Thursday, May 27, 2010

It is Not About Me it is About Him

It is sometimes amazing for me to think about the differences in the lives of my different family groups, friends, and youth groups that I have worked with over time. To think that I have had youth freaking out because they didn't have the latest cell and others that have never experienced the joy of an automatic sliding door. I know friends that have stood in line for hours for movie tickets and others who got unbelievably excited about watching a movie on a 17.5 inch computer screen with 45 other kids. "can we watch another one?" They ask. I am blessed to know lots of different kinds of people.

I have asked God before how to talk about the world and family we found in Africa to people in the US, but my new question has become more how do I minister to both groups. What does the nuts and bolts of the vision for Grassroots look like and how can I be genuine to the possible ministry in the US that comes about because of the connection with Grassroots. This was my question last night when I was reminded that it is not about me it is about God. That is the common denominator that should answer all of those questions. God is who is important and if I can follow his lead and minister his way in Africa then things will work out. If I can point to His glory and His desire to see people loved and taken care of then there will be genuine connection here in the US with a ministry of God's. That is and should be the connection, the beginning and ending point for it all. That is how it should be done.

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." -Galatians 2:20

Monday, May 24, 2010

Your Young Men Will See Visions, Your Old Men Will Dream Dreams

I am currently reading Follow Me to Freedom a great book written by Shane Claiborne and John M. Perkins. I am reading this in a time of some rest and a lot of reflection. Liz and I have fairly well settled back into American culture even though we realize at least this time around that we are only guests and will soon be returning to the culture of Tanzania. We are also staying busy traveling and sharing what Grassroots Ministry and Angel House are up to. However, these few months will also provide space for reflection, vision casting, and dreaming. Of looking around at a nation that has a lot and wondering how much of this do we really want to bring to Africa, even if we had all the resources we wanted (which we don’t).

One of the challenges given in the book, which I am still working through, is that leaders have to have a vision and that you cannot expect people to follow a leader with no vision of where God is leading. Incidentally this is a great time for us to clarify more what the vision we hold for Grassroots is in regards to our personal roles. My vision is to teach our kids that they don’t have to live in fear of the world because there is nothing in this world that Christians should truly fear. I do not think we will ever be able to create a world without threats of danger, at least not soon, but we can give them the education, confidence, and spiritual grounding to help them enter the world without fear. Most if not all of our kids were taught early on to fear. They were taught to fear abuse, hunger, and the absence of affection or acceptance. They learned to look around and fear what they were likely to face as adults based on the great struggles of the people they lived with.

Fear is their default setting as it is the default setting of many people in this country as we are often faced with the shock of the very disasters and sense of mortality that we try to insulate ourselves from. We want to start with providing a safe and loving environment for the kids of Angel House, a place where they can experience, possibly for the first time in their lives, an absence of fear because in order to understand what it means to not fear you have to experience a time of comfort without fear. There is also a confidence and hope found in faith that I pray our kids find. It is not something that can be given to them by me, but I can extend an open hand that can guide them to that place; a place where they learn to rest in the one that can truly expel their fears and protect them in the future.

In the end we hope that our kids grow into adults who are ready to lead their communities, who can enter the world with the confidence and daring needed to bring new ideas to their culture. We have kids who understand what it is to fear and suffer and because of that have great compassion. They have the capacity and I hope that maybe in them can exist a world without fear, a world that can grow as they grow and spread as they reach out into the world with God in their corner and the memory of a safe place securely in their minds.

Friday, May 14, 2010


I had heard mixed reviews about the movie Avatar before we left for Tanzania. I almost saw it in theaters, but could not quite find the time in the busyness of getting ready to leave. I saw it yesterday and it did a good job of giving words to what I have felt since coming home. In the movie humans from earth have found a way to psychically connect with a biogenetically engineered body that looks and moves exactly like the aliens they are trying to connect with. The humans are put in this machine that facilitates the connection. While in the machine their body is still and they exist in the body of the “avatar.” When their avatar goes to sleep they reinhabit their own body. The same person, same mind, same soul exists in two different bodies and effectively two different lives on the same planet and physical plane. The point of the story is the journey of one of the humans in falling fully into the life of his avatar.

This may seem like a weird description of returning to the United States, but it fits. I have not experienced the culture shock that I expected. I did not flip out the first time I walked into a Wal-Mart and the food choices do not seem overwhelming in the least (surprising after months of rice and something for most meals). I do however feel like I have two different lives in two different paces on the same planet. The differences between life in America and life in Tanzania are so different that it is hard to connect the two, it is hard for them to both be real to me at the same time. I feel like when I got on the plane to come here I left a body back in Tanzania that will be there ready to be inhabited when I get on the plane to return (maybe someday I will be able to determine which one is the avatar). It is possible that this problem of identity is my way of dealing with culture shock considering I have been back on US soil for less than a week, but the differences are staggering and hard to reconcile. Take the story of Chacha for instance…

Chacha is the last child that came to Angel House before we left to come back to the US. Unlike many of our children he has a father still, however his father lost most of his arm in a mining accident. In our part of Tanzania once a person is disabled to that extent their only viable option the majority of the time is to beg for a living. When I first met Chacha’s father he had two sons a 3 yr. old and a 5 yr. old. When I saw him again three weeks later he only had a 3 yr. old. The older son had died from malnourishment and medical problems, both things his father didn’t have enough money to do anything about. The day he brought Chacha to us he stayed for Sunday morning worship and then left. Chacha screamed and cried for hours and the father looked like he wanted to. It was a loving relationship of father and son, but the father realized that the only way for his son to have a future was for him to stay at Angel House.

This is how things work in Tanzania. In the US he could have found a vocational retraining program that would have helped his learn a trade that only needed one arm. He could have found a job that was not as intensive on the manual labor side. He could have found assistance for his children for food, housing, and medical care. Here in the US there are options, in Tanzania there are not. Two worlds that exist on the same planet.

I hope that I can bring the two lives I live together. I hope that the resources of one can meet the problems of the other.