Around the World and Back Again

During my recent trip to Tanzania, I was on a “home stay,” where we travelers would stay overnight with the family of one of the children in the sponsorship program. I asked a 16-year-old boy what he thought of Americans. I’m not sure what I expected him to say, really…perhaps something about the movies or hip-hop or something. But his answer struck me. He said, “I like Americans. We like Americans. They come to visit us. They come to get to know us.”

I think that simple and powerful answer sums up a great deal about our recent trip with Lahash to Grace and Healing Ministries in Dodoma, Tanzania. There wasn’t a huge service project on the schedule––we weren’t building new homes or a school or helping to plant or harvest crops. We were “just” visiting. But the power and importance of us travelers going over to spend time with the children and families, to absorb the realities of their day-to-day lives, to simply get to know the people there made all the difference. It was profound and equalizing–we weren’t swooping in to alleviate all their problems or barraging them with what we thought they needed to do to have better lives. We wanted to be there with them. Sure, we taught some classes and gave some talks and presentations, but much of our focus was on “being with,” not “doing for.”

The first few days we were there was the Lahash East Africa Conference. Many people spoke and shared, pouring out ideas of hope and love and partnership. But one of the main themes was one of having the patience and humility to ask the people there how we can help. What it is they need, not necessarily what it is we decide we need to give them. To come up beside them as they utilize the skills, talents, and resources they already have; not to jump in front of them and start driving. To listen more than talk. To ask more than answer. To visit and get to know.

God works in the spaces where we’re quiet and listening–listening both to Him, and to those around us. It was a powerful experience to watch God move through the spirits and lives of these wonderful people in East Africa, those whom we have the privilege of coming along beside. His joy is evident, and His power is obvious. We were immensely blessed by our trip, and we can’t thank all of you enough for the thoughts and prayers and support of our journey. We can’t wait to continue to share more photos, videos, and stories of God moving through His people!

To read more about the impact we saw from Rice & Beans month, and to see some more photos, visit the Rice & Beans blog!