Money and Africa

17 05 2014

I am frequently asked about giving in Africa. I would love to tell folks that you can send a check to most charitable organizations in Africa and know that things will go as you planned. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

As you know, I am writing a series of articles meant to be used as tools for me to use when people ask me questions. I did one on why I don’t do micro loans and I plan others as well. It is a process. Recently, a Christian in the US asked if I would give a young man some money for bibles. This person had friended me on Facebook so I knew a little about him. I agreed. This story is salient to this topic.

 

Smith-Money-Map-of-Africa_3

The young man had been begging me to connect with him and teach him about discipleship, house church and other things he had followed me talking about on FB. So why not. Sure I will take the money for him to get bibles and give it to him. I needed to meet with him anyway so we would proceed. I sent Pastor Fred to met with him first. I clearly explained a bit about our mission via message on FB. Pastor Fred reiterated it in person. He wanted to bring his father, a traditional African pastor. I informed him that I actually taught AGAINST, the traditional Christianity he was mostly familiar with. That I taught that buildings were a waste of God’s money and that any pastor with a church building would find me teaching challenging things to say the least. He wanted me to speak in his fathers church but I declined. I stated that I would meet with him alone at first and conveyed that I would NOT meet with him until he read our literature explaining our teachings and agreed that what he thought I was teaching, was what he was called to do.

We teach the gospel as Jesus taught it, not the theological version of the West. You must take up your cross, lay down your life, drop your nets and come and follow Jesus. Like Jesus, we are making disciples not casual believers. You must repent, be baptized and obey the King of the Kingdom of God. He agreed. I got the funding from my friend in the US and scheduled the meeting after confirming the young man read the material. He did not have a copy but did have a computer and could download it for free to read. We set the meeting.

He showed up with a pastor and an evangelist. He had NOT read any of the materials and the pastor and evangelist immediately began asking for money to build a church building. Sigh. After I shared our vision I had Pastor Fred and Wilson take him to the bible store to buy the bibles. Instead of buying all bibles with the money they only wanted about 40% for the bibles and the rest in cash for them. My guys warned them that muzungus, white Westerners, viewed this as a betrayal and a serious breach of trust. The Africans persisted. I want to take this example and explain a few things.

First, Africans communicate to build relationships. Westerners communicate to convey facts. This is a shame honor culture. Meaning that confrontation is bad. It typically damages and can end a relationships. That does not mean you can’t deal with reality. It just means you need to understand what you are dealing with.

I rode a bus one time on a long journey. I turned to a young lady in the next seat and asked her how long to the next rest stop. I explained that I needed to go to the bathroom. She said 30 kilometers. 18 miles. Great I could wait. I fell asleep knowing I would awaken at the stop and be fine. I awoke an hour later. I ask her again how much further? 30 kilometers was the answer. You see here, it is bad manners not to help anther. She had no idea how far the next stop was. Africans, unless they are very Westernized, have no understanding of the value of accurate time and distance. To her, it was very important that she answer my question in a positive way so that I felt good about her answer and was happy. I know this sounds absurd but that is the way it is. I am constantly assured of facts that frankly have no bearing on reality.

As you might imagine this has become frustrating and a source of great trial and learning for me. I tell this story to help you understand that she did not want to lie to me. To her, telling me she did not know, was unacceptable. She would view herself as a bad hostess. She wanted me to be happy. And she gave me great hope. FYI, it was about 140 kilometers to the stop and I made if fine.

Back to the young man. He very much wanted to become my friend. A friendship with a white man is prestige and honor and potentially a source of great financial gain. To have me as a friend and colleague would be the equivalent of him getting his doctorate. It is likely he had every intention of reading the materials, but lacked the funding to get online with his computer. It is also likely that he had shared his good fortune in getting me to talk with him online and had shared it with his father. After having communicated that with his dad, I am sure his dad ask him about it often. In his enthusiasm of getting to met me, I am sure he shared this with his dad and, frankly, did not have the wisdom nor skills to deny his father come. And of course his father had shared with his evangelist friend. I am lucky 10 guys did not show up.

Of course the young man shared NONE of my information in the emails. Nothing about not building structures nor about the cost of discipleship. Hence the immediate request for money for a building. Now onto the money.

