In my last post, I mentioned that you can’t separate off St John’s the uni from Dodoma as a town and I want to explore that some more here. There are lots of non-uni people to interact with: the guards at the uni gate; the milk lady; drivers; sellers at the market. Everything in Tanzania is relational – you get to know your potato man and your banana lady.
One of the surprises to my little individualised brain was that coming as a white person, I come with a whole stack of history. Of course, I knew that I couldn’t divorce myself from the mistakes of missionaries in the past, but it still seems unfair that when I’m introduced to people, I don’t start with a clean slate.
One missionary encouraged me to think about how to use this. She suggested going to the same sellers at the market as other missionaries have gone to – continuing the relationship and thus the witness that other missionaries had had.
On the other hand, another missionary discouraged me from going to the same sellers as other missionaries had. She saw it as exclusive or playing favourites and refused to go to sellers whom other missionaries had used.
It’s like being caught between a rock and a hard place. Go to an old seller and be thought of as exclusive. Go to a new seller and hurt the long term relationship established by other missionaries over years. I suspect I’ll do a bit of both: some old relationships, some new ones. But I doubt I’ll strike a good balance.
One of my reflections after studying missiology last semester is that I’m less confident that I could be a missionary now than I was when I went into the course. The whole thing is fraught with difficulty! I feel that even stronger now, having been to Dodoma. I’m becoming more convinced of my own incapacity and more reliant on God’s grace.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.