Thursday, September 12, 2013

My Boxes are Growing!

As a a teacher and parent, I’m always on the lookout for “teachable moments,” situations that I can seize and allow my students or my children to learn a valuable lesson.  Admittedly, I miss more of these than I catch!  And it goes without saying that I’m...more comfortable being on the giving end of those lessons and not the receiving end!

As we have become increasingly acclimatized here in Dar, as a new school year has begun, I have tried to keep a list in my mind of things and lessons that I’m learning.  I don’t confess to having fully laid hold of these lessons, but here’s a brief snapshot into my thoughts and feelings, ways that my "boxes" or categories or paradigms are growing, being shifted, maturing, crumbling, etc.  Disclaimer: These are my personal perceptions/reactions and may be right or wrong; please be gracious to me as I’m learning and have not yet “arrived.” :)
1.  Patience.  I’m probably...scratch that...I am the most impatient person I know.  My wife will attest to this fleshly attribute.  The first step is admitting you have a problem...and I do and Africa is FULL of opportunities to work on being patient.  Prior to living here, this was one thing that absolutely terrified me.  I honestly thought I would have traffic than I have actually had: 0.  My road rage has been much less here than back home...and traffic is decidedly worse here.

Another part of life here is that most things involve a process.  Example: I began my vehicle registration process about three weeks ago.  Something that would require a 30 minute - 3 hour wait at the DMV back home takes much, much longer here.  Of course, money (read: bribes) greases the wheels,  but in general, it’s just S-L-O-W.  Another example: “stuff” is just hard to find.  There are no box stores, no DIY stores.  I should change the oil in the van...but I don’t have the slightest idea where to go to find parts.  Not only that, but me changing my own oil is a sort of unwritten “No-no.”  Why wouldn’t I pay to have someone do that for me? Am I being stingy with all of my piles of American money? You see, the expectation is that I would pay someone to do even the smallest chore for me...even though I brought a few of my own tools and I really enjoy doing this sort of work myself.  It really has nothing to do with being cheap.  However, my impoverished community, where I could find 20 men to change my oil for $3 + parts, don’t quite see it that way.  And most likely I’d have to travel into town to find a filter and oil.  And then I’d get stuck in traffic.  And probably be given opportunities to lose my temper.

2.  Church.  You’ve probably seen via FaceBook that Gretchen and I have been attending God’s Tribe church.  It is a brand new church plant here in Dar.  Its principle founders are Kelvin and Belinda Massingham and Sheshi and Trudi Kaniki.  They both hail from “Safrica.” (South Africa said with a S.A. Accent! :) ).  Sheshi is a teacher at HOPAC (A-level Economics).  My absolute first experience with him was observing him from across the room singing: both arms in the air, eyes closed, full body engaged in worship.  I had a delightful conversation with him over lunch and was invited to his church.  All of my presuppositions flared up: here was an African, charismatic, quirky-named church, preacher guy - what could go wrong?!  My initial interest level was about a “3” on a 1-10 scale.  A couple of weeks later, I got a text from friends saying they were going to check out Sheshi’s church and did we want to go. “I guess,” was my half-hearted reply.  I was honestly terrified of the spectacle we were sure to have to endure.

How absolutely wrong I was.

Instead, my brother got up to preach and five minutes into his message talked about God choosing to save dead people, which we all were until Christ’s death and resurrection brought us to life and reconciled us to our Father.  My presuppositions got punched in the face with the Gospel.  I sat through the sermon with tears on the edges of my eyes.

The church would best be described as “Charismatic Reformed.” I get about half of that; you figure out which half.  But it’s charismatic in its church planting-ness (they're the best in the business, so to speak) and Reformed in theology.  So they have energetic prayer times, ones that as a conservative, white, West Michigan Dutch guy, I have a tendency to feel a bit...awkward at.  I kind of feel like everyone at the office came dressed up in costumes for Halloween and I showed up in my regular suit-n-tie, you know, just a wee bit awkward! Basically, I just haven’t yet become comfortable talking while others are praying.  There is a lot of verbalized agreement when others pray. :)

I’m humbled and I’m learning. My “Church” box has been re-shuffled and re-shaped a bit. I just heard someone say “Yes Lord!” :D

3.  Prayer and Spiritual Warfare.  I’m learning to pray.  In the last trimester of the 2012-2013 school year at Western Michigan Christian HS, I taught a 10th grade Bible class on the Gospels.  One thing I learned in that class and during that trimester is the great privilege and blessing I was given every day to pray with and for my students. I started putting forth a little bit more effort to pray.

I’m not very good at praying.  I feel like when I do pray, I do it okay. I just don’t do it very often.  I’ve prayed a lot more lately than I probably ever have and I still don’t feel like I’m doing it enough.  And not just praying to ask for things, but in praise and in intercession.

Part of growing in prayer has come with a growing awareness of spiritual warfare.  I’ve always had a cautious take on spiritual warfare, I mean, if we talk about it then it might happen, right? Wrong.  It’s already happening despite my efforts to remain ignorant.  It is something that I believe gets exploited because it’s easy, low-hanging spiritual fruit.  I don’t buy the whole, “I put my watch on the table, came back and it was GONE! The devil wanted me to be late so he prevented me from finding my timepiece” kind of stuff.  However, it’s quite clear that people here have had spiritual warfare experiences and attacks.  I have a history of kidney stones, but having one come on in full force as I’m driving up to school for the first day is a bit too coincidental for even me, the spiritual warfare skeptic.

I’ve prayed more for spiritual protection for myself and my family and my friends than I have ever done, ever.  Again, I’m not good at it, but I’m learning.

4.  Legacy.  At Haven of Peace, I have the awesome opportunity and responsibility of following a great Bible teacher, Gil Medina.  He created both a pastoral and academic atmosphere in the Bible Department.  He developed a high standard, worked with integrity, and a passion to see students come to Christ.  He has set a lavish Feast Table with the Main Course and all of the dinnerware; I’m just hoping that I don’t come along and spill my tiny tray of desserts.  Because of Gil’s hard work, the Bible teacher position bears a level of responsibility and respect, it just comes - built in - to the position.  It’s rare to find in most high school academic departments, let alone the Bible department.  Again, I’m humbled and privileged to be a small part of this good work for God’s glory and the benefit of my students.

There’s plenty of learning to be done here: learning what side of the road to drive on, for instance.  Learning the conversion rate from US dollars to Tanzanian schillings is another.  And while I’m learning these facts of life, I’m aware of some character traits that are also experiencing a bit of a growth spurt.  

1 comment:

  1. Love this post. Thanks for sharing some heart, Marc. It's so good to hear your "voice".

    I remember coming home from Tz and writing in my journal that I needed to work on that patience piece. They've got something going over there with a lot less rushing everywhere we go.

    And, I'll be laughing my butt off if I hear any "yes Lords" from you when we worship together again! But, there's no denying that God works in powerful ways. :)

    Praying for you and your family too. Love you all!