Monday, June 28, 2010

New Tricks

Who said you can't teach an old Masaai Warrior new tricks?
They clearly hadn't met our kids.
Watch out Warrior!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Can You Tell The Difference?

As I posted earlier, there was one day that the music of the Masaai choir just took my breath away. This wasn't to say that the other choirs weren't good also. But this particular choir was AMAZING.

Here are two videos of choirs:

This video is from our very first village visit. They were good. Nicely choreographed. A real pleasure to listen to.

This is the one that took our breath away. Simply amazing.

Can you tell the difference?!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

This Is A Story

This is a story.

A story about how a lovely little church on the outskirts of WaveTown USA decided to build a church in the middle of the bush, Tanzania.

This church on the outskirts of WaveTown was very motivated and dedicated to the cause and by the grace of God and some generous contributors, were able to raise a significant amount of money to build their little church in the middle of the bush, Tanzania.

So a group of 13 rough and rowdy souls we gathered together to make the trek to the bush- in the middle, of Tanzania. They were an odd group; consisting of both men and women, old and young, tone-deaf and musical genius. They were collectively dedicated to the work at hand. They also collectively smelled, but that is an entirely different story.

When the day came for them to build, there was a certain excitement in the air for the rough and rowdy group of 13 from the lovely little church on the outskirts of town. They were finally there- in the place where the church was to be built in the middle- of the bush- Tanzania. They were to build and erect the rafters on their church. All was well with their souls.

That was until it wasn't.

As the group was learning, mostly the hard way, things in Africa seldom go to plan. This proved to be true when it came to their dream of building. They discovered that the generator needed to power their tools, to build the rafters, on the church, in the middle of the bush Tanzania, was not functioning. And not only was it not functioning, but the person who was to fix it was no where to be found. Then add to that, that money had already been paid to fix the generator that was to build the church, in the middle, of the bush, Tanzania.

To say the rough and rowdy group was disappointed would be an understatement.

But none the less, they pressed on, doing what they could, with what they had.

They carried boards.

They pounded nails.

They cut and measured.

They created a single rafter.

Though only one, this rafter was built tough. And strong. And with a lot of Jesus love. By the group. From the lovely little church. On the outskirts. Of WaveTown, USA.

The best part of the story had yet to come though...

A few days after the rafter was created, the rough and rowdy group was venturing through the bush once again. On their journey they passed the spot where their church was. To their surprise and pure elation, all of the rafters had been completed and were even UP!

While the one rafter that was completed seemed like only one, it was much more than that. It was a template for how to build a rafter. It was a template for how to live the Gospel. It was a template for how to build up the church as a whole. One cut, nail, and board at a time; ultimately resulting in the extension of the church we love so much.

The lovely little church on the outskirts of WaveTown, USA had left their mark. On the rafter, in the hearts, of our church in the middle of the bush, Tanzania.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Meet The Haff

To the relief of concerned parents and family members, I didn't just take our group out traipsing through the bush all by myself. Though that would have been an exciting adventure and I do love a good adventure. Maybe next time....

But no. We were able to hook up with one Pastor Herb Haferman; which by the way is pretty much my hero.

The Haff (pronounced Hoff) is an ordained pastor of the ELCA and has devoted his life to serving in Tanzania. He's a graduate of Wartburg College (which makes me like him even more) and Wartburg Seminary. For the last 40 some years, The Haff has lived in Tanzania, first serving as a teacher, then running the Language School (where we stayed), and then finally pretty much just moving on to ruling the world (or at least the Tanzanian diocese). Though not officially in charge of anything synod or diocese, both operate because of his ridiculously awesome influence and guidance. Though he would never admit everything he has done to help develop the Lutheran Church in Tanzania, he is by far one of the most influential people EVER.

Having formally retired from the ELCA twice now (he's like a faithful dog that just keeps coming back), The Haff continues to work daily to extend the body of Christ. Along with his builder and evangelist Luka, Haff travels all around central Tanzania to build up new congregations; primarily among the Masaai tribe. If someone were to write a book about his life and the wicked awesome things he's done- it would no doubt be a best seller. And let's be honest, it'd probably be made into a movie, too. The work this man has done really is THAT cool.

In honor of this great man, I want to make a list.
I present: The Top 8 Reasons The Haff is Awesome

1. His nickname is "The Haff" and he is NOT related to David Hasselhoff.

2. I've watched this man suck bone marrow out of a goat bone with my own two eyes. Only after to hear him say, "Delicious."

3. He's 70 something and I have to run to keep pace with him.

4. While at Mikumi, he makes what he calls his Lion Noise to get the attention of elephants and giraffes. It really just sounds like an awkward grunt but because he's old- we let him continue.

5. He eats Marmite. If you don't know what this is or what it tastes like, consider yourself lucky.

6. While eating Marmite, he gets so into it, that he doesn't even notice that he has left a lovely trail of it in his beard.

7. The man speaks fluent Swahili for Pete's Sake!

8. Despite being separated from his wife and children (who live in Iowa... his wife living in Eisenach Village in Waverly), he continues to be a faithful servant doing everything within his power to live out the Gospel.

And because I can:
8.5 Even after having had me in Tanzania before, he let me return; this time with a group that was even rowdier than I. This man's got some patience!

Thank You Haff for EVERYTHING you did for us.
You're so cute with Marmite in your beard.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

On Driving

I think that it is safe to say that Dar es Salaam is in fact NOT Waverly, Iowa. As we drove through Dar the morning following our arrival in Tanzania, I video taped our little outing. I hope this will paint a somewhat vivid picture of the hustle and bustle of life in Dar.

Unlike Waverly, there are hardly any traffic lights or signs. Vehicles move when they can break through traffic and pedestrians NEVER have the right-away. The streets are littered with yesterdays garbage, crazy chickens, and fearless bikers.

