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Kids Corner: A few highlights from these last months!

It has been a really busy and crazy few months since I last posted. I know that I am not good with keeping up on this blog…but I am going to at least put some pictures up with brief captions of some of the kids activities as I know that is what some people really like to see!

While Luke and I both stay busy with our various ministry roles, I am very blessed to also be able to focus on the kids!

2 weeks ago we celebrated Pamoja Week at Hopac. “Pamoja” means “together” in Kiswahili.  Pamoja Week at Hopac is a week long celebration of togetherness that consists of dressing up daily, playing games at recess, having extra fun assemblies and concluding the week with the schools FAVORITE DAY OF THE YEAR: International day!

There is no “buy rite” or costume store here…so you guessed it, all these outfits were made completely from scratch. I went to the market and dug through piles of used clothes and then cut, sewed, glued, and pieced together each costume!

Day 1: Career Day (Adi: Robber, Jude: Mad scientist, Ezra: FBI Agent)

*I am not so sure the Primary School Student Council President as a professional robber was a good idea…but hey, it was fun!

Oh yes, I forgot to mention…Adi and two of her classmates ran together for Student Council in the month of September. There were 6 other teams running, consisting of a President, Vice president and Treasurer. Adi, Claire and Marcus put in SO much time making over 120 rainbow loom pencil grips on pencils for every student in primary. After campaigning for a week (posters, speeches, etc), the primary students voted. It was with great excitement that Adi’s team won and are the student council leaders at HOPAC.

Day 2: Sports Day (Adi: Gymnast, Jude: Basketball player, Ezra: Hurdler)

Day 3: Ancient Day (Adi: Greek princess, Ezra: Ancient Roman soldier, Jude: ancient samurai ninja)

Day 4: Hawaiian/Beach Day (Adi: Ukulele playing pineapple, Ezra: Scuba diver, Jude: Beach bum skater)


Day 5: International Day

International day at HOPAC is a blast. It begins with a parade of the 39 countries our school represents , followed by performances, decorated and interactive country information rooms, and a ton of AMAZING food from each country.

We even represented a little island USA with a hula dance.

The evening of International day, Adi and her sweet friend Claire celebrated their 11th birthday together. We had 12 girls for a sleepover! There was plenty of singing, dancing, laughing, craft making and eating!

The next day, while Luke went into the city for the Youth in Dar young leaders celebration, the kids and I wipped together a few more costumes and headed over to some friends house for a Trunk or Treat Hoopla.

Going back a month…
We were SO blessed to have my parents visit us the first 2 weeks of October. It was great to have them be a part of the ministries we are involved in and awesome to do life with them for a few weeks. We even got away for a little 2 day safari!

We were right under this leopard…and I about lost it.  This is not a zoo. These are wild animals and we were in an open car. Same with the lions in the left bottom corner above. At any moment they could pounce us….

Last week we celebrated Thanksgiving with some other Americans here in Dar. It is quite the task to make everything from scratch…(and often having to adjust to using what we can get here)…but it was SO good and SO worth it! We even watched an American football game and some of the Macy’s Day parade.

A few from the last 2 week course of Work for a Living. 

…and the Business for a Living workshop this last week. I (Amber) taught about using natural resources that can be found for free/cheap here in Tanzania (coconut shells, driftwood, etc)  to create products to sell to provide income for themselves. This business course is woven together with worldview teaching and the gospel presentation. 

Some sweet friends from mommies group gave me a little surprise birthday party! THANK YOU also to so so many of you who messaged me, texted me or wrote on my Facebook wall for my birthday on Wednesday. It was a great day with bible study, mommies group, teaching gymnastics, getting pulled over by the police and almost having to go to the Police station (oops), and a lovely dinner made by Luke and the kids!

Okay, that is all for now! I will update some more after Christmas!

Let’s continue our coffee date, shall we?

Starting off with a few random pictures from the last two months.