In Africa, once you give someone money for something, it now belongs to the person that you gave it to. It is not yours. It is none of your business. An honest and Godly man will spent the great majority of the money exactly or nearly exactly as you meant it. However, things are different here. It is completely possible and in fact likely, that since the person made a request to you other factors have come to bear. For example, the brothers may not have had the fare to to come to meet me and had to borrow it. They will have to pay it back. It could be that you sent money for a cow but that the price changed so they just bought milk and maize instead. That is acceptable here. In fact, they may explain this to you and ask for the money again to buy the cow. It would not occur to them that you would not understand. I am constantly sent money that is ear marked. It is hard for me to have 500 dollars for a widow I won’t see for two weeks and stand in front of a house with starving orphans with almost nothing to give. I can find a way. It is within my power to responsibly deal with this situation. Africans, on the other hand, don’t have the obligation, nor skills to deal with this all the time. They would just take the money earmarked for one thing and spend it on the greatest most pressing need. In fact you need to understand a few things here.

Pressing needs come first. Forget what the earmark is for to an African. It may go to exactly what you want, at least some of it, but it might go to something else more pressing. that is acceptable here. And not dishonorable.

I am sorry to say that many Pastors and leaders here know what Westerners will and won’t give to. You will help widows and orphans. You won’t send school fees for the pastors kids to go to a private school nor build him a badly needed house or a perceived need of a car. So he says he has a widow in need and he buys a car. That is the reality here. It is an example of the corruption that goes on here from Bishops down to deacons. It is horrific in Kenya especially. Entire ministries are set up online that are completely bogus. Are they run by conman and thieves? Nope. Bishops and Pastors. Complete teams of them. They have also learned that the more other pastors involved the more likely you are to think they are trustworthy. And by the way, they praise God for answering their prayer for the new car. They spend their time asking Westerners for money. I have actually overheard a conversation between two pastors. One ask the other what he had been doing. Evangelizing? NO. Shepherding? NO. His answer was, seeking money from Muzungus, (white Westerners) as usual.

We brought the prosperity gospel and the easy believism of the West here and they have bought it hook line and sinker. We sowed this seed and this is the harvest.

On to the next point. It is their money. You gave it. They can do what ever they want. I know of a man locally that went to the neighbors for help for a terrible medical need. Everyone gave generously. So generously that he had more than enough. So he kept soliciting. He got enough for the medical need, a laptop and a new Iphone. He did not stop he just kept going. I have had to confront, yes confront, a team of pastors that I knew had raised enough for a plane ticket many times over and they just kept going. I can tell you that in this case I ruined any chance at fellowshiping with these men again. I was so angry that I trembled. I was so angry that I raised my voice. I was furious, as the money was to transport my dear friend Paul Imam to be buried in his home country. Men that had never visited Paul in the hospital nor seen him in years came out of the wood work fundraising for a cause they would never contribute to. This is common here.

So the brothers took 60% of the money and left with it. To my knowledge the young man has never read the materials. We have decided to wait and see if he tries to connect with us again. And if he does, one of the brothers will handle it from here. I am out of this one. I am no longer working or meeting with folks with the where with all to connect with me on the internet. Period. We seek out the poor and lost. Surprisingly, the truly poor seldom ask for anything. They don’t know how.

So my advice to Westerners. Give to people you know. To proven disciples. And don’t give to the big Western agencies either. They will eat up most of your funds with overheads and salaries. I don’t know what is worse. An African spending 30% of your givings on widows or a Westerner doing the same. I must say I have little sympathy to groups that pay a CED hundreds of thousands of dollars and have staffs numbering in the hundreds. I know some good folks that are not just MY people. Let me know, I can help.

I hope this does not discourage you. I hope it will not give you an excuse NOT to obey Jesus to help the least of these. Eternity is at risk here.





Kuji the Dog

20 04 2013

Kuji the Dog

Yes that is Kuji, and that other thing is what we refer to as elephant, “sign”.





The Kingdom in the Slums

10 02 2013

I received word that two of the pastors I had held a seminar with on Expanding the Kingdom of God had planted six churches in the slums of Nairobi. I quickly scheduled a trip to go and encourage the new believers and connect with the work there in a real and personal way.