Though we probably only went a total of 10 miles in Dar, it took us nearly an hour to get out of town. Several times there were gasps from the back seat as we came within inches of other cars, people, or livestock. When this happened, the bus driver would just laugh at us- as this is typical Tanzania roadrage etiquette.

This video is actually pretty tame compared to some of the madness we were in. But you'll notice how close to us some of the other vans are. Close enough for my heart to skip a beat, I'll tell yah! Hold onto your socks, friends. This is one crazy ride!

Driving in Dar from Emily Harkins on Vimeo.

High Speed Is My Friend

Now that we are home safe and sound (We meet again Home of the Free and the Brave. Oh how I've missed thee) I can actually upload some videos and pictures. High Speed Internet is totally my best friend right now. So for the next however long it takes me to show what I feel like showing, I will be updating this blog!

So please keep checking into this here blog for lots and lots and lots of more posts and pictures. Also I hope to post some personal reflections from the different people that went on the trip.

Lots to look forward to, people!

Sunday, June 20, 2010


For two weeks we have been dirty. And it's not because we haven't showered. Because we have, this I can assure you. But the land here is just dirtier than where we come from. I say this not as a bad thing, because the red dirt is actually quite beautiful. Dirt here is just a way of life. It makes up the roads. It makes up the floors of many of the churches we've been to. It makes up the paths that lead many to worship. Built into the very fiber of this place is dirt.

The thing about dirt is that you can see it. You can feel it. And dirt often leaves an irremovable mark.

So for two weeks we have been dirty.

We have seen the people of Tanzania.
We have felt the Spirit of Tanzania.
We have been forever marked by the dirt of this place.

Though I think everyone is ready to return home to our families and friends, there will be a certain sadness in leaving this place tomorrow. We will say goodbye to new friends, old friends, and a way of life that has taught us much about who we are as people and Christians.

Even when we return home, I am confident that our hearts will be forever dirty from the experience. For that I feel blessed and extremely grateful.

Bwana Asifiwe, all.
God is good.
Especially here in Tanzania.

(I have a few more funny posts to come. Look for them tomorrow and in the days after our return. I plan on uploading pictures and some videos once I get home and the internet moves as a pace faster than a snail!)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Jicky Carp

As we prepare for our departure today for our final village, we leave with one less. It was a planned one less- no need to worry! As most people know, Pastor Jim will not be returning home with us because he will continue his journey to South Africa where he will meet his family.

If all goes according to plan, and in Africa you just never know, a car will arrive at the seminary around 1 (more likely 2) and drive him to Dar es Saalam. Once in Dar he will stay at the Catholic Guest House where we spend our first night. And again, if all goes according to plan, he will then catch a car EARLY in the morning for his flight to South Africa.

So prayers be with you Jicky Carp as you venture out on your own toward the next leg of your adventure. We're really going to miss the crazy accents that accompany your even crazier jokes!

Kathy- I've got a hug waiting for you from him!


Things I’ve learned the hard way today:

1. Cute High School girls at a Masaai cattle market = several marriage proposals = giddy girls = Emily in Mom mode = disappointed Masaai men.

2. The sheaths for Masaai knifes smell like Cat Food and if placed in your closed up room will then make your room smell like a playground for our feline friends.

3. Don’t wear a white tank top to a place where you will be eating with you hands and surrounded by cow poo.

Today we ventured to what I like to call, "Look at all the white people following behind the old guy as they weave in and out of cows VILLE" or better known as The Masaai Cattle Market. This was a great experience for all.

The Cattle Market happens twice a month here in good ol' Morogoro. Essentially it is a flee market for the Masaai. This is where they come to sell and trade cattle and goats. They also can get the beads that they use for jewelry, cloth, shoes, knives, spears, and all the other goods that make Masaai totally cool and authentic. For most Masaai this is more or less a day of banking for them. Unlike the bank accounts that we have, Masaai wealth is measured in cattle and goats. So to buy and sell at the market is to actually complete your banking. VISA- It's everywhere you want to be- well not here!

When we arrived, we toured the whole market, following closely behind The Haff. As we were stared at as if an attraction at the zoo, all we could do was smile and laugh. After making our rounds we stopped for lunch. Under the shade of a thatched roof, we enjoyed what many described as the best meal of our adventure. Carved before our eyes by a Masaai man by the name of Ridjua (with an extra hand to help hold courtesy of Scott Durscher) was the meat of a freshly butchered cow. I will say that we were all a bit relieved when we learned that the goats we had planned on eating were not yet done. The Haff was hungry- so beef it was!

Along with our slab of cow, we enjoyed what the locals called "Chips Mayai." It is potato wedges (fries) with egg. A strange combination I assure you. But delicious! The fries are cooked first and then the egg is broken over the top of them and then fried. So what you get is a big patty of fries and fried egg. Um can you say delicious and artery clogging? Because I sure can! But I'm okay with it. I really am. Just ask my thighs!

After we were sufficiently stuffed, we rolled ourselves out from under the thatched roof and did some shopping. We spent way too much money on things we didn't necessarily need, but really REALLY wanted. Parents- I will neither confirm nor deny that your kids may or may not come home with a schlew of weapons.... Customs might be interesting me thinks!

Everyday is so unique here. We learn daily from the people around us. We learn what hospitality is. We are shown kindness as strangers. We are welcomed to a community drastically different than our own without questions. Life is good here in Tanzania.

Oh and I seriously thought abut purchasing cow bells to place on some of my wandering children. I thought this might come in handy at the airport if they get antsy. Would bells make it though the security checkpoint? A chance I'm willing to take!

Friday, June 18, 2010

When I In Awesome Wonder

(Sometimes when I try to find the words to write what I want to share- they just plain escape me. Now is one of those times. That being said, my deepest apologies if this post seems disjointed and confusing.)