  1. When it rains in Dar neighbors come over this way.
  2. When moving in Dar, you SHOVE everything in every crack of the moving truck.
  3. When going to school for crazy hair day, you go all out.

We were so blessed to go to Zanzibar with Luke’s parents for a few days. So worth the hour ferry ride!

The sunrises do not disappoint. 

How have you been able to use photography while living in Dar? 

When we moved here, I didn’t know if my love for photography would be used or if photography would simply be something of my past. I prayed that I would be obedient to the Lord with my camera and that I would use it how He wanted me to, when He wanted me to.

I am so grateful to say that the Lord has given me many opportunities to partner with ministries here in Dar to document what the Lord is doing in and through those ministries. I (and Luke) have been able to continue our love for teaching photography as well as bless other missionary families with prayer card photos before leaving for furlough.

It is also a joy to document life here in Tanzania through the lens. Although everywhere you look there is brokenness, poverty and the result of sin, there is also beauty and redemption and hope.

A few organizations I have been blessed to partner with in both relationship building, discipleship and using my photography passion are:
Sifa Threads: www.sifathreads.com,

Matila Organics: https://matila.co.tz

Kituo cha Baba Oreste Bunju (Center for disabled children) 

Is there someplace your family goes when you really just miss the states?

Not really. We don’t say “hey, we miss family and friends back home, so lets go to…” However, because we tend to get drained when we are feeling homesick or culture stressed, we usually want to REST.  This might look like relaxing at home while watching a movie and eating something “familiar” (salami, Mexican food, spam tacos), or heading to the peninsula where we can experience “a bit” more western influence and order something in English. 🙂

How do you feel supported emotionally? Have you made any great friends?

This has been a journey, but yes, I do feel very supported emotionally. The first 6 months were tough in this area.  For the first time in my life I felt like I didn’t have people to open up to (well, my hubby of course). It was difficult to communicate with people back in the states. Difficult to share my emotions and struggles as they were just SOOO different than what I felt anyone could really understand. I was making friends here but realized that it just takes a lot of time to build friendships that are deep (seeing that I lived in Modesto for 95% of my life). Add language and culture barriers/differences to the mix, along with my own rollercoaster emotions and it made for a whole lot of praying and pleading and just waiting.

I praise the Lord that He has answered my/your prayers in this area. I have some amazing Tanzanian (and Kenyan, South African, Zimbabwean, Botswanan) friends and some amazing missionary friends from across the world. I have friends in the states who faithfully text and pray and call (THANK YOU. YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW MUCH THAT HAS BLESSED ME). I have teammates that support me spiritually and emotionally. I have 2 mentors (who live in the States) who I skype with each month that I can share the good, the bad and the ugly with. God has blessed me indeed with RICH friendships and I am thankful. For all of you praying specifically for me in this area, your prayers continue to be answered! Thank you.

What is your food/shopping situation like? 

We have two main grocery stores that we shop at and two main fruit dukas (street stands) that we buy fruits and veggies from. Local products are cheap. (Example: A loaf of bread is about 75 cents, a head of lettuce is 50 cents and a beautiful pineapple a dollar (in season). So, we can get LOTS of fresh produce for a great price. We have to wash everything in vinegar and use it quickly as things go bad fast.

However, anything imported is EXPENSIVE. For instance, a bag of Fritos is $12, a can of spam is $10, a box of cereal $10, a jar of spaghetti sauce $8 and so on.  Fast food barely exists…although Pizza Hut, Subway and KFC are becoming very popular for those who can afford it.

What does ministry look like for you (Amber)?

It looks like a lot of intentional living among women that God has put in my life. When we moved here, I wasn’t sure if I would have any specific ministry roles as my main focus is to be mom/support for Luke. I am so thankful to be able to do those roles, but I am also very thankful that the Lord has allowed me to be a part of what He is doing in many woman’s and young girls lives.

A few of these are…

Praying with and encouraging Tanzanian women who are growing in their faith and becoming more missional for Dar es Salaam.

