By Rob Schadt, Africa Exchange Project
As we venture into a new year for the Africa Exchange Project, I felt it would be a good idea to reflect on the year past and, with that perspective, look forward to our year ahead. We met many challenges this year as our legacy continues to grow. It is likely that your connection to this work is as gratifying for you as it is appreciated by them.
Personally, it has been a very satisfying year in my relationship with Tanzania. I was able to make two trips into Pomerini, the first in March to help lay some groundwork for the BU School of Public Health research team visit. In Iringa, I spent time with our friend Zachariah, from the Compassion Program at the Kihesa Church, and with Aisha, the child whom we support, and came to better know the family providing her a loving home and a brighter future.
I returned in late October to meet with the Pomerini Water Commission working to sustain the wells and help clarify the need for accountability by the village for its own health and wellbeing. I spent time in the kindergarten, the secondary school, and the medical dispensary. I observed repairs to a broken well, talked with village elders, and had my heart filled to overflowing by the staff and kids at Upendo Mmoja, the newly formed vocational school in the village. This year, we have provided direct support in all these areas, and our presence is felt ever so strongly by children and adults alike in every one of these settings.
Also, I spent time with Shadrack Nyaulingo, Headmaster of the Secondary School, and his family and with Hawa Sanga, physician with the dispensary in Pomerini. What wonderfully positive and dedicated people! They are so grateful for the support we provide their community and even more thankful for the opportunity to visit with us to support their work and deepen these relationships. Plans to bring them over for two exciting weeks in May are well underway. It is awe-inspiring to see the many dimensions of our work: education, health, and friendship operating as part of an interconnected web.
I feel exceedingly fortunate that God has placed me in Tanzania and I feel the Spirit at work with each encounter. I marvel at the warmth of their welcome and their ability to place their relationships above their material limits and challenges. Still, I feel we have so much to learn from these people. I have had too many moments (and too many pictures) to share to convey how deeply touched I am by these people, but I will share one observation.
The image at the top of this page shows a gospel meeting that took place throughout the week of my most recent visit. Traveling ministries like this visit rural villages, set up a stage and spread the Christian message through word and music. It is reminiscent of a much earlier time in US history. At times, the crowd grew to several hundred people. I was always the only white person there, and seldom did I know anyone else. Yet, I felt totally safe and respected in that setting. I wasn’t really drawn so much to the message being preached from the stage. However, I felt accepted and part of the community in a very tangible way.
Can we bring strangers into our midst to create a similar feeling?
Can we greet them as I was greeted walking the dirt roads of the village?
We give money and gifts to support our child Aisha, but what can we learn from this small child and her situation?
What do we receive from her?
What do we give beyond our time, energy, and financial support?
What do we hope to receive?
What will 2017 bring our Africa Exchange Project?