Servant Team 2017: Changing My Sense of Time

Servant Team Director Mandee Campos shares her reflections on settling in to the culture and pace of life in East Africa:

I write this update to you from Dodoma, Tanzania, where I will be staying through June 2017. Yevette and I will be working alongside Grace & Healing Ministries, one of Lahash’s East African partners that serves vulnerable children and families.

I have enjoyed getting to see the people that run this ministry as well as the children. However, transitioning from the U.S. to Tanzania feels like a complete switch. Time seems to move slowly here and the days feel longer. Back home, it felt like there were never enough hours in the day to get things done. My American sense of time makes me see everything here with a great sense of urgency. I must connect with everyone, remember all their names, remember how to respond when someone greets me, and accomplish several tasks each day in order to feel a sense of purpose in me being here. Not only must I do these things, but I must do them right away, pronto, soon—now!

It feels strange for time here to be looser, less punctual, and require a lot more flexibility. As the days go by, I am realizing that I will not have a connection with everyone right away, that is something that comes naturally with time. I can’t remember everyone’s name the first time I hear it, and sometimes I mispronounce them to my own embarrassment. I have yet to master this new language aside from basic greetings and getting annoyed upon hearing the occasional “mzungu!” called out to me from the streets (meaning white person). I don’t always accomplish enough in a day to give that sense of satisfaction where I can pat myself on the back and tell myself, “Well done!” Yet there is something to be admired about time feeling slower.

As I write this, I can’t help but remind myself of something I hope to teach future Servant Teams participants: you cannot have long-term goals for a short-term trip. Five months is a short amount of time. For this reason, maybe it’s a blessing that the days feel so long. Maybe I need to learn to be present. To relax and enjoy the afternoon chai we have together in the office. To enjoy the lengthy Swahili church services on Sundays, and take comfort that despite the cultural differences, these are my brothers and sisters in Christ. I need to recognize that the very moments that seem to linger on too long are the same moments that will quickly pass me by. It would not surprise me if these were the moments that I end up missing the most.

Just recently, we had a long day of walking to several homes for home visiting. It was too hot, I had sand in my shoes, and I was ready to be done walking. In the midst of this discomfort, we went to a home of a young boy named Athman. When we got to his home, he was all smiles. He showed us his duck coop, his solar powered lights, and his small aquarium—all of which he put together himself! We were so impressed by him. As we sat inside his home, we were blown away by his and his mother’s hospitality. He had slaughtered a duck in anticipation of our arrival. We feasted on duck, ugali, and pineapple.

I cannot express how thankful I am for that day being a long day.

I pray that I can be present and be thankful for each moment, no matter how quick or slow it may feel. I pray that I do not take for granted any interactions, no matter how deep or surface-level they are. I do not want to miss the good things that pass me by because I am in a hurry. Time does not wait for us to appreciate something before it passes by. I will rest and be present in the here and now.

Psalm 90:12 Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

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