Tuesday, October 9, 2012

If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all... Personal reflections

Hello Everyone-

I’ve decided to allow myself to write some of my own reflections and contemplations of late. So, if you are looking for updates this blog post may not be what you are looking for (but you can scroll to the last bulleted list with the heading updates: ) However, rather than merely giving you updates of life events here in Tanzania, I would like to take an opportunity to write some of my own personal thoughts down. Therefore take the following reflections with that in mind- they are my own personal reflections spurred by current events, some discussions with friends home and here, and also a sermon I gave (in Swahili :) this morning. (They do not necessarily reflect the school I work for or the ELCA or Synod-).

This morning I was asked to give the Muhubiri or message at our daily morning chapel service. The weekly heading is Imani iletayo ushindi = Faith will give us victory... (Roughly translated-)_. My reading came from Micah: -7:7-10. Reading these verses I decided to take some different angles on the reading - the more blatant connection to me seemed to be that although Micah is writing at a time of trial in his life, he continues to have faith in God. Verse 7 discusses how Micah will continue to watch wait for the Lord and he knows God will hear him. However, another point I wanted to make was Micah’s discussion about his enemies. I didn’t so much want to touch on the wrath that would befall on his enemies.... rather Micah’s assertion that God is our judge.

I feel as a person of faith, part of having faith is allowing God to do His job, and not try to do it for Him. Therefore, as Micah asserts God is our judge, which means two things to me...

First, we as the imperfect human beings we are, have to have faith that God will grant us His righteousness, which comes through grace (Acts 3:21-24). We have to trust God to judge us. A scary thought perhaps, but my own personal theology of God is not that he wants to gloat over us (as Micah depicts his enemies do) rather if we truly repent and ask God for his grace we will be forgiven and (verse 9) “He (God) will bring me out into the light; I will see His righteousness.”

The second thing, which is really where I want to give my emphasis in this reflection, is that God is our one judge, so we can all put down our gavels. Micah puts the trial of his enemies into God’s hands. A verse that gave this point even more clarity is Romans 14:4- “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”

Despite your religion, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, race, occupation whatever else you want to put in the blank... I do NOT feel we are not called to be judges- (hence being judgmental) here on earth. However, truly as of late in our world I see more and more judges coming into the works, in such a destructive and distressing way.

As the presidential election nears in the United States people really like to pick up their gavels and tote them wherever they go. Turn on a T.V. for all of 15 minutes and you are bound to see some political advertisement filling your heads with negative thoughts towards the “other”...being the political party you won’t be voting for come election day. Go on facebook and see numerous harsh, insensitive words in debates between various ‘friends’.

Perhaps those of you who are educators can also lend your observations. Have you observed your students and perhaps even staff enjoying talking about the other students (and or staff)? Did you see what so and so did the other week, or what she wore?! Hmmm... Unfortunately it is the truth and it happens all over the world- in different ways sometimes yes, but we live in societies that encourage us to judge others. As Morrie Schwartz said “The culture we have does not make people feel good about themselves. And you have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn’t work, don’t buy it.” I hope we can stop buying this judgmental culture so many are being raised in. (I am by no means saying I am guilt-free in passing judgment either! It is an easy thing to fall into.)

Another place we can just as easily find judgment is in the church itself, good old church politics. Yes, church politics (the perfect dinner conversation I’d say!). No one can say honestly church politics do not exist. Look at the way various Christian churches are continually dividing and splitting into different churches or even just caught in numerous arguments based of various things such as gender, sexual orientation or which creeds should be said at Sunday services. Certainly focusing so much on these issues takes way from the true meaning of a church... and takes away from spreading the love and grace of God.

I was discussing this with a friend and he asked me if this means I feel we should not have court systems, or some kind of international responsibility to put a stop to injustice. For those of you who know me, you know this is anything but true. I am very passionate about international justice and the fight against human injustice. So am I a big hypocrite? Maybe... I would like to think not, but chose what you may.... let me explain further...