Upon arriving I found that ONE of the pastors planted six churches and the other eleven.  I determined to visit and speak to each church.  As you might imagine life in the slums is startling to the Western mind.  No infrastructure, no jobs little hope.  There are also few churches and little outreach.  At least the two that I visited.

Image

Most miss at least a day of meals a week and eat a limited diet of ugali and some vegetables.  Ugali is a corn mush made from boiled crushed corn with no seasoning and not much flavour.  But it is filling and that matters when you are hungry. Each house church I visited was actually a 15×10 room with a couch some chairs separated from the sleeping part of the house by bed sheets or sacks for privacy.  Some of the churches were just a few neighbors and others had over 30 members.  No windows, one door, a single light bulb, no running water or toilet facilities.  The streets are dirt and stone with sewage running down the streets.  This is where the children play.  The few schools are packed with children eager to learn.

I purposefully expressed my vision for the church there and asked about jobs and food.  It seemed that each church had one or two women with a vegetable stand or a couple sharing a sewing machine to provide income.  The others in the church walked the streets when someone would watch their children, in the richer neighborhoods and looked for work cleaning floors or doing laundry.  The men went out almost everyday in search of work as a casual laborer.  One man, in all the churches I visited had a regular job he worked at and got a regular check.  He loaded trucks.

Being an entrepreneur, I immediately began to scheme on sustainable solutions.  I asked the ones that could sew to show me their work places and explain their challenges.  One could sew most of the work but had to send parts of it out and pay others to do things like pleats due to her machine only did so much.  Another, was successful but due to the needs of her congregation she was drained to nothing helping others eat.  Another knew how to buy and sell used clothing but the lady she worked for had closed her business.

Image

My solution.  I asked if the sewing ladies would teach other ladies to sew if I agreed to purchase the newer machines to expand existing business models and do additional stitching eliminating the need to sub out work. Everyone like the idea.  I also introduced a new product of sewing bags using flour sacks that was quite popular in Arusha with tourist interested in getting a great African souvenir  while contributing to a worthy cause.  Finally, I agreed to fund the initial inventory for a used clothing shop if the lady with the skill set would agree to train and provide purchasing expertise to other women in a distant slum.  The wheels are turning on sustainable incomes for these ladies while they connect and serve one another.

Each lady understands that none of these programs are for their personal enrichment but rather to benefit the entire body of Christ.  The spirit of sharing and helping is entrenched in the poor in Africa and this element was easily understood and accepted.  We encouraged the believers and passed out bibles and literature.  I am going back in one month to begin the investment and follow up on the training.  New believers came to Christ on the visit and we are baptizing when I return, hopefully in a rented swimming pool.

God is doing great things.  In the short term we bought 40 kilos of rice and placed it in and elders home.  No one knows we are doing this and his job is to personally stay on top of needs and make sure no one is going without food.  There are many house churches all with many children.  I am honored and pleased with what is happening in these slums.

I told them all that Christians back in America loved them and were their brothers and sisters.  I took pictures of every church member present.  Most of the men were out looking for work.  But I want you to see the people and the environment and consider reaching out to serve them.  They are the least of these.  They are those that Jesus proclaimed, that when we serve them we are serving Him.  Will you feed Jesus?  Clothe Him, and give Him something to drink?  We are promised that on Judgement Day, that there will be a judgement for us to determine how we served Him.  Him, in the disguise of the Least Of These.  Come let us adore Him!  Email me at midtownglenn@gmail.com and asked me how.  Or go to http://kingdomdriven.org/glenn-roseberry and make a tax deductible donation through Paypal or your credit or debit card.  Image





My Sister Wears a Burka

8 02 2013

I sat in a room of missionaries at a conference I was obligated to attend from the agency that helped me get my visa.  I was not looking forward to this, but now I was electrified.  The men in this conference were all retelling their testimonies to the group.  About half the men were from Muslim backgrounds and told of wives and family being killed in front of them and losing their homes.  They were beaten and hunted.  They had come to countries that allowed them in as refugees but were pursued even there.  I wrote my first blog about them titled,  In the Presence of Giants: Victims of Radical Islam on this blog.    I shared their stories at that time but later became involved with the ministry of one of the men.