Pastor Jim was moved to tears. I stood in awe. The kids stopped talking long enough to actually listen.

As the choir in the village began their songs of praise today, we were all moved and touched in a special way. Though we could not understand the words that were being sung, the music that was coming from this united group of young men and women was nothing short of spectacular. They were a Masaai choir no less than 40 strong. They were beautiful.

We could hear the singing coming in the distance. As the choir walked from the village nearly 4 miles away from the church, they sang. Louder and louder the music got as they approached the church. Once in view, we could see the march of a faithful people. All dressed in the same way, matching necklaces, bracelets, shoes, belts- they were united as a symbol of the entire body of Christ. They all danced with gladness and thanksgiving- nothing like following the example of King David dancing through the streets. (They did keep their clothes on though!)

As they processed into the church, we followed behind- dumbfounded at the beauty before us. All we could do was stand there and watch in wonder. God was most definitely standing before us in that moment.

Honestly- when I think about the music that I heard today- it is what I imagine heaven to sound like; full of rich harmony and sincerity.

Gosh. I get goosebumps still just thinking about it.

For a few moments, I put down my video camera. I set aside my camera. I tuned out the chatter of children around me. And I just listened. I closed my eyes and listened. As I did, I prayed that this would be a sound and a moment that I would never forget.

Today we were blessed.

... and then The Haff has us sing. Not nearly as impressive. We tired to forfeit but The Haff wouldn't take "No" for an answer. We just hope we didn't cause any permanent damage...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Things I Know To Be True

We have returned from the wild. Despite my greatest attempts, I was unable to call the lions. I tried. I really really did. But I was not successful. I was however able to connect with both my inner monkey and elephant and work my magic that way. So I haven't completely lost it.

Here's what I know to be true:
1. We arrived at Mikumi around 3:00. It was the first time in nearly two weeks that our time frame operated on something other than African Time. It was a strange sensation.

2. The rooms that we stayed in were awesome. They have thatched roofs, patios that look out to the watering hole, and mosquito nets that look like princess canopies. They obviously knew The Lion Queen was coming.

3. Giraffes are both the most awkward and majestic creatures. They have gangly legs but move with such grace. We saw many of them. They were quite the posers. This morning we saw a unique grouping of them. They were all different shades. They were described as: Albino, Masaai, and Indian. This of course was coming from The Haff- no real surprise there.

4. Elephants are fun. I couldn't resist the urge to yell, "show me your tusks!" when they had their bums to me. Surprisingly this actually worked a few times. Take that picture and frame it, folks!

5. To clean up the brush, the park staff sets controlled fires several times a year. Apparently we just happened to come at the right time. Or the wrong time. Because this caused many of the animals to retreat to different parts of the park. Hence our "no-go" with Simba. Apparently they didn't get the memo we would be there this week.

6. God's creation leaves me in awe. The sun. The clouds. The green land. The friendly and not so friendly animals. What an inventive and clever fella that God is. Good work. Good, good work my friend.

7. We're a split group with it comes to deciding whether zebras are black with white stripes or white with black stripes. There will be a wrestling match later between Pastor Jim and Chris Davis to decide the outcome. Stay tuned for more details. Ninakutania! (I'm just kidding)

8. Baboons are mean and have weird rear ends. They look at you with beady eyes and I really just don't appreciate it. Their only redeeming quality is that their babies are cute. Other than that, we're not exactly friends.

9. Warthogs have to be without a doubt the ugliest creatures. The Haff described them as the only creature that was put together by committee. All your church committee members out there- I'll let you laugh about that one!

10. We saw snakes and crocodiles. They were in closed containers though. Thanks be to God. Apparently this group finds it extremely entertaining to hear me scream. I would have to disagree... So here I am- minding my own business- trying to get an Egyptian Cobra to attack the glass panel by waving my foot in front of it (I saw an African do it first. I thought while on a Safari 'monkey see, monkey do' would be okay...) when all of a sudden Kelsie Durscher yells out to me, "Em! Come here! Hurry up! This is so neat. You have to see it!" Being the curious young doe that I am, I quickly made my way over to where they were all standing, looking at something quite intently. As I stepped up onto the ledge of what I soon learned to be the Crocodile Pit, the man in charge stuck a huge stick in the Crocs mouth and made him growl and snap shut. My friendly group had plotted against me. Big jerks. I screamed like I have never done before. The people on the bus in the parking lot even heard me. Thanks a lot, friends!

11. The missing luggage finally came TODAY. Today this is but one of the reasons I know there is a God.

12. Pastor Jim, who is now lovingly referred to as: Jicky Carp, had YELLOW hair today. It was from a nice combination of white hair and redish dirt that was kicked up as we drove around the park. We're glad he showered. I think he is, too.

13. We miss our families. Even the kids that have made good on their threats not to e-mail their parents while they are here- have made comments. Know that you all are being prayed for daily and are loved greatly.

14. I'm going to go play Cardi Moja. Otherwise known as Uno. Isn't Africa, fun?!

(It took an hour and a half to upload one picture on the last post. I'll try to get some Safari pictures up tomorrow. The internet works on African time too, apparently!)

Raise the Roof

So this is the rafter we built. As I said before, we were only able to complete one because of some... complications. But the one we built was mighty and strong. When we left this church, we left the wood, nails, and example rafter. When we returned a few days later on our way to another village, all of the rafters had been completed and were up. It's amazing what can happen when people work together for the good of God.

Redeemer sure does know how to raise the roof... literally.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Papa Smirff Goes Wild... or at least to the Game Park

(Once again the internet is slow and we are limited to only one computer. This makes me sad. I know it does you, too)

Yesterday was one of those days where you just feel good. We worked hard. We played hard. We ate rice hard. It was good. All in a days work, really!

