Today has been a fun day. I kept up my usual custom of taking Sunday as a day off. I went to the Lutheran church this morning with a few other girls and one of our Swahili teachers. It was interesting, but not exactly the kind of church I would prefer. Next time, I think I’d like to go to a Pentecostal church. They are more lively - lots of singing, dancing and intense worship, plus they are a bit more indigenous and are more African. Many of the big denomination churches are still a lot like their European or American counterparts. That’s not necessarily bad, but I really like to see churches that have emerged from the local context.
After lunch, several of us walked to a nearby town to the market. Sunday is market day there. It was really a lot of fun to be at the market along with everybody else. I bought a few nice cloths. They can be used as skirts or made into something else. The last one I didn’t think I was buying (they wanted a little more for it than I had), but all of a sudden I had already bought it. I also bought soap for washing clothes. I bought a little plastic bag full of blue powder soap and a bar of yellow soap too. The yellow soap is what I used in Kenya and it’s nice for rubbing directly onto spots. The yellow soap comes in a long bar (the equivalent of about 5 bars of soap) and they cut it into pieces as needed. I paid about 8 cents for each of them.
Last night I washed a few things and realized that I definitely don’t have my “washing hands” yet. I have a few raw spots on my knuckles as a result. After a while you get used to it though. I can also take my clothes to the laundry on campus, where they are washed and ironed for about 20 cents per item, so I think I’ll do that instead. It adds up after a while, but I’d rather contribute to someone else having a job and spend my time studying Swahili instead. Especially since I know I’ll get plenty of opportunity to wash my clothes by hand in Kenya.
On the way home from the market, I had an interesting conversation with another girl about the difference between different kinds of churches and the purpose of church. I was talking about the importance of coming together and worshiping together, learning from the Bible so that we are changed and become better people. It’s no good going to church if you don’t grow from being there. If you keep going week after week but just stay the same, what’s the point? I was describing my church in Detroit, where people come and they leave differently. We continue to grow and become the people we were created to be. When I got back to the center, afternoon chai was still out and I ended up having the same conversation again with a friend, although this time in Swahili. We talked about how God is strong and able to change us.
I ended up sitting and talking with him and some other friends who are here for the development course for an hour and half talking about development ALL IN SWAHILI!! At one point, I asked if I could say something in English instead and one of the guys told me no. I had to try in Swahili because he knew I could. Well, I was able to figure out how to say what I wanted in a different way and continue in Swahili. It was a really good conversation about what good development is and some of the roots of inequality, both in specific places (like Detroit) and globally (like between Europe/America and Africa). It felt so good to be able to express my beliefs about it and to learn from others. At one point, I was trying to explain how I have a hard time saying that someday I might come back to do development work here in East Africa because it implies that there are problems here that I can help with. Although I definitely don’t mean it this way, it can sound like saying that the people who are here already aren’t able to do it themselves and that there is work here for me to do. So I asked how it sounds to them when I say that I would want to come here to do development work. Knowing me, they know that I wouldn’t come thinking that I have all the answers, but instead would come wanting to learn together and walk together. For me, this is just a place that I love and a place where I can help. No matter where I go, I will do the same things. Whether I am in Detroit, Kenya or Tanzania, my desire is to give of myself so that others may live and to work for justice.
I talked to Dave for about an hour and half yesterday. It was really nice to be able to talk to him and to hear his voice. There’s probably not that much that we said that couldn’t be said in an email, but it was just nice to have a conversation back and forth rather than one way paragraphs back and forth. It seems a little funny that we’re both doing pretty well. I missed him a lot on the way here, but I’ve really been okay since then. Talking last night, though, we realized that this is what we (and lots of other people) have been praying for - for strength through the time that we are apart. I know it’s only been 10 days so far, but God has been very faithful through those 10 days! Keep praying for us please as we have a long time yet to go!
Please pray too for the family of Doris Topping. I worked with her at the Garden Project last year in Lansing. She found out about 6 weeks ago that she had advanced cancer and I just found out that she died early Friday morning.
I love you all and hope you are well.