Discipleship through study/praying/seeking Christ together

Mommies outreach weekly play date

Planning outreach events such as Craft and Creation: (Similar to  a Make Stuff Day at Redeemer, but Tanzanian style) as well as planning and implementing once a month women’s teas for the building up of believers and evangelization of non believers. I have had the opportunity to teach, share my testimony, and lead hospitality/games. The Lord is at work in these and it is exciting to see lives truly changed as woman come to understand the deep love of our Lord and Savior.

Leading a Gospel Centered marriage small group on Wednesday nights.

Teaching the Blaze Kids program at God’s Tribe as well as run the special productions for God’s Tribe kids ministries.

Teaching dance and acrobatics to a group of (17) third, fourth and fifth grade girls at HOPAC.

Will you please be praying for me and with me as I seek to faithfully serve and disciple the women that God has placed in my life and that there will be an awakening of hearts within these different settings. Also, that I will put Luke and my children first and that they will grow in their love for Jesus and others. 

What are some things that go through your mind or come out of your mouth continually?

  1. “Thank you Jesus” after every time I go out and return home safely.
  2. “Wow, I live here. This is my life. How did we get here?” Usually I say this when driving through chaotic street scenes. You would think after 15 months I would stop saying that. Maybe one day!
  3. “Oh my goodness, look at that kids…” (Referring to something totally crazy out the window. Like: the man that walks on stilts, the things that people carry on their heads, the animals strapped to motorcycles, the things being sold together in a store.)
  4. That toddler is way too small to be out walking alone. (Daily as little kids walk to school along the crazy traffic packed streets of Dar.)
  5. Ugh, can you not pick your nose and look at it right before you serve me food??? (Culturally, it is TOTALLY NORMAL and OK to dig in your nose in public.)
  6. Yes, I guess you may cut in front of me in line. (Again, totally normal for people to cut in line and plop their items down at the check out right in front of you.)
  7. The power is off…or there is a leak here…something doesn’t work over there…the the ants have attacked…what is that smell???….. and the list goes on! We have learned to “go with the flow…”
  8. “Nimechoka” (I have tiredness)…usually stated every late afternoon. Along with “Is the coffee ready?”
  9. “Hmmm…I feel really silly right now. I have no idea what to do in this situation. Lord, please just get me through it.” -daily
  10. WOW, GOD, you blow my socks off. You are at work here. Your hand is not too short to save. You are actively pursuing a people for yourself. You are opening doors and closing doors. You are teaching me a deep trust in you. You are beckoning me to come and abide in you and be filled with you and be content in you. Although sin and death are everywhere, your love is GREAT and your purposes are GOOD.

And a few more random pictures…

 

 

Coffee date?

Many of you who know me well know how much I love building relationships face to face over a really good cup of coffee. Some of my favorite memories are sitting across the table from a friend, or even a stranger, conversing with each other about life, love, family and faith.

The good and the bad have always been easy to share in person.  So it hasn’t been a huge surprise to me that I have struggled this last year to communicate with friends and family back in the states (I am sorry). As our world was shaken up in many ways, I have wrestled with how to share open and honestly about our new reality through written word.

When I communicated this struggle to a friend, she encouraged me to pretend that I was sitting across the table from you all with coffee in hand (cold brew here as it is 95 degrees!) and jazz music playing in the background. I decided that I would give it a shot!

Thank you for all the questions you asked on our facebook page last month. It has helped me to know what kind of things you wonder about as we do life here in Tanzania.

I will break all the questions you asked up into a couple of posts!

What is a language victory and/or struggle that you have experienced?

Language learning is TOUGH. So hard that the best advice I’ve read is: “Anyone who wants to learn a language well must have a solid theology of suffering.”  Every single day there are struggles. It is a humbling process that requires patience, humility and perseverance. Lots and lots of perseverance!