Ezra and Joe, another African Missionary, told me they were taking women off of the street that had come to Christ and were dismissed from their homes by their husbands, abandoned with the smallest children.  The husband kept the older ones that could work.  These women were the lucky ones.  Their husbands did not report them, harm them or kill them immediately so they had time to flee.  Now they were on the streets.  No home, no food, only their new found faith for comfort and the mercy of God.  I was told that some returned to Islam rather than starve or be hunted, or preyed upon by criminals.  Ezra and Joe took many in and provided housing in safe houses away from prying and unmerciful eyes.  Then they dropped a bombshell on me.  They knew of others but simply could not afford to care for them.  I was stunned.  How could this be?  They said they were doing all the could do and could only leave the others in God’s hand.
I have since written and raised money to save these women and also support the former Imams and Muslim leaders that come to Christ and are in hiding.  I understand the persecution of former Imams and evangelist.  I was not prepared for my last trip.
Upon arriving in this country,  last week I was met with stunning news.  One of the  new converts, Howa, recently only missing, was now confirmed dead.  I wanted to learn the details and was told only the lady that lead her to Christ knew the whole story.  We arranged a meeting.  We went to a Somali restaurant to met Ruth.  At first I did not know who was approaching out table as the lady approaching wore a full burka.  Turns out that is the perfect disguise for our persecuted ladies.  Ruth sat down and raised her facial piece and revealed an attractive and smiling petite lady in her mid 30’s.  I tried to immediately speak but was cautioned to wait.  As is the case many times in these meetings we have to wait till those with us who are understanding of the culture and risk can assess the situation.  We sit and drink tea but it is determined that we cannot speak other than casually.  We speak of food and different Somali dishes.  Then we leave and go to a coffee shop.  We drink coffee but the boisterous crowd will not stop engaging us directly and it is obvious this is a bad choice for a discreet conversation.  We move again.

Finally, we enter a restaurant with private booths and curtains.  The story unfolds.  Ruth I am told lost her own husband, killed in front of her very eyes in her home country.  Her children are being raised by her mother.  She has not seen them in 4 years.  She has slightly mishapped lips from a vigorous interrogation earlier in her Christian walk.  She smiles beautifully.  She begins to unfold the story of Howa.

A former Muslim man was pulled off of the street.  He was tortured for the names of other Christians like himself.  After some time he was told he would be released if he shared some names.  How many we don’t know.  He wrote down some names and was told if he wrote more he would be turned lose.  He filled the front and back of a page and they slit his throat.  Howa was on that list.  She was grabbed in front of her home.  Luckily her children were with her brother.  She was dragged behind the slum mid rise she lived in.  They searched her backpack and found an Arabic New Testament.  She frequently shared her faith with other Muslims and meet with the local underground house church.  They struck her in the head with a machete.  She fell to the ground where they left her.  The neighbors saw her but were afraid to help.  She bleed out over the night and it was confirmed she was dead the next morning.  Locals, not affiliated with the murder, poured oil over her body and burned it to protect the area from police problems.  We did not know she was dead.  Only missing.  This happens among refugees and normally means little.  It was troubling since she would never leave her children.  She has been missing since around Thanksgiving.  The story is now known for the first time.  Pieced together by the neighborhood, her brother and an anonymous informer.

Is Ruth on the list, she does not know. Ezra?  Not likely.  They don’t seem worried.  It is in God’s hands they say.  The world is not worthy of those who die for Him  I am sitting at a table full of men and women who accept that risk, live in poverty, share their faith, lead house churches and are constantly looking over their shoulders.  They find it hard to get  regular jobs as they are refugees.  When they get money they share it among themselves to eat and live.  I slip them money for rent and food.  We plan to take more women with children off the street.  Mostly they live four or five  in 12×12 rooms with a mattress and no furniture.  They cook some rice and add some vegetables and once or twice a month, meat.  When God blesses.  Their house church meetings are in these small rooms.  They whisper their worship.  They come and leave meetings staggered over hours of time to avoid detection.  They love Jesus and each other.  They don’t know you, but I told them you loved them.  I told them you sent me to love them and help them.  They want you to know they love you so much.  Greetings from Ruth, Ezra, Imam and many others.  You see my sister wears a burka and so does yours.

