting. The fish were varied, fresh, smelly, and sometimes still alive. There was a huge crowd there to either bring in the catch, sell the catch, buy the catch, pack the catch for shipping, or cook the catch; along with five white people taking pictures of the catch.

It was hard to not comment on some issues at the market, such as women and men being separated for the fish auction; we couldn’t decide if that was the prevailing religion’s influence or to give the women a chance to be heard. Then there was the proud tale of how the yellow fin tuna had been caught by dynamite (really, super illegal – as it should be). And one lonely shark that we didn’t want to know a lot about.

Afterwards we walked into the center of old Dar, past a lot of buildings constructed by the Germans. And I thought it was a British colony. That came later. It seems the Germans did a lot towards establishing Dar, before the reassignment of assets at the end of World War I.

We walked past mosques, Hindu temples and shrines, Catholic and Lutheran churches, buildings that had seen multiple uses depending on who was in charge, and the hotel where Angela Davis stayed (I wasn’t all that enthralled with her story, proving history is seen differently depending where you stand). Towards the end we stopped for fresh sugar cane juice.

It was a good day.

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My Friends Here

are truly wonderful.

They have lives that you might not believe, and live them bravely.

One friend lost her unborn baby last month because a doctor gave her cold medicine that should not have been given to an expectant mother. He then blamed her for taking it. She not only grieves losing her baby but also feels that she had something to do with the miscarriage. She and her husband have tried for years to have a family.

A few weeks ago a friend called to ask what to do about their goat that had been in labor all day. I know nothing about goats! I asked if the kid was positioned correctly; could they see anything? Again, I know nothing about goats! He wasn’t sure, but decided to wait. The next day he asked if I could help him to get a goat midwife. Shortly after, the baby was safely delivered. Maybe I know a little about goats…

But then this week, the baby goat was not doing well. Again, I was consulted on what to do when a kid won’t eat and cries when you touch it. May I reiterate, I know nothing about goats! The best explanation they came up with was the mama goat had lain on the baby during the night. Could be true, but then again, I know nothing about goats! Unfortunately, little baby goat died the next day. Now, I wish I knew more about goats.

This fall, a friend’s father passed away. After he returned from the funeral service in the village he went to visit his teenage son who had been in the hospital for two weeks. The next day, his son also passed away. My friend sat in my home as I scrambled to find a way to help buy a casket and take the body from Dar to the village (this is done by the family, not a funeral home, and he had already spent money for his father). When I left the room a single, heart-shredding sob escaped into the quiet of my house and I felt like I had never known real grief.

A person very dear to me was brave enough to tell me that they are HIV positive. Something hard for anyone to say no matter where they live. Anti-viral drugs are available, yet they only delay the inevitable. My heart breaks for the pain that caused this illness and the hurt that came as others walked out of this beautiful person’s life. How could they?

One dear friend was telling me about demanding in-laws that expected her husband to pay for everything, including expensive medical tests for his father. The man was a bit of a hypochondriac, and they were tired of spending so much on unneeded care. But two weeks after our conversation, the father-in-law passed away. Now she is carrying false guilt because the family insinuates that they had not done enough, even after they had paid all of the medical care, paid for the body to be returned to the village, and spent ten days in the village waiting on the family. Why I’m not married…

Sometimes the heat and humidity seem unbearable here in the cottage. Yet most of my friends live in extremely small homes, so close to their neighbors that you can barely walk between them, with tiny windows and no fans. The family cooks, sleeps, studies, and prays in a home less than the size of most living rooms. There, the heat is like an oven. Yet when I see them they are clean and well dressed. More so than I.

Great stories for a fundraising gig, right? But somehow I can’t do that because using their names, pictures, or other details isn’t how you treat your friends. However, I will ask you to pray for them. They are truly wonderful.

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From Hannah

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Ghosts of Christmas Past

A holly wreath on the door, wrapped presents under a beautifully decorated tree, hot spiced cider, stockings  hung on the fireplace mantle where a warm blaze is filling the house with the smell of pine, sparkling lights, snow falling gently outside in the deepening twilight, carolers at the door. A Hallmark Christmas.

I’ve never had one.

I suspect a lot of you haven’t either.

As a child Christmas was a day to survive and hope my new toys did too. I was the only girl on my father’s side of the family, so all pranks, jokes, teases, and torture were directed my way. Many was the Christmas when all I wanted was to eat a meal in peace.

When I left home I got a little closer to the Hallmark model by trying really hard to duplicate it. This was mostly pre-planning for the coming years where I hoped to make traditions with my husband and children. That didn’t work out so well.

Later, as my brothers celebrated with their families, Mom, Dad and I made our own tradition. My parents would come to my house Christmas Eve where we might (or might not) go to the candlelight service at church, come home and watch the Christmas Carol (with George C. Scott, of course), Mom and I would soak in the hot tub, and then off to bed. Christmas morning we were together rather than alone, which was great. We made a special breakfast, opened presents (okay, only my pets got presents but it was still fun), watched another movie, ate a great meal, talked and laughed a lot, and then they were safely sent home. Not unexpectedly, my parents have decided they won’t be able to come this year.

There have been many Christmases spent in different countries.

  • Buying cigars with my uncle in San Juan, when he needed to get out of the house in order to not focus on it being the first Christmas without their joyful, energetic daughter who had been tragically killed.
  • Lots of Christmases in Romania. My first was bleak with unusually heavy snow, no lights, and only gray buildings against a gray sky and surrounded by gray drifts. Others were wonderful; singing floating up the apartment stairwells (here’s my favorite carol), boys with whips cracking outside, cookies traded for cake with the neighbors, Christmas Eve crammed into my friend’s apartment with lots of other people, classical concerts, and finally years when lights in abundance decorated the main boulevard. One Christmas was highlighted with pie made from pecans found at the gas station. You work with what you have.
  • Christmas in Greece where their tradition is to eat cookies for breakfast. Why aren’t we all doing this?
  • Last year, my first in Tanzania, spent with new friends who cook up a storm and then feed everyone who walks by. I’m going back this year!

And unexpected times, like dressing up and going to a fancy restaurant with my gay friend who had no one to celebrate with. He shared stories of how he, as a counselor, had stayed by the bedside of hundreds of AIDS patients as they passed. Sharing dinner made it easier to share hard stories.

Then my most difficult Christmases. The concussion Christmas that I don’t really remember. The chemo Christmas when the day was made less than perfect by my hair beginning to fall out in great big clumps. Fun times.

Reading this it seems like my Christmases left mostly harsh memories, but that isn’t true at all. These are stories of life, which just happens to continue even though it is Christmas. And that brings me to the purpose of Christmas.

Jesus.

A savior so humbly born that if it weren’t for the angelic choir the only visitors at his birth would have been peasants and foreigners. His story wasn’t what the Hallmark people of his time expected. Instead, it was a gift of life that fills us with hope and peace every day of the year no matter the circumstances. A present that doesn’t fit under a tree.

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