You see I would like to assert a difference between justice and judgment. Of course I feel people who have committed injustices need to be brought to justice here on earth. However, I think there is a difference between bringing that person to justice and judging that person for the mistakes they have made. THIS is the real kicker- and the really hard thing to do (which is why many of us fail at it time and time again.) Of course there are people in this world who have committed major atrocities and it is more than easy to judge these people personally. But I think this is where we need to leave God to His work.

Whether you are Christian, Agnostic, Buddhist, Muslim, White, Black, Purple, Green, Male, Female, American, Tanzanian, Chinese, Straight, Gay, Human, Alien .... hopefully you catch my drift... I hope we can all agree that passing judgment on others for their own personal individual ways of life does us no good. Others have judged us all at least once in our lives for various personal things, and we all know how horrible that can feel.

Judging others can have serious ramifications as well. Take for instance when ONE person recently chose to make a video passing judgment on a major world religion. That ONE person chose to spread a message not of love and acceptance but of hate and rejection. The ramifications of which extended throughout the world with violence, animosity and turmoil. We have to remember our actions, the way we treat others who may not be exactly like us- have serious ramifications whether it be the way in which you negatively impact an individual life, or your actions/ words have ramifications worldwide... (You truly can)... Perhaps we should remember the phrase so often told to young children... If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

Spread peace not turmoil, spread love not hate, accept others for who they are, not who you want them to be- after all if we were all the same, life would be quite boring. No, I’m not saying it’s easy- but does that mean we shouldn’t try to do the right thing?
Amani, Umoja, na Upendo- Peace, Unity and Love- From Tanzania-

Annie Bunio

“You love those who don’t love you. You love those you don’t like. You love those whose ways are distasteful to you. You love every man because God loves him.” Martin Luther King Jr.

“All humans are humans. There are no humans more human than the others.” Romeo Dallaire (UN Chief Commander in Rwanda during the genocide)

A few updates on Tanzanian life-:
1. I woke up to army ants all over in my house at 6am on Saturday morning! I evacuated for a full day until they eventually left. Not so fun! 2. The heat has been dreadful, I almost constantly feel like I am going to sweat or bake to death... the rain came a little yesterday (I’ve never been so happy for rain..) so, here’s to hoping it will stay for a while and help water the crops that have now been planted... they need it badly!
3. We have three weeks left of teaching and a couple weeks of exams and then the students will have their graduation ceremony. It’s been a bit of a crazy realization that come January a new year starts and the students that have been here with me since the beginning won’t all be returning for the next year... strange.
4. An owl showed up at my house last night and fought with the puppies until I stepped in and retreated deciding I don’t need to get clawed by an owl in a place where quality healthcare is well.. not close by... So... eventually I stooped to barking at the owl myself and it flew off.... Everyone I have told this story to has laughed profusely especially my gardener Nyawena who could not stop... so hopefully it brings you some joy too.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Quarter of a century... Survival of the fittest? Oy!

Hello Everyone!

Warmest greetings from Kiabakari.. literally- It has been so hot here lately- everyone is hoping for the rain to come soon! Yesterday we put a thermometer in the sun and it hit up to 50˚C (a bit over 120˚F!) In the shade it’s often in the upper nineties and in the house its well in the eighties! Uffdah! So yes, you have my most sincere warm greetings!

Needless to say, I’ve made it back safe and sound! The trip back was long and tiring, but it was wonderful to arrive to such wonderful people- from landing in Nairobi- all the way back to everyone here in Kiabakari, it truly has been good to be back with the wonderful people here.

That being said, it has not been an easy transition for me, and it’s not easy for me to admit (feeling guilty since I do have such wonderful people here..). It was harder than I thought to have to leave my wonderful family and friends again, even though I am so grateful for all the time at home, wow, it’s hard to be around such wonderful people (yes, you)...and leave again! It took me a couple weeks to feel alright about being back, and still to think about the my time remaining can sometimes be daunting and discouraging, however... deep down I believe it will go by fast-- -and truly I have to remind myself how wonderfully blessed I am to have this opportunity. Not many people can say they have been able to have the experiences I have, so in the long run, I feel lucky... though I do have my moments.

