Sunday, March 30, 2014

Safari Njema

by Ty, March 25

Today we are leaving the village. It is sad to leave. We really try hard to invest in the staff and the children. Some days it feels like we are getting nowhere and that nothing changes. But every time we return, we can notice positive changes in people. Still, leaving is hard because I feel like I am abandoning people. But at the same time, people need to be left to stand on their own feet. One person at a time, that is happening. We have 13 kids in high school now and they look so sharp in their uniforms. They are the most outstanding students at their school. We are very proud of them. The nurses at the hospital are becoming more competent. We also have a new clinical officer (like a PA). The kids are getting lessons from a marching band leader. Marching and drumming come very naturally to them. Some of the littlest kids show progress learning Swahili and English. Some of the big kids are getting more confident. They don't think they are nobodies anymore. So, while it sometimes seems like slow going, there are signs of hope. I can't wait to see some of these kids go to college.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


By Ty

We are finishing up 90 days in Tanzania.  Honestly, I am totally exhausted.  For the most part I have really enjoyed this time, but the last week has been very hard.  I have begun to sense a tension—a tension that I think has been there under the surface the whole time, and is just now starting to come out.

I am realizing that I have been guilty of working in my own strength.  I am beginning to understand the culture and the language.  I have started to assume: “OK, I can do this.  I’ve got this.”

But the truth is I can’t.  And even if I could, I shouldn’t do it in my own strength.  I shouldn’t trust in the arm of the flesh.  How could I be what this community needs?

I am guilty of not asking the Lord for His help consistently.  I have been trusting the strength of my own flesh, and now, after 90 days, I sense my strength failing me.  And it doesn’t feel so good.  Not at all. 

Not just disappointment in my own inability—for really I already knew about that.  More like nausea over the vanity of this world.  (I also have a mild case of amebic dysentery, so I am also literally nauseated this morning, which isn’t helping.)

I’ll admit, it’s hard being here.  It is kind of like being in exile.  A preacher whom I admire, Rico Tice, lists the good things in life—the things that we often turn into idols.  He lists: family, friends, food, fitness, fun, etc.  Another illustration I like to use with my students, called the Four Levels of Happiness, names: sex, success, and service.  All of these are good things—blessings the Lord has given us.  And in all of these areas, I make significant sacrifices in being here—I see them much more clearly now than I did beforehand.  I never really realized this til today—not in this way.  Being in exile is hard.

About the only thing I get more of here is time.  And that is a blessing.  Time is the one thing I crave more of in America.  But isn’t it telling (and for me disturbing), that I even think about what “I get?”  Life really isn’t about “getting.”  But that’s easier to say when you are getting.  When you’re not getting—when you are in exile—you miss it.

This realization doesn’t feel good, but I suspect it is good for me.

What I am hearing from the Lord is, “I am enough for you.  Listen to David.” 

Psalm 42 and 43 help.  Some.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Star Trek, Guns, Thugs, Worldview, and Africa Past, Present, and Future

by Ty

If you ask my Tanzanian boss what is his favorite book on missiology, he is likely to answer with a twinkle in his eye: "Star Trek."  I haven’t watched Star Trek in years, but I used to watch it in high school--both the original series and "The Next Generation," with Captian Picard.  Jean-Luc Picard was an interesting study in leadership and principles.  That’s what made it a captivating show, though if I realized that at all in high school, it was only on an intuitive level.  Captain Picard was a guy who stuck to his principles—most notably, the prime directive, about which he said: "The Prime Directive is not just a set of rules. It is a philosophy, and a very correct one. History has proven again and again that whenever mankind interferes with a less developed civilization, no matter how well intentioned that interference may be, the results are invariably disastrous."  And he made other people stick to principles too.  The storyline of many episodes was built around the ethical dilemmas begotten by the prime directive.  Captain Picard always stuck to his guns.

