While we were in Tanzania, our dog Mandy stayed with Leslie’s sister Cate and her family in Asheville, NC. While she was walking Mandy one day, a TV commercial producer saw Mandy and asked Cate if she’d be willing to put Mandy in a commercial. We’ve been seeing the Haverty’s commercial here in the DC market for the past week. When I did a Google search, I came up with the commercial on YouTube. Here it is. Mandy is the yellow Labradoodle.

Here are a couple of pictures of her from a couple of years ago:

Mandy_the_Aussie_Dog
2005-01-22 Mandy Snow Day.JPG

We’re back in our house in Springfield, VA, and we’re slowly getting unpacked and settled in. I have a job, and Leslie is looking for one in between the unpacking and getting the kids ready for school. Now that we’re almost settled, I’m going to break down and process the rest of our photos from the past year and do some revisionist history on the website to document where we went and what we saw.

In the meantime, Matthew Davies, the editor of Episcopal Life Online, asked all of the Tanzania Missionaries to submit comments on what it is like to be an Episcopal missionary in the field in the middle of the Anglican upheaval. We had met him in February when the Presiding Bishop came to Dar Es Salaam for the Primates Meeting. She met with all of us, and Matthew wrote a story about it. Here is my input:

While we were working in the Diocese of Central Tanganyika (DCT), we were lucky to work for the one Bishop in Tanzania that was willing to stand up against signing the Anglican Church of Tanzania (ACT) letter cutting off ties with the Episcopal Church USA. Bishop Mhogolo gathered all of the DCT missionaries together to explain his position and told us that with all of the help that Africa needs, it is foolish to single out one organization for one sin. He said that no one in Africa asks the Red Cross, UNESCO, or the many governments that donate money if they have any homosexuals working on their staff. He also said that singling out homosexuality over adultery, greed ( i.e., corruption), and dependence on alcohol (all issues in Tanzania) was missing the point that we are all sinners and we are all forgiven.

Bishop Mhogolo emphasized that the important thing is developing partnerships. Our family helped DCT in many ways, through both of us teaching many students and my setting up two computer networks for two schools. But our family received many blessings in return. Our children learned life lessons that we could not have paid for at home. They are much more aware of the world around them, how lucky they were to be born into the situation they’re in, and how much other cultures have to offer to their understanding of life. (The kids couldn’t articulate that if you asked them, but you can see it in the ways that they’ve changed over the past year.)

The hardest thing to come to terms with was that I couldn’t solve all of Tanzania’s problems – I could only do my small part. There were many hours spent on poor roads thinking, “What would I do if I were President for a day?” The answers were the big tickets: transportation infrastructure, functioning banking system, improved universal education, etc. But I couldn’t do much for those problems. What I could do was teach teach the 60 students that had in various classes over the course of the week. I could go to the villages with Leslie’s students to meet their families and see how they lived. I could help make the best of the limited computer resources that our two schools had and teach the students how to use them to open up the world through the internet with Google and Wikipedia as a launching point. There were days when these things didn’t seem like very much, but they were the things I could do, and I think that they truly did help the 150 or so total students in the two schools.

And now that we’re back in the States, we will always have a piece of Africa and Tanzania in our hearts. We’re still unpacking our possessions, but after we finish with them, we’ll need to unpack our experiences and share them with our parish, our Diocese, and the other people that helped enable our mission journey. This lifelong partnership is one of the key points that Bishop Mhogolo makes when he talks about the ways missionaries help DCT. He says that we help in the ways that we can while we’re there, but that we help even more when we come home by spreading the message of partnership with Africa and by helping to recruit more missionaries and assistance, whether it is through active recruitment or by passive recruitment through witness of life in Africa.

(Please read yesterday’s post first, if you haven’t.)  Well, after two days of toothpaste on my arm, I’m convinced it’s working.  I now realize that I had another Nairobi Fly sore on my wrist last month that I thought was a bacterial infection.  That sore was oozing plasma for a week, but the new one that I treated with toothpaste is already dry and well on it’s way toward healing.  I don’t think the scar will be nearly as bad as I was afraid it would be.

Who would have thought of putting toothpaste on a sore caused by smashing a black and orange beetle?  But it seems to work well.  The pain is much less and I think I’ll only have a 1-inch by 1/4-inch scar instead of a 3-inch by 1-inch scar like I originally thought it would be.

