In June Arthur and I are taking our first trip further afield since we arrived in Dodoma. We are off to Songea for the baptism of our friend John’s little girl. Both Arthur and I have been invited to speak. Arthur will preach at the Sunday service and I will teach some women on the Saturday. This feels like a bit of a gear shift for us. Our preference is to listen and learn before jumping in to ‘doing’.
But one thing we are learning is that sometimes the learning is in the ‘doing’. Just as everyone in town stops to watch this mzungu try to get tie the baby on her back, just as we went to the front of the line at the baby clinic, we won’t be able to fade into the background in Songea either. Relationships are built by being involved in people’s lives. To observe only is to keep people at arm’s length. So we’re going to do the teaching, approaching it as a learning experience. Read more
Jamie the Very Worst Missionary has a knack for the brutally honest. Her recent post Deciphering Missions argues that a lack of accountability in missions results in some missionaries being able to sound spiritual while doing virtually nothing. In her experience,
Every innocuous coffee date with a friend [turned] into ‘discipleship time’. Hours spent circling Facebook were important to ‘support development’ and everyday interactions with grocery store clerks and bank tellers suddenly became meaningful when referred to as ‘intentional relationships’.
Now, this problem isn’t unique to missions — lots of vocational ministry is self-directed, with the potential to sound holy while slacking off. Nor is this a problem which is true of all missionaries or mission organisations (and Jamie’s writing into an American context where missions is something of an industry).
It’s a good thing to have greater transparency in missions and more involvement on the part of supporters. But what exactly is a missionary supposed to be held accountable to? Here are two complexities of missionary ‘work’ and some suggestions. Read more
Our life in Dodoma has got a pretty good rhythm now. For the time being, I mostly know what to expect. We’re feeling pretty well together and not isolated. There’s tiredness, but no shell-shock.
I’m always casting around for new experiences; it’s part of what drives me. I’m always animated by innovation, exploration, and the possibility of discovery. And, after a couple of months living here in Tanzania, Swahili lost its newness — so I automatically started fishing for something new. I continued with my regular practice of navigating trends in Australia and USA. I continued reading a lot, mostly online, most of it funnelled through social media; most of it, in effect, headlines.
‘Your head’s not really in Tanzania,’ noticed Tamie. Read more
Every language has unique idiosyncrasies. One thing about Swahili that seems odd to English speakers is the complexity and breadth you can use when talking about location. Grammatically, there isn’t a simple answer to the question ‘where?’
You use different words to talk about locations that are general (e.g. in town), specific (e.g. at my home) or inside (e.g. in the house). There are several ways to say ‘in’. There are at least 3 distinct constructions you can use to talk about location. What seems like superfluous detail in English is built into the structures of Swahili.
I’m not a linguist, but I feel like language, including language constructions, can carry cultural baggage, if not cultural meaning. I wonder, is there something cultural in this precision about space? Read more
A story from the history of student ministry:
After an hour’s talk, I asked Rollo point blank, ‘Does the SCM put the atoning blood of Jesus Christ central?’ He hesitated, and then said, ‘Well, we acknowledge it, but not necessarily central.’ Dan Dick and I then said that this settled the matter for us in the CICCU. We could never join something that did not maintain the atoning blood of Jesus Christ at its centre; and we parted company. Norman Grubb
It’s part of the history of CICCU when, in 1918, SCM approached them to discuss reunification. This encounter clarified CICCU’s doctrinal emphasis, and has been seen as a key moment behind the foundation of IFES.
It’s the story with which John Stott begins The Cross of Christ, it’s the story that was referred to a number of times during my undergraduate years in my local IFES group, and it’s the story that was part of galvanising an evangelical identity and ministry pathway for me personally.
It was inspiring. It was also a cautionary tale: ‘And look what happened to SCM! They lost the plot!’ Read more
There are still a number of things that remain a mystery to me about Tanzanian parenting. For example, I see students on their way to class with a child on their back – what on earth do they do with the baby/toddler during lectures?
During our intercultural training, we were warned that parenting is one of the areas where people are most likely to become inflexible and judgemental. I’ve said before that I feel that dressing Elliot in ski gear in this climate would be cruel, for example.
But if this collection of mothers around the world is anything to go by, a little bit of cultural humility is called for. So many of these babies are wearing beanies and extra blankets! I might feel justified in my objection but I am still in the total minority on a global scale! Likewise, while not having a pram seems odd coming from my cultural background, for most women in the world, it’s simply normal to tie your baby to your back with a bit of fabric.