Not only was Star Trek a fascinating study in ethics, it was a fascinating study in missions philosophy.  The prime directive in essence prohibited Starfleet personnel from interfering with the internal development of alien civilizations.  A less developed world should be handled very carefully.  The indigenous leadership had to be respected.  The local laws had to be followed, even if they didn’t seem to make sense.  The crew of the Enterprise was proactive in trying to understand a new world (they even had a shrink aboard), and they were careful not to interfere with local matters without great need and only in the context of true cultural understanding and awareness.

Commonly, the plot involved Captain Picard and his crew visiting a new and less developed world, where they had to be very careful not to put technology into the hands of indigenous people who were not ready for it—who did not have the foundation to truly understand it.  Not just understand the physical laws of science upon which it was based.  More importantly, they needed to have the philosophical understanding of when to use it, and how and when to limit its use.  If the star voyagers didn’t hold to this directive, they invariably found that when they returned to that world in later years, there were big problems.  Amongst the people to whom the technological wonder had been given, the new power over the natural world had elevated them above their neighbors.  First they looked down on their neighbors.  Then they despised them.  Then they enslaved them.

A remarkably similar drama played itself out in the history of Africa (if you will allow me to oversimplify.)  A tribe was given guns by European or Arab slave traders.  They immediately became more powerful than the tribes around them, with whom they had been warring for generations.  Before long, they were capturing and selling their neighbors to the slavers.  It is STILL happening!  If a man believes it is normal, natural, and permissible to overpower and sell people who are not from his own tribe, when you give him any gift that makes him more powerful, he is going to continue to enslave his neighbors—and he is going to be more effective at it.  Obviously guns do that.  But so can education.  Learning to read and do arithmetic make you better at business, no matter how diabolical your business may be.

The story African history and Star Trek both tell is, it is very dangerous to hand people a technology that they don’t have a foundation for.  This happened with guns in 18th and 19th century Africa, and it’s still happening in Somalia, Sudan, Congo, et cetera.  And, it’s happening with guns in America.  When America was chivalrous, guns in the hands of the people were not nearly so dangerous as they are becoming now.  When we shared and valued a common foundational belief that not only is it wrong for a person with much power to take advantage of a person with less power, but it is actually the responsibility of the person with power to take care of the person with less power (my definition of chivalry), then guns were not so dangerous because our cultural assumptions limited their use.  But I don’t think we assume that anymore.  Western culture has devolved into a power grab.  Guns are a very useful bit of technology in that contest: anyone who grabs a gun gets instant power.

I’ve spend a decade working in maximum and super-maximum security prisons, so I know a thing or two about thugs.  The dangerous thing about thugs, be they Sudanese mercenaries, Somali warlords, or Chicago street gangsters, is not their guns.  Not primarily.  It’s how, and what, they think.  It’s their view of life, reality, and the world.

Observe the victim mindset of Job in Job 30:9-19, Job at his worst, most desperate, fatalistic, and hopeless, just before he finally says “the words of Job are ended:”

      Now they come and laugh at me;

      I am nothing but a joke to them.

      They treat me with disgust;

            They think they are too good for me.

         Because God has made me weak and helpless,

        They turn against me with all their fury.

      This mob attacks me head-on;

       They send me running; they prepare their final assault.

       They cut off my escape and try to destroy me;

    And there is no one to stop them.

      They pour through the holes in my defenses

     and come crashing down on top of me;

I am overcome with terror;

   My dignity is gone like a puff of wind,

   And my prosperity like a cloud.

Now I am about to die;

   There is no relief for my suffering.

At night my bones all ache;

   The pain that gnaws me never stops.

           God seizes me by the collar and twists my clothes out of shape.

He throws me down in the mud;

I am no better than dirt.
                                                    (Good News Translation)

Now take this worldview and put it in the mind of a man made desperate by circumstances: an African village in famine, the Atlanta slums with no jobs and racial discord, the Arabian desert amidst tribal warfare, or (dare I say?) an Asian American college student plagued by mental illness and loose on the Virginia Tech campus in 2007 (my home town).  These circumstances are common to man throughout history.

