Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Those of you who know me (Gretchen) know that I'm a to-do list person. Very early on in ministry, my supervisor taught me how to set manageable & measurable goals on a yearly, monthly, weekly & daily basis, how to use a planner, how to manage my time, and many other wonderful skills. I certainly have not perfected any of these, but I do love my to-do list.

If you stopped by our home in Michigan before our move, you would've seen a huge bright green poster board on our wall. That was our pre-move TO-DO list.

I love the thrill of creating a list and the joy of crossing something off. It's a measurable way to see if my day has been 'successful' and gives me purpose and guides how I spend my time each day. I am certainly guilty of adding things to my lists after their already done, just so I can cross one more thing off. Anyone with me on that? I KNOW I'm not alone...
Being in Africa, I've been told by numerous people to have only ONE goal for your day. ONE. Not a long  to-do list for each day, just ONE goal. ONE thing to accomplish. ONE task to manage.
You may be thinking, "But Gretchen, you don't have a 'job', Isaac is in school every day, the girls still nap, you have a gardener & house worker (which is another post altogether!) to do all your yard work, laundry, dishes, etc. Can't you accomplish more in a day than just one task?"
Good question.
Let me give you the an example of a 'one-task day' that my friend recently had. She dropped her husband & kids off at school just after 7am and then had one goal for the day, which seemed simple: find 'mince' (hamburger/ground beef).
Well, for starters, she had been to the 'big' grocery store a few days prior and could not find it there, which is not uncommon. Some days they have a product, other days you can't find it anywhere. The selection changes daily. So, with that option already out, she spent her day going to three different butchers. Three different butchers does not sound that time-consuming or difficult, right?
The thing is, we don't have the yellow pages here. Or the ability to google "Butchers in Dar" with much success. You find them by asking around to friends or by seeing one randomly as you drive by (not knowing how clean/sanitary/fresh it is). And when you do find a butcher that looks decent, you can't guarantee what they'll have. And you need to be sure to know how to say what you're looking for in Swahili, because there is a chance they won't speak English ("ninaomba nyama ya ng'ombe"). And if you don't know how to say it, you have to find someone to help you translate, because we all know google translate isn't always accurate. And you have to be ready to get stuck in traffic, depending on the time of day. And if you get stuck in traffic, you need to be prepared with a cold bag or something to keep the meat in.
So, my dear friend went to three butchers. She did not find any mince. That meant she had to change her dinner plan for the evening. Dinner plans already take quite a bit of time, due to obviously finding all the ingredients you need, hoping the power is on to cook (though we have a gas stove  - not everyone does) or that the power hasn't gone out recently spoiling your food, & cooking everything from scratch. Good thing you can always fall back on PB&J!

This is just one example of how one-goal can take a majority of a day here. I could give countless other examples!
I am learning, though very slowly, what it looks like to "be" instead of always feeling like I need to "do". It's been a significant transition for me from working/ministry for the last 11 years to now figuring out my role and purpose here. It's honestly been a little bit of an identity crisis. My ministry shaped so much of who I was/am, but I'm no longer a youth pastor. So, who am I? I can't identify myself by what I'm doing to the same extent I could before.  I can't fill my days with to-do lists to feel a sense of accomplishment or worth - I'd fail every time! I think that's a good thing. I recognize that I've been a bit of a Martha instead of a Mary (Luke 10).
So, pray for me as I learn how to slow down, sit at the feet of Jesus and enjoy what he is teaching me and showing me. I'm learning how to be more present with my girls as I have the privilege of being with them each day. I'm learning how to support others in their areas of ministry through prayer. I'm learning from so many wise people here - about faith, ministry, culture, expectation. I'm learning how NOT to jump into every opportunity for ministry (DO), but to seek the Lord and wait on him (BE). I'm learning how to support Marc in his huge task as a Bible teacher at HOPAC. I'm learning how to laugh at myself as I make mistakes. I'm learning how to be okay with accomplishing one thing a day instead of ten, and being more prayerful about how I spend my time.
This is a new season. A season of being.
I am excited to DO - please don't get me wrong. And when I'm honest, I feel slightly guilty for not doing more right now. I feel like I owe it to those of you supporting us to show results, fruit, proof of the usefulness of your sacrificial giving. It will come. I know the Lord has called not only Marc to TZ, but me too. I know he has ministry in store for me. I'll let you know when He reveals to me what it is. In the meantime, I appreciate your prayers during this new season of my faith and life.

So, my one goal today, the one thing I hope to 'do'? Go to the local coffee roaster to buy more coffee. Becasue lets be real - not many other goals or tasks can even be accomplished when you're out of coffee!
But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.
Psalm 73:28
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
Psalm 46:10

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