Uluguru Mountains

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So last Saturday, I went on a exhausting hike up 3/4 of the Uluguru Mountain Range next to Morogoro town. I will update more on the journey upward but for now, pictures will have to suffice.

Uluguru Moutains… from the bottom!

Ndizi na Nasi… Bananas and Pineapples…ALL NATURAL! I had never seen a pineapple still in the ground before. Have you?

Here is a picture from the top. Now you can see the city where I am living!

Next is a shot of a boy looking down at his school where he HIKES down AND up the mountain every day for primary school. I was exhausted doing it once but imagine hiking every day… just for school or to go to the market…

And last but not least… we made it to our scenic point called “Morning Site.” I guess it would be a great sunrise spot (if you started hiking at 3AM!)\

We didn’t make it to there unless noon so I guess it takes all morning to make it to the site???

It was a good day for hiking (all 8 hours of walking) but I sure was glad to find a cold bottle of water to engulf and sit for the sake of sitting. More to come of the journey later!

Amani,

Mathayo

Be an “Other!”

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I think I have an inkling of an idea as to why I’m here in Tanzania now. (Good timing, right?) So, I want to share that with you now. Over the past 2.5 years working in a church in Charlotte, NC (shout out to my MPUMC folks! LOA!!!) I found that I did my best work when working behind the scenes enabling and encouraging others to grow in their lives and faith. And so it is with me here in Morogoro…

I’ll be honest and admit that, from time to time before arriving, I had this dream of being the ULTIMATE teacher and volunteer upon arriving here in Morogoro. I would create fantastic new ideas that would revolutionize the way the English language was taught both in Morogoro and consequently Tanzania. Then when I came down from my cloud, I reminded myself that God wasn’t calling me hear to bring something that wasn’t already there nor was it to perfect something that needed fixing. My calling here is to live WITH the people of Morogoro and to love them as Christ loves the church and seek to help continue God’s work here. Since then my parts have been small; I’m teaching 2 of the 6 grades in just one subject which I’m enjoying thoroughly and it’s working out nicely for the school from what I can see as well. But I knew I could not come charging into the school and start demanding changes and corrections. (From my experience, that doesn’t seem to be how God works either.)

I came across a Scripture from the Gospel of John (in a devotional book through the Methodist church called Discipline 2011… check it out!) that revealed to me a truth in discerning my life’s calling.

It’s John 1:35-42 and it says this:

“The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas.” (which, when translated, is Peter).”

 

I was absolutely floored after reading this. I’m sure I have read this before but something stood out to me this time that I just couldn’t shake. Perhaps you’ve heard of Peter… you know, on you I will build my church Peter… Peter the rock Peter… Peter had quite an influence on the spreading of the Christian faith. But, according to John, look how it started. His brother, excited for what he found, simply went to Simon Peter and said, “You’ve got to come meet this guy Jesus.” Andrew simply went and shared what he had found and that small act made ripples throughout history and continues to do so today.

And that’s why I am here. Yes, God may or may not do something physically or tangibly incredible with my presence here but even if I help one student have a better education or share in the love of God with one congregation at one church service, I count it all completely worth it. To me, doing something is like doing everything. I believe it was Mother Theresa (or Momma T as some affectionately call her) that said something to the effect of that we ought not to be doing “We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” And, call me optimistic or idealistic or whatever, but I believe those small actions with great amounts of love truly add up to something quite incredible in the end.

There’s another “other” guy in the Bible that I have been intrigued by his rather brief mentioning. You might not have heard much about him because he’s only mentioned in Acts 1:21-26. (To my knowledge…) Justus was a nominee to fill Judas Iscariot’s spot when Judas left his position after betraying Jesus. Justus lost in a casting of lots with a man called Matthias. Being that they were the 2 in consideration I’m sure that both were outstanding and devoted followers and genuine in their life and faith to Jesus’ ministry. My question lies with the curiosity as to what happened to Justus after NOT receiving the vacant spot with the 12 Disciples? Did he, with bitter resentment, leave the group or even his faith in Jesus and try something else? Or did he continue with the family still serving with his heart, soul, mind and strength even though he wasn’t in the spotlight? My heart prays that he chose the latter and if so, I’m sure he went on to do great things even if they weren’t noticed or appreciated here. This was a great reminder for me that life just isn’t fair sometimes. But that’s no excuse not to press on loving and serving God and loving and serving my neighbors (all over the world!) Even if things don’t go my way or if something happens I didn’t expect, I don’t want that to change my attitude and my ability to care for those around me as they have cared for me in my time of need. May we all hold strong to the one constant that is in this life, God and remember that we each have our own gifts to share with those around us.

I wanted to share these stories of the “other guys” because they are great reminders that it’s okay to be “other” sometimes and we never know the overall impact of each little action of love or compassion or peace that we share with our fellow brothers and sisters around the world.

 

Go and be other! And may the Love and Peace of God be with you always. -Mathayo

 

Je, ninaweza kumcheza mpira?