This week I accidentally discovered yet another previously unknown hazard in East Africa, the Nairobi Fly. Good info and a photo are at this link.

I have definitely killed several of these. I must have either killed one on my arm or killed one and then rubbed my arm. Either way, I have a big sore on my left arm. I wasn’t sure what it was at first, but several students in my Form III Physics class saw the sore and said, “You’ve been bitten by a Nairobi Fly!” After some research, I realized that it’s not really a fly, it’s a beetle; and that they don’t bite, they get revenge for their death by spreading their acidic poison over your skin. Two weeks of itch and probably a scar. Now we all know not to mash any bugs other than mosquitoes…

The local remedy recommended by several students and a couple of websites is toothpaste. It kind of makes sense. The alkaline in the toothpaste should neutralize the acid in the poison, and then act as a poultice to pull out the poison. I’ve tried it for a day now (under a bandage) and it does seem to have reduced the welts. I’ll try it for another day and see if it keeps helping.

I’m just glad that I didn’t accidentally rub it in my eye. It can cause temporary blindness and lots of pain in the eye. Thank goodness for small miracles.

It’s interesting what you get used to.  It’s even more interesting when you realize you’ve gotten used to it.  There are big geckos on the wall here.  Not little two-inch ones like we had in college in Austin, but big five-inch ones.  The bugs they eat are big enough that you can hear them crunching on them.  So, they’re a great thing.  They just sit quietly on the wall and after a while, they just become part of the rooms decoration.  That is, until it dawns on you that you’ve gotten used to them.  Although the one that lives in our pantry still startles me every once in a while, because when you open the door, he darts into the attic through a hole in the ceiling and the movement still catches me by surprise sometimes.  Charlotte has a big one that lives in her closet, so she makes me close her closet at night because she doesn’t like it when the gecko walks around the room in the dark.

The other thing is herds of cows and goats either being herded down the road or just grazing (apparently unattended) by/in the road.  When we first got here, I noticed them all, but now they’re just like the trees or bicyclists on the side of the road.

There are a lot of other things that we’ve gotten used to, but these are two good examples.

This evening Rev. David Copley and Mary Brennan from the headquarters of the Episcopal Church, USA, visited Msalato. Bishop Mdimi Mhogolo, our bishop in the Diocese of Central Tanganyika, spoke at the end of our meal and summarized how Leslie is helping the Diocese very well. He said that when mission partners come from overseas, it frees a Tanzanian on the staff at the college to go abroad for further education, which in turn helps to improve the quality of the Tanzanian Staff. It also helps the students by “bringing the world” to Tanzania, but the biggest help is in freeing the staff to go on for further studies.

I hadn’t thought of it this way before. I had only thought of Leslie’s direct contribution to teaching the students, which is a real benefit to the diocese, but I hadn’t really thought about the member of staff that is studying in South Africa right now because Leslie is here in his place.

Then the Bishop told David that the Diocese needs computer people like me to help them run the newly forming computer suites here at the college and in town.  I had no idea when I came here that there is almost no indigenous computer expertise here.  Most of the few Tanzanians that have gotten computer training go to Dar Es Salaam because the pay is better.  Also, because the school system teaches rote memorization instead of problem-solving skills, there are few Tanzanians who have been brought up with the mindset to do proper troubleshooting.  The diocese currently has two good IT guys (me and Mark from New Zealand), but we’re both leaving in a few months.  I really hope that David can find at least one person with a good computer background to fill in behind me.  I came here to teach, but while I’ve been here, I’ve come to realize that many people can teach (especially among the types who come to Africa as missionaries), but there are very few missionaries who can set up a network.  The Diocese of Central Tanganyika really needs a few more good IT people to keep the systems running for the other missionaries who use them.

Hi All,

Sorry for the long delay in writing. I got out of the habit while we were traveling over the holidays, and between a terrible internet connection and every-other day power outages, it’s been hard to get going again… Enough excuses. The power is now fairly stable (unless it rains, but the rains are getting less frequent as the rainy season ends) and we finally have a decent internet connection again after a couple of bad months. So, I’m going to try to get back in the habit.

