Monday, March 23, 2015

Grace like Rain

"Halleluiah, grace like rain, falls down on me"
This line from the song "Grace Like Rain" was in my mind all day yesterday.

I woke yesterday morning and after looking at the sky thought, "Today is the day - it just HAS to rain today!" There were beautiful, rain-filled clouds in the sky and I just hoped they wouldn't pass us by. It's been hot and dry and the crops need a drink. While the rainy season can bring flooding and other problems with the inadequate infrastructure here, it also is essential to life and food and income!
We've been praying for the rains to come.

During our normal morning routine of the girls playing on the HOPAC playground, I heard Hope joyfully proclaim, "Mommmy! It's raining!" It was light and gentle and we held out our hands to enjoy it. It was a little foretaste of what was coming.

A few hours later we sat in the middle of an all-school assembly. As the speaker was walking to his seat after sharing God's word with us, it started to downpour! The whole school broke into cheers of celebration. It didn't last long, but it was glorious! About an hour later it rained again! 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Grand Rapids Christian High School Vision Trip

We have a few friends who teach at Christian High. Almost all of my former youth group students from my time at Plymouth Heights attend GRCHS. So naturally, we suggested a trip to come visit us during their two week "Winterim" term, hoping it would actually happen but thinking realistically it probably wouldn't.

Guess what? It DID happen and it was AMAZING!

The group that came to visit was fantastic. They had humble, grateful attitudes and were ready to learn. They asked insightful questions and were willing to let their ideas/thoughts/hearts be molded and changed. Even the first day, when they were completely wasted after travelling/being jet lagged with little sleep and dealing with the extreme weather change, they did not complain. They may have taken a few cat naps that day, but they pressed on and were obviously ready to embrace their week here.

First day tour of HOPAC on no sleep - they were troppers!

One of our many goals was to introduce these students to what "missions" actually looks like. It can be incredibly vague, and often we think "missions" is living in a mud hut in an African village with half-naked children running around. (See my LAST BLOG POST for more thoughts on this). So throughout the week, we had different missionaries come and share a meal with us and tell us about their call into missions and what they ACTUALLY do as a missionary. We also met with local pastors and friends who have incredible ministry happening here. We heard about church planting, training local pastors, village ministry, teaching, training programs for girls to learn sewing/business skills, Young Life Africa, coffee house buisiness providing jobs/income, midwifery/mother care, and more. It was amazing for me to even hear the stories of some of my friends and their experiences. It was inspirational.
Visiting the Hindu Temples (priest is in the middle of the pic)

One of the things we continued to talk about was both the beauty and the brokenness of what we saw and experienced. It was neat to see the students really grab hold of that. We wanted to make sure that they saw not only the broken things here in Tanzania, but the ways that God's beauty is all around us. Of course in the animals, the ocean, the palm trees, but also in the people, the ministry happening and the ways God is already powerfully at work.

I've previously posted our schedule (SEE HERE), so I won't go into all the details, but I wanted to highlight a few of my favorite moments with this group.

* A conversation on the bus from Mikumi National Park (safari site) back to Dar with a few of the students who were asking incredible questions about systemic poverty, following God's will, entitlement, materialism, faith.

* Being trapped in an open air banda because an elephant was too close to move out of it while we were on safari. He was interested in the trash can, which he tipped over and went through.

* Catching up with two of my former youth group students who came on the trip. Just amazing.

* Discussing spiritual warfare with a few students after hearing about the reality of these encounters by some of the missionaries here. They had doubts and questions, but listened and asked good questions.

* Having 12 people from Grand Rapids, Michigan in our home in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. They've been here! This really is incredible to have 12 more people who have seen and experienced a bit of life here.

* Seeing things through the eyes of people seeing it for the first time. Even after only being here 1 1/2 years, some things have become 'normal' - traffic, bumpy roads, the heat, etc.

* Hearing one of the students say, "I actually never really knew what it meant to be a missionary before, and now I'm starting to understand!"

One of our dear friends and Christian High teacher, Mark VanderWerf, wrote a reflection about his time here with the group:
Mark with Isaac (and a nice photobomb by Kendra!)

"Exploring God’s world, exploring God’s kingdom, and discovering God’s call. Those were our three goals for the Grand Rapids Christian High School Winterim trip to Tanzania…and what a success! Steve Tuit and I and 10 students were richly blessed by Gretchen and Marc’s leadership as they shared their firsthand experience of life in Tanzania. We experienced the rich beauty of Mbudya Island, the rich cultural and religious diversity of downtown Dar, and the stunning beauty of a safari. But more than that, our eyes were opened and our hearts stirred as we experienced some of the deep brokenness present in Dar: false religions, broken families, and systemic poverty. Through all of this, we were constantly reminded that God is at work in and through a whole range of people who have heard God’s call to serve – sometimes in radical ways and sometimes in subtle ways. This trip would not have been at all possible if were not for the amazing work of Gretchen and Marc Driesenga. Thank you guys for sharing your life and ministry with our students! Their lives are changed because of you. Asante sana!"