Running with the Monkeys

7 06 2013

I go running most every day here in Tanzania.  I live in a beautiful area in the shadow of Mt. Meru.  I can see Kilimanjaro from my front door and bedroom window.  I am a missionary here and I have a team from my home church coming in a few weeks to do some dentistry and evangelism.  We are basically going to bless the least of these here in my local area with practical help and the Gospel of the Kingdom.

So this week I have been running and greeted with a pleasant surprise.  Monkeys.  Now I have always known where to go and see the beautiful Columbus Monkeys about two kilometers up the mountain.  But these Vervet Monkeys have literally moved into our area by the gross and are less than 300 meters from my home.  You don’t actually spot monkeys.  You run along and when you see even a single leaf falling from a tall tree you stop and look.  We don’t have fall here.  We have a rainy season and a dry season and a little bit of a cold season.  But even that is relative.  Basically we have spring year round with more or less rain.  The average temperature here is 72.  Yep, 72.  Just about perfect.  Flowers bloom here all the time.  It is amazing.

When a leaf falls, something made it fall.  When it falls and you hear a swooshing sound you have monkeys.  They leap from tree to tree and sometimes the Vervet monkeys will even get on the ground.  So lately I have been running with the monkeys.  They leap all about around me sometimes grunting and chasing each other.  Today’s little baby monkeys raced through the trees.  Fearful of me the possible predator.  The adults just sat and stared.  One look at this old guy and they know I will not climb a tree.  Unless an elephant is after me, but that is another story.

Today I left my home and jogged through the forest starting at about 4000 feet altitude and slowly climbing hundreds of feet up  the hills leading up to Mt. Meru.  I start off trying to do something like a “prayer walk”.  You know, praying for the lost in my area as I pass their houses or greet them on the road in my still juvenile Swahili.  But first the monkeys distract me and then later locals wanting to talk to the crazy Mzungu, white person, curious as to what he is running away from or to.  After 20 minutes of my run I hit a cross roads and change my plan.  I decide to scout out an area towards, Kilinga for places to send my evangelical team when they arrive.  We plant house churches here among the lost and new believers.  So I am not limited by geography.  In fact I have house churches here, four, and in Nairobi about 23.  We are adding them as we add disciples all over the area.  So I am determined to scout out an area we have not been to further away from my home.  I used to dread running in to questioning locals as I could not say much of anything and found myself frustrated.  But now I am better.  I answer questions.  Share what I can about moving here.  I can add “praise the Lord” to my greetings.  And tell them I have built a home here.  I am their neighbor.  But that is about it.  I need James my translator to do much more.

I run first 30 minutes then 40 minutes going further and further from my home.  I am going to turn 57 soon.  But now I can run up to 2 hours at altitude.  Pretty good for an old guy.  UP and up I climb.  Some of these dirt roads go up ridiculous hills.  I huff and puff probably running at a rate considered pedestrian by many.  Especially my young running buddies like Tripp.  I realize that as I head towards this village that I am going to test the limits of my endurance.  Finally, I turn off the main road and begin to run surveying the little house spread among the fields owned by Mzungus, white people,  from Germany and the little sambas  (farms) owned by Africans.  As I suspected there are many here and it is a great place for them to do outreach but I also realize I can’t ask them to walk this far.

At a bit over 50 minutes into my run I notice the duct tape coming off of my running shoes.  I have been here 9 months now and run quite a bit.  So my running shoes are coming apart.  My buddy Tripp is bringing me more.  Till them I am trying duct tape and glue.  You can buy shoes here but not the kind I like.  And not unless you travel many hours from my home.  At least not real running shoes.  I realize that I am running the risk of going home with one sole on my feet if I don’t turn around now.  So reluctantly I do.  I will return again and check it out in a different direction soon.

I think about the gospel we share, my brothers and sisters that are coming.  Some I have not met and others are my dear friends from my old house meetings back home.  I can’t wait to see them.  I want to introduce them to Ulukway.  The formerly degenerate sinner now following Jesus with a passion.  His wonderful children that come to house church wide eyed and constantly beg me to jump on the back of my motor bike when I come by.  To my great host family that has given me land to build my little 300 square foot house.  For them to see this beautiful place God has me in and meet these wonderful people.  Many live in horrible poverty.  But it is all they know.  We reach out to widows and the least of these.  We tell the alcohol brewers, outcast here, of the love of Jesus.  We invited them to come and lay down all they have and become a disciple of Jesus.  I am not looking for converts.  Neither did Jesus.  He came calling men to lay down their nets and come and follow Him.  To deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Him.  To love Him more than mother, sister, father and brother and even their own lives and come and follow Him.  It is an awesome journey following Him.  And today it took me on a jog of one hour and twenty seven minutes.  Turns out I am faster going downhill than up.  God is good.  All the time.  Mungu ni mwema, kila wakati.

I saw more leaves falling on my return but they were back in the deep forest.  I heard the monkeys swooshing through the trees, but too far away to get a glimpse.  Part of me is still a little boy.  I love to see these animals in the wild.  We have buffalo, elephants, antelope and monkeys all around here.  And sometimes if you look around you will see the rare, Mzungu, scheming on how to best tell someone the Good news.  Huffing and puffing and looking for monkeys.

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