Stupid Glenn Tricks

14 11 2012

Yes, the stories are true and the names have not been changed to protect the guilty.

Some of you may have seen the David Lettermen show. They have a section they do sometimes called Stupid Pet Tricks.  Well I thought I would share with you, Stupid Glenn Tricks.  These are the things that I have done that are just dumb.  You live and learn when working in new surroundings and new cultures. Some people say that things we learn and go wrong have to be viewed as paying our “stupid tax”.  That little fee in life you get to pay till you learn what you wish you knew, sometimes only moments ago.

Once when sharing with a group of people about Jesus in a street ministry type of work in Tanzania, I thought I would show off a little of my recently acquired Swahili vocabulary.  I greeted them in Swahili and they smiled.  Finding that encouraging I decided to venture further.  I decided to count how many people were in the little group and show off my Swahili counting skills.  Bad idea.  Turns out that the word for 10, Kumi, when mispronounced is an unmentionable part of the female anatomy in Swahili.  I said Kuma.  Not only that but Kuma, na saba.  Congratulations, Glenn you just told  seventeen people  they have seven (fill in the blank) between them.  My translator howled, the crowd almost fell over and strike one for cultural connections.

Just the other day I was standing under a really neat treat visiting with some local pastors.  I looked on the ground and there was what appeared to be a beautiful walnut.  I picked it up and broke it open and sure enough there was a walnut.  I love walnuts.  I popped it in my mouth and noticed immediately that it tasted like a peanut. Bad idea number two.  My interpreter told me not to eat anything I did not know what it was.  I told him I had an iron stomach and I had never heard of a poisonous nut.  The local pastor, however, informed me that this nut cause diarrhea.  Well I informed the group I only ate a small portion.  However, that was enough.  Within  15 minutes my stomach was cramping and I was in the choo.  (outhouse).  It was not good.  I entered the church and had to sneak out twice during worship to head to the choo, then when I got done speaking I prayed that everyone would bow their heads soon or I was going to be in real trouble.  Bingo, call for prayer by the worship leader and out the door I ran.  Made it.   Just barely.  I was praying that NO ONE in the entire congregation would go to the bathroom, however, until I was miles away.  No such luck.  I was surprised to be invited back but I am there next week.  Pray they forget my first visit.

I could go on forever, in this particular category, as I got the same result trying out my high tech water purifier.  It had rained extensively and fouled all the drinking water in our area.  I announced for no one to worry I had a solution. Everyone oh’d and owwed as I showed them my purifier and told them of its wonderful powers.  I did, thankfully, recommend that I try it first.  For the results of my experiment see the paragraph above.  Different reason and location, same result.

Finally, I gave up an waiting for brothers to give me a ride, haggling with taxis over price constantly, since I am white and presumed rich.  I bought a 650 dollar Chinese motor bike. 125 cc of freedom.  I optomistically estimated my 11 hour bus trip would be reduced to an 8 hour pleasure ride.  Since my bike was only two weeks old I would worry about tools and such later.  You know when it is broken in.  Bad idea.  My chain came off in the first hour, I had two flats the next day and my 8 hour trip took two long, hard, hot days.  No tools no spares.  God is good and my provider.  I also think He has a sense of humor and finds me quite amusing.  I guess we all have our place in the body of Christ.  Mine might be the funny bone.


Day of the Crocodile

8 11 2012

Day of the Crocodile

I travel between Dar es Salaam to Arusha on a regular basis now. The road is long , hot and can be dangerous or boring. But every time I came, I always noticed this sign mentioning camping at the Pangani River. This sign is right on the road in an area that seems almost like a desert. Dry, stony and flat. Right up till it takes a noticeable change of direction as the stark contrast to this landscape of nothing into the Kilimanjaro Range. Beautiful mountains rising out of the flat terrain up at a steep angle mostly too steep to hike but not quite suitable for climbing . Usually 2000 to 5000 ft. Beautiful. Sometimes the clouds get stuck right on the peaks creating the illusion that these mountains are much higher.