We traveled by rickety old b/v/t to a "urban" village to paint a church. By Urban I mean that we didn't have to run over trees to get to our location and there was a DUKA (store) with a fridge that had cold pop available for purchase. I'm not even going to lie to you- that was a little bit of heaven right there. I have never longed for ice cubes so much in my life.

We arrived and immediately had tea. The Haff likes to joke that in Tanzania CHAI is actually the third sacrament. Baptism, Communion, and Chai- though not necessarily in that order, as Chai seems to be a pretty big priority in these parts of the world. Some of our girls are becoming masters at "accidentally" hiding their cups when the tea comes around... I don't know if we'll continue this ritual when we return home.

Soon after we went to work painting the church. The building itself was erected by a German Missionary. It was a very well built church and we actually pretty large compared to most churches we've seen. A normal church costs around $6,000 US dollars. I was told that this one was nearly $10,000- and trust me when I tell you that an extra $4,000 here will go A LONG way. The building was made almost entirely of cement, with the exception of the iron on the windows and the tin roof. When the missionary built the church, he wanted it to double as a school. However, not long after the church was completed, a school was built nearby so that necessity is no more. However, the front of the church was still complete with an ugly makeshift chalkboard. I can tell you right now that after this Redeemer crew got done leaving their mark, there is no longer an ugly chalkboard!

Under the direction of: The Man, The Legend, THE DAVE WYLAM, we got our butts in gear and started to work...

Walls were first painted white.
Then the pillars were painted blue.
Cream was added around the bottom.
Brown was painted as an accent.

It. Looked. Fantastic.

Somewhere along the lines someone thought it would be a good idea to enlist my "artistic" abilities to create a mural on the front alter where the chalkboard had been. Because of my lack of Swahili, I was unable to inform them that this probably wasn't a good idea. But alas the handiwork of yours truly now rests on the wall of a church in the middle of nowhere in Africa. My mother would be proud. Or deny our relation. I'm not sure which. Though I'm hoping it's the first. She did used to hang my artwork on the fridge...

Someone asked the Haff why the Masaai didn't paint their own church. His reply: Have you ever seen a Masaai with a paintbrush? I am happy to report that I can now say that yes, yes I have. Much to our surprise, as soon as we started to paint, the Masaai wanted to join us. They actually took brushes and rollers out of our hands! Though it was a bit more "artistic" than our crews methods, it was great to see them taking ownership in their building. Men, women, and children were all hard at work. And those that didn't have a brush in their hands were supervising intently. And by supervising, I mean that they were watching us with wonder. I have to admit, a dark skinned Masaai man covered in white paint is a sight to see!

We learned a few things while painting today.
1. Pastor Jim has quite the German accent. Especially when he's been exposed to too many paint fumes. Ask Amber Freesemann about this. She'll be happy to share her experience.
2. Sharpened sticks make nice roller brush extenders and touch up tools and a hair tie is a very versatile tool.
3. Pastor Jim with blue paint on him- really does look like Papa Smirff.

It took us nearly 8 hours to complete the whole project. But complete it we did! The Haff said later that he didn't think we would get as much done as we did. We reminded him that we're from Iowa. Hard workers are bred and raised where we come from. Enough said.

As I have mentioned in other posts, in Africa you can only expect to expect the unexpected. This has been VERY true with our trip so far. Our church building days have been interrupted by circumstances beyond our control (supplies that weren't delivered by other people, generators with issues, broken tools, etc.) but it was AMAZING to have a day where we started and finished a project COMPLETELY. It was good for our hearts and souls, as well as our group morale. We totally left our Midwestern mark. Woot woot.

Today we travel to Mikumi National Park for 24 hours of wilderness/animal awesomeness! We leave the seminary after lunch and will begin our trek into the wild. I plan on fully expressing myself by means of my lion call. You will be updated on the outcome of this when we return. I hope to have several lion friends, and even a water buffalo or two, by the time we leave the park. It will be good.

Until then-
Keep practicing your lion calls. I know I will be.

Emily "The Lion Queen" Harkins

Monday, June 14, 2010

I'm Happy To Report That We're Alive

Habari Gani!

I am happy to report that we are in fact alive. We have just been without internet for several days. On Saturday there was a power surge that took out the wireless internet. Today someone came and was able to get the one and only desktop computer working but sadly, the wireless is still a "no-go." Because of this, I will have to keep it short and sweet, as there is a line of anxious teenagers waiting behind me. Apparently being disconnected from your friends when you're 16 is a hard thing? Who knew!

The last few days have been great. Very eye opening experiences. We spent Saturday, Sunday, and today at different villages worshiping. All of these services have been no less than 2 hours. Yesterday's service was nearly 4 from when the choirs started to the end of the auction. I am happy to report that Pastor Jim has been affirmed several times about the length of our services and promises have been made to never complain again! Hallelujah!

On Saturday we almost had Teal married off. I belive if the Masaai man would have thrown in another 20 goats, we could have really made a deal. However, we just couldn't make it happen. But boy was it tempting! The village we were at on Saturday was a unique place. Along with a church building, there was a school. It was amazing to see what a school building looks like here. No longer will our kids complain about the lack of air conditioning as WSR. There weren't even desks at the place and nearly 70 kids shove into the classroom each and every day!

On Sunday we worshiped under the trees. This service was unlike anything I have ever seen. Honestly there was nearly 300 Masaai men, women, and children at the service and 5 different choirs (including the Obama Choir... if you really want to call us a choir). If you were to count the goats, chickes, and cows in the attendance numbers, I'd say we were close to 500. The Haff thought it would be a good idea for us to sit toward the back of the service as to be less of a distraction. This was probably a good idea as just about every time the goat would make a noise, I would laugh. And then don't even get me started on when the cows came. Tears were rolling down my face. Pastor Jim once commented abuot worship being a zoo- and boy almighty- this was it!

