Yesterday a small group of women and a few men gathered for a long meeting at Gamasara UMC. It was supposed to start at 9 am, actually started at 11 am, and ended around 3 pm. It involved budgets, suggestions, deciding to return a defective sewing machine next week, and me mispronouncing the Swahili word for “constitution” so many times in one day that it became a running joke.
At the end of the day though, before leaving, we had a special moment: we were able to take a picture of most of the founding members of the Emmanuel Center. Approved constitution in hand we are a few steps away from being officially registered with the Tanzanian government asa community based organization.
Emmanuel Center for Women and Children is a new organization, operating out of Gamsara UMC that seeks to reduce gender-based violence, promote children’s rights, and bring peace to families in Gamasara.
This has been an almost two year journey that started as an angry discussion at a funeral, proceeded to be a teary eyed response to an untenable situation, and has grown into a living reality. It has proven to me that words have power, and that ideas really can drive our lives. It has also been my own version of a shirt I once saw that said, “Everyone wants a revolution, but no one wants to do the dishes.” These past two years have been hard work, making time for this project that was only an idea and feeling in a few hearts and minds of a small church. As the picture shows we are not a group of professionals working out of an office with a nice starting budget. There is almost no budget, heck the church building isn’t even finished yet. And I have discovered the harsh reality, that while a commonly shared, occasionally well articulated, dream that refused to die has resulted in the Emmanuel Center, that the real work, and true transformation will live or die in the daily details of the work and the daily pressure of making hundreds of small, correct decisions. At times it is even possible to lose site of the bigger picture as we get lost in the daily accounting and questions of time tables and group dynamics.
We have not arrived. We are nowhere near where we want to be, and I cannot even say with any confidence that we have yet transformed or even affected anyone’s life. The amount of learning we as an organization still have to do is staggering. Yet, I wanted to pause and with this article take a short breath and look back at how a need, expressed in one of the most heart wrenching ways possible, has given birth to a community within a community, a community that we hope will give birth to the dreams of many more people in the years to come.
Dreams = Words = Reality