For other related stories see, Monday is Sunday on my blog to see a week in an evangelical Christians life that came from Islam.  (again Barrett you can link this if you want)





Congratulations, It’s a Boy! Monkeys, Mayhem and Meetings

26 01 2013

Out for my morning run  I came across a young man painting corn on corn stalks.  Or at least that is what it looked like.  He had a crude straw brush and was dipping it in a 3 gallon bucket and then painting the substance on the corn itself, of course, still in the husk.  Harvest time is coming but is a few more weeks away.  The substance had no color.  Curious, I stopped and began the Tanzanian tradition of greetings.  We say the equivalent of good morning, how are you?  How was your waking up?  How is your family? These greetings are very important and there are hundreds of optional greetings you can learn.  And if you want to belong you must learn at least a few dozen.  I have finally mastered enough to make a tolerable showing for myself.

I asked the young man what he is doing and in my limited understanding, I understand he is painting on some substance to ward off some insect or creature. I get him to show me the contents of the bucket and find it is pili pili juice.  Or as we would say in America, Jalapeno peppers juice.  They are hot and tasty here and Mama James keeps some hidden behind the cardboard wall covering in her home.  At dinner she pulls one out of a hole in the wall and I cut it up and season whatever I like and then she hides it again.

I can’t quite figure out what in the world this young man is warding off. Later I learn it is monkeys.  They come down from the hill above and feast on the corn but do NOT like the pili pili.  We have to protect our corn here and it is not from the normal pest of insects and worms.  Just a month back some elephants got in the corn a few kilometers away and when a local farmer went to shoo them one of the elephants attacked and killed him by stepping on his chest.  Elephants are fierce creatures and fear no one.  They are a great danger when you confront one and it is best just to get out of the area.  Quick.  Monkeys, baboons, rats and mice, however, are mostly just thieves.  Once they find food someplace and have success securing it there is no end of their attempts to steal.  So you have to address the issue quickly.  Evidently addressing issues was the order of the day.

Today James was asked to come and summon me to meet with Babu.  This is a strange request.  Babu is the patriarchal leader of our shamba.  A shamba is a parcel of land that belongs to a family and is farmed.  It usually has between three and eight houses and the families in each house divide up the farming responsibilities.  They share life together and make decisions together.  If Babu chooses to he has final say on most decisions. I sensed something was up as I had never been summoned. I have been called to bring medicine, to greet a visitor or come to a meal.  But never summoned.  I sensed something was up in my spirit.  Upon arriving I found out that James, my translator and faithful brother had no idea what this was about.  I was handed a crudely written paper with the words lease on it.  This was a bit of a surprise as I have recently built a house on some land the family had given me and no mention of a lease was involved.

We were told to sit in one room and wait for Babu and then moved to a circle of chairs outside.  Evidently, there were going to be more people in the meeting.  It turns out that the meeting was held in anticipation of possible problems.  I was told I was now part of the family.  I was welcomed and was going to be treated as a son of Babu.  Babu had a brother that was causing some issue wanting to sell some land and Babu forbid it.  They anticipated some sort of action to be taken by the brother and wanted to make sure that I was protected so they were in effect adopting me legally.  Now legally here has several levels and meanings.  While there is a government and procedures for adoptions they don’t really consider that salient.  We are talking tribal issues. So a paper was drawn up “legally”  leasing me the land and declaring that the lease was for no sum of money.  But that I could live there as long as I choose with their blessings.  I was their friend and considered a son and had all the rights of a son.

Afterwards there was a bit of controversy as James was declared the host of the meeting.  Now remember James nor I knew anything of this meeting.  But because he translated for me he was responsible.  That is particularly funny since most of the meeting was in a tribal language that even James does not understand.  At the end of the meeting Babu suggested that James now serve them goat.  This was quite a shocker as first of all preparing a goat would take a day or twos planning, 80000 schillings and a goat!  Negotiations ensued.  As you might imagine James was a bit perplexed and perhaps upset.  I felt a little awkward as I am the only one that can financially fix this situation and even then I need a day or twos notice.