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In addition to walking for exercise, I’ve found a group of guys playing mpira (aka football or soccer) and so I made the daring move to inquire about joining them. They graciously accepted my inquiry and actually seemed a little TOO eager about my participation. Of course, the first day I could play was after a long day of rain so the field was over halfway covered in mud and then I quickly realized why they were so giddy about the mzungu (which literally means “traveler” but now just means “random white person.”) They wanted to see how long it would take for me to wipe out and cover myself with mud. But after an hour of very precautious playing, I succeeded in two ways: I scored a goal and I kept my feet on the ground and my face out of the mud! Just before the game finished our team received a penalty kick and they, again curious to see how I’d do, asked me to kick it. Thank goodness the ball wasn’t surrounded by too much mud but I placed a nice ball towards the upper right 90 and secured another point for our team which ended up winning that day. It was a great way to start my soccer here in Morogoro and since then I have played twice more. The field has actually been quite dry since then but playing is still difficult with such an uneven terrain. Not to mention that they have quite the warm-up before a game. We jog about 4-5 laps around the field then proceed to do agilities and stretching exercises for about 45 mentions then play an hour long game. It doesn’t seem that long but in the blazing heat and after a full day at school, it is quite taxing. [This is me updating this blog a few days later.] I had another chance to play today and ventured out there around 5:30pm. We did the normal warm-ups and activities which quite honestly wear me out before the game even starts. I played the No. 9 spot which is a striker/forward position and actually played quite well (much better than the past 2 times playing). I had a few shots throughout the game and some decent passes then, with just 10 minutes or so to go, our team had a corner. I kept whispering to myself, “knee over the ball! Knee over the ball!” And sure enough the kick is placed into the middle of the crowd and it’s blocked by a defender who headed the ball in my direction towards the top of what I imagine would be the 18. As it floated toward me (it felt like slow motion) I kept saying, “knee over the ball! Knee over the ball!” and after the first bounce I ripped a shot with my left leg through the right side of the goal. It felt great to score an actual goal and even better to score it with my non-dominant foot (thanks Jack for the practice!) But yes, mpira here is very competitive and I’m honored to get to play with these guys. At least I be getting into really good shape with them. And the other great thing about playing soccer here is that I have a fan club of some of my students who came out to watch me play which was wonderful. I feel so welcome here but that’s just how they roll in Tanzania. Well, tis all of my soccer stories for now but I’m sure more are to come!

p.s. The title means, “Can I play soccer with y’all?”

p.s.s. Since almost all of the guys watch European football leagues, they sport the colors of their teams like Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United and so on! And also because of watching the European soccer, they use a lot of English soccer lingo on the field which has been beneficial for me.

The Streets May be Opposite Here, but They’re still Two-Way Streets…

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Well after migrating North to Boston yesterday and then heading Eastward to London overnight, I’ve made my way safely into Oxford, England where I begin my international travels. Currently, it’s slightly colder than the South and is MUCH colder than Tanzania will be but nonetheless, I’m excited to be here.

As I flew through the night sky over the Atlantic the tingling sensation of travel flowed through my veins once again. Stepping out into the unknown, filled with hopes and dreams and aspirations…there are few greater feelings for me. Once your bags are packed and you step on that plane, there’s not much else you can do but smile, press forward and make the best out of every situation trusting in God. But we’ve all felt that feeling, right? Uncertain of what will happen next… worried that tomorrow might not happen as we expect. It’s precisely in those moments that I remind myself and now I remind you that God promises to be with us even if things don’t go as planned or make a turn for the worse. And we’ve also been blessed with friends and family and the Church to encourage and support through times such as these.

But it’s a two way street!


One of the most challenging things for me is to ask for help or support when I need it and I bet it’s not too easy for some of you either. I think we owe it to our friends and family and even our church to be honest with them and share with them when life is rough so they can do their faithful part in supporting and caring for you and me. It’s quite comical that everywhere I look I’m seeing messages thrown into my face about self-preservation and how I should be strong enough on my own to climb up life’s ladder all by myself but when you look through the Scriptures and when you look at Jesus’ life, what do you see? Do you see that kind of independence forming the love that God wants in this world and in our lives? When I read the Scriptures I see putting God first and loving God with our heart, soul, mind and strength and then loving our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:28-31); I see considering the interest of others better than our own (Philippians 2:3-4); I see spurring one another on and encouraging them more and more each day (Hebrews 10:24-25); and I see that two are better than one… and a cord of three strands is not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). Fellowship and support from one another is a gift we receive AND a responsibility we offer that God has bestowed upon each one of us.

I once saw a quote that said, “Just remember, your job won’t come over and take care of you when you’re sick.” Think about that for a moment…

So as my travels continue onward, may they be a source of encouragement for you to continue serving the living God and may you be a source of encouragement to all those around you, friend or foe. And know that as you step forward into the unknown, you travel with a God that has been there and done that and offers us Immanuel, God with us, with the company of the Holy Spirit. Let us manifest God’s presence on earth with our words, our actions and our love.

Mpaka wakati halafu…