I Will Give You the Treasures of Darkness (Tanzania Part V)

Posted on January 3, 2012

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Morning in Mwanza

I continued moving forward with the pre-work I needed to accomplish prior to leaving for Africa and watched in amazement as the ‘dead vision’ was being continually resurrected. Excuse after excuse to not go, were being knocked out one by one. Necessary funds came in. My passport arrived in time. The airfare to Africa which had jumped up significantly causing me to doubt going on the mission trip, suddenly took a share dive I was able to secure passage for even less cost than my travel companion paid for booking early. The curriculum which still confounded me was beginning to take shape as I had established an outline and framework to build on. I was asked to preparing training on the qualities and principles of Godly leadership.

As a teacher, I had become aware of a key principle of learning and that was that there is no better way for one to learn something deeply, than to be asked to teach on it. God must have a keen sense of humor (or irony) in asking me to speak to others about Kingdom Leadership. Me, the once very visible, outspoken and prolific server, now relegated to years of inactive service. I felt very much like a first stringer in the majors now demoted to the practice squad or to their minor league team, while I was re-habbing my injuries. Perhaps analogy was not so far from the truth.

The overall ambiguity of the trip, which was disconcerting to me, began to lessen as I was provided a day-to-day schedule that my travel companion had worked out for our time in Africa. Foolish me though, I had also forgotten that our plans are not God’s plan and the plans that we so carefully make, may be changed with little to no notice; but I was comforted in my ignorance, believing that I now knew what was going to be expected of me on any given day of the trip.

I should call out the fact that I have historically waited until the last-minute to pack for any trip, be it a couple of days of camping, leaving for 9 months of boot camp, a trip to the in-laws or a mission trip. I have gotten smarter, as I now prepare a list of items and tasks that must be acquired or completed prior to leaving. This is my way of coping with the chaos of last-minute packing jobs. Experience, frequently uncomfortable, has taught me to check off items on the list prior to any trip, as I have found myself in Stockholm, Sweden on business before I realized that I had not packed any underwear. This was my first stop of several countries, I would be traveling to.

Houses built into the rocks

My final days of preparation included, several trips to stores to secure small gifts for my host family and translator, some proper clothing (it was 34 degrees in Seattle, but 80 degrees in Mwanza), a sturdy pair of shoes, bug spray, baby wipes, baby powder (I was advised to bring some with me, though I was not a normal consumer of baby powder), etc. I also spent as much time in prayer and reflection as I could, as I was preparing myself mentally and spiritually, as well as continuing to work on the content for my training sessions and a sermon which I was asked to give while there. The last thing I did was run around trying to convert my US currency into mint condition $50’s and $100’s which were issued in 2009 or later. Apparently, due to the prolific amount of counterfeit US currency, many places do not accept anything else OR if they do, they offer a much lower conversion rate. Ah, just another one of the learning experiences in store for me.

The big day finally arrived for me to leave. It was a bit sad, as when my ride showed up to take me to the airport, my house was empty. There was no one to say goodbye, as my kids were in school and my wife was already at work. They had made me feel special prior to that but it was strange leaving an empty house. I remember closing the door, knowing that I had no key with me to open it again. It was a strange feeling. The adventure was beginning at last.

I will not bore you with descriptions of airports and multiple security screenings, the removing of shoes and belt, the hurry up and wait mentality which is the modern travel experience, the cramped seating, questionable airline food items and the general mental fatigue of remaining seated and confined within a space smaller than a coffin for a 9-10 hour flight. My plans to leverage the roughly 27 hours in some meaningful way were quickly dashed as I found that I could not stay focused on any task for any significant length of time.

Small African Homestead

I traveled from Seattle to Amsterdam. A couple of years back; I had the honor of being in a local theatre production of ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’. I played the part of Mr. Hermann van Daan. He was the one who stole bread while the others in the attic were asleep. The thought of being in Amsterdam but not be able to leave the airport and see the Anne Frank Museum, etc. was painful, but at least I had the fun of racing through Amsterdam Airport Schiphol from my arrival gate to the departure gate of my connected flight to Nairobi, Kenya. I had the opportunity to see some of the airport.

Six years ago, I traveled to Ethiopia for two weeks. It was an amazing experience. On the way, the plane stopped in Egypt to refuel. Ever since I was in 6th grade and my mom exposed me to the King Tut exhibit, I was fascinated with all things Egyptian. I must have done 4-5 reports on Ancient Egypt through middle school and high school, covering Egyptian history, the pyramids, sphinx, political structure, religious beliefs, etc. There I was in Egypt, but unable to even leave the plane. At least in Amsterdam, I was able to see their airport.

The flight to Nairobi was similarly long. I was a bit nervous about landing in Kenya. I had little familiarity or experience with Visas, going through customs, etc. We were going to be spending the night at a small hotel in Nairobi before catching a puddle jumper to Mwanza the next day. This meant that we would need to secure our checked in bags, find the hotel driver, stay at the hotel and in the morning, re-check in our bags, going through all the usually screening and line waiting, before boarding the next connecting flight.

I was fatigued when we departed the plane, but was thankful to be able to move around again. The airport was hot and muggy; my clothes felt like they weighed 20 lbs more than when I originally put them on. We waited in line for 30 minutes or so to secure our travel visas before proceeding to recover our bags. I struggle for the right words to describe the experiences that awaited us at the baggage claim area. In the midst of that madness, one thought resonated in my mind. “Welcome to Africa!” My travel wasn’t over, but I had made it here. From here on out, I was entering uncharted waters; this was all new territory, new experiences, new challenges and I was going to be depending a lot upon my travel companion for direction, but I was willing and available and open to the experience.

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