Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. Proverbs 3:5
We made it. We shared the news with family and friends – after a long trip that went exactly as planned, we made it. All the way. To Tanzania, our new home.
Before we got on the plane, we engaged in a season of bittersweet, rushed anxiety – finishing last tasks, getting together with friends, saying hard goodbyes to loved ones, asking each other millions of questions about the preparation process. The boarding door closed, ending that time and plunging us into a time called “transition”.
We now live in this space. The house we’ve been assigned – a four bedroom, two bath home that once served as a consulate – turns out to be as advertised. We are glad we packed some things, and we wonder what we were thinking when we packed others. Good folks who lived here before left us some needed supplies. We are on the hunt for those that we lack. Some things are working well – others, not at all. The house is a complete mess as we begin to figure out a sensible fashion (that is, a way that makes sense to us) of where everything should go.
Meanwhile, we find ourselves in a place where assumptions about life, work and ministry that work well in Ohio, or Boston, or Chicago have little interface with reality here. When problems arise, responses we might make elsewhere often won’t move us toward resolution, and well might make things worse. We are less competent here at “adulting” than we might be elsewhere. What do we do when the washer floods the bathroom? How do we find and use a water filter? Where is the best place to buy bread/hardware/blankets? How do you say hello, or thank you, or I need you to come at 4 pm? How will we ever learn to be competent in this space?
Transitional moments can inspire a number of reactions in people. As the realization hits that we don’t know what we need to know, some panic; others engage in escape strategies; others withdraw; and still others find ways to fight and deny the truth of their incompetence in the context. We’ve both had our moments in each of these responses, while working to keep our sense of humor intact.
Transition offers the faith community opportunities to stand in the place of Jesus for those unsure how to move forward. We offer our testimony: the faith community here has done just that. Tanzanian and American disciples have stood ready to answer questions, serve us meals, get us where we need to go, and guide our steps in this transitional space. It’s amazing how small things – like the gift of salad, washed and safe to eat – can make a huge difference in one’s day, and remind us that God, who loves us, sends us companions for this journey. Daily discoveries – like the awesome bread at the Tanz-Hands Bakery, part of an integrated project assisting people with disabilities, or the Arusha Lutheran Medical Centre, a wonderful institution serving people from all walks of life, supported by many disciples around the world – these offer moments of joy and awe. And the encouragement of many to take it easy, go slow, and engage in self-care – we are working to take this advice seriously and see it for what it is – no more nor less than the actual grace of Christ manifested in this place, offered to us as free gift.
As we continue to move through transition, begin language study next week, and prepare to begin teaching, we are grateful for this gift of time and the opportunity to share it with you. And we want to know – what transitions are you moving through? What are you learning? How are you responding? And where is the Spirit of God showing up on the road?