Thursday, May 22, 2014
“How we need another soul to cling to.” ― Sylvia Plath “To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” ― Mark Twain
Today needed two quotes because I am a man without peer here where I am. In the U.S., that would be a terribly arrogant expression, but here it is simple truth. I am the only American male in at least a fifty-mile radius. I am the oldest male missionary in a hundred mile radius. I have graduate degrees in American and British literature, but with whom do I discuss these? I have graduate degrees in philosophy, theology, and ethics, but the same question arises. I was born during WWII and lived through the Korean War, Vietnam, Watergate, Civil Rights, war protests, the hippie era (and we were very hippy indeed), have traveled the world and worked in education, the movie and tv industry, mental health, medical delivery systems, private business, gone to seminary, pastored seven churches, lived in six states, and survived cancer and heart stoppage for which I still have an implanted defibrillator sewn into my chest. I have had seven surgeries here in Tanzania—two that were life threatening. With whom can I discuss or talk about these things? My closest friend and peer is Pete O’Neal in Arusha which is two hours by car followed by an hour and a half by airplane followed by another hour by car, so I don’t see him very often although we have been friends for years. We are of similar ages and lived through much of the same cultural shifts in the U.S. In other words, here in Bunda, I have no friends or acquaintances who know or understand who and what I am. As far as I know, there are no other missionaries anywhere around here who have committed the totality of the rest of their lives to mission in Tanzania as we have. I have also always loved art, poetry, drama, and opera. Happily, my wife and I have done almost everything I listed together, enjoys the same things, and even minored in art. With her I can discuss all these things and she is also a college graduate who walked out of a master’s program because it was too easy and she could not be proud of that degree. What I’m saying is that without Karen, I am adrift, conversationally, experientially, and without the kind of companionship to which both quotes above refer. She is less than two weeks from returning and is recovering from her pneumonia and will be able to travel in a week. I'm not trying to say I am better than anyone, far from it, but I need her here. It’s as simple as that.