This is a man (any and all of them) who sees life as out of control, random, unjust, and malevolent.   He is fearful, purposeless, and worst of all hopeless.  He does not see his life, or anyone else’s life, as valuable.

Now put a gun in his hand.  No wonder he is dangerous!

He does not know:

            Help those who have less power than you.

            Do not be easily offended.

            Bear with one another in grace.

            Happy are the humble, merciful, pure in heart, persecuted, and peacemakers.

            Love thy neighbor.

            Love thy enemy!

He is dangerous because of how and what he thinks.

The gun is really just a bit of technology that magnifies the problem terribly.  It is not the root of the problem.  It is just a technological tool.

The difficulty for us in the West comes in because we, like Captain Picard, have a vast array of wondrous technological tools.  They must be wielded very, very carefully.  Medicine, wireless communications, sophisticated digital banking, etc.  If we put any of these tools into the hands of a person or people divorced from the Worldview that birthed (and constrains) the tool, we build a ticking time bomb.

You think the above (obviously good) technologies can’t be dangerous?  (Yes, I mean “good technologies.”  The idea that technology is morally neutral is a myth that only an American could believe.)  Then, what is the difference between guns in the hand of a tribal warlord, medicine in the hands of the Nazi doctors, an iPhone in the hands of a gang leader in prison, or high-tech finance in the hands of one of Ayn Rand’s more hardnosed characters?

And how does the desperate and fatalistic man see a gun or other bit of technology?  Accurately.  As power.  Power over the natural world.  Power over his neighbors.  Power to be grabbed.  He actually sees technology in much the same way that the animistic pagan in an African village sees witchcraft: as the power of the shaman to put a hex on any neighbor he is paid enough to curse.  If you believe like the desperate fatalist, then both a magic spell and an AK-47 are ill and ugly power tools.

The answer to the problem is not to limit access to technology.  That was the Star Trek answer, because the writers and producers dared not consider or publicize the true and scandalous answer.

The answer is to change how people think—cultural imperialism.  I think you know I don’t mean exporting Western culture.

Here we are, back at the Beatitudes again.  Talk about changing how people think.  Jesus turns the whole world on its head.

Beware the technological solution for a moral problem.

Technology as Magic

Written by Ty

If you have traveled much in Africa, you will have witnessed and wondered at: vehicles absurdly overloaded and driven with reckless abandon, churches with PA systems turned up way too loud, lights, TVs, and radios that seem to be on for no reason, as well as other strange uses of and attitudes toward technology.

In my last post, I tried to unpack the fascinating and convoluted issues surrounding technology in Africa.  A mentor of mine describes one of the major problems in Africa as “technology without science.”  By science he means the foundational philosophy that gives birth to technology, a way of finding out truths about the natural world—as opposed to the “scientism” or “empiricism” of the West, which at its root is a religious belief that science can explain everything—that the only kind of knowledge that can be trusted is knowledge that can be empirically proven—as if this were the ONLY legitimate kind of knowing.

The African villager, who generally has animistic pagan worldview assumptions whether he calls himself a Christian or not, typically views technology in much the same way as he views witchcraft. To him, both technology and sorcery are useful tools for exercising power over the natural world—your environment, circumstances, and other people.  At its end, technology is an exercise in power.  It can allow you to do magical things that any practical person would find useful, such as: have light at night, scare away intruders, carry your voice over large distances, travel two days walk in one hour, and even talk to people in distant villages.  And it is assumed if you have any of these kinds of power, you should use it.  A side note: Interestingly and more than a little frighteningly, Oppenheimer, the leader of the Manhattan Project, believed much the same thing.  “Why build the bomb?” he was asked.  He replied, “Because we can.”

