Thursday, December 26, 2013

MERRY CHRISTMAS (new video!)

Merry Christmas friends & family!

Instead of sending out Christmas cards this year, we made a short video! It will give you a glimpse of how we spend our time here in Tanzania, thanks to YOUR partnership!

Click HERE to watch!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Advent Reading

Here is the transcript of my contribution to the HOPAC Community Lessons and Carols Service.  It was a joy and privilege to be a part of this service to our Lord and Savior!

A Telling of God’s Silence and Whispers of Christ’s Coming

Malachi 4
“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts.

“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

“For behold, the day is coming…the day that is coming…the day when I act says the Lord of hosts.”

The Old Testament canon closes in the prophet Malachi’s book with a two-fold promise of a day of the LORD: on one side there is burning, fire, and destruction and on the other is righteousness, healing, and restoration.  

Hopeful, fearful anticipation filled the hearts of God’s people: Scorching fire and healing wings.  Those who fear the name of God are promised victory over the arrogant and all evildoers, but this, this is only a promise.  It is not yet a reality.

Instead of grasping and stepping into this reality, they are made to wait. To long for. To anticipate. “Behold, the day is coming” but it is not yet here. 

God’s people are left with a singular command: “Remember the law of my servant Moses…” combined with the whisper of a coming prophet, one like Elijah who would come, in the future, before the Lord arrived on a great and awesome day.  This man - John the Baptist - would prepare God’s people for their Messiah. 

Their Messiah would come and burn away the evildoers and the arrogant as sifted chaff in judgement. But this Messiah would also gather his people under his wings as a mother hen gathers her chicks. But that day was not this day.  This was the day of the prophet. It was not yet the day of the LORD.
Then, God stepped back into the dark silence. 



The twilight of the prophets turned into the darkest night of silence. And it lasted for 400 years.

God’s people lived in darkness. In sadness.  In that quiet space that felt like the darkest, deepest night.

And then came a whisper. 

“Zechariah! Your wife will have a son! He will prepare the way for the Most High King! Like Elijah, he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and children to their fathers!”

Whispers in the darkness. 
Words coming in the night.

“Mary! You will have a son, Jesus! He will be a greater king than David! He is the Son of the Most High God! His kingdom will never end!”

And one dark night, the Light broke through! 

God was silent no longer. And he was not whispering.  He was SHOUTING, “Good news! Great Joy! A Savior who is Christ, the Lord! He is here! He is born! The King is here!”

After 400 hundred years of night, 
                                              of silence, 
                                                       of longing, 
                                                                  of sadness, 
                                                                             of there being “always winter but never Christmas,” 

God SPOKE.  Not simply with human words of a prophet, but with THE Word, the logos, the Word in flesh, the incarnate God.  The Day of the LORD, long ago prophesied by the prophets like Malachi, had finally arrived!

Jesus, the Great Prophet, performed works greater than Elijah the prophet. 

Jesus, the Great High Priest, fulfilled the law of Moses the priest.  

Jesus, the Great King, rules yesterday, today, and tomorrow with perfect justice and unending mercy, greater than David the king.  

Our Prophet, Priest, and King had arrived exactly as it had been foretold!  

This year, may we again see what John the Baptist saw and join him in proclaiming the arrival of King Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


 We were blessed to spend Thanksgiving day with MANY friends here in TZ. We joined over 40 others in the afternoon for a delicious meal with all the fixin's! I brought a corn bake/casserole and 2 whole chickens. A turkey here costs about 114,000tsh, which equals about $71. And for 40+ people, you'd need more than one. And we're missionaries. SOOOO, we brought chicken instead. Though, our hosts for the day did make a turkey breast that many did enjoy!
Thanksgiving number 1!

 We zipped home to put a casserole in the oven & then headed to Thanksgiving #2 with some other dear friends. We brought a sweet potato casserole, rolls and a apple/cranberry sauce crumble. The crumble was not my favorite, but the sweet potato casserole was great! I was a little nervous making it with white sweet potatoes, but it went over well. I'll likely put it into regular rotation of my meal planning.

Geneva rarely makes it through a day in clothes. She's just so sticky and gets so dirty!

The kids rush to the freezer to get a frozen juice for dessert. Because yes, it is that hot.

Thanksgiving with the ocean in the background. Can't say we've ever experienced that before!

Marc's 'no shave november' stache & Geneva munching on a roll.

Thanksgiving outside.



So thankful for the community here to celebrate with, even through we certainly missed family back home!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


So I don't have a photo for this update, but a simple story to share.

