Thursday, July 18, 2013

Evangelism: my original prejudices and what I've come to realize

I read something on evangelism tonight that really struck me I had to write about out: 

"[w]hen we opt for rescuing souls over loving neighbors, compassionate acts can soon degenerate  into evangelism techniques; pressing human needs depreciate in importance, and the spirit becomes the only thing worth caring about... When we skip over the Great Commandment on the way to fulfilling the Great Commission, we do great harm to the authenticity of the faith."Robert Lupton 

Wow. Really, wow. I was rereading part of his book about rethinking ministry to the poor, and it hit me. Something has changed in me. 

I recall when I first heard the description of my current "job". Teaching English at a Bible College training evangelists. I'm not going to lie, now that I remember clearly the whole Bible College for Evangelists part of it made me apprehensive (ok, the teaching English in another language to adults worried me some to, but that's another story!). 

For those of you who know me, the thought of evangelizing used to really make me uncomfortable (if you didn't know that, consider this my confession). Thanks to this reading, I feel like I finally somewhat understand why. 

So, before coming to Tanzania, when I thought of evangelists or evangelicals, the pictures that so often flooded my mind were the people standing in public places yelling at you, condemning you, basically threatening you to believe in God. Or, those in public places not giving you a chance to choose for yourself if you would like to listen to them or not. . Forcing you to hear, their outlook on salvation. Or those who love to talk at you but leave no room for discussion ... Basically only negative things came to mind :/. 

But why?? I feel like I have a strong faith in God and I believe Jesus died, our Savior to forgive us our sins aaand moreover I think it is a good thing for more people to know about this amazing love and grace of God ... So then what is my problem exactly? 

To be honest I now have forgotten much of these reservations. It wasn't until I read this passage i remembered I had them in the first place. Truth be told, the school I work at, the people I work with, and the evangelists I have the honor to teach are such blessings to my life. So... what is the problem ...??

The problem is this, as Robert Lupton pointed out in his book, if we start focusing on evangelizing without remaining focused on God's love and how we are to share that first and foremost, we focus too much on saving souls rather than loving our neighbor.

 Lupton gave an example at a Bible college he visited in the states. When all the students were focused on evangelizing, rather than love. So a student raised the question whether or not telling someone about Jesus and saving them ultimately was not love.. (see above quote for Lupton's response!)

 So, what has changed? I guess I've grown to realize while I one-hundred percent agree with Lupton, my students devoting their lives to being evangelists have shown me how wrong my original  prejudices were. Just because you devote your life to evangelism, does not necessarily mean an autofocus on soul-saving and a disregard for human needs, compassion and well, love. My students become extremely involved in their communities, do many home visits (in which can take hours, and feels a lot more meaningful and personal than all of my prejudicial and pre-Tanzania experiences/feelings.) 

So... My problem... I let my prejudice and my own negative experiences with evangelists at home effect how I looked at evangelism as a whole. Luckily, I have been blessed to witness evangelism paired with love and compassion of the human, rather than just a soul. 



"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself." Matthew 22: 37-39

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of age." Matthew 28:19-20

Friday, July 5, 2013

Lions and cheetahs and Buffalo- Oh my! Camping in the Serengeti!

Hello Everyone!

I hope this finds you all well! I wanted to make sure I made myself write about my recent trip camping in the Serengeti because it was quite a memorable trip and not only due to the crazy exciting and sometimes a little worrisome situations we found ourselves in!

A week and a half ago, I had two Danish friends visiting. One from Dar Es Salaam named Lars, whom I met at Christmastime, and the other named Christian, Lars' friend visiting from home. Lars has been volunteering for ten months now and wanted to see beautiful Mara, Tanzania before he headed home (who can blame him ;) why more people don't come this way is beyond me... 

Anyways within the short visit, we had many adventures. One day, we went to the 'big city' of musoma (including my favorite spots, chai, beach on Lake Victoria, and the one mzungu restaurant in all Mara.) Another day we hiked a small mountain to an awesome view of the Serengeti lake Victoria and much of the Mara region. (however the grass was nice and tall, in many places taller than me and it felt like we were swimming through it! (we were all very thankful we only saw one snake and it wasn't interested in us!)

Then, the big kahuna: overnight camping trip, no guide Serengeti!

Right now, lots of animals are in the western corridor of the Serengeti, meaning not too far from my school. We went through the gate nearest to us, which meant we had a good distance to go prior to reaching our campsite. We saw bunches if zebras wildebeest, giraffes, elephants, gazelles, hippos, ooooh and many many birds, right Lars ;) We realized we needed to start moving quicker to reach our campsite well before dark. 

(this is the part in my not yet exciting story where I need to explain something.) The car we were driving had Soma Biblia (read the Bible) on the front and back. I didn't realize the importance of this to our trip! )

Okay, so as we got closer to Seronera we passed a work crew fixing the the middle of the Serengeti (what a job). Some of them shouted at us: Biblia! Biblia! So Lars stopped and have them some small pamphlets/Bible stories that he brought with in case this happened. They took them and graciously thanked us, but as we were about to take off again they yelled "subiri! Subiri! Umepata puncha!" (wait, wait, you've gotten a puncture!) Sure enough... We had gotten a flat tire. Luckily, it had just happened and it couldn't have happened in a better spot! (no lions or other damgerous animals and help!) Although Lars and Christian knew all about changing tires, the Tanzanians working there jumped in to help and it went really quick. They thanked us again and didn't even ask for anything in return for their help (often a rarity with car assistance in Tanzania! At least for wazungus).they sent us on our way and explained how to get to the petrol station where we could patch up our tire! 