At this village we also go to tour the Masaai homes. Wow. What an eye opener. A house smaller than the size of our youth room hosts anywhere from 7-10 people on average. Kelsie Durscher and I were invited to sit on the bed with one of the Masaai women. It was made of straw. A huge difference from our pillowtop matresses back home!

Today was a beautiful day. It was very relaxed and peaceful. The church we went to was set in a very serene location. If I had a picture available, I would post it. But sadly, I'm lucky just to have internet at this point! So hopefully that will come soon. The children at the village were amazing. The Haff informed us that they have had guests before when their church building was built. So we were not the first "wazungu" they had seen. They were very eager to play with us and get close to us. At other villages, it seems to take a little bit for the children to warm up to us. But here, there was as instant connection. God is so good.

There are many stories to share, and I hope that the internet will be up again soon so I can post some of the stories I have complined on my computer. But until then- this update will have to do!

I do want to say though- that above anything that has happened here, the most amazing thing has been the change in our youth. Their eyes have been opened. They are experiencing what it means to actually live their faith. The have come to appreciate the things that they have. And through all of our adventures so far, they have been very present. I'm learning that this is a lot to ask from 16ish year olds. I have very impressed. I am so blessed to be surrounded with such amazing people. Praise Jesus.

And Happy Birthday to Miss Teal Erhardt. She's 16 today. They slaughtered a goat in her honor. I did get pictures of that. It's slightly disgusting. But Happy Birthday Teal!

Hopefully the internet will be here tomorrow and I'll have more to say.
Until then- I love you.
I do.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday Top Ten

Here's a Top Ten list from today. Because I am ridiculously tired, my internet is spotty, and my battery is going dead. But mostly because I just REALLY like making lists.

1. We went to another village today. The drive was exciting. We ran over several trees in the process. Sorry about that Mother Earth.

2. Brent Wightman didn't go with us. He went with another missionary to work on water wells. He introduced the Masaai children to Germ-X. Their lives will never be the same. Until the bottle runs out anyway.

3. There were a lot of men at service today. Several of our ladies are now betrothed. Sorry about that parents. Apparently your daughters won't be coming home next week...

4. There was an actual church building where we were today. It was amazing to see a completed building and the love, patience, and effort that goes into creating a center for worship.

5. Daniel Meyers choked on a piece of goat today. And by choked I mean that he choked, coughed it up, caught it in his hand as it came flying out of his mouth, and then tried to eat it again. He was most upset not about his lack of air, but that he would be missing out on a quality piece of meat. With all the cameras around, you would think we could have have captured this moment. I am sad to report this was not the case.

6. Dave Wylam and I bought chickens in the church auction. I'm beginning to think that worship is not complete without them. Maybe this is something we should consider when talking about ways to improve Redeemer attendance...

7. We, "Wazungu," burn in the sun. Several of us learned this the hard way.

8. A Lutheran Masaai church is very much like a Midwestern Lutheran church. There are women who "own and operate" the kitchen. If you are not one of them (and you'll know if you are) stay out. Even if your kitchen is an open fire under a shaded tree.

9. Pastor Jim is really punny. Upon Brent's return from working with the water wells, Jim calls out as he makes a Super Man arm pose, "I hope everything went well!" Pretty sure I couldn't breathe for a few minutes after that one. I'm sure Kathy is missing him terribly.

10. As a group we have much to say. But when it comes to being able to fully express the awesomeness of this experience, words seem to escape us. We are humbled daily and left in wonder about the grandeur of God. It's a very powerful thing to see Christ at work in places you'd never even be able to find on a map. GPS doesn't have anything on The Haff.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Three Things

I don’t know much but I do know that nothing in Africa ever goes as it is planned. The minute you try to have a plan, it floats away into the beautiful African horizon. So try to plan, I dare you. The world will only end up laughing at you. I promise.

Case in Point:

1. Today we went to a village. To do this, as I have said before, we get into a bus/van/truck thing and drive over what they call, “roads.” Sometimes these roads are smooth. But more often they are bumpy. But regardless of the road conditions we ride in our beloved bus/van/truck thing and then just hope for the best.

This morning we took off from the seminary at around 8:30ish African time. Which means that it actually could have been about 9:15. Not that I’m looking at my watch or anything…

We left, with 10 of us in the b/v/t and the other 3 in Pastor Hafferman’s Range Rover. We had to split the two vehicles up because The Haff (Pronounced ‘The Hoff’) had to go to town to pick up a generator to take to our work site. So the van went ahead with the intention of having the Rover catch up with us soon.

But like I said, NOTHING goes actually as it is planned.

Translation: The Rover took FOREVER to meet up with us. So we had to sit on the side of the road for nearly 45 minutes and just wait for it to show up. During this time our driver decided to make a stop at the bar for a quick beer and smoke and we were left to sit there, with the doors open, as people passed by.

We were like an exhibit at the zoo. The white people were on display, today folks! Some were brave and said hello to us, others just looked at us a little bit shocked and confused, and a few even pointed and laughed. We were a spectacle. And honestly it was just hilarious. All we could do was laugh!

At one point Amber said, “Does anyone have a joke?”

My reply: “Yeah. I got one. A group of while people are sitting in a van on the side of the road in Africa…”

Amber: “How does it end?”

Me: “I’ll tell you in an hour.”

2. When building rafters for a church in Tanzania, make sure that your saws are sharpened and your batteries charged. Because if you don’t, you will end up building only one rafter, even though it will be a solid piece of roof.

In our village today, we were to assemble the rafters for the church that Redeemer built. However, the generator that was supposed to be picked up by The Haff was not present, (hence the 45 minute wait) and the handsaws were more useful for spreading butter. So only one rafter was assembled and a lot of Masaai men learned the wonders of carpentry from Mr. Dave Wylam and Mr. Scott Durscher. At one point, Dave was trying to sharpen the handsaw, and all the men could do was watch in wonder. You know, Jesus was a carpenter… Just saying.

