Tuesday, October 24, 2017

“Orphanages are the only places that ever left me feeling empty and full at the same time.” ― John M. Simmons


                       There are 120 tribes in Tanzania with the largest only representing less than one fortieth of the population.  Because of this, we have not had the kind of inter-tribal warfare that killed so many in Rwanda and more recently in Kenya where one tribe attacked another.  The most common tribes in our area are Sukuma, Jita, Zanaki, Curia, and Ikizu with Sukuma being far and away the biggest.  Still, Jita is a big one locally, and the SIL missionaries in Musoma are working hard on producing a Bible in that tribal language.  Everyone here speaks their mother (tribal) tongue, Swahili, and about a fifth also speak English which is the second national language.  If you speak three languages, you are trilingual; if you speak two languages, you are bilingual; if you only speak one language you are probably an American.  
                           All of this is just to get you to the point that I can talk about my tribal (Jita) name.  Not every foreigner gets a tribal name, but many do.  Karen is called “Mama Africa” because that is what the children have called her from day one.  Kids walking by will yell for “Mama Africa” and smile and wave--and she smiles and waves back.  My tribal name is “Magesa Mamba” which is from the Jita language.  “Magesa” is a really good name as it means someone who is born during the harvest and from whom many blessings will come.  “Mamba” is Swahili for crocodile and they threw that in because it looks like I eat everything—just like crocodiles.  Now how did I come by this name?  We have friends from Finland who run an orphanage about an hour north of us.  They have been here for almost thirty years running the cleanest, nicest orphanage I’ve ever seen in this country.  They only take infants and only until they are two years old.  After a child reaches the age of two, it can be raised fairly easily by an extended family or a home village.  We have had many groups coming here for mission trips that have also visited that orphanage and helped with construction and funds for food and clothing.  Karen loves to go just to play with the babies.  The church that was funding the orphanage withdrew its funding to focus on big revivals but the couple refused to quit.  For years (no longer now) the husband would spend six months a year driving a bus in Sweden to raise funds to keep the orphanage afloat.  One time about eleven years ago, the husband was in Sweden and his wife had to leave to go back to take care of her dying mother.  The nurses running the orphanage knew me and had seen me many times.  One morning, very early, I got a call from one of the nurses.  Five babies were dying and would I come and pray for them.  I drove up there and spent the next eight hours holding babies and praying for them and anointing them.  The baby who liked me to hold him the most was a tiny little thing who was from Bunda, like me.  He smiled at me several times while I held him.  Amazingly, all five babies lived and thrived and were healthy by the time the wife got back.  The boy I held, anointed, and prayed for that day is now eleven years old and doing very well with an extended family here in Bunda.  He doesn't know me or that I ever held him or prayed for him.  That little boy from Bunda was named “Magesa” and so I have been called ever since.  First by the nurses at the orphanage, then the people who ran the orphanage, then our staff when they heard about it, and now, eleven years later, I am known more by the name “Magesa” than my own.  If I fly into the airport at Mwanza or check into a hotel in downtown Mwanza, you can hear the baggage handlers and taxi drivers all hollering, “Magesa! Magesa!”  I must admit, I like it.  I don’t remember who added the “Mamba” or crocodile part, but it was a long time ago for both names have stuck.  If you come to Bunda and ask for Charles Wiggins, people will stare at you.  If you ask for Magesa Mamba, they will smile and take you right to me.  I think that’s another of God’s thank you notes.  At least that’s how I take it.

Monday, October 23, 2017

“Destiny waits in the hand of god, shaping the still unshapen..” ― T.S. Eliot



          It just hit me that I need to raise $10,000 over the next two years just so that I can have my implanted defibrillator replaced again before 2020.  It can be done in Dar Es Salaam, so I don’t have to go to Nairobi, but it will still just give me another four years or so.  I’ll be 75 years old, not in the best of health, and really wonder if it’s worth it.  I don’t ever like to ask for money and especially not for myself.  That money could do a lot of good for the folks with real needs around here.  I think maybe I’ve done enough.  With no insurance and needing others to pay for my medical expenses, I think it’s time just to take my chances.  I know that the last time my defibrillator died—I almost died as well, but that’s okay.  If, over the next two years, the money appears, then I will take that as I sign that I’m to continue, but I won’t be asking anyone for any.  This will be the one and only time I will even bring it up, and I feel a lot better knowing that I won’t be making the decision—God will.  I will accept whatever is my lot, and I will be grateful for all I have already received.  If the money shows up, earmarked for the operation, over the next two years, I’ll have my answer.  If not, I’ll still have my answer.  There are so many other wonderful uses for that kind of money, it would be selfish of me to take it for myself.  There.  Now I feel better.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