We are pulled aside and it is determined that since the family forgot that James would need time  (huh?) to pull this together he could just buy them a soda.  Yes that is what they decided.  So to me the meeting was hastily called due to the emergency nature of the crisis and they were offering James a cheap and easy way out while still covering decorum.  Then they decided that the sodas were not even necessary that he could just give the group 30,000 schillings and they would get their own sodas.  I am laughing and James is objecting.  We negotiated and finally gave them a sum much less than the one requested.

I am trying to learn about the culture and don’t pretend to have it all understood.  We were all avoiding problems and perhaps mayhem today.  Some with peppers, some with words scribbled on notebook paper.  But one thing is sure, we anticipate problems and we deal with them in a way unique to Africa.  At the end of the day, once again, God has shown His great love for me in a most unusual way.  I have a wonderful and loving family in America.  I have many great brothers and sister that are my family in Christ.  And now, I also have an African family, and I am the adopted son of Babu.  Perhaps I am becoming a child of Africa, I know I am a child of God.





Help I’ve Fallen, Jogging in Africa

17 12 2012

Help I’ve fallen and I can’t get up

Jogging in Africa

There was a time when if you called me a jogger I would have been offended and quickly told you I was a runner.  I have run upwards of a hundred miles a week  training for a marathon.  But then that is when I was in my 20’s.  I am now 56.  I no longer run on smooth surfaces ideal for quick paces and tracks for speed work.  I run in Africa.  Now it is all rural dirt roads, uneven and strewn with rocks.  And that is a good day.  When in Dar es Salaam I share the road with push carts, motor bikes, cars, trucks and other pedestrians.  But no runners.  I am the odd muzungu out running for apparently no reason.

 

Before I tell you about my running I must tell you about the effect my running has on those around me.  My host family in Dar es Salaam told me I would be robbed or worse if I went running in Mbezi, Louis, the area they live.  I would also, according to them, likely be killed.  I have had boda boda, (motorcycle taxis) pull over and scold me for not letting them take me to where ever I was trying to go.  Many shout out to me asking where I am going because I seem to be lost.  You see no muzungu could possibly run if he had another option, according to them, since only the poor walk and if late run to their destination.  It turns out I had nothing to fear from the populace.  In fact they feared for my safety and expressed it everywhere.

And of course on these imperfect roads, goat trails and paths I also fall down.  No, I am not so old and tottering that I can no longer run upright.  I typically run for a little over an hour.  The terrain is hilly and rocky and here on Mt. Meru, I dodge, cows, goats, motorcycles, pedestrians and chickens.  And of course that also means, a lot of pooh.  Fine with me as long as I avoid the baboons.  They live to the East of me and I don’t jog there anymore.  I hate being surprised.  But in spite of my best efforts I do fall down.  I have fallen in Kiminimi, Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya, Dar es Salaam and as of today twice on Mt. Meru.  I am the master of the tuck and roll.  Now this is not a new phase in my life.  I have also fallen all over Downtown and Midtown Memphis.  If you run enough you will fall.  Fall enough and you will either quit, learn the aforementioned tuck and roll or you will stay skinned up.  I usually just roll jump up and keep on trucking.  Sometimes a bit embarrassed, especially if I have a large audience.  And yes that has happened.

Today I was running along enjoying the solitude.  I rounded the first corner and there were my morning cheering section of small children waiting on me to come by  at a blazing 11 minute a mile pace, I did say I was a jogger now didn’t I? They line up or rush at me hoping for a high five.  I oblige them most mornings if they are close enough.  The shy ones just watch.  Today, however, they were so thrilled that they began to run with me.  Now this has happened many times.  But today the crowd was large and they pressed in close laughing and having a ball yelling muzungu.  I was forced to run in the middle of the road instead of the smooth tracks worn by the years of various types of traffic.  And of course the middle is crowned and has grass on it and in that grass the rocks hide.  I tripped.  No graceful tuck and roll.  Just a hard and resounding plop.  The children stopped laughing and were obviously convinced I would not survive such a fall.  Or perhaps they had never seen a muzungu “fail”.  Whether I failed or fell the results where the same.  I stood and realized quickly that I had to reassure them as some seemed on the verge of tears.  I told them I was fine.  And limped as I began my run again.  Looking down I had skinned my knee pretty good.  It was bleeding but the volcanic dirt from Mt. Meru, truly amazing stuff, quickly, somehow worked as a coagulant and stopped the bleeding.  The children, however, were having no more of my run.  I do this two laps a morning and they were nowhere to be found on the second round.  I am afraid I have somehow altered their childhood.

