Thursday, February 2, 2017
“We need much less than we think we need.” ― Maya Angelou
While it is true that we have never regretted following God’s call to Tanzania and that we knew going in that it would not be easy, we work hard every day and have suffered much to maintain our mission and its projects that we hope are pleasing to God, yet there are people and things we miss. We love our life here or we would not stay in this strange culture with its different language, peoples, customs, government, food, and forms of worship. We have adjusted and adapted fairly well, we have watched other missionaries try and fail and return to their home countries, yet we stay and plan to be here till we die. As Ruth said to Naomi, thy people shall be my people and their home is our home.
However, there are some things we really miss. If you ask John, he will say he misses sour cream most. He misses all the things that recipes list that are simply not available in third world countries. Some recipes start with “get a can of” or add some “frozen” something, or a fresh ingredient we haven’t seen in twelve years. Karen misses the arts. She misses being able to go to plays, to concerts, to art museums, or even to movie theaters. Thank God for the internet that lets her at least see some of these things through the eyes of our friends and family who go and take pictures. There are some internet things that allow 360 degree looks at the insides of famous art museums, and she uses them a lot. Karen, John, and I miss being able to go out at night where there are street lights, stores that are open, and friends with inviting homes to visit, but here everything stops after dark. No street lights, no open stores, and drunks and bandits on the very dark roads. And it gets dark no later than seven o’clock here every day year ‘round, so you get the idea. If you don’t have what you need by seven, you will do without till the next day and that’s something most of you could never understand.
Me, I miss American football, college and professional. I can’t go to the games, and I can’t watch them on television. No Super Bowl, no Arkansas/LSU excitement. Here, I can watch rugby, cricket, and more soccer (called football here) than you can shake a stick at. I’ve learned to love cricket, sort of like rugby, and can tolerate soccer if I’m watching a game with fans (Shaban is an Arsenal fan and Dr. Chris a Chelsea fan—so they come over to watch those games with me). Happily, the day following American football games, there are highlights on YouTube of almost every game college and pro, so at least I can watch all the touchdowns, interceptions, long runs, and great plays (after I know who won, of course). I also miss grocery stores with aisles stretching off to infinity offering almost every food delight known to man and open 24 hours a day, too. I miss drug stores where you can buy almost anything from snack foods to clothing and even get prescriptions, too. I miss pizza delivery and being able to make a grease run to a hamburger or taco chain. Here we have no fire departments, no 911 on our phones, no ambulances, no EMT’s, and we have to rely on our neighbors to alert us to robbers in the neighborhood. Here, we have to keep watch dogs (we have four big ones outside and one tiny one inside), and have a uniformed security guard at night. In our twelve years here, we have never had an incident—primarily because our neighbors love and protect us.
It would be nice to be able to have conversations with adults who speak English and who would understand our references to things American. It would be nice for me to be able to discuss literature and theology with people who understand and appreciate it (Karen and John do their best but I can bore them quickly). We miss our friends from America and all over the world. We miss people we came to love here who have returned to their home countries of America, Australia, and the U.K. We miss our family, my brothers and sister, our sons and their wives and our three grandchildren that we have only held briefly years ago. Thanks to the internet, we can see and talk to them and hear “I love you, Babu and Bibi” from those darling little ones (Babu and Bibi are Swahili for Grandfather and Grandmother). I love Formula One racing and thanks to technology, I can watch the races live with my son in New York and we can talk to each other all through the race. I can tell him what is happening while his network is on a commercial and he can help me when rain interrupts our signal.
While we can’t have automatic ice makers in our refrigerator, or microwave meals (and popcorn), we do eat a healthy diet as all our meat and poultry is free range and all our vegetables and fruit organic and home grown. We do get frozen bacon, sliced cheese, and Pringles if we travel an hour or two to the stores that stock that stuff in Musoma and Mwanza. While we don’t kill and pluck our chickens, our workers do, and we can get fresh goat meat whenever we want. They also grow popcorn here (we have to clean it when we get it home, but it works).
So, if you want to send us a care package don’t include tickets to “Hamilton” or the Crystal Bridges Museum. Don’t send us tickets to Razorback games or coupons good at grocery stores or fast food places. We would love powdered sour cream, Orville Redenbacher popcorn (see picture, not microwave), and non-crushed Dorito’s, Cheetos, Fritos, and any Lay’s potato chips that can make the journey. We see lots of pictures of food on Facebook that makes us drool with envy, but we have learned to do without and to be content with what we have. Perhaps one day, I will love soccer (don’t count on it) and a big art museum will open in Mwanza and the stores there will start stocking sour cream, but until that day, we will continue to love our life here and to make do with what we have. We do get old BBC programs and can see Ellen Degeneres shows from last year. We can download any movie that’s been nominated for an Oscar for free, and have been able to watch the entire series of “The Crown” and “Victoria” so we are not living in a time warp. We get up to the minute news on CNN, BBC, Sky News, and others—just no American news shows, no Good Morning America, or The Today Show, or Sixty Minutes, but if something important happens we know about in instantly—and we have the internet. We are praying for everyone in America, and I mean everyone. You guys be kind to each other and love one another as Christ loved you, and you will get through this no matter which side you’re on. It’s about love, reconciliation, and forgiveness. Christ suffered and died to bring that to us, the least we can do is try to make it happen. Sometimes having football games, art museums, and sour cream isn’t enough for happiness, is it? Christ offers comfort, peace, and the way.