Finding My Niche
It occurred to me that I am somewhat writing my posts out of sequence. The last one I posted was about Sunday, yet the one posted before that was about Monday. Don't even get me started about Tuesday.
Actually, I probably should get started on that since I started writing this early Wednesday morning, but now it's actually Thursday morning here as I post it. (See what I mean? I'm confused myself.)
After falling into a deep sleep around 7:30 p.m. on Monday night, I again found myself wide awake at 3 a.m. (yes...my old friend). I whittled away the hours by reading the epic tome, The Exodus, by Leon Uris. It had been years since I last read it and I have been wanting to read it again. I figured an epic travel journey was the perfect time to download it to my tablet and have for airplanes and jet lag. I'm glad I prepared.
And, yet, it took me until a few hours ago as I opened the book to read it and saw the title filling the page that once again, there is a theme to this trip.
The Exodus - the coming out. The leaving. The going.
Yep...and we're right back to the Journey theme of my life right now.
So, we'll journey back to Tuesday (yesterday) so I can tell you about the day.
We left our little apartment where we are staying (cheaper than a hotel and has more homey amenities) and headed for Maranatha Christian School. On the way, we stopped to see the metal worker and the wood worker to order two more shelves.
The day before, on Monday, my new friend Neema (Grace) had given up most of her day to come and assist with translation and the distribution of the materials that we brought to give Ngarenaro public school. I instantly connected with her and her obvious passion for teaching and her country. As she helped us prepare the way for the new bookshelves and books we had brought, I could see the longing in her eyes as she caressed the books in the boxes -- stopping at a Thomas the Train book.
"Do you have a little boy?" I asked.
She replied that she did. "He is four years old," she told me. (This is the third 4-year-old boy...like my four-year-old boy that I have "encountered"). "And I have two daughters also."
"Would you like to take that for him...and others for your daughters."
She did and she explained that story books are few and far between in her country.
Rylie and I talked about how much it would mean to bless Neema and her school, Maranatha, in the same way with bookshelves.
So, there we found ourselves -- back at the shops and ordering two more shelves. I mistakenly thought my Uncle Joel would run in and ask for two more shelves like the day before and we would be on our way. But Tanzania doesn't work that way. Half an hour later, we were finally on our way with the promise that we would have the two new shelves on Wednesday.
Don't get me started on how long it took us later in the day when we stopped back by to explain the concept of book ends and how we picked up two pieces of scrap metal off the ground and showed how we wanted an "L" shape to hold the books upright. That was a comedy of errors and neither our driver, any English speaker nearby or the metal shop owner had any sort of clue what we were talking about. The reason? Many have never seen the amount of books in one place that would warrant such a thing. Joel pointed out something I hadn't seen at Ngarenaro the day before. Neither the students nor the teachers knew how to "properly" stack and display the books on the shelf spines out nestled together. The reason? Same as above.
But I digress.
After those morning negotiations, we were back on the road to Maranatha school. And we passed these curious sites that I just have to share.
It made me laugh when I saw it, but then I thought maybe it's good that they just throw it out there for all to acknowledge.
After turning down a narrow dirt alley with ramshackle shops and houses on either side, we pulled up to the Maranatha School campus.
Rylie's first words were, "they finished the second story!" And they had and were actually building a third.
The blue color of the building and inside walls is surprisingly cheering.
This was Neema's school site and it was nice to greet her again and see her in her element. We were taken upstairs to the sixth grade class and got to sit in while they reviewed the skeletal system. The students are taught in English in order to give them a global advantage. The teacher used only a large book and his own body to quiz the students on their knowledge of all the bones in the body. The students referred to their own drawings (most likely made from the teacher's book two at a time) to answer.
We were impressed. They were so knowledgeable despite having such meager resources.
After class, some of the teachers joined us and we asked them what they needed to feel supported and successful.
Text books for the children (so that 2-3 could share).
They asked for so little it broke my heart a bit. When we asked them if they would be interested in some teacher training for ideas of how to teach content and perhaps for students with special needs, they were enthusiastic. It was amazing to see how much our offer to help lifted their spirits.
Rylie and I told Neema and the principal of the school that we wanted to purchase two bookshelves for the school. She clapped her hands in delight. We told them that we wanted to go with them to their local bookshop/supply store to start helping them fill the shelves, and it was like it was Christmas.
Playing Santa is fun and surprisingly fulfilling.
After we made arrangements to come back on Thursday for some shopping, we headed towards our next destination -- making a quick stop for lunch at a place our driver recommended -- The Arusha Coffee Lodge. "It's where "mzungu" (white people) go," he said.
The grounds were a startingly contrast from the poverty we just left. It took me awhile to acclimate and I struggled with feeling guilty at the knowledge that our buffet lunch in the beautiful garden cost more than three days of salary for the teacher's we had just left.
I am completely wonderfully and terribly blessed.
After our lunch, we made our way to Arusha Bible College, another place that my grandparents founded in the 50's. It was nice to be there again -- but this time without the huge crowd we had in 2008. It was peaceful and tranquil and lovely to stroll through the garden.
And I got to see what African Moons has been up to in building a dormitory for more students to come and study from surrounding countries as well.
For the past year, the dormitory has sat unfinished due to a lack of funds. My aunt and uncle have been doing their best to raise money and support to get it finished. It was moving to see my Uncle Joel walk around the facility with the structural engineer to ensure that everything was still as it should be and ready for continued construction.
And thankfully it is.
Something really amazing happened then. I got to play my part as a Bruton descendant. I was able to use the experience I've had writing, directing and producing video for my church to become a producer for my uncle on the spot. All of a sudden, I knew what needed to be said. What emotion needed to be expressed. What plea needed to be made on film so that people could know what it felt like to stand in that hollow husk of a building that looked like it had been abandoned, but was so much desired by the students and faculty who passed it every single day. How the academic dean who stopped by to chat said that the staff and students surround the building every Monday and pray that God would release enough funds to complete it.
The words kept on coming and I kept on writing them down.
I helped to frame the shots I wanted and even pushed record for the interviews.
Have you ever felt like everything you had done in your life had led you to a certain point in time?
I felt it in that sacred moment.
I was born to do this.
And what better cause would there be then to help continue the work done by my ancestors. Who would care about this project being completed more than I would?
We packed up the video equipment and I put away my "Journey" notebook. As we walked back to the van, I realized we had picked up a tail.
Despite my best attempts, I could not get this scrumptious one to smile. But as I looked in those beautiful eyes and then beyond at that unfinished dorm and all the promise that it had for future generations such as these, I found more resolve to see it finished.
Because I'm not the only one who has a destiny. This little one has one. And maybe...just maybe it might be right here on this campus. And maybe me being here right now can reach across time to his future and make it brighter and lighter.
And that is worth everything.