Our biggest news is that after much consideration, we’re going to return to Virginia in July instead of staying for the optional second year. The two biggest reasons are money and the boys’ education. We’ve been happy with Charlotte’s class, but secondary education in Dodoma is just not very good. One year of a “cultural experience” has been worth a year of poor academic education, but we can’t justify a second year. Also, we’re running out of savings/home equity to finance the trip. We’ve gotten a lot of help from a lot of people, but the reality is that we’re still paying a lot out of our ever-shrinking pockets.

About the title of this post: 4 of the 5 of us have now gotten malaria. Charlotte and I have had it twice each, Henry once, and Leslie had one case that wouldn’t go away after the first treatment. All of us are well now, but it really knocks you down for a couple of weeks and isn’t much fun. Since the rainy season is ending, the mosquito population should decline over the next month or two. Everyone says that it can still rain in April and May, but that it’s usually not as frequent.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll post updates about what we did over Christmas (trips to Lake Victoria and Zanzibar) and some observations now that we’ve been here for a while.

Peace,
Kirk

Hi All,

Sorry for not writing.  The past few weeks have been hectic.  I had final exams to prepare, give, and grade.  Leslie spent two weeks going to Zanzibar and Mikumi National Park with Virginia Holt, another ECUSA missionary stationed in South Africa.  Virginia came up here for her holiday and Leslie showed her around Tanzania.

Now we’re on our way to Musoma and Tabora.  I have to leave my computer behind, which may kill me.  We don’t have room in the car, because we’re taking three of our neighbors, George Okoth and two of his children, to their home in Musoma, where we’ll spend Christmas.  If the roads are good, we’ll drive from Musoma to the Tabora region to spend New Years with a Danish missionary family, the Andersens.

I just bought new tires yesterday, and I have two extra inner tubes.  (Yes, there are still car tires that use inner tubes.  They are easier to get repaired here, because there are very few proper tire machines in Tanzania.)  So, we should be good to go.  The only really dicey part is the two hour trip from the city of Tabora to the village where the Andersens live.  The key to that will be how much rain they get over the next week.

Speaking of rain, when it rains it pours here, literally.  We’ve had buckets of rain over the past month.  It went from desert to a green place.  Not a jungle, but very green.  Grass is growing on what was baked hard clay where I would have sworn nothing could grow.

Anyway, it’s time to put the laptop away.  If you need to reach us over the next two weeks, my cell phone number is (in Tanzania) 0752 069 569 (International) 255 752 069 569 (from the US) 011 255 752 069 569.

Merry Christmas!
Kirk

As I write, I am filled with anxiety for my Degree students as they take the first exam of exam week. They begin with my class, New Testament I. I never realized how hard it is to give a test. I struggled over the questions, I sought the essence of what I would like these students to know, and I worried that they would prepare properly. One student is suffering with boils, another with stomach problems, yet another lost his sister-in-law to malaria last week. One lost his son the first month of class and his wife the second month. All are present and all are sitting the exam on time. God bless them!

Joseph Ailo, a Maasai who is one of my degree students, preached this morning in chapel on John 6:1-15. He spoke of the three responses noted in this gospel before Jesus feeds the 5,000. There is Philip, who worries about the money; Andrew, who worries about the small amount of food not being enough; and the unnamed young boy, who offers the five loaves and two fish he has. Here are the disciples, who have witnessed the authority of Jesus in his miracles already, yet they still don’t really believe or realize who he is. Their faith gets lost in the worldly details. The boy just gives what he has, to let Jesus do with his gift as he will. This hit me straight in the heart this morning. After five months, with all of the highs and lows we have experienced, there have been many times when I wonder what I am doing here. What have I dragged Kirk and the children into? Tanzania is a beautiful and amazing country, but it is also very dangerous. BUT: didn’t I answer a call? I need to remind myself that I simply offered my gifts to God to use. He called my family here, for whatever purpose in their individual lives. I was called to offer my education and my Spiritual gift of teaching to the Church. It is just my small offering to a world full of need. “Here I am, Lord.” My students give everything of the little they have to seek the opportunity to study. My difficulties are not much compared to theirs.