But regardless of completing 1 rafter or all 6, we were all there together, working toward the completion of something for the glory of God. What an amazing thing. Our men were machines. Our women were supportive. What more can you ask for?

3. If you can’t complete your rafters- your other option is to sing. And sing we did! We had a complete ‘Sing Off’ with the local choir. It was like Glee; but without brilliant choreography and witty banter.

Imagine the scene: The “Obama” Choir and the Church Choir. Sitting on benches. Aligned to face each other. They started. We countered. The put us in our place again, we returned with a solid effort. This happened back and forth about 5 times. But somewhere in our shallow repertoire of songs, we pulled out the ‘money maker.’ I like to call this song, “This Little Light of Mine on Rock-n-Roll.” There is booty shaking and hand actions as well as a catchy guitar part. Before we knew it, not only were we dancing fools, but our new Masaai friends were standing and shaking it, too.

It was honestly like something out of a movie. All of a sudden everyone was singing and dancing, the children were flocking from the outskirts, the men were laughing, and even the cattle and goats joined the celebration. When we finished the song, they wanted to sing it again. So we did. Another two times.

So if you can’t complete rafters, you will sing. And it will be good. And you will shake your groove thing with a bunch of Tanzanian women and some lucky men. Oh you will also learn that despite your best efforts, you really only know the first verse of Amazing Grace. Don’t kid yourself.

This Took Two Hours. Maybe Three. I Lost Track of Time.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Sorry there are not any pictures so far.
The internet is spotty and slow.
Not an awesome combination for uploading pictures.
So we're working on it.
Be patient!

Today We Danced

Today we danced.

And by dance, I totally mean like we went to a Middle School Dance. (Thanks Darcy for this analogy.) Let me explain.
A middle school dance consists of boys and girls. And the few unlucky chaperones that traded lunch duty for a month in exchange for a night full of raging hormones and awkwardness. At the beginning of the dance, boy and girls are separated. They stand on opposite sides of the gym just looking at each other. They wonder about the clothes the other is wearing. They wonder about the people that they came with. They wonder about what it would be like if they could actually muster up the courage to talk to each other. But then it happens. Some brave boy with pimples and braces finds within himself the courage to ask the cutest girl there to dance. And dance they do. Before too long, the whole gym is moving and shaking; much to the discomfort of the unlucky chaperones. But nonetheless, fun is had by all. This carrying on continues through the night until sadly time has come to an end. Everyone files out, sad, but happy that they came, thrilled with the outcome of the night.

So today we went to a dance. In a Masaai village.

After an hour and a half of driving, we arrived to the village. This was not an easy drive. We were on Primary Roads: the ones that are paved with speed bumps every hundred feet. Secondary Roads: Dirt roads with pot holes and ditches to climb through the size of Texas. And Tertiary Roads: Not really a road but more just 4 wheeling through the bush of Africa. Somehow, this crazy elderly gentlemen we lovingly call Pastor Hafferman just drives and somehow ends up where he needs to be. And people are there, too. That’s luck if I’ve ever seen it!

Anyway, we get to this random spot in the middle of the bush and people are gathered. Begin awkward middle school dance: NOW.

They looked at us. We looked at them. We wondered about their clothes. They wondered about ours. They sang for us. We… squawked… for them. An interesting first exchange where we mostly just felt like fools and they confirmed it as the pointed and laughed. However, we had a little bit of magic up our sleeves. I like to call this magic: BUBBLES, SOCCER BALLS, and PLAYDOUGH. Ah yes. A little bit of American lovin’ right there in Tanzania. We were totally in after that point. Like celebrities. You should have seen Pastor Jim. Total rock star! We played with the kids, laughed with the young women, and joked with the elders. It was amazing. We were no longer boys and girls standing alongside the walls of our middle school gym. We were dancing!

As we shared our toys with them, we connected. We were able to meet them on a common level and no longer were we different. We were one. There together. To worship. To learn from each other.

In addition to this, the men (because the women were not needed) staked out the perimeter for the foundation of a new church. Using little, but accomplishing much, our men successfully squared out the spot where a new church will be built. Currently there is a VERY small thatched roofed building that serves as their church. I’d say only 1/3 of the people in this congregation can actually fit into the church and the lack of windows makes it a very dark place to worship. Because of this, today we worshiped under trees. Complete with chickens and dogs; because apparently Wednesday is, “Bring your chicken to worship!” day. To say that chickens at worship are distracting would be an understatement. (And you thought the 10:30 service was bad!)
At the close of the worship service, we had an auction to help raise funds for this congregation. This is where the chickens really got theirs! They were auctioned off, as well as some soap and Masaai jewelry. We were a little lost with this whole process, but feel ready for our next service which will be on Friday. Soon we will be bidding machines!

To conclude our time there, we were served an authentic (clearly, were in the middle of the bush Tanzania!) meal. It consisted of rice, potatoes, and a creamy tomato sauce. Not all of us got forks. So our hands were a very useful substitute. Ask Daniel Meyers and he might tell you that he’s never using utensils again. Sorry Julie, we’re creating a monster!

But back to the dance…

We reached the point where we had become friends. Where we were dancing our little hearts out. But it was time to go home- Mostly because if we didn’t leave then, we ran the risk of not making it home because it was getting dark quickly and the bush is hard enough to navigate in the light, let alone the dark. So we said our goodbyes, took a few more pictures, and packed ourselves, along with the two chickens purchased at the auction, into the bus/van/truck thing to make our way back to the seminary.

So today we danced. We looked at each other awkwardly and wondered. We took a chance and made a move, joined together, and then were forced to say goodbye too soon. All we were missing were the unlucky chaperones. Though I think Pastor Hafferman is a lovely substitute!