Last week, after I helped the KG class during their swim lesson, I was waiting on campus for another service opportunity. I grabbed a quick lunch at the snack bar & then claimed a bench overlooking the playground, but far enough away to not get distracted by the kids on their lunch break. I hauled out my Bible study on James and read about 3 sentences when a cute little girl came & sat on the bench. She had a paper & pen with her and began writing a few words. I asked what she was doing & she told me writing a poem about what kids do on break at HOPAC. She finished writing & asked if I would read it. It was a cute little poem and I affirmed her creativity.

She started writing again. She wrote & wrote. She finally looked up and told me she was writing another poem. I asked what this one was about, assuming another playground poem, a tribute to her teacher, or a cute rhyme about her best friend. No. This one was titled, "Devastation". She told me it was about how people feel when they don't have any friends.

Immediately my heart became heavy.

I asked her if that was how she felt sometimes, "Yes."

We ended up talking for about 10 minutes on that bench, overlooking all the other kids playing. She elaborated on her friendship issues and her loneliness. I asked her if she knew Jesus. She told me that she did. I reminded her that Jesus was her forever friend, that he would never leave her and would always be close to her. I told her that in those times of loneliness and devastation, she could always talk to Him and that he LOVED her. I told her that HE had given her the gifts of creativity - writing poems and songs and loved to see his daughter using the gifts he had given her. She was looking down at her paper as I talked. She looked up and said, "I'm also brave. I'm going to read my poem to my class". We talked for a minute or so more before she got up to go show her teacher her poems. Before she walked away, she looked at me and quietly said, "Thank you."

I've seen this little one a few times on campus now. She gets excited, waves & says hello to me. She did show her teacher, though I'm not sure if she's read anything in class. I'm not sure what her story is, but I think God had our paths cross to hopefully encourage her, first and foremost, but also to encourage me that my time of ministry is not over. Going from 11 years of youth ministry to, well, I don't really know...missionary...stay at home mom...volunteer...fundraiser...has not been an easy transition for me. I'm missing a sense of purpose here. It's not as clearly defined as it has been in the past. I'm still searching for where and how God wants to use me here. Until that time, He is gently reminding me to be open to his leading and obedient to his will. I am so thankful for this little moment - this gift.

Would you take a minute and say a prayer for this sweet little girl?

November Photo Challenge - Swim Team

Prior to coming to TZ and HOPAC, Marc received a staff email asking for swim coaches. He forwarded it to me and I thought about it for a few weeks. I finally responded to the sports coordinator, Rose, saying something along the lines of, "I swam in high school - 15ish years ago - and I was in lane 4 cause I wasn't very good. I probably never won a race. I've never coached anything in my life. I can't swim butterfly. I've got 2 little kids I'd need a sitter for. BUT if you REALLY need someone, I MIGHT POSSIBLY consider it".

So I've been co-coaching the Primary (Grades 2 - 5) Swim team for about 2 months now. Rose was desperately desperate, I guess. The other real coach, Lauren, is the one who does all the hard work of planning what we'll practice, sending parent emails, etc. She actually knows what she's doing. I periodically run a practice or hop in the water & help individual students with their stroke.

I can't say this is why I'm called to Africa. I'm not sure I'll do it more than a year. It has, however, given me a reason to be on campus, getting to know students and their families a bit. It's given me a break from mommyhood for a couple hours a week. It gives me a chance to get in the pool every so often. All in all, it's good and I'm thankful for the opportunity.
Lauren teaching the kids correct technique for Breaststroke.

Lauren giving some instructions to the kids before getting in the pool

November Photo Challenge - Our House

When we first decided to move to Africa, some of my initial thoughts were about our housing situation. Where would we live? What would it look like? Would it be small? Would it be in a neighborhood? Would there be a yard? Where will the kids play? It's Africa...and while I knew it wouldn't be a mud/straw hut, I didn't really know what to expect.

Where we live doesn't look ANYTHING like what I anticipated.

It's big - 3 bedrooms, 2 1/2 bathrooms (room for guests!). It has a large yard. It's not really in a neighborhood. There is one house directly next to us, but our property has a wall around it, so it's not the same as what you'd imagine. It's comfortable - there is plenty of room - actually more than enough room. As a family, we love having people over & have great space to do that here.

We are in this furnished house for this year. Then, the family comes back from their home assignment back to Dar & will either a) move right back in and we'll find a new place and have to furnish it or b) move into a different house & obviously take their furnishings.