My last post explored an example of “technology without science.”  Let me trot out a few more examples:

Electronics.  These are the most commonly witnessed example of technology as magic.  You almost never see a television that is turned off.   I even sometimes see them intentionally left on, with the volume turned way up, all night long.  If you see a TV that is turned off during waking hours, it is safe to assume that the power is out.  I recently had a fairly important meeting with a high up government official—one of the top 200 men in the country.  We met in his office.  The TV was on when we entered the room (though he was ignoring it).  It remained on during the entire meeting.  I was not nearly so able to ignore it as he was—it was showing some sleazy South American soap opera.  It remained on when we left.  It seemed so bizarre to me that this good, reputable, and powerful man would tolerate this appliance being intrusive all the time, but he did.  Remember, the thinking is: if you have the power, use it.

About a year ago, I was kept up almost all night by a very loud recording of some kind that our neighbor played all night long.  It was massively distorted and SUPER loud—way louder than a TV could ever be on it’s own.  Believe me, the cops would show up if you did this in America.  Though it was in Swahili, after several hours of it I eventually figured out that this too was another seedy soap opera.  This one, I think, was Nigerian in origin, overdubbed in Swahili.  By 3 AM, I had had all I could take.  I got dressed and into the blackness of the village.  I was going to insist that somebody turn that commotion off.  I was mad.  As I stormed through the front gate of the City of Hope, one of the security guards, surprised to see me at 3AM, asked if there was a medical emergency.

“What is that NOISE?  Why are they doing that?” I bemoaned, pointing to the neighbor’s house a few hundred yards off.

“Oh that,” he said.  “That’s just the youth.”

“The youth?”

“Yes... Having a rally.”

I just stood there dumbfounded, not even knowing what to ask.  “Why are they making that noise so loud?” I asked after a while.  (Yes, my Swahili sounds like a three year old.)

“Don’t worry.  It’s nothing bad,” he assured me.  “People like it.  The neighbors like it.  It’s not a problem.”

I wanted to ask, “What do you mean they like it?  They LIKE people blaring that trash to the whole neighborhood all night long?”  But I didn’t ask.  It was already clear that the answer was yes.  Now I know that people think, “If you have the power, use it.”

I gave up and tried to go back to sleep.  Mercifully, the car battery they were using for power ran out of juice about half an hour later.

P. A. systems are used in the much the same way.  Africans can sing beautifully in wonderful and multilayered harmonies.  And dance.  They just seem to be born with it.  There is great potential for aesthetically beautiful church services.  Fifty years ago, it must have been that way.  Enter, technology.  Now, any church that can possibly afford them has a PA system, a keyboard, and a microphone.  I’m talking about churches with dirt floors, mud walls, and thatch roofs that seat fifty people on rickety benches.  They have these things, more often than not.  Usually they don’t have anyone who can actually play the keyboard.  So the entire service, every one of the twenty or so songs, is sung to some variation of the keyboard’s “demo” mode,--the composition of some nameless Casio employee.  The demo mode is certainly the most important option to have on your church keyboard out in the bush.  And again, the room is no bigger than a large living room in America.  You don’t need a PA system.  But not only is there almost always one present, it is ALWAYS turned all the way up, so is therefore insanely distorted.  It’s hard enough to follow a sermon in a second language when it’s not distorted.  Furthermore, I have been approached many times and asked to donate some money to such and such church—they are having a fundraiser.  Guess what for?  Every single time, it has been for a keyboard and PA system.  I grieve over this.  I like our little church here with 200 children and no technology.  Two weeks ago one of our sixteen year olds preached.  I was so proud of him.

Phones.  I find mobile phones irritating enough in America, but it’s even worse here.   I used to find it strange that here, in a very very relational culture, if your phone rings, you interrupt whatever conversation you are having, and you answer it, pretty much no matter who you are talking to in person.  No apologies are made or expected.  A while ago I explained to a teacher that in America this behavior would be considered quite rude.  His disbelieving response was, “But it’s the phone!” At the time, I couldn’t make much sense out of his rejoinder.  Since then I have realized that even my fairly educated friend (for the village) thinks of his phone more as a talisman of magical power than as a tool.  Last week I sat in a “restaurant” having tea while our truck was being loaded with sheet metal.  A lone young man across from me was making a very public display of his power and success.  He had four cell phones arrayed on the table in front of him in a little arc, and for at least half an hour made a show of fiddling with each contraption in turn.  He didn’t even make any calls. He just toyed with them.  For show.  I kinda wanted to chuck them into the open sewer nearby.