We have had a very busy month. We visited the village of Mvumi, where I preached in honor of a fundraising event for a parish rectory. The parish and Fr. Daniel Mazengo welcomed us with a feast and a rooster for a gift. Henry named him “Jimmy.” Jimmy lives in a coop with two lovely hens next door to our home. The following weekend Kirk, Greg, and Charlotte traveled to Kiteto Christian College in Kibaya. It’s in the Mt. Kilimanjaro Diocese, about three hours from Msalato. The KCC English missionaries had visited us with some broken computers. Kirk and the kids went to help them and were able to fix all of the campus computers. Kirk and his computer skills have been desperately needed blessings to Central Tanganyika. He enjoyed experiencing another mission community, worshipping at the cathedral and helping them in their time of need. Now KCC can finish their semester with proper papers and exams.

This past week we had the SIM Pastor’s Books Set conference at the Lutheran Cathedral in Dodoma. I went with a group of ten from Msalato to collect 8 sets. It was a powerful experience to meet and praise God with eighty pastors from all denominations. It was a celebration of the book set blessing, but it was a time of fellowship with many Christians and form new friendships. I was enthusiastically greeted by some Assembly of God teachers from Kongwa, the Lutheran Bishop, former Msalato students, and the Moravian contingent from Tabora. My family hosted Robert Anderson, a Danish Moravian missionary, and his daughter Emily, who is Charlotte’s age. They traveled twelve hours to come to the conference. They stayed for three nights with us. Charlotte and Emily are best friends from when they first met at language school in August.

I must now mention Charlotte’s ministry. I have noticed that her optimistic, can-do nature has become a blessing to other missionary children. Emily Anderson is ten years old and lives in a very isolated village, hours from any town. She has not made any friends among the local children. Her parents worry about her. Emily is the oldest of four children, so she does have her sisters and brothers to play with. Charlotte welcomed Emily as if they’ve known each other their whole lives. They had actually only spent a total of ten hours together in August. Within a few seconds of arriving the two of them where arm-in-arm and off to play in Charlotte’s room. They didn’t waste one moment over the three days. Charlotte had the energy to fill this friend with experiences to last her until we visit them in January. Charlotte is also best buddies with a home-schooled girl from Texas. She also plays with a Dutch girl and a German girl she knows from school at CAMS. Charlotte acts as a little sister to Jenny, a fifteen-year-old girl from Minnesota. Charlotte’s enthusiasm and ability to enjoy whoever she is with helps these girls to blossom here in Tanzania. I have always admired Charlotte’s refusal to clique. Especially in fourth grade in the US, she may have been forced to join in or have been pushed aside socially. It has been wonderful to watch her gifts be a blessing here in Tanzania.

At the college, we are now in exam week as I mentioned above. It has been an extremely busy semester for me as the new teacher. I had many lectures to prepare and many levels of students to work with. I have learned to preach and enjoy it! I have experienced the fellowship of both the college community and the larger mission community. Next semester will bring its challenges, but I am definitely ready to handle whatever the college needs me to do. I will miss the students these two and a half months, but I am ready to recharge my batteries. I will begin to prepare for the second semester’s classes, but I will also be using the break to gather the histories of the ordained women in Central Tanganyika. I hope to use this research to record this history which is being made right here. No one has written anything down yet. I meet on December 4th with the first woman dean who oversees the parishes in Dodoma.

Thank you to all who prayed for Kirk when he was ill with malaria. He is well now, but he is slightly anemic. Although he’s better, he needs to mind his nutrition and rest for the near future. As the rains arrive, we are all on the daily anti-malarial drugs. Please pray for our family’s health, safety and our mission work. We ask for your continued prayers for the Anglican Church of Tanzania, the Diocese of Central Tanganyika, the Canon Andrea Mwaka School, and Msalato Theological College.

With love and in Christ,

Leslie

PS: I am trying to raise money to buy as many as twenty of the SIM Pastor’s Book Sets for the Msalato Library. There are 58 books in the $75 set, including hardback reference books (NIV Study Bible, Bible Dictionary, Concordance, African Bible Commentary, and an Introduction to Systematic Theology. Any two of these would be $75 alone!) There are pastoral and evangelist’s aids. There’s even a beginner’s New Testament Greek. Many are books that could be used as much-needed textbooks for classes here. Let me know if you would be interested in donating a set.

I finally worked through the power outages and slow bandwidth to get the site transferred to our new server at GoDaddy.com.  If you’re reading this message, your DNS server has caught up with our address change.  Everyone’s DNS server should be caught up by tomorrow, at the latest.  If you happened to send an e-mail on Sunday or Monday, and we didn’t reply, please send it again.  It may have gotten lost in the DNS shuffle.

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