Either way, we realize that beginning in the New Year, we'll have to slowly start collecting things for our home - everything from couches, beds, table/chairs to mosquito nets, pots & pans, bathroom rugs. We cannot express what a blessing it's been to not have to worry about those things this year, as SO much is already new. We have already begun praying about where God will have us next year & we look forward to seeing how it will all unfold. God has certainly provided for all our needs here and we pray we will be good stewards of his gifts.
Looking from the entry way into the living room. The door at the back goes to the bedrooms/bathrooms. We lock & bolt this door at night to separate the back part of the house from the front part.
Living Room

Kitchen. Lots of space in it, though a small single sink (and remember, no dishwasher!)
Dining room. Windows look out onto the front porch, where the big dogs are usually napping.



Saturday, November 23, 2013

November Photo Challenge - KG Assembly

Each Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the primary school at HOPAC has assembly. They worship, have prayer, sing the TZ national anthem, and listen to a teacher share a message. Each grade also gets to lead a chapel - I think each term.

This past Friday was the KG turn. Isaac had been counting down the days for over a week. He rehearsed his line. He told me about an itchy hat he had to wear. He was excited for me to come and watch!

Isaac and his friend Caroline.

This is Isaac's teacher, Mrs. Jana.

God made everyone SPECIAL!

Isaac's line was "God made the world a home for all people and gave everyone a special place in it" They talked about how God made Chine for the Chinese, Germany for the Germans, etc. The last line was "And HOPAC for the HOPACIANS!" :)

A few kids participated in a skit - the broken pot. Isaac was the farmer. Older students read the lines in the microphone and the kids had to act it out. Isaac actually mouthed the words as if he was saying them. He really did an excellent job!

The broken pot noticing the beautiful flowers she helped to grow by leaking water each day
while the farmer walked the path.

Good shot of Isaac mouthing his lines.

They sang a few songs as well - Isaac is in the back row- green shirt.

Isaacs colorful class! They were allowed to wear dark shorts & bright tops instead of their uniforms!

Monday, November 18, 2013

November Photo Challenge - ART!

When we were back in the states, Marc found a TV show on Netflix called "Tinga Tinga Tales". They are short, 12ish minute cartoons which tell traditional folk tales from Tanzania, like "Why the Giraffe has a long neck". Our kids fell in love with this show, and quite honestly, it's a kids show I can watch repeatedly without getting sick of. The cartoon animals are based off a type of art here in Tanzania, called Tinga Tinga.

This type of art is named after Edward Tingatinga, who it originated with. He trained 6 students to paint as he did, but was killed in 1972. Now, the six have grown to an estimated 500 Tinga Tinga artists in East Africa - many of whom are related to the tingatinga family, but not all. There is a cooporative in Dar where some of Tingatinga's relatives still paint, and where the best & most original paintings can be found. We love to visit and watch the artists at work. They use industrial paints, not typical artist paints, and they have to wait for each layer to dry before moving to the next part. You can walk outside & see paintings in various stages drying in the sun.

Beyond Tinga Tinga, there are other types of paintings at the markets, as well as hand carved sculptures out of ebony, called Makonde, hand made beaded necklaces, wall hangings made out of banana leaves, beautiful textiles - so much beauty and color!

This is Tingatinga - the Medina family (in who's home we're currently living) had these made & were on the kids door when we got here! So sweet! You can get Tingatinga in many sizes!
This is NOT tingatinga, but another type of art we found in a shop. We got these three paintings for less than $20.

I love Elephants!!
hand carved nativity out of ebony
baby Jesus from the nativity set

walls & walls of art!  


Thursday, November 14, 2013

November Photo Challenge - Safety

Living here in Tanzania, we are the minority. This could be another post altogether & someday, maybe it will be. Today, however, I just want to focus on the issue of safety.

While there have not been any moments where we have felt threatened or in danger, we do have to be precautionary as we live and minister here. Most of the threats and dangers of living here are everywhere else in the world as well, but because we are white, we have a bit more of a target on our back. The stereotype of white = affluent is actually mostly true, so it's no wonder we are looked at as having so much!

Two families who came around the same time as us have been affected more directly than we have in regards to safety. One family, a mere four days after purchasing a vehicle, had it vandalized in their driveway during the night - parts stolen, window broken. Their water pump to their house was also stolen.  Another friend was walking to Bible study when a car pulled up next to her, pushed her down & tried to steal her belongings.

So, while we don't live in fear, we try to be smart.

We have bars on all of our windows

We have locks AND extra bolts on our doors. When we go to sleep at night, we actually lock most rooms off. We have a door that divides the living spaces from the bedrooms that we lock and bolt each night. We also have a security system.

We have a gate and our home/compound is surrounded by a wall with broken glass at the top of it. We have security lights on the house and wall that we leave on all night as well.