As a segue to my bit on vehicles, I’ll tell you something fantastic that I just saw two days ago.  I kid you not, I saw a young guy riding a motorcycle on a very rough dirt road and texting at the same time!  He was not a passenger.  He was driving.  I hope he is still alive.

Vehicles.  Now this example, though it really is seriously dangerous, I still usually find kind of funny. The same day I saw the motorcycle texter, I saw the second most ridiculous load on a motorcycle I have ever seen: a coffin.  I don’t know whether it was occupied or not, though I suspect that it was, because there was only one other person on the bike—the driver.  If the coffin had been empty, there would have been at least one more passenger along for the ride—why waste the power?  (The most ridiculous thing I have ever seen tied to the back of a motorcycle was a 55-gallon drum—full of gasoline! That’s basically a bomb on wheels.  He should make an arrangement with the guy with the coffin.)  These examples are to show that the general philosophy of motor vehicle traffic here is: drive as fast as you possibly can at all times, while carrying the largest possible load that you can—to the point of absurdity.  This behavior is now beginning to make more sense to me.  It’s not just about trying to get the best economy out of our vehicle as you can, because overloading your vehicle will certainly break it and cost more money in the long run.  The philosophy is, “Get absolutely as much power out of your magic carpet (vehicle) as you possibly can at all times. Take advantage of this power now, while it is available to you, because the magic in the carpet may no longer work later.” This also explains much about the condition of both the roads and the vehicles.  If you believe that science is the foundation for the working of your car, then you maintain it.  If you believe that magic makes your car go and that evil spirits make it stop, then you don’t maintain it.  I once heard a Canadian in Africa proclaim in jest, “Everyone knows oil is just an American hang up!”  Also noteworthy: I am told that in the capital city, if two identical cars are for sale, and one was owned by a mzungu while the other was owned by a Tanzanian, the foreigner’s car will bring twice as much money.

A small confession.  Sometimes I don't blame people for thinking of cars a magic.  I once stayed in Kenyan mountain village for a few months, which could only be accessed by an unbelievably bad "road."  Many times it was all one could do to get a very capable Land Cruiser up that road.  But one day I walked out of the clinic to find a Toyota Corolla parked in the village.  "How did they ever get that thing up here?" I wondered.  It did seem that that Corolla had super powers!

Education.  This one really irks me.  Most schools have a motto painted on some public space, often a sign on the road.  Usually this motto reads, “Knowledge is power,” or “Education is wealth,” or some variation thereof.  The worst one I ever saw read: "Education is a weapon." Yuck. The focus on power is clear.  I might ask, “Power to do what?” or, “Wealth which will accomplish what?”  Unmitigated power is not necessarily a good thing.  As I have said before, if you increase an evil man’s power by educating him, you are just going to make him more effective at doing evil.  While I agree that knowledge and education tend to lead to power and wealth, this ought not be the prime motivation for seeking knowledge.  Compare this power grab understanding of education with the words of St. Augustine, “Credo ut intelligam.”  Loosely translated, “I believe in order to understand.”  I am all for African kids getting educated.  In fact I am spending a significant part of my life and resources to exactly that end.  But education should be the pursuit of truth.  Not the pursuit of power.

Medicine.  This should be the area where I have the most insight.  But I don’t.  I’m still working through it.  I can think of a few simple examples.

