Not once, in my wildest dreams, did I imagine that I would live from my late fifties onward (will be 70 in a couple of weeks) in East Africa on the Serengeti Plains among the people of Tanzania. Lions, giraffes, elephants, and zebras were the stuff of dreams and Disney films, not real life. Malaria, AIDS, poverty, tropical diseases were the things too horrific to even think about and certainly not to live among. The first 3D movie I ever saw was back in the fifties was called “Bwana Devil” and it included lions charging right at me and scared me to death. I have now been on many safaris and have sat and just watched lions for hours. We were even once charged by an elephant (we got away), and I have had a leopard sniffing the walls of my tent which kept me from sleeping for several nights. We have experienced far too many funerals and they continue. Just yesterday, Edina had to be gone for the funeral of a neighbor child. We have seen twelve small children die just in our neighborhood and have suffered through tropical diseases ourselves that kill many of the very young and old. We do without a whole lot of things that most Americans just assume were always there and always will be. We have learned that there is not always diesel at the service station and not always eggs in the market. We know what it’s like to live with power that comes and goes and iffy internet and phone service.
So, what are we doing here? Just living the most incredible lives we ever could have imagined. We hurt and suffer, but we are happier than we have ever been. We are alive and part of that great experience of living on the edge which gives life its spice. We know pain and loss, but we also know birth and growth. We have been a part of the great expansion of the Christian movement here on this continent. Our Methodist churches have grown from the four when we arrived with just 200 members, to 24 churches with 4,000 members. I have personally baptized over 500 souls. We have also provided about 1,000 Bibles in Swahili. We have become part of the families of our pastors and parishioners. We have helped increase learning and brought changes to the education of small children. We have provided clean, safe drinking water to thousands through our biosand filter production. We have saved lives by teaching sanitation and hygiene and distributing over 1,000 mosquito nets in over thirty villages. We have had our hearts broken by deaths and betrayals, but we have also known the joy of the Holy Spirit shared by those who love and serve God in this East African bush. We are, as Douglas Adams says above, where we needed to be. We just didn’t know where that was going to be when we said, “Here we are, send us.” We are grateful and thank God every day for the wonder and life He has given us. You should, too.