earthen vessels, East Africa, and the gospel
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Posts from — December 2012

Immigration, an Instrument in the Redeemer’s Hands

Laura and I have been working our way through this Advent devotional. Commenting on Luke 2:1–5, the devotional points out that the census mandated by Caesar Augustus was actually a very important part of God’s plan to fulfill Scripture and order events for our benefit. It was that census that required Mary and Joseph to travel to Bethlehem from Nazareth. Bethlehem, as we know from Micah 5:2, was the prophesied location of the Messiah’s birth. The wonder of God’s providence is that the whim of a pagan emperor was what brought a couple of peasants cross-country to uphold the truth of his word. What seemed to be a colossal inconvenience was actually a means of God’s sovereign grace!

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will. (Proverbs 21:1)

I’m sure that if I were in Joseph’s shoes, I would not have had pleasant thoughts about Caesar. But from God’s perspective, Caesar was an (unwitting) servant in the middle of his will. The truth is that God goes through (what appears to us to be) great lengths for the sake of showing himself great towards his people—even if those lengths involve secular governments.

This thought has been a tough pill to swallow considering all the hoops we are jumping through at the whim of the Tanzanian department of immigration. This summer, the whole residence permit system was revamped, requiring existing permit holders to reapply and postponing our application. Since then, the application requirements have changed every time we visit the office and the estimated processing time keeps getting longer. Our teammates have spent countless hours collecting signatures, certificates, letters, and photos. The latest change requires my application to be submitted in Dar Es Salaam, on the other end of the country.

At this point, our situation is quite unlike Mary and Joseph’s. Even if I made the journey to Dar myself, no prophecy will be fulfilled (I plan to have a courier work on my behalf). Nevertheless, God’s good intentions are being fulfilled despite the inefficiencies. In my better moments it is possible to see a number of good things God is doing through the situation—teaching me about his trustworthiness would be just one. In this sense those immigration officers are doing God’s will, as hard as that is to accept. In my lesser moments, I would do well to remember that my disagreements with the local government are ultimately matters to be taken up with God, the one who has given them the authority to make us jump through hoops. 🙂

December 19, 2012   No Comments

Language Learning Mishap #1,325

We like to purchase bread to take away from a restaurant in town. Recently I dropped in to pick up four loaves. Now, in Swahili the difference between four loaves of bread and four-hundred loaves of bread is only one letter (mikate minne vs. mikate mia nne). I knew I must of said something wrong. The waitress behind the counter said that they didn’t have enough, but I could see about a dozen loaves just behind her on the shelf. “You have them. I see them…,” and so on I went for a couple minutes before realizing that I had asked for four-hundred loaves of bread. We all had a good laugh.

December 9, 2012   4 Comments

December 2012 Prayer Update

We are quickly approaching the 3-month-mark since arriving in Tanzania. Life here is approaching a new normal for us. We are finding things that surprise us less often than when we arrived. Regarding our progress in the language, it is encouraging to see our conversations in Swahili getting a bit longer by every month.

On the home front, we are settling into a good situation with our help in the house.  It’s probably easy to read that as a rather inconsequential matter. In one sense it certainly is. After all, we actually now have someone to help doing things in the house–how difficult could life be! On the other hand, our dish washer in the States never asked for a raise. Nor have we ever hired someone who has asked for an advance to pay for his kid’s school expenses. This has been a learning experience to say the least. So we are counting the current situation a blessing that permits more time for language learning and other consequential matters.

Ian is adjusting to all the new faces that don’t look like mom and dad. When he’s not sleeping or eating he has been working on cutting some teeth and making himself mobile.

We would be glad to have you join with us in praying about the following items.

  1. We were able to reach both sides of our family by phone and/or video call on Thanksgiving. This was not expected since technical problems have frustrated most of our attempts to make video calls to family and friends.
  2. Our progress in learning the language is slow but it’s actual progress, by the grace of God.
  1. One thought that motivates us to learn Swahili well is that we must be able to communicate the Scriptures accurately and meaningfully in this language. Please pray with us that God will be preparing us to be effective communicators of his word.
  2. The church in Nyakaliro is one of the churches which aims to plant a new church beginning in the new year. At the same time, the church’s pastor, Elias, has been seriously considering moving closer to family. We should pray that Elias and the church would have wisdom to navigate these decisions.
  3. We are anticipating that our first holiday season in Africa will be a special time for remembering God’s grace. We are also praying that we would be satisfied with God’s will for us here and now, accepting that this will be different from what we have enjoyed in our past Christmas seasons.

December 6, 2012   No Comments

Public Transportation around Mwanza

One of the issues that has required an adjustment to my expectations is the delay of a driver’s license. My first attempt at a license ended when I was told, “You get residence permit and wait 6 months, then come back. Goodbye.” As for the residence permit, that is another kettle of fish. The current wait for new residence permits is at least three months, but three months seems to be a conservative estimate. In the meantime, we are working on an end-around that may make another way to get a driver’s license.

It’s a good idea for us to become comfortable with public transportation even if I am able to get a vehicle in the near future. So I made my first solo trip into town this past Thursday. Navigating public transportation in Africa is just one of those things you can’t sufficiently prepare for. You just dive in and soak up the experience. From our home in the village, it takes us less than 40 minutes to get into town in the Eads’s Land Cruiser. The same trip took me about an hour via public transport for less than $1.50. Not bad.

The first 6 kilometers is off the pavement where most vehicles don’t normally travel. This is where you flag down a piki piki (motorcycle). If you can just get over the fact that there is not much keeping you from being thrown off by the bumps or nailing a cow in the middle of the road, this leg of the trip is quite fun.

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Once you reach the pavement there are options aplenty. The most common mode of public transportation is the dala dala. (They say that the word comes from English dollar dollar–charming, isn’t it?) In Mwanza our dala dalas are mini busses which seat 10, although you will never find a dala dala operating with only 10 people. On the way into town I shared the ride with 18; on the way back the count peaked at 21.

Inside the Dala Dala

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Spending a little time on public transportation provides a multitude of culture learning opportunities. For me, being able get around is an essential part of making Mwanza feel like home. After arriving in town, I found a spot to do some reading, ran some errands, then made the return trip 4 hours later.

December 2, 2012   No Comments