06 April 2015

who's the missioner here?

A few mornings ago, I woke up to my alarm at 6:10AM. I stumbled to the dresser to wrap a kanga around my waist and tripped putting on my shoes to get out the door. Every morning around 6:15AM, either Michael or myself goes outside to say good-bye to our guard, Faraja. 

faraja's domain.

As soon as I walked out the door that morning, I saw Faraja. “How was the night?” I asked him. “It’s a blessing!” he said in reply. I thought to myself, “What the heck is he talking about?”

I rubbed my eyes wearily. “What’s the blessing?” I asked him.

“The rain! It’s a blessing from God!” he exclaimed.

It’s been uncannily dry in Mwanza this year. Typically, the long rain season has started at the very beginning of March, like clockwork, but recently, the rains have taken their sweet time getting here. For 80% of Tanzanians, this is a huge problem, as they make up the agricultural sector of the economy. No rain means no food and so, we’ve watched as week by week, we go to buy our produce and see the prices quickly escalate.

storm's a brewin'.

The last time I went to the market to buy some carrots, my usual vendor even apologized. “Sorry, the carrots these days are so small.” “Why is that?” I asked him. “No rain,” he replied. “We’ve been forced to get them from Kenya.”

So you can imagine, when the rains did start up about a week ago, people were pretty relieved.

What I’ve been thinking about most, though, is not the arrival of the rain itself, but Faraja’s reaction to it.

Faraja works for us full-time as our night guard, and has a part-time gig during the day chopping up fish for the local fish factory. While we pay him a better salary than what he used to receive, he and his family still exist in the poor working class in Tanzania. Faraja and his wife have very little education so moving up the economic ladder will likely prove very difficult, if not impossible, for them.

You’d think he would have every reason to complain about life but, I kid you not, he is almost always one of the most upbeat people I know. Every time I speak with him, he’s talking about all of the simple blessings in life - rain, safety, good health - and how much he believes God helps us (Mungu ananisaidia..."God is helping me.") I used to write it off as just something he said but after over nine months of seeing the guy every day, I’m convinced it’s something he believes on a deep level.

And honestly, I see this in a lot of Tanzanians. Most of the time, Tanzanians I know are positive and smiling, even when I later learn that someone in their family is really sick or that financially, they’re not well off. And when something good happens, something that wouldn’t even merit a second glance from me, they’re the first to attribute it to God.

smiling starts at a young age for michael, the child of one of our lulu facilitators.

I have heard from some long-serving missioners here that this kind of attitude can sometimes act as a mask, that people really are worried, alone and afraid. Due to the societal norm of putting on a good face and maintaining relationships, Tanzanians fear putting the real truth out there.

While I know that this is true for some, it’s not true for all, especially Faraja. He’s just a positive dude and yeah, I’ll say it, it’s been a positive force in my life. My short conversations with him have often given me pause, made me step back and look at all of the good things that I often don’t even notice.

When we’re driving down the road, Michael will often say “life is just so hard here” in reference to the countless Tanzanians lugging bags of produce and goods on their heads and their backs, trying to literally put food on the table for that one day. Yet in the midst of it, their smiles and happiness at seeing one another serves as an inspiration to me, a reminder to see the good in everyday life.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! I find it so easy to question God about bad things that happen and not credit Him for the good things. Sort of like the crazy driver in traffic analogy - you see that one crazy driver risking people's lives and it makes you angry, but you forget to notice that 95% of the cars are driving in an orderly manner, a sign of God's grace in the world.

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