We have a guest blogger who will be joining us from time to time. Davis Rhodes is a recent Auburn University graduate who is currently with us in Mwanza as a volunteer. He will be working with our economic development programs around the Lake Zone. Here below are some introductory thoughts from him as he gets into his time here in Tanzania and I am sure that more will follow.
My name is Davis Rhodes, and I feel pretty thankful that Liz and Eric have given me the opportunity to serve with them. I have been in Tanzania for 6 weeks now, and have met far too few Tanzanians, due to my limited Swahili, and indeed, the desire to meet more Tanzanians has been the fuel to my fire to learn Swahili as fast as possible. All the same, the highlights so far have been the few Tanzanians that I have met. Parmao is a Tanzanian who also does development work with Eric and Liz. His smile always makes you want to smile, and he does not grow weary of trying to communicate with me, having perpetual patience with my slow, stumbling Swahili. When I went to the youth retreat at Gamasara, I was also thankful to meet the mothers who provided the food. They thoroughly enjoyed helping me learn to dance, and saw no reason that having a baby on one’s back should hinder the movement of one’s feet!
The first six weeks have also prompted some new everyday questions that don’t have an easy answers:
There is a scene in my favorite movie, Gandhi, where a British friend asks how he can help. Gandhi declines the offer, saying, “I have to be sure, they have to be sure, that what we do can be done by Indians alone.”(Gandhi, 1982) At the same time, it seems obviously unloving not to help those who are having a hard time, especially if they specifically ask for your help. Well, that question itself is nothing new. The new question is about my role as I begin working with these communities in the next few weeks. It would be best to give the church and community as much responsibility as possible. What does “as much responsibility as possible” look like in the mess of momentary decisions though? When do I say something, when should I be silent? How often should I meet with them? Surely I shouldn’t correct everything that seems like a mistake to me. At what point does hands-off become negligence though?
I have had two different conversations with Tanzanians who suggested that they ought to seek God as a means to receiving material blessings. I have always told people that this should not be our motive for seeking God, and that we will be disappointed if we do seek God as a means to improving our material well-being. I’ve never had a second thought about it. In these two conversations, I haven’t known what to say though. It’s pretty awkward that the one with far less to be worried about in the realm of material provision is also the one who is comfortable saying that we should not seek God as a means to material provision.
Even as I struggle with these questions I am hoping that as I leave language lessons and start work over the next few weeks that I will make more friends and find a few more questions.
Gandhi. Dir. Richard Attenborough. Perf. Ben Kingsley. Columbia, 1982. DVD.