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.
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.
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.
Last night I saw the pictures of the bricks.
I know I should just go to bed, but Godfrey & Emmanueli are driving tonight coming back from their long two weeks in the Rukwa region, and the part of me that is like a dad wants to wait up and make sure that they make it home safely. I’ve had such a wonderful evening, such an inspirational evening, and a part of me also just doesn’t want the evening to end.
This week we have made the momentous decision to send word into the villages that we have approved opening four more new schools. People still have a tremendous amount of work to do in the next 27 days and yet we feel that it will not only encourage them but it is also reasonable to aim to open these schools. I am reminded of the woman who stood up in one village not long ago and prayed to God to give us strength when we get tired, to not let this opportunity slip through our fingers, that the day might come soon that the children of our village might go to school.
Godfrey and Emmanueli dropped me off at the Chinese restaurant in town and they were off hunting for spare parts for our vehicles. They left me there because I would be nothing but a liability – not simply because I know nothing about spare parts – but because my very presence would make it harder to get a good price. It wasn’t anywhere near lunch time, but I figured I could plug in my computer and work and wait for them to show up and then we’d splurge and have a treat.
Quite a lot of what I do here in Tanzania I truly enjoy doing. Some of what I have to do is “less than fun” and a lot of what I have to do every day is hardly anything that people would find interesting, nothing as they say that’s worth “writing home to mom about”. Work is work, and work has to get done. But there is a part of my life here that I truly look forward to and love doing: I get a tremendous amount of joy out of traveling with Godfrey and Emmanueli to new villages where we have been invited to start new schools.