But the sign to the Pangani River is on the “other” side of the road. The dull boring brown side. But I was ahead of schedule so I ventured off my route to a path definitely not often taken. In fact it looked like no one had been down this road in many months. I was right. The sand was so deep in places it was almost impassable for my motor bike. I found the “campsite” sitting right on a little river. It was only about 40 ft wide at its widest point and sometimes as narrow as 15 ft. I met a middle aged man name Fredrick who spoke broken English, so as usual we had a broken Kiswahili conversation. I found out they were proud of their cabins, but that I could tour the river in a canoe if I chose. I did.

It never occurred to me to ask Fredrick some basic questions, like how deep was the river, where did it go, where did it come from and that kind of stuff. But I can’t tell you how stupid I felt as I moved from shore upstream when I realized I also did not ask him about crocodiles and hippos. Much less snakes and fish. Now I have seen my share of the discovery channel so I found myself scanning the shores for breaks in the tall reeds that might give clues to access points that Crocodiles or Hippos might be using. They were everywhere. As I paddled farther and farther up the river the wildlife became more apparent. Black and white monkeys with long hair were Columbus monkeys. Huge eagles nest and of course I noticed every log bobbing up and down in the river. My paddle went down and hit the bottom sometimes at 5 feet, other times not at all. The river had a nice strong current so I was getting a work out and my arms and back were feeling it. However, my neck was getting the real workout.
I panned the horizon looking for anything that might forewarn me of any danger. I would like to tell you how I bravely paddled hoping to see croc s, pythons and hippos. But honestly it was the last thing I wanted to see. I was feeling stupid for not asking Fredrick If it was even safe out here in a boat that sat so low in the water. I think a large bass could knock me out of the boat. I saw something up in the trees and it looked like rags moving around. It was the Columbus monkeys. They were going crazy. Now I have seen enough Tarzan movies and watched enough discover channels specials to know that this alerts them to a predator. About that time to might right the brush moved loudly about 10 feet into the reeds. Reeds that were only 15 feet away and 7 feet tall. Heck anything could be in there. My imagination was in high gear. I was clearly afraid and frankly felt stupid. If anything happens to you out this far in Africa it is just tough luck. The nearest hospital is about a hundred miles away and there is NO rescue or even police for that matter to address any first aid needs. I am sure that Fredrick swam like a rock. I continued to paddle and looked back up at the monkeys when just behind my right hand shoulder something was coming. I turned to see the splash and the long unmistakable Crocodile talk slip from the bank into the water. Heading behind me. I did not like that “heading behind me” part. I guess it is better than heading right at me but let remember this Crocodile was heading where I came from and wanted to return to. To my fearful mind this guy was just gaining a strategic advantage. I paddled onward but now I was not only scanning the horizon in front to me, but looking behind me constantly for any ripples or waves. About that time I heard low moaning and splashing ahead of me and I just knew that meant hippos. Sorry folks, this guy is checking out. I could not handle being in the water in a 6 ft canoe with Crocs and Hippos. I turned around paddling at a strong rate making good time as the strong current was now with me. Every blade of grass that moved against the current and every noise from the bank became a predator of historic proportion to my racing mind and beating heart. I then decided to start scanning the trees above me for possible pythons. This got ridiculous. I could not watch all the directions that my fearful mind wanted me to watch. So I just stopped.