Along with that, we have guard dogs, Frodo, Precious & Minnie. Minnie may be small, but can that little one bark!


As we have mentioned before, we are so, so grateful to have moved into a furnished house where the family is letting us use all of their belongings.  They are moving back to Dar this summer, so we will start purchasing our own household items soon. We also got two puppies a few weeks ago, as the dogs above are only on loan. :)

Puppy #2
Puppy #1

So these two cuties are our own dogs, that we hope will be big and ferocious enough come summer to really be our guard dogs. They are half German shepherd, and half Rhodesian ridgeback - they should be pretty big. They are still nameless - feel free to comment with your suggestions!

While these precautions are not fail proof - walls can be climbed over, dogs can be poisoned, bars can be cut - we hope that they give second thoughts to anyone wondering what might be inside our walls. We do always appreciate prayers for protection, and we trust God's sovereign will for what he has for us while living here.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

November Photo Challenge - Isaac Daniel

Isaac is doing really well here. I was a bit apprehensive about all day, every day school for him - and honestly for me too. It's a big transition to have your oldest not be home with you most of the day! He absolutely loves HOPAC and his class. He's making some good friends, though he still misses his friends & cousins back home.

In Kindergarten, Isaac is one of three Americans. His classmates are from all over the globe. He's learning Swahili, taking swimming lessons, and beginning to read. He and another little girl (who has already claimed him as her husband in the future!) were voted by their class to be the KG reps on student council. That means each Wednesday, Isaac misses a break period and goes to meet with the other student council reps to talk about things in the school. He takes it pretty seriously and gets excited about coming up with ideas.

He's starting to understand that not all of the children in his class and in our neighborhood are believers in Jesus. He's wondered about a few of them and been so bold to ask a few as well. We are trying to teach him how to be a good friend, despite differences in belief. He came home excited the other day, saying, "Mom! Did you know that Josh, Daniel & Timothy (our Pastors kids) are here for the same reason we are? To tell people about Jesus!"

Those who know Isaac know that he can be a bit, um, intense at times and can get easily frustrated when things don't go as he hopes. He's still got those moments at school, but his teachers handle him beautifully. We continue to use the phrase that he learned last year in Young 5's - "You get what you get & you don't throw a fit!".

One of the things I'm loving is our family Bible & prayer time each evening. Most nights, we gather together & read a Bible story and then we take turns prayer. Hope is still repeating after us mostly, but Isaac has started to really pray. He's picking up things from listening to us, his teachers at school and church. What a sacred job to raise a child. We are so thankful for the ease of his transition to life in Africa, for his friendly, caring, eager attitude and his love for God!

I had a video of Isaac helping to lead motions for a song during International Day in front of the whole school! It wouldn't load -  pole sana (very sorry!)


Friday, November 8, 2013

November Photo Challenge - International Day!

Today was a special day at HOPAC - International Day!

It was a half day of school with no classes - most students dream, right?

Students were asked to dress in their country's colors or traditional dress instead of their uniform. Marc wore a U of M shirt and Isaac represented the D with a Tigers shirt. This is one of those days that I regret not buying the family those Old Navy shirts that go on sale after July 4th. :)

The first part of the morning was spent in assembly, where they sang the Tanzanian National Anthem, a worship song and then had a few performances from students.

After assembly, students were dismissed to go visit different booths that were set up in each classroom representing countries. Primary students had a 'passport' that they could get stamped at each country. Most booths had posters or pictures of their country, some interesting facts, some props that depict their country or traditions and flags.

After their 'trip around the world', students had a competition with facts they had learned about the countries, and then were dismissed to the food booths! Almost every country represented in the school population, which is over 30, had a food booth set up where you could try traditional foods. AMAZING. I can't even recall all the delicious foods I tried, but my favorite was probably the Indian or Ethiopian.  The USA represented well with apple & cherry pie, popcorn, hot dogs, chocolate chip cookies, brownies, Kool-Aid, Sweet Tea and some other baked goods. Um...we might not be the healthiest nation. Just sayin.

The day ended back in the 'covered court' (gym) with a Parade of Nations. Each nation was called and they were able to parade around the gym with their flag while their national anthem played. Think of the Olympics taken down a notch or two. It was beautiful.

International Day was the culmination of "Pamoja (Unity) Week" at HOPAC. It was a recognition and celebration of the immense beauty and diversity represented at HOPAC. It was  to see Isaac cheering on his classmates as they passed during the parade - he's always coming home telling us where his new friends are from. We love HOPAC and are so grateful for this school and community!!