08 May 2017

farewell from tanzania with love!

This is our last blog post from Tanzania. Whoa. Just need to let that sink in for a moment.

After 3.5 years, it is time for us to get on a jet plane and traverse the nearly 8,000 miles back to the United States. Our time living and working as Maryknoll Lay Missioners in East Africa has been the most formative of our lives. No joke. Physically, mentally, spiritually...we are not the same people who crossed the ocean in those early days of 2014. And we think that is a good thing (parasites and extreme weight loss aside). From the beginning our goal was to immerse ourselves in the reality of life as Jesus did, and we want to continue to live with that approach wherever we may go.

This blog has touched on about 1% of our experiences in Tanzania. If we tried to fill you in on the other 99% we might just all collectively freak out. Instead, we leave you with some parting thoughts from the country we have been so fortunate to call home these past few years.

We are coming back with a new human.

So we now have a child. That seems worth mentioning. Our daughter, Fiona, will always call East Africa her birthplace, which forever connects us with this land and its people. It also gives us good reason to return. That makes us happy. We will teach Fiona the Swahili language to keep us all connected to Tanzania, and of course so we can have secret conversations in front of other people. 

Tanzania has really changed us...for good.

Fun fact: Ashley and I dressed up as Glinda and Elphaba for Halloween one year in college. You know, the characters from Wicked? Anyway, in one of the songs from this musical these characters reflect, "Who can say if I've been changed for the better, but because I knew you I have been changed for good." They go on to conclude, "I do believe I have been changed for the better." This is more or less how we are feeling. Tanzania has forever changed us. No doubt. There are times when I pondered if it was for the better or the worse. We grappled with a lot while living here. We confronted our own abyss. It wasn't pretty. But ultimately I know we have been changed for the better. Our coworkers and the young women in our ministries at Education for Better Living Organization (EBLI) and LULU Project have meant the world to us, and we carry their warmth, hospitality, kindness, and depth of meaning in our hearts as we prepare to leave. 

Commit to a spiritual practice or risk being consumed by the shaghala baghala monster.

Tanzanians taught us to - quite literally - have faith. In this part of the world, life is truly lived as one act of faith to another. Conversations with neighbors, coworkers, those in our ministries and our night guard constantly reveal their depth of faith - be it Christian, Muslim, Hindu, etc. "God is with me." "God will protect and watch over us." "God is helping me." "If God wishes it will be done." These are the messages of faith, hope, and optimism that pour forth from the voices of those who have all the reason in the world to despair. In order for us to nourish our own spiritual health, we learned the importance and necessity of committing to a regular spiritual practice, that for us consisted of silent meditation, family prayer, spiritual direction, journaling, spirituality nights with reading and conversation, taking a "Sabbath" day each week, and retreating to the "mountain top" for prayer and discernment, yet always returning to the "valley" to engage with everyday life. Without a consistent spiritual practice, we would falll victim the shaghala baghala monster - the utter chaos of everyday life.

Health has been a real struggle.

Some people cope well with life in the tropics, health-wise. We are not those people. As wonderful as life has been in Tanzania, our physical bodies have taken a bit of a beating. I for one have lost 20 pounds since leaving the States, but there were days when my weight was actually 30 pounds less than it was when we first arrived. And I didn't really need to lose weight to begin with. Our battles with ill health not only highlighted the need but also the fundamental human right for access to quality, affordable healthcare that puts the needs of the least fortunate and most vulnerable members of society first

Saying goodbye to Tanzania is incredibly difficult. 

There is a quote often thrown around in Maryknoll circles: "Our job is still to go where we are needed but not wanted and stay until we are wanted but not needed." When we set foot on Tanzanian soil 3.5 years ago, we had no idea what God had in store or how the local community would receive us. There were plenty of occasions in the beginning when we truly felt unwanted and questioned what we had done with our life and if we should just go back. (Not that I want to re-live Craigslist.) But now, several years later, we are overwhelmed with sadness that the hour to depart has finally arrived. And even more shocking is how the Tanzanians in our lives are shedding the same tears of sadness. We will greatly miss our friends, the simple way of life, and the supreme cultural importance of relationships and hospitality. If you are a praying person, we kindly request your prayers during this difficult transition.  

We go forth with the spirit of Maryknoll.

But of course this is not the end of our "mission." We go ahead embracing the charism of Maryknoll ever seeking to live a mission driven life. This means intentionally going out to the edges of society, to the most vulnerable and marginalized among us. The Gospels highlight the compassion that Jesus has for the suffering, and as Pope Francis points out, that "compassion leads Jesus to concrete action: he reinstates the marginalized!" This is what we will do, wherever we may live. Every community has its center and its edges. We are edge people, so you'll know where to find us. 

Mungu awabariki Watanzania, hasa wale ambao tunawafahamu. 
Tuko kwa mbali kimwili, lakini kwa karibu kiroho.

God bless Tanzanians, especially those that we know. 
We may be apart physically, but spiritually we are close.


  1. I have been reading your blog from Northern Alberta in Western Canada ever since I came back from a two month trip to a village down the highway from Mwanza (spring 2014). I have so appreciated your thoughts and reflections on living cross culturally with the mission of Christ foremost in your minds. Blessings as you transition back to the United States and press into your next calling. Tara Ma

    1. That's great to hear and thanks for being a faithful reader!

  2. I have enjoyed your blog since I stumbled onto it. Having been born in Mwanza, now living in North America 20 years, I appreciate for what your family has done for my city. Mungu awabariki.

    1. Thanks for following our blog. We have been back in the U.S. now for a few months and very much miss Tanzania and its people. Mungu akubariki!

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