"That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." — William Shakespeare


                                        Funny thing about roses, they bloom without any regard for the circumstances of the people who see them or smell their sweet fragrance.  They also bloom even if unseen or unsmelled.  In his “Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard” Thomas Gray writes, “Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, And waste its sweetness on the desert air.”  Roses also have thorns prompting this quote by Alphonse Karr, "Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses."   Roses have the simple job of blooming, no matter where they are, who sees them, or if they are picked, packaged and delivered to announce the love someone feels for another.  Their task is simple: bloom.  
                                  It is also our task.  We are not asked to cause someone to fall in love with another or to bring our fragrance into a world of foul smells.  We are asked to bloom.  Of course we have thorns, we are imperfect creatures in an imperfect world subject to much temptation—temptation offered by the most creative minds advertising has to offer.  Others sometimes get hurt by thorns we say or do or don’t say or don’t do, but it is not something we can really avoid.  Psychologists frequently say that we don’t ever say something we didn’t really mean to say—we may not have meant to say it out loud, or in a sarcastic tone, or with the intention to do real hurt, but we say what we mean to say.  It is who we are.  We have thorns, but, we are also roses and can produce beautiful blossoms.  We have the ability to bloom, to produce blossoms of incredible fragrance and beauty, and unlike the roses rooted to the ground, we can bloom in many places and even over the internet.  We can carry the message if not the fragrance of a beautiful bloom over thousands of miles to bring a smile to the face of another—if we will but do so.  We can bloom with a smile, with a heartfelt hug, with a sincere welcome to a stranger, with the gift of food to the hungry, clothes to the naked—you get the idea, it is the message of Christ who asks us, in spite of our thorns, to bloom and to bring beauty into an ugly world.  It is in your power to be a rose today for someone else.  Do it!  Share the blossom of love and peace to your family, your friends, strangers, the homeless and the helpless.  When people see the blossom, they do not remember the thorns, and that is God at work, for they do know their creator.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

“There’s nothing wrong with feeling bad about your past, but you should also be proud of yourself for being strong enough to make it through it.” — Sonya Parker


                              Here the word is surmbaya which means less-than-prepossessing or just plain ugly.  It’s how I think of myself.  You see, I don’t think very much of myself, never have.  Always had an older brother who was smarter and taller, a younger sister who was pretty, and then an even younger brother who was the smartest of all of us.  I was less than average in a lot of things and only more than average in clothes size.  As a boy, the clothes for us fat kids were called “husky” and they weren’t referring to a sled dog.  I was never the football player my father always wanted (played three downs against Odessa Permian, the school in “Friday Night Lights”) and got beat up so badly, I went out for drama.  Took me seven years to finish regular college because I got thrown out twice, once for academic underachievement and once because of my behavior.  I’m sure other people might see me in a much different light than I see myself, but when you are bigger than Mike in “Mike and Molly,” you just don’t cut yourself much slack.  I’ve been battling depression for years and had therapy and medication that got me this far.  No medication now and no therapy, just cold, hard facts that I have to learn to live with.  But here’s the deal—so do you.  
                      No woman is really Cinderella and no man is really Prince Charming.  Some of you got dealt better hands than others, but we all have to play with the cards we’ve got in our hands.  Easier for some, harder for others, but the game is the same for all of us.  Or would be, except for the death and the resurrection of the Son of God, who chose to suffer and die for us, and who was raised from the dead and now loves us, speaks for us, provides us with comfort and strength, and doesn’t care how old we are, how fat or how short we are.  Doesn’t care whether we have two legs, one leg, or no legs.  Doesn’t care about our age, our intelligence, our weight, or the amount of money we have amassed.  Does care, though.  Cares so much, He would suffer and die for us (have you seen Mel Gibson’s “The Passion”—wow!).  Cared so much He has never left us.  Christ doesn’t want us to be perfect or even average, He just wants to “abide in us and we in Him” so that we are always together.  In the end, it will not be what we thought about ourselves that will live on after us, it will be what we did for others and the spirit in which we did it, and in whose name we did it.  A good friend just recently passed into the company of saints and will be remembered for a long, long time for what he did for others in Christ’s name.  The orphans we feed and educate every day will not remember our names or what we looked like or how many aches and pains we had, but they will always remember the love they received in the name of Christ.  And that’s the truth.