We had an earthquake about two weeks ago.  It was at about 9PM.  I was asleep.  I woke up thinking, "Why does it sound like there is a bus on the roof?"  But it wasn't a big earthquake.  Nothing was broken.  For the last two weeks, we have be assailed by a flu epidemic of some kind.  Nearly everyone has developed fever, headaches, and GI symptoms.  Someone just told me this morning that it is well known that whenever there is an earthquake, many people will become sick.

Patients in the hospital frequently turn up the rate in their own intravenous drips.  Outpatients sometimes go home with ten days of antibiotics and take them all in one day.  If some medicine (magic potion) is good, then more is better, right?  Most patients at our clinic have been to a traditional healer or shaman before they come to the clinic.  Perhaps they come to ascertain whether we have more power than the shaman.  I have noticed a sharp increase in patient volume when there are white people present at the clinic, including me.  This is one of the reasons I actually limit my time at the clinic.  I want neither the Tanzanian staff nor the public to think that the clinic’s performance is dependent on me—or my power.  Some mission hospitals are introducing CAT scanners.  They charge less than ten percent of what the same study would cost in America.  You can fly to Nairobi, get a CAT scan, and fly back to America for about the same price as getting the same CAT scan in America.  But these are still expensive machines that have to be maintained with costly imported parts and foreign personnel.  So in this economy it still costs a princely sum to get a CAT scan—more than most people make in a month. Just think of what incredible magical powers these expensive contraptions from the West are imagined to have--perhaps even more than an earthquake!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Cultural Diagnoses

Written by Ty

Much of what I do is try to diagnose culture—both the Kuria culture as well as my own.  The contrast between the two helps me see each one more clearly.  The disparity casts light on the blindspots in each culture.

I have many criticisms of both cultures.  Unfortunately I suffer from the negativity of the diagnostician.  Being trained in Western medical diagnostics, it is far too easy for me to dwell on disease, forgetting to attend to the strengths.  I am a casualty of my indoctrination.

Readily I see my own culture as opulently materialistic, narcissistic, and nihilistic.  We are Vanity made flesh.

On the other hand, while I am here in Kurialand, I recognize and mourn that the Kuria are often ruthless, selfish, and fatalistic.  A Kurian could have written Job’s lament of the victimized in Job 19 and 20.  

Are you not astounded that God described both of these cultural diagnoses in Scripture over 3000 years ago?  Read Ecclesiastes.  Think of America in 2014.  Read Job 19 and 20.  That's here.

Both cultures are obsessed with power—the West mostly via technology, the Kuria by way of technology, witchcraft, or anything else that comes to a desperate hand.  Both must repent of their cultural sins and turn to a Biblical understanding of reality.

How must I respond to these diagnoses?  Fortunately, it is not up to me to heal these ills—that massive responsibility lies with a much greater Physician.  My role is simply to refer both cultures to Him.  But along the way, I must avoid becoming cynical about either culture—or both.  It is far too easy to dwell on the corrupt—in each locale, to condemn the faults and rant over the evil, rather than grieve over the sin while looking toward a horizon of hope.

Lord, help me see the good aspects too: the orderliness, the chivalry, and above all the mutual and inherent trust in the West.  And remind me to point out these good things to my children.  Help me to see the relationality, sanity of pace, family-centeredness, and spiritual mindedness of the Kurians, and to point these strengths out to my children and students.

My son (who just turned 6) is beginning to notice the contrasts between the cultures.  Just yesterday he pointed out to me a woman whom he lauded for her attention to the safety of her toddler.  But my son is much more critical of Kurian culture than he is of American culture.  He doesn’t like the food, the speech, the greetings, or much of anything about the people—they scare him.  (Let me here admit that I don’t blame him for preferring pizza over ugali.)  But I must point out to him the good things in the culture here—and the good ways we can see God changing the culture.  I dearly wish I could point out similar glimmers of hope for the West.

It’s 530AM.  Dawn has yet to color the eastern sky.  But 80 boys in the children’s home are awake and praising God, asking His blessing on their day.  They are singing “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder” in Kiswahili.  (Talk about cultural contrast!)  They’re hearts are in it.  It is beautiful.  It is a gift.  The gospel transcends culture.  Everyone needs and wants to move from death to life--to be resurrected.