Stopped panicking that is. I floated down the river back to the section without all the excitement. Or so I thought. After I passed where I had put in I paddled and drifted onward. No sounds of animals, monkeys or otherwise. Then I rounded the corner and there were a group of young Masai swimming naked and bathing in the river. They were laughing and splashing each other. As they saw me coming they shouted and wanted to swim out and let me give them a lift. At least that was it sounded like in broken English. But I decided that I did NOT want to get wet with my hiking boots on and with a few strokes went pass them as they tried in vain to catch me laughing and swimming bravely. A few hundred yards further another Masai was sitting on the bank and we both seemed to understand each other pretty good. He told me that he hunted there, pointing at an area near the river and told me to come there he would use his bow and arrow. Needless to say I turned my canoe around and headed back to the area I put in knowing that there was a small bridge near. Of course I first had to stop and talk to my bathing Masai and try to communicate as best I could. They wanted to know where I was from and where I was going. I ended those pleasantries as quickly as possible and headed back anticipating the hunt. Wow hunting with a Masai. I had forgotten all about the Crocodiles and Hippos. I was wondering what we were going to hunt. Somehow being with a Masai hunting ,I was not worried as long as he was not pursuing a lion or leopard or something. I WOULD ask him some questions before we started.
I jumped from my canoe told Fredrick I was going hiking. Well I was. Hiking through the bush to find a Masai to go hunting with. I don’t tell Africans about my proposed adventures since they are never supportive and mostly discouraging. They are always telling me I am going to get killed. That includes everything from going to the ATM alone, riding my motor bike and talking to Muslims. Needless to say I do not listen to any of these fears. The ATM is where my money is, the motorbike is my means of getting around spreading the Gospel and the Muslims are the mission field, personified.
Across the bridge I went and realized these darn reeds were so tall and thick I could only follow the trails and frankly, they were narrow and the reeds WAY over my head. What to do? I came to a clearing and noticed in the distance a tree. I trotted to the tree and climbed up as high as I could and began yelling and waving in the direction the Masai, named Lancer? was in. I began to think he could not hear me until I saw the distinct red and purple plaid shurka he was wearing and he waved back enthusiastically. He came with his children. I will include some pictures in my album titled Pangani Masai. It turns out that he did not have his bow and arrow and besides since he was grazing his cattle and goats, any antelope we might hunt would stay away. So much for understanding him. I asked if he had a cell phone, yes some do, and he said no. So any hope of scheduling a hunt was out of the question. And then he told me he lived a day’s walk from there and that he came for the good grazing. I was disappointed. But all in all what an adventure. Crocs, monkeys, Hippos. Nah, no hippos. Just turned out to be cattle. Turns out, the locals later told me, they had Hippos but only during the rainy season about two months from now.
All and all it was a good day. Met with some great pastors to schedule meetings for next month to teach discipleship and take the leaders out witnessing, spent some great time on the Pangani River and then spent the rest of the day praying not to run out of fuel as, evidently no fuel had been delivered on this highway in about a week. Hey, welcome to Africa. You take the good with the bad.  I call it a good day.