Two big things that happened to me personally in the past week are, I got older and I reached my one year anniversary of arriving in Tanzania! So... the big 2-5, I can now say I’ve been around a quarter of a century... oh joy... My birthday was really great. Many people asked how people celebrate birthdays in Tanzania, but the truth is, most Tanzanians don’t celebrate their birthdays at all, in fact some don’t even know their exact date of birth. However, the other missionaries at school were not going to let me get away with not celebrating. I woke up early to go on a run and watch the sunrise over the mountains :) How can my birthday be bad with a start like that : ) Then I got home, wondering where my puppies as my back gate was open to my house.. I walked in, and almost got a heart-attack for my birthday- my family here decorated my backyard with balloons and pictures (the missionary children made—some are pretty hilarious, ie-the one of “me” in a bright bikini diving after a volleyball... oh if only I could wear that in this crazy heat... but if trousers are not allowed, certainly bikinis are frowned upon! :) It was great, a total surprise- we ate breakfast (and cake! : ) the students and other staff came and joined us- it was wonderful! Per Danish tradition I even got cinnamon dumped on me, because I’m now 25 and still single... thanks Inge-Marie and Simon...haha - Then Inge-Marie and Kjersti- my two cool big sisters took me to Musoma for the afternoon and we sat on the beach at Lake Victoria – it was a nice way to spend my birthday!

The evening after my birthday was an action packed evening, making me wonder if reaching a quarter of a century means you need to be on top of your game- survival of the fittest so to speak. First, I got called out of my house to see a nice big snake- between my house and my neighbors... Woah-- Okay – so my previous experience with snakes were all quite small, but this was a big FAT puff adder... not nice. It was killed, and ever since I am a little more careful walking around in the dark to look where I am going. (Bluck!) Then some friends came to place cement in the cracks where the ever-present bees have been entering my roof and building their hive. They’ve shifted some now, and have started coming in my sleeping room... having bees crawling on my mosquito net in the morning is not the most pleasant wake up call... They sealed the outside...but it made the bees a little less than happy- so they started flying around angry and coming through my ceiling boards.. there were so many flying around in my room- I followed sound advice and went elsewhere to sleep.... A good old bee evacuation. I don’t know what that means for survival of the fittest, but even though I gave up my house for a night, I survived so I think it’s okay :- ) I’ve also decided if the bees, snakes don’t get you, the heat will, or the tarantulas that fall on you (yes, that happened).. or the 8 young men visiting from Norway who have the ability to pick you up fully clothed and throw you in a kiddie pool... They’re lucky it was warm so I wasn’t too angry! ;)

Other than all of that, teaching is going well, yet it is proving to also be quite challenging. I’m working hard and trying to encourage the students (we’re in past tense mode and they’re not fans of all the irregular verbs.. at this point, neither am I!) Maombi with the women at church is going well, we have had a few weeks were there has been over a dozen of us! It’s really great. Uffdah..I think this blog is long enough for now, but I was long overdue for an update ..I will try to do better! Promise! Otherwise, before leaving I got a smart phone and am using that at the school for my internet- it has been working pretty well, skype is sometimes working, email is great and even facebook! It’s been wonderful to have for teaching and also I am loving keeping up-to –date with news! Or if you’re into hand-writing letters My address is: Shule ya Biblia Kiabakari
SLP 100
Kiabakari, Tanzania

Thanks so much everyone for all your birthday wishes and all other support, I cannot begin to explain how much it means!

Miss you all- Mungu akubariki ! (God bless!)

Other random items:
1)Petey and Tubby are here and happily living in my backyard... I love them- but sometimes I get frustrated, it’s like having children sometimes!
2) A thank you to the Norwegians who took me to Kijereshi a nice place near the Serengeti with a pool! It was a lovely pre-birthday present :-) So relaxing and lots of fun! Thanks guys! See you next year!
3) Happy Birthday to my mama- love you :-) You are wonderful!
4) Eating veggies from your own garden tastes better than from the market, or store..
5) I split wood by axe- no further explanation needed.
6) Stove 3, arms= 0 yay burns!
7) The word hairisha (Moved or delayed) is very close to harisha- to have diarrhea.. don’t tell people the bishop had diarrhea... oops...