Lord, give me your eyes to see, you patience to endure, and you heart to love—on both sides of the ocean.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A week of goodbyes and hellos

by Joi

Our dental dynamos left about 10 days ago after a very successful month long mission, training our nurses in the clinic to be dentists! We had a beautiful graduation ceremony with the students and a host of friends and supporters and we enjoyed another one of Nancy's cakes! We will really miss Dee and Janet. They were such a gift to us and to the community here. Thank you for sacrificing your time and resources to be here. You contributed greatly. And you washed more than your fair share of dishes!!!

This past week we said quaheri (good bye) to David, Jana and Blake who were a wonderful and lively addition to our little family here. We will miss them greatly. David and Jana both contributed daily to the work at our clinic as well as participated in many deep and meaningful conversations about medicine, life, health, healing and what they feel their calling is for the future. Thank you David and Jana, for EVERYTHING. You have made our time her richer! And thanks also for all the dishwashing you did! (Can you tell that's a dreaded task here??)

David, Jana, and Blake
T. dropping of Villanueavas at the airstrip

We also said goodbye to some sweet friends from the US who were already volunteering in Kenya and just happened to squeeze in a little visit to our village. (It is not easy to get here any anyone who comes for a visit is really appreciated!) The Boeves volunteer at Kijabe hospital, he is an orthapedic surgeon and she is a hospital chaplain and does a powerful work of praying with patients and ministering to their souls. Their encouragement and wisdom was treasured by all and we are so thankful for the little time we had together. Of course, they washed dishes too!!

The same day we said goodbye to the Villanuevas we said hello to a team of Duke University Nursing students, their professor and one physician! They are here for one week as a part of their RN global health curriculum and they have been wonderful teachers AND learners. We have enjoyed watching their eyes open to new and different ways of viewing the world. They have been kind and very tolerant of little T. and W., who are both vying for their attention constantly in their respective ways.

Earlier this week we had the opportunity to go on a home visit to check on a 5 day old baby that was born to one of the City of Hope gate guards and his wife. They are the VERY proud parents of a huge (by Tanzanian standards) 8 pound little boy. He was coughing in the night and his parents were concerned. Dr. Ty, 3 nursing students and Dr. Natasha (from Johns Hopkins) paid the family a visit. We enjoyed their hospitality greatly and were served cokes and fantas. A real treat!

the proud new parents
Big T and Dr. Natasha examine the newborn together

We also enjoyed a lively outdoor bonfire and dance party with the kids from the children's home. They tried to give big T. and Nancy some dancing lessons and I think they actually were catching on! When I watch these kids dance I find myself thinking “HOW do they MOVE like that???” and even the littlest fella has the sweetest moves. W. is starting to mimic the girls dancing and she is very eager to learn their ways. I really wish I could post a video for you.

Bonfire Dance Party

Diana has started her official art classes at the school and is really enjoying teaching the children about colors and shapes and being creative. She has found that their creativity is not really nurtured at all, and they do a lot of rote memory work and straight copying off the board. They enjoyed drawing her portrait this week. She gives them tons of praise and encouragement.

Some culinary firsts: I made pumpkin pie from a pumpkin (never tried that before!) and received my first Indian food cooking lesson from one of the very kind Duke nurses. We made a simple dal and it was delicious.

cooking class
w. with the pumpkin that became our pie
pumpkin pie

Nancy has reigned as the baking queen, managing to make cakes, breads and cookies that are always amazing. She also provides us with homemade yogurt AND homemade cheese! She is amazing.

the lovely Nancy

Progress is being made on the construction of our house. Rumor has it that the next village over is racing to be the first in the area to have a two story building. If our house is done first, we win. I didn't know it was a contest. I guess it's just about keeping up the with Joneses even way out here in the African bush!