My journey of studying Swahili has been one of the biggest challenges for me this last year. My own expectations of how fast I think I should be learning, my perfectionism to want to know before I speak, and the crazy amount of times I just feel totally and completely incompetent. Relationships that I want to build and go deeper in but struggle to because of the language barrier, and the list goes on. Yes, I can make conversation and understand dialogue when I know the context. But then I will hear a conversation or someone will talk to me about something out of context and I am completely clueless.

Defeat and discouragement have taken over many times yet the Lord continues to give me the strength to press on and take it one day at a time.  The victories come when I humble myself, become like a child (in spirit), and allow the Lord to use me exactly where He has me. Broken Swahili and all!

What do you love about Tanzania (Love and/or Love to do!)?

I decided that it would be fun to include my family in this one…

Luke: I love experiencing new culture (the foods/the smells/the people), learning how people live and think, developing relationships with people who have a completely different background than me, worshiping and praying with brothers and sisters in Christ, seeing the ocean everyday, fresh coconut water from the guys on the bikes, eating outside year round, balmy ocean breezes in the morning, side of the road vegetable and fruit shopping, encouraging young Tanzanian’s in business ideas and strategies.

Amber: I love the relationships I am building with people. Monday nights praying with Tanzanian sisters for our city. Wednesday morning mommies group.  I love watching children walking home from school, the bright colorful dresses that women wear, the view of the ocean, the colorful pots and nurseries alongside of the road, when it rains (especially if I don’t have to drive in it), the bold colors of the sunrise, understanding and experiencing new cultures, our local church, teaching Sunday school, the indian food, and our children’s amazing school HOPAC!

Adi (10): My friends are my favorite thing about Tanzania. I also love the food (kuku=chicken, Pilau=traditional rice, and chips mayai=eggs and fries mixed), my school (HOPAC), our church (God’s Tribe), the Indian ocean, color all around, my neighbors dog “Cookie” and that my mom teaches gymnastics at my school.

Jude (7): My favorite thing about Tanzania is exploring, playing in the ocean, my friends at school, playing football (soccer), eating lots of food, riding my longboard and the Masai men.

Ezra (5): My favorite thing is to play with friends at school and to play with friends on our compound. I like to explore for bugs and snakes, play football, ride my bike, watch movies, and play on the beach.

Noises that are new:

All day long the goats and cows roam next to our house. The goats sound like a seriously injured person and I am constantly asking Luke if that is a person or an animal.

The call to prayer 5 times a day. It is often the first thing we hear in the morning and the last thing we hear before going to bed.

Dinosaur like birds that make the craziest noises in the evening. I imagine it is what the pterodactyl sounded like.

Coconuts falling! Coconuts and/or the branches fall daily and they make a loud crash on the concrete. We are always reminding the kids not to play under the coconut trees that line our property. Sadly, a few weeks ago I was hit by a 12 foot coconut branch that fell 30 feet from the sky. Praise the Lord I blocked my head and ducked.

About once a week the Masai men that reside behind our house do their tribal dancing, jumping, and shouting ceremony. It is pretty beautiful to watch and to listen to. (You can read about the Masai and their jumping dance HERE.)

Friday and Saturday nights the nightclubs are hopping. The music bumping all across the city until the wee hours of the morning.

The gun range down the street from our house. There can be weeks at a time that it sounds like a battle zone where we live. This week they are taking a break and we are enjoying the quiet!

Children chanting and singing in the morning at the government school down the street.

Termites that eat the wood in our walls. The scraping sound is so loud that you could not imaging it coming from such a small creature.

What does your house look like? (pictures?)