Discipleship: The Importance of Modeling

1 11 2012

I almost named this article the “Magical Muzungu”. A Muzungu, spell it however you like, is simply a person of european decent, meaning any white person. And that certainly applies to this American. This term has come to me many times. Tanzanians love visitors. They are considered a blessing. The further away you travel the more valued you are and the greater blessing to them. They are a hospitable people.

I say “Magical” because everywhere I go I can change things. It is my visitors status. Being white just makes me more identifiable as a visitor. Unfortunately because you are white they also think you are smart, rich and have the answers. At least that is the first thing that pops to mind. If you understand animism there is even much more to it than that. You see since you are successful you must have “it”. “It” is whatever the West has that makes them the envy of the third world. “It” is what every black person that has succeeded has. It is even assumed here, that Barack Obama got where he got because he connected with the right Muzungus. Or it is even possible that he also has discovered “IT”.

So what is the magic I exercise? When I model behavior the world stops and notices. On numerous occasions I have literally stopped the world around me and changed the behavior of perfect strangers. You can to. The first time it happened I was walking down Morogoro Avenue in Dar es Salaam. A car was driving along and someone had stolen the metal grate that covered the drain cover on the side of the street. Wham in goes his front tire and he goes all the way to the frame of his car. He hits the gas after realizing he is stuck. He tries to get out but only gets burning rubber and spinning tires. Everyone behind him begins to yell and honk. I watched a moment and realized that he just needed a little help. I went over and as he hit the gas I lifted up on the fender. Of course I was not strong enough but a funny thing happened. A half-dozen young men got out of their cars and we all lifted up and he drove away. Everyone was smiling, not honking and yelling. The second time was when a young man pushing a two-wheeled primitive cart in rush hour traffic could not get the momentum up to get up on the sidewalk. He was really loaded down. Again, I got into the harness area where he was working from and together we began to push. Again, other young porters stopped what they were doing and we all pushed him up. I could go on. This happens all the time.

I heard a story once I did not believe until I saw the special myself on TV. Elephants had been transported to a place in Africa where elephants no longer lived. They were trying to reintroduce them. Since the big guys are hard to move they moved only young males and then a variety of females. Much easier to deal with. But after a few months rhinos started to be killed. At first they thought it was poachers. But no horns were removed. It was as if they were crushed. Finally, rangers put on night goggles and began to observe the rhinos. Mystery, solved. The young males were coming up to the rhinos, blind in the dark, and knocking them over and literally stomping them to death. This had never been recorded as being reserved in history. What to do. They went back and studied the situation and someone said this never happened so lets return the elephants to their natural scenario. No, not take them back but let’s get an adult male and introduce him. They went and got a real grandaddy. Huge, one broken tusk and scars from battle. They worked hard to capture and transport him and it was like fighting and winning a war just to get him there. But sure enough, after he arrived the killings stopped. The young males needed another male to model proper elephant behavior.

I have preached about helping the poor here but everyone nods their head and does nothing. I can preach about making disciples and everyone agrees it is the right thing to do. I can talk about house churches and it seems like a good idea. I can wish someone would help that old lady and I am sure many would agree. But until I get into the salt flats and begin to haul salt with her in the scalding water, it is just a good idea. Until I stop to push the cart up the curb it is only a nice notion. However, once I put my hands to the cart things begin to change. Once I put my hands to the fender, though I am just a 56-year-old average guy. miracles begin to happen.

Likewise, until we model the things we preach we are only using a small part of God’s arsenal. Paul could tell Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2 to teach what he had taught to other men so that they could teach others and get results because that is what Timothy observed. I heard a story about a rich guy one time that loved the Lord sharing with his other rich buddies. He told them he had read a lot about the biblical position in the New Testament about riches. And he had come to the conclusion that he needed to divest himself of his silly excessive life and give to the poor for the Kingdom. His buddies said something I like. “You first”. Well, he decided they were right. He went first. After he modeled the kingdom lifestyle of laying up treasures in heaven and giving to the poor, widows and orphans around him all of his friends were set free to do the same. Someone in your life is waiting for you to go first. For you to begin to share about Jesus and His Kingdom. For you to seriously change your lifestyle for Jesus and the “least of these”. Someone else is waiting on you to quit drinking and being double minded about your Christianity. Someone else is waiting for you to get out of your comfort zone and lay down your life for Jesus in an area that is the last place your friends would go.

That is true discipleship. Modeling and doing what Jesus said. And that man, the one that is a doer and not only a hearer of the word is building his life on the rock. Those that only hear and do not do what Jesus said are building on the sand. One will ultimately stand. The other fall and great will be that fall. Let us model what Jesus said. Don’t listen to the theologians who tell you at every command of Jesus, “that’s not what Jesus really meant” or “that was for them in the early church not for today”, “don’t worry about that brother, just believe, that is all that Jesus wants”. I decided that these statements are lies from hell. I decided that Jesus meant every word He said. I read in John 12:47-50 where Jesus says His teaching came straight from the Father and on judgement day we would be judged by them and decided to let the theologians say all the wanted to. I was going with what Jesus said. I hope you will to.