We made it to town got our puncture fixed and hurried off to our campsite .. However, Five kilometers before our campsite were not one, not two, but THREE lions lounging on rocks. (Oh. Boy.) So, we pulled into the campsite, in  the middle of the Serengeti, near lions and set up our flimsy plastic tents. As we were setting up our tents, a man came up and asked if we wanted kuni (firewood). He explained "Ni nzuri kutengeza moto itakulinda. Juzi simba wamepita hapa. Kama unawasha moto hawataingia." (it's good to make a fire it will protect you. Two days ago lions were passing through here.  If you light a fire they won't enter.) SAY WHAT?!?! Oh. Boy. Yes please we'd love firewood. (okay  so if I wasn't a little concerned about the lions we saw lounging close by, I was now slightly close to terrified. 

Daylight was leaving and you're not supposed to drive in the park after dark but, we didn't pack much food, so we had to find the local food places for some quick rice and beans. As we drove back dinner, 10 kms from camp was a big herd of buffalo, and sure enough our lion friends were still lounging on the all too near rocks.  (I hoped they would stay put, but lions hunt at night). 

I know you Minnesotans will nit believe me but it was COLD!!! I was wearing two sweaters, leggings under my skirt, and two scarves. (Meaning it maaaaaaaaybe got under 60 and I'm in serious trouble when I come home in December!!) We built our fire and sat by it while playing cards for a while-- We had met a nice family on a camping safari with their cooks/guides. As they were eating their cook (who had lent us matches), came and invited us to eat any leftover food after the family had finished. (we hadn't eaten lunch- and surprisingly the local place we ate at didn't give us the normal heaping portions that leave you full for a couple meals, so we had some room for more food). So we graciously accepted.

(Note we are entering my favorite part of the safari..)

A little later we went into the dining area were they had set three place settings for us. Before we started eating, we knew it to be good to ask if there would be any cost. 'No,no, no! He said please don't. We saw on your car soma biblia and we know you are Christians too, and, we wanted to welcome you to food and conversation. We also didn't see you eat.( Wow. Wow. Wow.) They gave us some soup delicious we thanked them... (but of course those of you who have ever gone on a safari with a company know the meals are wonderful and huge), so once we finished the soup  the cook brought clean plates followed by various dishes (tilapia, coconut curry peas, green beans, garlic mashed potatoes, and papaya  AMAZING! As was the conversation.

The cooks were so kind, I saw God  in them and in their actions and words. He told us a story about a tine he and a customers
came up on a broken down Land Rover in the Serengeti. The customer told the safari guide / cook that they should stop and help knowing the cook was able to fix the car. They stopped and he worked on the car over an hour, which put him and his customer behind schedule some. After fixing the car, he apologized to the customer and told her they could stay longer and he could pay the difference. She said it was no problem and that she was happy to help the others, and they talked about the Bible and how important is to help one another out- even if you do not know who it is you are helping very well. It  was just really neat to hear his story and to see someone being so kind to us- without knowing us at all simply because he believed it our job as brothers and sisters in Christ.

 This night stuck with me and probably always will as an amazing example of how we are to help one another out, even if we do not know each other- we never truly know when our kindness can affect one another. I could only think about how in our own churches, with people we know and sometimes those we know very well, we often don't go out of our way to help one another, certainly not when we are inconveniencing ourselves. (Meaning although these cooks had already washed a round of dishes and had already boiled some water for the nice family to have tea and coffee they would do it all over again for us, even though they didn't  know us and needed to be up before 6 a.m...) The cooks kindness and words also thoroughly comforted me and I was able to sleep pretty well - not too concerned about the lions, buffalo, leopards, elephant's, and the hyenas running around our campsite (good thing they scare easy- glorified dogs!).  I am quite thankful for this amazing experience- and as amazing as the whole animal aspect of the trip was, and surviving the lions that were so close by- I think this is my favorite part of the trip! ( side note: I also asked the cook/guide what his favorite memory of all his Safari trips were when it comes to animals, and I will put it at the end of this blog AMAZING!!)

In the morning, we got up and packed up bright and early (okay minus the bright) and left before the sun and ourselves were fully awake. We only paid for 24 hours in the park, so we wanted to get our money's worth. we definitely did. We ended up seeing a great sunrise over the Serengeti (see picture) LOTS of lions in.fact  we even saw an elephant fight a lion (lion lost- ran off). Once the elephants all moved through we saw the lion was a father and there was also mama and two cubs in long grass with him! Pretty amazing. we also saw the wildebeest migration outside of the park on our way home, which was also pretty amazing and got another puncture. Which made the trip home quite a long one.

This was an amazing trip, so grateful I was able to experience it! Thanks Lars and Christian for inviting me along and for coming to visit! 

Much love to all of you back home! Hope you found my long story interesting!


Additional updates: 

1.  As for now school just closed for about five weeks and I was quite sad to see my students leave! but, apparently a break was okay as soon as they left I took a two hour nap and started googling Zanzibar for when my friend Erika comes at the end of the month!! 
2. Just had a lovely visit from my friend Stephanie who is working in Kigali and bussed over here! It was nice to spend a few days with her, I appreciate our conversations and, she spent some time showing me some helpful sites for potential future jobs :) thank you!!!
3.The cook's story: this is amazing. I asked the cook what the neatest thing he has seen on safari and he told me the following.. One day we saw a cheetah approaching the road and an, impala on the other side so we parked between the two. The cheetah jumped over the hood of the car and started attacking the impala, only it didn't kill it or eat it, it strangled it and left it half dead. He said he was confused until  the cheetah returned with small cubs and gave it hunting practice on the semi conscious impala. (holy buckets, can you imagine witnessing that!?)