God made me to really love color and design. I love to create new from old and challenge myself with DIY ideas. So when we first arrived and started looking for a house to rent, I was ready to take on the challenge of beginning completely from scratch. After 4 weeks of looking, we found Oasis Villas.  18 units in a small compound…Guards and gardeners included….Relationships right outside of our door (which is a HUGE blessing as most houses are behind tall walls)…some pavement for the kids to ride bikes on…Walking distance to dukas (small stand shops), close enough to the kids school, and under budget.  This home has been a blessing to us and we have loved to be a blessing to others in and through it. (A friend recently asked me, so I want to clarify that we are the only American family that lives in the compound. They are mostly Tanzanians but some other Africans as well)

 1. Front door. 2. Entry way. 3. Back porch (with shared lawn areas)  4. Kitchen (water filter system on the floor)
1. Our room 2. Adi’s room 3. Boys room (all with nets to keep out those malaria infecting mosquitos.)

1. This is the family room/dining area combined. Just one large room.

What is it like to drive in Dar?

Dar traffic is insane.  People and animals in the road, a sudden lack of road, water covering the road, suicide lanes, giant concrete blocks placed randomly in the road, motorcycles that zig zag through traffic and in between tight spaces, giant big rigs called “bulldozers” that do not and will not stop for you because they are bigger than you, free-for-all intersections, ALL WHILE DRIVING ON THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE CAR AND STREET.

There ARE rules of the road but it seems that they can change at any moment. Monday through Saturday it can take either 30 minutes to go 10 miles or it can take 2 hours to go 10 miles. Sundays are nice travel days as the traffic in the city gets much lighter. The police move around from intersection to intersection controlling traffic, so you must never fully trust what the light says because there might be a police man waving cars the other way. When waiting in traffic, people walk around selling things (dishtowels, plates, toys, mats, food, clothes, and SO much more) and young street boys wash your windows for next to nothing. A city of 5 million people with really poor infrastructure….that is where we live.

I pray when I leave my driveway and I thank the Lord when I return safely each and every single time I go out. To see a fun commute to the kids school one morning last week, check THIS out!)

What foods do I miss the most?

(With foods like this, why would I miss anything in America????)

(Ben Miller and I eating fried squid that we just watched get prepared on the dirty concrete slab of the fish market. Good thing the fire killed off any “grosseness” that the flies left on it!

But really, I do miss...

Baskin Robbins cappuccino blast.

A good iced coffee (from Preservation)

Thai food

A good taqueria/Taco trucks

Yogurt Mill (Salted caramel with yogurt chips)

*****

Thanks for reading! On my next post…

What does ministry look like for you? How have you used your photography? Where do you go when you miss the states? How do you feel supported emotionally? Have you made any great friends? What is God teaching you about himself?

And one last picture of the kids…because they are just too cute on school dress up days! 

Bucket list Item #98: Surgery in Tanzania

 

Can you imagine having surgery in Tanzania? Well, me neither! That is until 2 weeks ago when I found myself doing just that.

My scheduled surgery time was 10:00 a.m, with a check in time of 9:30 a.m. We arrived at the local hospital and took our seat among many brightly dressed Tanzanians. Pregnant women slowly walked up and down the hall expectant to deliver their babies. Individuals busy on their phones letting family members know of a relative’s health. Nurses leisurely checking in patients, the occasional child screaming from a needle and the rap videos silently filling the t.v screen in front of us.  All accompanied by water droplets falling from the ceiling into a bowl from the air conditioner and the occasional power outage that left the hospital dark for many seconds before the generator kicked in.

It was all intriguing at first. But 5 and a half hours later when I was still remaining in that same seat my patience began to grow thin and my adrenaline to “get this surgery done” was wearing out.

By now our children were needing to be picked up from school and so Luke left my side with a hug and a “Be brave, I love you.” reassurance. Within minutes the surgeon came out for some water and exclaimed “It is time.” (I thought it was going to be “time” at my scheduled 10 a.m. appointment slot. Oh how my western mindset of “time” continues to be tested!) I followed him deep into the long hallway, past the woman still sleeping on the table from her surgery and into the theater room.

