One of the things I love doing is speaking to the huge crowds of people who come to the town meetings we have in villages whenever we are invited to begin working with them to build a new school. These meetings go on for hours. And I relish every moment of them. Hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people seated on grassy hillsides. A few words of introduction and customary greetings. Sometimes a few speeches by village leaders or elders.
Last week was such an incredible week! It began with Susan and I (and Jonathan!) spending two very long, very rainy days in the car traveling across the country to return home to our village. We had been in the far east of the country, at the top of the Lushoto Irente cliffs, leading a 72-hour retreat for a dozen Whitworth University students and their professors. It was a time to help those students think some new thoughts about the people who live on this continent. It was an opportunity to share with them both the joy and the heartache of being here.
I remember the day well. I was off to the village of Lulanda whose mountainous roads and cliffs are a bit unnerving and it was there that my gear box decided to drop out! Worse still, I was so far out in the middle of nowhere that there was no network for my phone. And so there I was.
I can’t help but be amazed at what is going on around me here and how God is bringing it all together. And when I stop long enough to think about it I feel emboldened to believe that even more amazing things can happen.
Sitting on the side of the bed of gentle, tiny Jeni. Her four year old daughter Queeni sat on my lap playing with my hair, touching my nose, face and ears, seemingly oblivious to the fact that her mother was dying. Jeni -- truly a lovely lady in life, and also as she lay dying. As she asked Jesus to ease her pain, I could only feel regret. Not sure what went wrong when, but it did. At 65 pounds, all that was left was her kind, soft eyes.
Yesterday was another graduation day at Madisi, and with Steve off in America, it fell to me to speak from my heart to our students and to their parents and to everyone who had gathered for the great celebration. It was my chance to talk to them all about Sunday, one of my very students who graduated more than ten years ago.
Today we sent off three new missionaries to go serve in the far western Rukwa region of Tanzania. They won’t get to their new homes until sometime Thursday, probably late in the evening. They go to these villages to do what all of our missionaries go to do: to teach our students, to love them, to share the Gospel with them.
This was the week, in six regions all across the country of Tanzania, that new students started enrolling in our schools to come study English. They just finished their national exams to complete their seven years of primary school education, and they and their families won’t find out for four months who will get chosen to get to go on to the 8th grade in the government schools. We’re not waiting though.
“Bibi (grandmother), no one has gone to a witch doctor to put a curse on your daughter. She has AIDS.”
Last week began with another email from Malawi and when I saw the pictures of all of their bricks – they now have more than 70,000 made! – I said to myself that nothing the whole week, no matter how good, was ever going to top that! I was thrilled off the charts. The only bad thing about starting out the week at the mountain top is that everything from then on looks like you’re going downhill!
And down hill indeed things did go.