T. and the new house

Thanks for the continued prayers and wishes of support and encouragement. We couldn't do this without the love and support of so many back home!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Family & Future

Written by Diana

It is 6:00am. I have awakened each morning while being here to the 100 orphans that live in the children’s home singing for morning devotions. Their voices are strong and harmonious. It is a beautiful sound and I can only imagine the joy the Lord feels as He hears these little ones sing to Him.

The children that come to live here are from situations that are hard to imagine. Some truly have no one who can or will care for them. It is the desire of TCOH to become their family. They provide a loving atmosphere by the adults that care for the children daily and love them with God’s love. I love one of the songs they often sing at church on Sunday. It says, “I have a Father that never, never fails me, Jesus is my Father that never, never fails me.” I can only begin to imagine how powerful and comforting those words are to them as they begin to understand that truth deep in their little hearts.

The children are encouraged to have dreams for their future. If they did not have TCOH teaching them that there is a different way to live than the despair of their parents, it would be another generation of the same hopelessness. 

A few weeks ago we had a big celebration for the 5-year anniversary of TCOH. It is amazing to see how much God has done here in 5 short years. Yes, a lot of buildings have been built to house the children, a large school for the day students and boarders, a hospital that now has nurses and is seeing patients, but the most important work being done here is hard to measure. It is the hope given to these children that changes their lives forever. True lasting transformation of the heart that can only be accomplished by our supernatural God. With that hope in God they are taught and trained in different skills that give them the opportunity to be in their culture as a productive people and earn a living. Dr. Chacha knows each of these children’s stories and is very involved in helping the older ones get as much education as is fitting for their skills and desires. Many of the boys are trained in labor skills, and one of the girls is now in nursing school and very proud of what she has accomplished.

Yesterday evening I went to visit with the girls as they were finishing dinner, doing their laundry and having some free time. They are being taught English and the older ones can speak it pretty well but they are quite shy and it is hard to have a conversation. This is probably the most frustrating part of being here. I so often wish I knew what they were thinking.

But I had a rewarding experience last evening. I was with one of the older girls and she began pointing to parts of my body and speaking Kiswahili. I realized she was trying to teach me the names of different parts in her language. It was fun. We did this for a while. When it was time for me to go I looked at her and said, “You are a good teacher. You could be a teacher some day.” She gave me the biggest smile and looked so proud. Maybe my few little words will give her a brighter future and hope.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Article: NGO rescues girls from undergoing FGM

NGO rescues girls from undergoing FGM

A NON-GOVERNMENTAL organization The City of Hope (CH) operating in Tarime District has saved and sheltered about 400 girls who were about to undergo Traditional Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) last December.

The girls aged between 8-13 have been enrolled in the centre voluntarily and most of them ran away from their families fearing reprisals from parents after turning down early marriage offers.

The City of Hope executive Director Pastor John Chacha told reporters here that the girls were put under a new programme and were enrolled to start formal primary school education.

He explained that each year they receive many girls especially at the end of the year due to the fact that communities here have a tendency to drop their children from schools to attend traditional circumcision period and later marrying them.

He added the centre that was opened early in 2009 by President Jakaya Kikwete has also introduced a primary school that all underage girls are given an opportunity to continue with studies as well as a basic vocational training programme.

‘’We also have a primary school and a vocational training programme to help those girls with various talents to explore in the fields such as tailoring, catering and weaving to enable them become selfreliant,” said the pastor.

Pastor Chacha said besides providing quality education and expertise, the children are also given medical treatment, clothing and food all free of charge made possible by donor funds from both outside and inside the country due to the fact that most girls come from vulnerable families.

According to Mr Chacha a fraction of the girls sheltered at the centre situated some 30 km from Tarime central business district are orphans.

According to Tarime District Education officer Emmanuel Johnson, academically the centre’s pupils sat for the primary school national examination last year and managed to beat all schools in Tarime District to scoop the first position out of 130 schools.