I stopped in the entrance and scanned the room. The walls were stark white with just a table in the middle, big lights hovering above, a chair for the surgeon and a side table with masses of surgical tools laid on top. There were two assistants in the room who greeted me by asking if I speak Swahili. “Kidogo,  Ninajifunza Kiswahili. Sema polepole” I replied, in fear that they would instruct me all in fast Swahili. (my reply: “A little, I am learning Swahili. Speak slowly.”)

Immediately, before I fully entered the room, one of the male assistants commanded me to “take off your clothes and then lay down.” My mind instantaneously started spinning and right then and there did I feel ever SO vulnerable. “Lord, I don’t want to do this right now” I cried out in a whisper.

With uneasiness but a bit of courage, I submitted. A man in green whose face was covered with a mask wrapped fabric around my body and another around my head and lead me to the table to lay down.  Big deep breaths Amber, you can do this! With just my eyes peaking out, the surgery began.

The surgeon first lathered my foot in iodine and then quickly jammed a large needle into the crevasse of my second and third toe. OUCH. And then another jab…and another. I prayed that the numbness would arrive before he took the knife to my toe.

Suddenly there was what sounded like a lot of cutting and sawing and tying and stitching and splinting going on. They were speaking Swahili and I was trying so desperately to listen/understand what they were talking about. Twice one of the men walked over to me and started rubbing my cheek. I had no idea what this was about, but he probably was noticing my white hot knuckles and scrunched up face and was attempting to comfort me. Thank you sir!

After about 40 minutes, the surgeon wrapped my toe all up and called it “complete.”

All in one breath he explained to me that infection happens fast and furious here in Dar…to not get it wet for 14 days…to stay off of it and keep it high. And then, just like that that, the surgeon walked out of the room and the assistant commanded me to get off the table. Holding the awkward cloth around me, I slid down from the table and struggled to put clothes back on. I hobbled out the theater door and as I began to hobble down the long hallway, a nurse stopped me with the desire to wipe down my orange stained iodine feet so I didn’t track it throughout the halls.
Let me assure you that I was quite the show struggling down the hospital corridor on one foot all by myself. (No crutches or assistance provided).

When I put things in perspective, I know that I received better care than most people living in this country. I hear stories of individuals waiting 3+ days to even be seen by a nurse, as they lay bleeding to death on the table. I have friends who are sick and hurting but can’t go to the hospital because they have no money to. People who have no hope of healing from their ailments and literally have to stuff their feelings away and watch their sick child die. Some people just abandon their child so they don’t have to watch it happen. It is heartbreaking.

I do not take my ability to walk into a hospital and receive medical help for granted. I am incredibly grateful that I was able to have this surgery done and have been so blessed by your prayers, texts, emails, etc. THANK YOU. It was surreal experience that I will NEVER forget and I praise the Lord for His provision, protection and peace. I had to be brave and He helped me to do it.

Will you please continue to pray for me as I recover these next few weeks? That this surgery will relieve the problems I have had with my toe for the last few years and that I will have full function of my foot when it is all healed. I am trusting in Jesus for healing and thanking Him for hope, peace and courage.

*I wrote this last week and I have since been back to the hospital to get my stitches out and splint off. I wasn’t as graceful this time around. A stuffy and hot 4×10 foot room that had dim lighting combined with a long razor like blade that was searching my toe to pull the stitches threw me into a panic. Suddenly I was freezing cold and buckets of sweat were pouring off of me. I felt such a strong sickness come over me and I began to beg for a fan. I was so desperate to get out of there that I practically ran out of the room while nodding my head that I would come back in a week. I was a hot mess. I can laugh about it now as I Praise the Lord that there has been no infection, the splint is off and I am 4 days away from walking (slowly at first) on my own!The view from my window while resting for the last 14 days!

Merry Christmas!

We pray that you have a very Merry Christmas! 

Celebrate His birth. Proclaim His salvation. Remember His gift of grace. 

Ezra (5), Jude (6), Adalin (10)

We have been posting pictures of family/ministry and the streets of Dar es Salaam HERE.
To read our most recent Newsletter, click HERE.