In any case, we arrived home without incident and have now settled in for the night. Life is good here in Tanzania. Tomorrow we venture out to raising the roof on the church that Redeemer paid for!

Can I get a, ‘Woot Woot!?’

Tutaonana Badaye!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Glitches in the System

It’s not a trip without a few minor glitches along the way. Here are some of our good ones so far. I’m sure you’ll be able to relate with some of these from your own travels!

Story 1: We arrived at the Cedar Rapids Airport on time and in good spirits. We left the Cedar Rapids with the plane being held for us. Clearly something happened in between point A and point B. For some unknown reason our passports could not be validated. Seems odd to me since the very essence of a passport is to in fact, be VALID. But who am I, right? It took nearly an hour for this to be figured out. All the while we’re holding up lines, emptying vending machines, and generally just starting to freak people out with our ever lingering presence. By the grace of God, that problem was solved. Thank you magic person on the other end of the phone.


We couldn’t get boarding passes. No wait. Everyone but Darcy couldn’t get boarding passes. (Don’t worry- Darcy will regret this later) So after another 45 minutes of waiting, and a plane that should have been boarded and be about ready for departure, our passes are printed and we are on our way to security.


Believe it or not, I have absolutely nothing negative to say about you at this point in time. You were nice to us. Actually probably one of the nicest things to us, all day. Thanks for that!

Depart Cedar Rapids. Check!

Story 2: So Detroit Airport is fun. There are some shops. And a miles worth of moving sidewalks. Definitely enough to keep 13 Iowans busy for two hours. But apparently not busy ENOUGH for two of our youth. Parents- I’ll leave you to wonder if these were your kids or not! As I was sitting at our gate, waiting to board our next flight to Amsterdam, my cell phone rings. On the other end of the phone is a familiar voice. I am told that somehow, as they were exploring the terminal, the accidentally left it. YOU WHAT?! WHERE ARE YOU NOW?! Standing outside of security. WELL GO THROUGH SECURITY KIDS. We can’t. WELL WHY NOT?! So.and.So doesn’t have his/her boarding pass…. So I dug through the backpack, located the boarding pass, left the terminal, located my children (with their specialty cups of tea that happened to be from a shop outside of the terminal…ahem…) and we went BACK through security.

Safe and Secure. All accounted for. Check!

Story 3: Hello Europe and your not so comfortable or well-ventilated airport! Upon arrival, we realize that we actually have minimal idea how to navigate an airport that doesn’t have display boards with gate numbers for flights. Jokes on us, right? RIGHT. With some well-trained eyes, I just happened to spot the monitor that had our flight on it. But not because we had any idea that we were actually heading in the right director. Divine intervention. I think so!

Cleared to fly the friendly skies once again. Check!

Story 4: Somehow in midair, McKenna has managed to lose a flip flop. She does not however notice that it has gone missing until the cleaning crew has gone through. We fear the worse and laugh at/dread that fact that she might actually have to walk through the airport without a shoe. My fear sets in as I think about I will have to explain why she is missing a shoe to a customs officer who may already be weary of our non-showered, not rested exterior. However, after crawling on the floor and searching under seats, the flip flop is located and a crisis is nearly averted.

Shoes in tow. Check!

Story 5: We made it to Tanzania. But not all of our luggage did. Remember how Darcy got her boarding pass before everyone else did? We her luggage apparently didn’t. Lesson learned- don’t be the first to check in. Another piece of luggage was mislocated, too. This person was the second to be checked in. Do you see a correlation? I think I do! However, it’s been reported should be on the next bus to Morogoro on Wednesday.

Luggage Tagged and Collected. Check!

So far those have been our major mishaps. All minor, really. We made it here safely. We made it through customs. Our VISA’s to be in the country were flawless. I’d say were batting about a 93%. Not bad, me thinks! I hope to post again soon with some pictures. Until then- hope you’re enjoying the adventure along with us!


Monday, June 7, 2010

Hello From Tanzania!

As I am writing this, it is 11:58 in the evening and we have just arrived at the Catholic Guest House in Dar es Salaam. Our flights were long, but good and we've only managed to misplace one kid and a few pieces of luggage. Actually, we really only can't find the luggage. It should be joining us in the next few days though. :)

Pastor Hafermann and his right hand man, Luka met us at the airport and we got all loaded in a bus/van/truck thing and have been safely delivered here. We will meet for breakfast at 7:00 and then begin our journey to the seminary in Morogoro after that. We expect to be there by around noon.

So far I think everyone is pretty much in awe. The smells are so intoxicating here. The air literally smells different. When we came in, the temperature was around 75 and it was slightly humid. That will change tomorrow as we head more inland. But for now the group is sticky, smelly, and a lot bit tired.

God sure is good. It's almost hard to believe we're actually here!
Till tomorrow,

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Ridiculously Overwhelmed

It's the night before departure.
Tomorrow is the day.

Lives will be shaped.
People forever changed.

An adventure and a challenge.
A mission and a gift.

All done in the name of Christ.
With a love that knows no end.

To all who have supported,
We can not say enough.

Your love for Christ is present,
In the work laid out for us.

From my heart to yours,
From one country to another.

May the Lord Bless and Keep You
Tutaonana Baadaye
(See you soon)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Speaking the Swahili

Here are some of the Swahili words that we will be using while we are in Tanzania!

Interestingly enough- those there is a definite language barrier there, it is very easy to communicate with people. Using body language, context, and surroundings are a very powerful thing!

Enjoy and get practicing!