Now you may be saying about now, dude, why are you writing about running, and not about something spiritual or perhaps some baptisms and salvations?  Well funny you mentioned that.  I often think of what I would tell my readers about on these morning runs.  They are mostly only interesting if you are there.  But there has been an development.  Since my Swahili is slowly, (poly poly) improving I began a new phase in my running.  Each morning I run by little farms of about 4 acres called shambas.  Typically they have one to four buildings on them, some goats, a cow, chickens and some maze or potatoes planted.  Workers are almost always in the fields and children are everywhere.  I now greet everyone I can.  When they see me several days in a row I try one of my more extended greetings.  Greetings are of paramount importance in Tanzania.  I have learned DO NOT LET THEM start the greeting process.  In my Swahili course they teach you a few common greetings.  The only problem is that Tanzanians use dozens if not hundreds and they are always working on new ones.  Especially the young coming up with cool slang greetings, like mombo vipi, poa, freshy, etc.  Seem like there is a new one every month.  So if I let them start I am going to get a greeting I have no idea of the meaning.  BUT, if I start things off I am in the driver’s seat.  So I rattle of a few quick ones, Hujambo Mama, Habari za asubuhi, Umaa mkagi.  Now that last one is only used by the aged and if you search in your English to Swahili books or online service you will not find it so I am not sure of the spelling.  It means, “how was your waking up”.  When you use it people stop in their tracks, as it is not a tourist phrase.  I use the above sequence and then when I have them stumped I quickly add that I speak only “kidogo” Kiswahili, meaning little.  I vow to return later in the day to visit and then with my translator, they say, “karibu”, welcome.  I have just gotten invited to stop by later in the day or sometimes the next.  I show up with my translator and I share the gospel of the Kingdom of God.  In Tanzania they love visitors so much they cannot refuse your request to share.  Whether they are Muslim, animist or Christian they will listen.  I have only been turned down once and they guy admitted he was basically drunk.  He is on my list for a return visit.

 

I run slowly, under the beauty of African skies.  I cannot run at night as there is absolutely NO light where I live.  It would be like running in a closet with the lights out as far as vision goes and even with a full moon the canopy of trees would reduce vision to zero.  Did I mention baboons?  But I do go out at night and look at the Milky Way.  I run mostly under Mt. Meru the second highest mountain in Africa.  But I have had occasion to run under Mt. Kilimanjaro as well.  It is dangerous for me to run there, as I can’t take my eyes off of the beautiful glacier at the top.  I fall a lot there.  It is the only glacier in the world at the equator.  Even Mt. Meru has a little snow from time to time.  It is like paradise.  In my heyday of running, Toto, a rock group had a song called Africa.  I always fantasized about running on Mt. Kilimanjaro when listening to it..  Since I was in my 20’s then the vision of myself was me speeding along, effortlessly, tanned and handsome climbing higher and higher towards the summit.   Well I am 56, you can’t run up this mountain, it take a week to hike it in heavy foliage.  But if you listen to the song you might get a glimpse of my fantasy.  I no longer have that fantasy but I have a vision.  You will have to read more of my blog to catch it.

I know that when I go to heaven I will fall there also.  There was an evangelist when I was a young man or perhaps just a television preacher named Jimmy Swaggart.  He got caught in a terrible scandal and is no longer on TV.  I share little theologically with Jimmy but he had an amazing song about a supposed dream he had once where he was in heaven.  The angles in the dream were taking him around showing him the streets of gold, and the beautiful city of God and the gates.  But he told them he only wanted to see one thing.  That asked him what was that?  He said he wanted to see Jesus.  And then when he saw Him, he fell and cried Holy.  I too will fall one day, in heaven.  And I will cry Holy.  Google that song.  It is better than my running fantasy.  It is a reality of the redeemed before their Redeemer.





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.