Friday, October 20, 2017

“I've always believed in savoring the moments. In the end, they are the only things we'll have.” ― Anna Godbersen


                The following is a true story written by Kent Nerburn who provided the picture at the right.  I was reminded of it Tuesday upon hearing of the death on Monday of a friend being treated by hospice.  My friend and I shared many a monumental moment together and is a part of my heart.  You may need a tissue for this one—I did.  The true story (ought to be a movie):

      Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living. One time I arrived in the middle of the night for a pick up at a building that was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window.  Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, then drive away. But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation. Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself. So I walked to the door and knocked.
     "Just a minute," answered a frail, elderly voice.
I could hear something being dragged across the floor. After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80's stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase.
        The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.
     "Would you carry my bag out to the car?" she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness.
    "It's nothing," I told her. "I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated."
     "Oh, you're such a good boy," she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, then asked, "Could you drive through downtown?"
    "It's not the shortest way," I answered quickly.
    "Oh, I don't mind," she said. "I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to a hospice."
I looked in the rear view mirror. Her eyes were glistening.
     "I don't have any family left," she continued. "The doctor says I don't have very long."  I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. "What route would you like me to take?" I asked.  For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.  Sometimes she'd ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.
     As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, "I'm tired. Let's go now."   We drove in silence to the address she had given me.
It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her. I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.
    "How much do I owe you?" she asked, reaching into her purse.
    "Nothing," I said.
    "You have to make a living," she answered.
    "There are other passengers."
Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.
     "You gave an old woman a little moment of joy," she said. "Thank you."
I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.  I didn't pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?  I don't think that I have done anything more important in my life. We're conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware—beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

       You can give someone else a moment that touches them forever, if you have a caring, loving heart, and are quick to be kind and slow to be angry.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

“While God, for the most part, allows this cosmos to work according to the laws of nature, there is never a time when He is not actively involved in every detail of life.” ― Charles R. Swindoll

                  Some folks believe in a distant, kind of clockmaker God, who just sits and watches the hands of time go round and round and never intervenes.  That’s not me.  I believe in a “hands-on” kind of God.  The kind of God that sends signs even to those of us too dense to see them, and some signs should not be ignored (see picture on the right).  Christ told the thief on the cross that he would be with Christ that day in paradise.  That’s my kind of God, the one that will reach out and touch and promise.  I believe those promises, so I ask, knock, and seek knowing I’ll be heard, and that my entreaties will be answered.  I have a non-believer friend who says there is no way God can keep up with seven billion individuals and all their wants and needs.  I pointed out to him that all seven billion don’t seek God and many never talk to Him or even want to believe that He sees all that they do.  Besides, of course God can keep up with all of us because we do it ourselves.  Seven billion is just a drop in the bucket to the over one hundred billion nerve endings in the human body.  Yep, over a hundred billion and every single one of us knows what is going on with every single one of them.  You feel the breeze on your cheeks, you feel the pressure of the chair on your back, the tiniest hangnail will grab your attention in an instant.  Think about it, you, yourself, are in constant communication with billions of nerve endings and know which ones are okay and which ones need attention.  Think about a human hair.  A human hair is very thin, very small, and the average head has over 100,000 of them and they cover our arms, legs and other parts.  Just take one of the 100,000 on a person’s head, and they won’t even feel it when you lift it, but if you pull it out—that tiny thing, that little hair will cause enough pain for a person to cry out and to know exactly from where it was pulled.  
                             If we, simple humans, can know and be in touch with, and constantly adjust, correct, heal, and medicate even a few nerve cells—how hard is it to imagine that God knows where we all are and what we need?  My God interacts with me all the time, the same way I know when my hair is out of place, or if I have a pain in my leg, or if my glasses are slipping down my nose.  We instantly and always are aware of billions of nerve endings, so to assume that there are too many people for God to attend is just silly if you think about it.  If you can’t imagine a God who can be with you and me at the same time tending to both our needs on opposite sides of the world—well, your God is too small.  God has huge hands in which to hold you, unlimitless love with which to care for you, relentless in His pursuit of your openness to Him, and unconditional in His mercy and forgiveness.  God will be in your life all the time if you will but invite Him.  Maybe some of us are uncomfortable with God being present for every conversation and interaction with others, but He is there whether you are comfortable with Him being there or not.  You can’t hide from Him, so why not invite Him in?  When God is with you all the time, every day, you don’t have to find a church or a pastor to intercede for you.  You just have a little chat with Him, and He listens.  He also speaks to you, all the time, in many ways because we are so reluctant to hear.  He sends signs and messages over and over.  There is nothing more constant than God in your life, so get used to it.  Enjoy it.  Embrace it.  Find the joy He brings, the comfort He brings, and the strength He brings.  God is not distant, not far away, and doesn’t need special places or special people to interact with Him.  All He needs is for you to open your arms and your heart to Him, and He will rush in, and your life will never be the same again.  Just do it.