Hello = Jambo / hujambo / Salama
How are you? = Habari gani
Fine (response) = Nzuri
Goodbye = Kwa heri / Kwa herini (more than one peson)
See You Later = Tutaonana
Nice to meet you = Nafurahi kukuona
Goodnight = Lala salama
God Bless You = Bwana Asifiwe

Yes = Ndiyo
No = Hapana
Thank you = Asante
Thank you very much = Asante sana
Please = Tafadhali
Welcome = Karibu
OK = Sawa
Excuse me = Samahani
You’re Welcome = Starehe
Can you help me? = Tafadhali, naomba msaada
What is your name? = Jina lako nani?
My name is = Jina langu ni ...
Where are you from? = Unatoka wapi?
I’m from .. = Natokea ...
May I take a picture? = Naomba kupiga picha
Do you speak English? = Unasema kiingereza?
Do you speak Swahili? = Unasema Kiswahili?
Just a little bit = Kidogo tu!
How do you say in Swahili? = Unasemaje ... kwa Kiswahili
I don’t understand = Sielewi
Friend = Rafiki/Ndugu

Getting Around
Where is the ... = ni wapi ...
Airport = uwanja wa ndege
Bus station = stesheni ya basi
Bus stop = bas stendi
Taxi stand = stendi ya teksi
Train Station = stesheni ya treni
Bank = benki
Market = soko
Police station = kituo cha polisi
Post Office = posta
Tourist Office = ofisi ya watali
Toilet/bathroom = choo
What time is the ... leaving? = inaondoka saa ... ngapi?
Bus = basi
Minibus = matatu (Kenya); dalla dalla (Tanzania)
Plane = ndege
Train = treni/gari la moshi
Is there a bus going to ...? = Kuna basi ya ...?
I’d like to buy a ticket = Nataka kununua tikiti
Is it near = Ni karibu?
Is it far = Ni mbali
There = huko
Over there = pale
Ticket = tikiti
Where are you going? = Unakwenda wapi?
How much is the fare? = Nauli ni kiasi gani?
Hotel = hoteli
Room = chumba
Reservation = akiba
Are there any vacancies for tonight? = Mna nafasi leo usiko? (Kenya: Iko nafasi leo usiku?)
No vacancies = Hamna nafasi. (Kenya: Hakuna nafasi)
How much is it per night? = ni bei gani kwa usiku?
Mosquito net = chandalua

Days and Numbers
Today = leo
Tomorrow = kesho
Yesterday = jana
Now = sasa
Later = baadaye
Every day = kila siku
Monday = Jumatatu
Tuesday = Jumanne
Wednesday = Jumatano
Thursday = Alhamisi
Friday = Ijumaa
Saturday = Jumamosi
Sunday = Jumapili
1 = moja
2 = mbili
3 = tatu
4 = nne
5 = tano
6 = sita
7 = saba
8 = nane
9 = tisa
10 = kumi
11 = kumi na moja (ten and one)
12 = kumi na mbili (ten and two)
20 = ishirini
21 = ishirni na moja (twenty and one)
30 = thelathini
40 = arobaini
50 = hamsini
60 = sitini
70 = sabini
80 = themanini
90 = tisini
100 = mia
200 = mia mbili
1000 = elfu
100,000 = laki

Food and Drinks
I’d like = nataka ...
Food = chakula
Hot/cold = ya moto/baridi
Water = maji
Hot water = maji ya moto
Drinking water = maji ya kunywa
Soda (soft drinks) = soda
Beer = bia
Milk = maziwa
Meat = nyama
Chicken = nyama kuku
Fish = sumaki
Beef = nyama ng’ombe
Fruit = matunda
Vegetables = mboga

Where can I find a ... = Naweza kupata ... wapi?
Doctor = daktari/mganga
Hospital = hospitali
Medical Center = matibabu
I’m sick = mimi ni mgonjwa
I need a doctor = nataka kuona daktari
It hurts here = naumwa hapa
Fever = homa
Malaria = melaria
Headache = umwa kichwa
Diarrhoea = harisha/endesha
Vomiting = tapika
Medicine = dawa

Animal = wanyama
Buffalo = Nyati / Mbogo
Cheetah = Duma / Chita
Cow = N’gombe
Elephant = Tembo / Ndovuh
Giraffe = Twiga
Goat = Mbuzi
Hippo = Kiboko
Hyena = Fisi
Leopard = Chui
Lion = Simba
Rhino = Kifaru
Warthog = Ngiri
Wildebeest = Nyumbu
Zebra = Punda milia

Monday, May 24, 2010

T minus 2

Here we are- less than two weeks from departure!
Thank you to everyone who has supported this this mission project.
Lives are being changed, friends!

Please read this letter sent to our members in June's Parish Visitor and continue to check into this blog as we prepare for our departure. Also please notice the pages at the top of this blog. There you will find our complete schedule, list or participants, and different places we will be going while in Tanzania!

Bwana Asifewe, Ndugu!
(God Bless, Friends)

"To our Redeemer members,
Thank you so much for the support you have shown throughout our fundraising process for our trip to Tanzania. We are so blessed to have a congregation that has the ability to see outside of our walls and minister to the faith community at large. This project has been a large undertaking and would not have been possible without the strong support of our members. For the 13 people going on the trip; their lives will be changed, their relationships strengthened, and their faith affirmed. Thank you for that gift. For the Masaai congregation that will now have a church building; their understanding of community will grow and they will understand that Christ's love reaches far past their own villages and country. Words will never be able to express our deepest gratitude for your financial support, but more importantly for your prayers of this mission. Thank you.
We are very lucky to have an excellent group going to Tanzania. Included in our mix are 7 youth and 6 adults. Of the 13 people going, 3 are families. What an experience these parents will have with their children. It will no doubt be something they can hold onto and use to grow together. Please pray for all going and be sure to ask them about their experience when they return. They will have much to share!

If you would like to follow along with the trip, you can do so by going to Once we arrive in Tanzania, we will try to update this with pictures, stories, and thoughts about this experience! Posted on this blog, you will also find our complete schedule so you will be able to know what we are up to each day and be able to pray along with us as we embark on each journey!

Thank you again!
In Christ's ever-extending love,
Emily Harkins"